Where Am I, Where are We?
“How are you taking care of you?” The question was posed as if I should actually know what the hell he was talking about . . . “what do you mean?” “I mean, how are you going to get your needs met without her? You are responsible for getting your needs met . . .” It was one of my early counseling sessions. I had begun attending as a result of a marriage that was disintegrating. My divorce came like the proverbial thief in the night; a silent, unexpected, incomprehensible villain wielding a razor-sharp stiletto that cut to my core with dread-filled precision and speed.
I was the good kid . . . always was. I studied hard, stayed out of trouble, listened to Mom and Dad, never got my folder pulled in middle school study hall, played sports, volunteered for service oriented activities, got elected to church council as a college student, paid my own way through the university, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t do drugs, drove my drunk friends home, married, had 2 wonderful kids, worked to make my self better and get better jobs, bought the house, then the next house, and thought a 16-year marriage was doing fine.
‘Trouble about divorce, is that when the door is opened, the truth is an uncomfortable visitor and the looking glass reveals a self that bears witness and culpability for past shared events, and the internal voice must finally say: “I am the reason too, why this happened.”
During those first couple of months, I am now convinced; I really had absolutely no idea what his question meant. As my heart-mind continued to ponder this question, it became my first focal point, the first bone of a skeleton on which I would build the body of my new life. A second question, not sure if it came chronologically second, but probably second in its imperative: “What do you want your life to look like without her?” This question, too, so sonically sheared the truthing-wall, that I contemplated it for probably longer than a year and half. For me, with this single question, my counselor directed my thought-energies in a forward momentum while simultaneously highlighting the importance of my own self-examination and self-determination. In one stroke, the question cracked like a whip and over time, I found it often snapping me out of periods of self-loathing, shame and bouts of a victim mentality. Although I am uncertain if he is aware just how much he helped, the fact that he had been a practicing psychologist for nearly 40 years gave me suspect that he knew exactly.
“But how will I know when I am ready . . . ?” I asked this question to him multiple times, in multiple ways, from multiple angles through multiple voices . . . on different days, different months and even different years. Over those times, I attached varying end phrases to this beginning, “. . . to move on?”, “ . . . to make [this choice or that choice]?”, “. . . to let go of [her, of my own guilt, of the pain, of the indecision, of the house, etc.]?”
His answer, grounded and steadfast, . . . was invariably, the same . . .
“You will know.”
Three words. That’s all. During the darkness, all I could do was hold to hope that this guy knew what he was doing and that he was right. As I moved more into the light it became very, very clear . . . he knew what the hell he was talking about . . . He was right.