Our journey chooses us

Some people call me brave for leaving my marriage and starting a new life, but for me I had no alternative. I didn’t see taking this journey as a choice, I saw it as the only way.

Some mornings I wake up and forget where I am. Oh yeah, I am alone. I live by myself now. I have flashbacks of living alone before I met my husband and got married. I lived in the marina district of San Francisco in a studio apartment that had a view of the Golden Gate bridge. I lived in the center of the action of all the bars and restaurants which was a perfect location for a young single woman. Any type of food or service was just blocks away from my doorstep. I worked early hours in finance, and then went out with friends, went for long walks along the water, or spent time at the gym. I remember taking meditation classes, and spending time at spiritual bookstores. I took the train down to San Jose one afternoon so I could see Maya Angelou speak. In the midst of working and having fun, there was always a part of me searching, looking for something more; looking for meaning.

That part of me never went away, but laid dormant when I got married and started to focus on my family. It was actually a nice break for my brain and body not to have that constant questioning in my head. I felt like my brain relaxed as I took my daughter to the playground, and went out on date nights with my husband. We moved to Portland Oregon because we wanted a fresh start. Away from the bars and memories of San Francisco, and our past relationships. We both took a huge chance, and we did it together. We didn’t know anyone in Portland.

It made us closer as we only had each other in the beginning. We went for walks every evening with our baby when my husband would get home from work. I wasn’t working at first so we didn’t have that much money, but we would make the best of it, like walking to a video rental place on Thursday night because that was when they rented movies for only a $1.00. We would load up on movies for the week. We had a simple life. I was glad to be away from the hustle of San Francisco, and have some distance from my estranged family.

But my searching never fully went away. When my daughter was a baby I took art classes at the local community college. And as she became a toddler, every once in a while I would pick up a paintbrush and go on a creative binge. It scared me how intense I would become when I painted, and a couple of times I got sick. Looking back, I think I got sick because of the emotions that came up when I was creative. But I didn’t understand this at the time, so I just stopped. I didn’t know what my body was doing or trying to tell me, and I didn’t have the tools or the time to try and figure it out. So even though I would stop painting, I wrote almost every day in my journal. That was my creative release and something I felt comfortable doing because no one saw it but me. All my unanswered questions and confusion would go down on paper and would be hidden at the bottom of my dresser drawer.

I went back to work in finance when my daughter was 7, never intending to stay as long as I have. But I kept getting promotions and making more money so I started to focus more and more on my career. When my daughter was in high school my job became extremely stressful. I developed severe anxiety, which I had never really had before. Sometimes at work I would have to walk outside and just breathe for a minute because my heart would beat so fast I felt like I was going to pass out. I looked to my husband for support, but he was unable or unwilling to be that stabilizing force in my life. Whenever I would try and talk to him about how I was feeling, the conversation would always end up back on him. I would have to talk louder and get more angry to try and get my point across. I felt like my family, my career, my marriage and everything I had worked so hard on up until that point was spiraling out of control.

I didn’t know how to soothe myself, so I spent all my spare time at the gym. My husband and daughter called it my home away from home. I would spend hours there sweating and pushing my body to exhaustion, and then I would go in the steam room and hot tub. I would take a cool shower, put on some comfortable clothes and head home. It didn’t stop my anxiety but it would exhaust me to the point that I didn’t feel it as much.

My husband and I became more and more distant. As I tried to reach out to him for help his anxiety also increased. We became a source of frustration to each other, and any conversation we tried to have turned into an argument. I never really understood why it would get so heated, and why our talks would end up at the place of us not being together. That was never my intent, I just needed support. In the midst of this, my mom suddenly became very ill and passed away within a few months. To me, that was the final straw. I was already at my breaking point and that put me over the edge.

Four months of binge drinking after my mother died, I stopped for good. Not only did I stop drinking, I stopped everything. All my avoidance, all my trying to put on a brave face, all my working out until I was exhausted was done. It was time to pay attention to that small questioning voice inside of me. By that time, I had buried it so deep that I knew it would take some time to find out what that voice had to say. It was hard and tedious work. But, I didn’t want to feel so out of control anymore. I didn’t want to be so dependent on others for how I felt about myself. I didn’t want to be so cut off from my own emotions anymore. Besides being anxious and sad, I just felt numb inside.

So, my current journey began. I guess it is what literature refers to as the ‘Hero’s Journey’ because I am walking into the unknown. It is 4 steps forward and 2 back, as I learn to state my truth and protect my boundaries. Some people call me brave, but for me I had no alternative. I didn’t see taking this journey as a choice, I saw it as the only way.