I am neither a dancer nor a track and field star, but after 10 years of indecision and unhappiness in my marriage, I took a running start, big breath and leapt. I clung to a scene in Indiana Jones where Sean Connery tells Indy as they hovered by the ledge of an insurmountable chasm that you must have faith; then as they leapt, a bridge of rocks magically assembled beneath them.
My friends and family have been my bridge. They called. They emailed. They liked my posts of Facebook. They bought me leopard pjs and pink sheepskin slippers. They told me it's ok to eat bottomless boxes of cookies and wear the same sweatpants for days. They offered to buy me champagne at Sex and the City-type bars to toast my freedom but understood when I preferred to spend nights alone watching Remington Steele.
I leapt a year ago last November and almost a full year later, I have landed on the other side. I am overjoyed to define myself as a sister, daughter and mother and not as a wife. I traded having my son 100 percent of the time for the freedom to be 100 percent myself in the 50 percent of time we're together.
I downsized from a three-bedroom, marble floored, 20-story doorman apartment for a one room, third floor walk up downtown, yet I could not feel more expansive. My son and I fill our days with excursions for the best bubble tea in Chinatown and artichoke pizza in hole-in-the-wall Greenwich Village joints. I am like Auntie Mame with my 10-year-old Patrick and I am determined to show him the world.
Eight years ago, I asked my friend who had divorced twice before finding happiness with husband number three, how she knew when to leave. I had read a library of books like Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, and with five years of a wonderful marriage behind me, I just couldn't decide when to call it quits. Her only advice was, "You'll know when you know." And so I waited, because although I could guess, I just didn't KNOW. I held fast to a book that said, "Think of love as a tree; the leaves fall in autumn and are completely bare in winter, but life still pulses in the dormant branches." I waited 10 full years for spring.
Hope was the only thing left in Pandora's box according to the Greek myth. Hope was enough to make mankind go on despite the guilt, anger, jealousy, revenge, sorrow and unleashed evils of the world.
But after toasting new babies while knowing our marriage wasn't strong enough for a second child, attending weddings while sitting miserably beside each other, while watching our extended family expand each year at Thanksgiving while feeling our love contract, I KNEW. Hope had vanished. I took a class in mindfulness and waited four more months to be sure. Then I leapt and never looked back.
My mother bought me the album Free to Be You and Me when I was five years old. I treasured that album and became a children's songwriter because of it. My Moey's Music Party Princess Revolution! CD empowers girls to know that they can rescue themselves from any dragon without the help of a prince. I always got the political message of gender equality, but it wasn't until this process of divorce that I really understood how glorious it is to be Free to Be You and Me. So many people contort themselves for their partner. As they sing in Guys and Dolls, "Marry the man today and change his ways tomorrow."
To please my husband, I twisted myself into a self doubting, tear-laden, isolated person. I even dyed my hair blonde! To be fair, my husband morphed too: He took ballroom dancing lessons, he went to touchy-feely group therapy retreats, he even tried to be nice to my parents who made him so uncomfortable. Freed from our fights and frustrations, we are both gloriously free to be ourselves.
Arianna Huffington writes in Thrive that you can chose to thrive even when life is hard and uncertain. Though my divorce isn't finalized, my finances are depleted and I'm achingly lonely on weeks without my son, I realized last week that I am thriving. I love my work. I love my family. I love my child, I love my friends and I love my new puppy who follows me around, worries when I'm gone, sleeps in my bed and loves me as a brunette.
I am not sorry that I waited a decade to embrace my freedom. I am not sorry that we truly tried every last way to make our marriage work. I am sorry that I have taken away my son's intact family, but I am happy that he will have a better model of what love can be one day.
To all of you on the fence, take your time. Have faith that you will know when you are ready to know. Then once you know, leap with abandon and never look back. You will land as I have on the glistening shores of beautiful, wide open life.