Is this normal? When I fly across Canada, I love watching the map on Air Canada’s little tv screens the entire time I am on the plane. I have no interest in watching movies or shows. I just want to watch the map that shows all these remote communities across our vast nation. I like the feeling of progress, watching the distance we’ve travelled accumulating. I like looking out the window and figuring out what community is this whose tiny lights I see. I feel especially nostalgic when I fly over Rainy River, Ontario, where I spent every summer until I was in my early 20’s. I say a silent hello to my grandma who is buried there, and think about the memories of travelling to see her on the Grey Goose bus from Winnipeg. We’d pass through Steinbach and Piney Manitoba, such random places that Air Canada chooses now to highlight on the 4500 km journey home I’m making. I think about what the hell has happened to me since I lived this uncomplicated, simple life in Rainy River, catching tadpoles, climbing hay bales, and lying for hours on the black rocks at Lake of the Woods.
So here I am, 9 days into 2016, watching the little map on Air Canada’s tv screen, watching Quebec move farther and farther away, seeing Rainy River, Ontario approaching. 2674 km to go and then I am home. I think about how many times I have flown across Canada this year…I can’t believe the distance my own life has travelled in the past 11 months. I think about what a roller coaster this life is and this year has been. Being married seems like such a foreign concept now. I start to think about whether I wish I was still married and if I had my old life back. It’s a resounding “no.” True, I miss being exclusively loved by another human being. I miss snuggling. I miss the ease of a second pair of hands to help with the kids. I miss having someone to talk to every day about the mundane things—the basics of sharing a life together. But I see now that life isn’t about being married. Or being with someone. Right now I think life done well is about loving reality. Loving the every day stuff and the every day people in it. There are the escapes and wild rides to break things up, but I am not sure if this is what life is about all the time. Wondering what might have been if I stayed married…but it doesn’t matter. It’s gone and not coming back. That is my reality. I need to love that.
There was one traumatic day last year when I realized just how over my marriage was. Before this day, it was as if there were little cuts in my heart and I was slowly bleeding, just slowly trying to figure out what was going on in my life and what I was going to do about the fact that separation was inevitable. But on this day it was as though a large bullet punctured my heart and I bled so much I physically could not move and my breathing was more like gasping. I have never felt so angry or devastated as I did that day. It’s like I fell into a deep hole and I could not climb out of it by myself.
But I see now that being in this deep hole was exactly where I was supposed to be. When it hurts this much and it’s this uncomfortable, you have to change right away. I see now that I was not going to change unless life was so painful I had to move. So, let’s just say I made some moves. Within two months of falling into this “hole” I found myself feeling hope and happiness. To come from such a place of brokenness, these feelings were so euphoric. I was astounded at how quickly a person’s heart can stop bleeding and begin to heal. It was the greatest self-validation I’d given myself in about 10 years. “Look at me; I am strong; I have power. And I am beautiful.” But the thing about any emotion, happy or sad, is that it’s fleeting. Neither can be sustained, because we are always moving, our environment is always changing. There never is this ability to put a checkmark in the “I’m happy now” box in life, and be done with it. And, the same goes for the “I’m really sad” box. So suddenly I was feeling happy, and at the same time I became very fearful of losing this fleeting feeling. I was so scared that I would slip back into that dark place I had come from. I felt this need to chase the things that created all these happy feelings in me, and keep something alive as long as I could. It has been over a 6 month losing battle. I see that now; I have been trying to control the actions and feelings of other people, and I have been trying to control my environment. I can only control my actions. My choice to pursue those things I can’t control has probably stalled my progress in loving my life on my own…that every day life I so need to love.
So on the last day of 2015, I chose to head to Quebec and Ontario on a week long trip to spend some time with my family out east. It was the best way to start 2016. I’m getting pretty good at vacationing on my own sans husband. That used to be such a fear…having no one to share happy vacation times with. But I actually prefer the lone wolf traveller—who would have thought! Those of you who know me know why I went to Quebec…I went to confirm that I am ready to start 2016 standing on my own two feet, out of the dark hole feelings I had earlier in the year. I went to confirm that I don’t need anyone or anything to help me be happy—I can choose people to be in my life or I can opt out and feel joy either way. And it worked. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to realize I’m going to be totally fine on my own because I’m never going back to the dark hole I was in earlier this year. I had hours on the long plane ride home to process what has happened and what I’m going to do in this new year. I realized that if people who came into my life when I most needed to be saved from the dark hole go away now, I am ok. I will not fall back into that place I so feared returning to. I can stop chasing and trying to control the situation. I have done some hard work since the summer, rebuilding my life. I had a massive opportunity to grow, and I am capable of making things better. I have a long way to go before I can say I am totally healed but there is no pressure to hurry this up.
So what should I do now? I should stop thinking of myself as this washed-up single mom sitting on her laptop on the west coast. Life is going to pass so quickly, and I don’t want to look back and wish it all went differently…or not know where it went. I like Keanu Reeves’ quote I read the other day – “none of us are going to get out of here alive.” So we might as well make living about what we have and where we are right now.
For the first time, I left Quebec and Ontario and I was not in tears. I got off the plane, found my car at Victoria’s airport, sat in it alone, and did not feel despair of any kind. It feels good to be home and I am ready to start 2016, on my own, and far away from that dark hole.