We walked on the cold concrete, our feet click-clacking on its semi-frozen surface as we turned our faces optimistically towards the early spring sun, on its way back down to the horizon. Spring always strikes me as bright and hopeful, the air always feeling semi-magical with possibility.
We kept walking. Click, clack. Click, clack. Made some small talk here and there. As we walked past the tiny white box houses I had coveted when we first got married, I could feel it start rising in my chest. I remembered looking at those houses longingly, my eyes tunnel-visioned always on the future. We applied to live in those little stand-alone houses, but instead we were assigned to the brown, stacked apartments in Married Student Housing. I felt insulted because I thought we deserved the little white house. In my vision, we were living in the little white house.
And now here we were, click-clacking along not even a year after saying ‘I do’, not really even speaking. Both of us hanging on that sliver of string that wraps around the very end of a relationship, knowing that one final tug would unravel the entire thing.
The beginning of the walk had felt hopeful. Look at us! Here we are! In public! We aren’t screaming at each other! Ashley isn’t crying! We aren’t having the same fight over and over and over! We are enjoying the spring evening! We are optimistic! We are ok! We are ok! We are ok! Look everyone, at how ok we are!
But as we passed those little white houses, I felt a sudden jolt, like a punch to the gut. That’s really how it felt. That’s really how it happened, in one moment.
Over the past months we had sat and cried in front of counselors. I had cried to friends and family. We went to church. I read countless “how to save your marriage” books. We had several “this is over” conversations that ended in both of us sort of pretending they didn’t happen the next day, probably because we were so exhausted it just wasn’t worth doing anything about.
And I remember crying, tears streaming down my face in the car with my mom outside of Target. “What am I supposed to do?” I questioned her. All I wanted was for SOMEONE to tell me what to do. My mom looked at me and told me something I would never ever forget. “You will know,” she promised me. “When you are ready, you will know.” I was dumfounded. “I will know what? To leave? Or to stay? Which one?!?” But my mom just shook her head and said she didn’t know. But that I would. That one day I would wake up with absolute certainty, and would know.
Click, clack. Click, clack. Sometime after we saw the white houses, we both stopped talking. Tears started welling in my eyes until they spilled out, one after the other with each step.
He didn’t say a word, and neither did I. When we reached the apartment, I sat down on our hand-me-down love seat, put my head in my hands and cried. Alone.
The next day we had the conversation we both knew was coming. I didn’t cry that time. When he said the words, I just nodded my head. Peace filled a space in my soul that was empty, empty, empty.
And I wish I could tell you there was never a hard moment after that. The fact was though, there were lots of hard moments after that. But there was never a single moment of questioning, after that punch to the gut on our spring walk. Not a single pause in wondering if we were doing the “right” thing.
Woman on the brink, let me tell you this. That spring evening walk was the end of one dream. But it was just the very first step of the best things that would ever happen to me.
That punch in the gut was my future yelling “WAKE UP!! WAKE THE F UP!! It’s me, The Future!! I am out here waiting for you to find me. AND I AM INCREDIBLE. I am beyond your very best dreams. This is going to hurt, but I promise you it is worth every single tear you have cried.”
That punch in the gut was my destiny. It was my soulmate on his way back to find me again. It was my daughter whispering “love you mommy” and wrapping her sweet, sticky fingers in my hair. It was clearing the path for me to come home to writing. For me being brave. For me trusting me.
So woman on the brink, woman who is click-clacking along on that frozen ground, whatever it looks like – I can’t tell you what your answer is. But I can tell you that for me, the end was really and truly the beginning.