|You only live once. We always, always, always have a choice.|
Exactly ten years ago today, I left a toxic marriage and carved out a life of my own.
It can sound heroic now, talking about it in hindsight and looking at it from the other side of the fence, but at that time I was just uncertain, uncomfortable and plain scared. I just had a vague sense that it was not anymore where I was supposed to be. The question: Would I have the guts to be where I am supposed to?
The one thing I am thankful for is the knowledge that I had a choice. Some women -- no, some people -- live and die and do not realize they have the power to take charge of their life. Actually, I had many choices, and each carried with it consequences. If I stayed, this would happen. If I left, this would. If I bided for more time, these are the possibilities.
The consequences were in no way pleasant. Each road I could take had advantages and disadvantages, and I wore myself out thinking about them, weighing them, balancing what ifs with what ares and what should bes. There were physical, economic and psychological outcomes. What made the decision so hard was the fact that it was also was not just about me. There were four impressionable children -- then aged 13, 11, 7 and 5 -- to think about, whose lives would be affected irreversibly by what I was contemplating on doing.
What to do, how to do it, and when.
It was not instant. The plan was at least two years in the making, involving starts and stops and relapses and sudden bouts of cowardice and resignation. Indeed it is terrifying to go out of what has been familiar for years, no matter how miserable it made us. There is a perverse satisfaction, even pride or a sense of valor, at sticking it out in a difficult situation.
How I stuck it out. Nobody could fault me for opting out too soon.
Soon was relative, of course. I snapped when I no longer marvelled at the "me I worked so hard at being in awe of. In my mind I said enough when I no longer believed something good, even great, was in store for me. I knew I had to leave -- it was just a matter of time -- when I looked up at the sky and sighed, audibly, is this all I was born for?
July 25, 2007 came and everything fell into place. There was an apartment waiting, some stipend I had stashed away from a study grant, friends helping me out, an unusual surge of courage.
Grace. It was pure grace.
July 25, 2017. I still believe we are exactly where we are meant to be at any given time. Ten years hence, I am living in another city, juggling four jobs, and those four children are no longer children. I feel so much younger than I used to be -- operative word being "feel." I have a teddy bear on my bed again.
Oh it's not a party. Far from it. I have to deal with simultaneous crises and heartbreaks. I still make unsound decisions, and my friends, now married women, sometimes feel they have to put up with my silly dilemmas. But boy had I grown up, and grown up fast. I feel I can run the world!
The first instinct would be to regret our not-so-good experiences, if possible excise them from memory. I say this not only about my ill-fated marriage but of all the succeeding misadventures I have encountered and I am still dealing with. But we shouldn't, really. They have made us who we are, and have shaped us into this exact person at this exact spot.
What can I say? Bring out the champagne!