Fake It ‘Til You Make It (April 6, 2011)

The thing about divorce is, it’s good for the waistline. On the whole, given that I am a week away from embarking on a life of complete solitude, I have been coping well. I show up to work everyday and give it my full effort, despite a disorienting case of physical and emotional exhaustion. I stay engaged with friends and colleagues. I bathe. I sleep. I breathe. For those of you who have gone through a marital dissolution, just accomplishing everyday taks is a triumph.

The one thing that has completely fallen by the wayside is the ability to eat and drink. The glass of wine I wolf down to calm my nerves before Eddie and I confront each other for the first time every evening doesn’t count. We have nothing left to say, but the sight of his person walking through the door each night, casually humming as if the world isn’t ending, gives me the vapors. But the concept of actual nourishment is beyond me. I experience fleeting pangs that tell me it’s time to fuel up, but more often than not, I end up staring blankly at my plate and glass of water, like I do most other stimuli.

So the result is that I weigh 12 pounds less today than I did at my senior prom, and I was not heavy in high school by any means. Under different circumstances, the vain parts of my character (which are embarassingly abundant) would be turning cartwheels. But I can’t experience pride in results that stem from being hollowed.

The unintentional weight loss is a fairly apt metaphor for the shrinkage I feel as an individual. In very quick succession I find myself without husband, family, but even more than that, I have lost my guiding purpose. For five straight years, Eddie was my drug of choice, the center of my chaotic universe, the hard emotional rock against which I continually broke my body and spirit. I realize this isn’t the most positive of images but a purpose of any kind can be more comforting than gazing out into the unknown abyss. At least I knew the rules. Now, I am going through the motions but hardly know what to do with myself at a station that has stopped playing “all Eddie, all the time.”

Intuitively, I understand that I will figure it out. Somehow. One of the reasons I ended up in this predicament is a lifelong failure to learn how to live for myself. Now there’s nowhere to hide. I have always had someone to take care of. It’s kind of what I do. Growing up, I was the adult in my home, the one trusted with secrets, sought out for counsel, the cleaner of messes my parents couldn’t or wouldn’t address. This precocious level of responsibility didn’t leave a lot of time for figuring out what it is I wanted and needed, and if I’m being completely honest, I was fine with that.

As a young adult, I punted and focused on my my sister and her first daughter until I saw her safely married to a wonderful, responsible man. From there I jumped into a “starter marriage” that encompassed all the drama you would expect from two people barely old enough to drink, trying to play at adulthood. Not long after the ink dried on those 2006 divorce papers, I threw myself headlong into an all-consuming fascination with Eddie, the handsome, exotic, powerful man I was certain I needed. It made perfect sense. By aligning myself with people who had definitive ideas and opinions of the way things should work, I could defer having to draw a map for myself.

I can’t say I ever felt fulfilled but for a grown woman in complete denial, pretending at a self-assuredness she never actually possessed, the arrangement suited its purpose. Until I began to chafe. Until little voices I never knew existed started to scream that I had it all wrong: a career in corporate operations that asked nothing of my creative capacity, a union in which my voice was the fourth most important (after that of Eddie and his folks), an upper-middle class lifestyle as foreign as walking into the men’s room by accident.

A part of me would love another human project to throw myself into. I am a creature of habit, of schedule, and am not really sure how to pencil “find myself” into the weekly calendar. But I am nothing if not stubborn, and I admantly refuse to let myself duck a responsibility that has led to so much poor decision making.

So I go through my day making swift calculations, taking actions to establish the next phase of my life with a certainty that I don’t yet feel. It’s all about forming new pathways to replace the destructive ones.

 

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