It was five years ago that I took the first brave step to a new life. After months of an increasingly unhappy marriage, I caught my own eyes in the rearview mirror as I drove off, running away from yet another horrible fight. I saw myself and didn’t recognize the person I had become. That angry woman, trapped in a dead marriage with a man whose very presence sickened me was not who I really was. It was that moment that I knew I had to get out. On July 1, 2009, after once again catching my husband in a Facebook flirt session with yet another woman, I told him he needed to leave & gave him an hour to gather his stuff. After he finally left, I sat on the couch and thought about my life. I was 30 years old, overweight, had a 2 year old son with a chronic illness and a 6 month old daughter. I had been primary caretaker to my children and although I had done some contract therapy work, it wasn’t enough to sustain an entire family and I was scared. I didn’t know how I was going to make it but I knew that staying in my marriage was no longer an option. It wasn’t until months later that I knew the full depth of my husbands betrayal–the affair with my friend from church was just the tip of the iceberg. I knew then that I had made the right choice.
My divorce was final 7 months after he moved out. During that time, I began to find my way back to myself, but it was a long, hard road. I had two little people depending on me for everything and was trying to make the best life for them while reconstructing myself. I was evolving and the evolution was something I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Old BS (belief systems) were falling away. The church that I had so relied upon in my early adulthood failed me in my divorce & I realized that there were things about organized religion that didn’t suit me anymore and I walked away. The graduate school where I was working to finish my doctorate education had some problems which ended with my transferring to another university & having to start over again. I was constantly at war with my ex husband and the battles got fierce. My family of origin, the support system I desperately needed, fell apart after my Grandmother died. The scaffolding of my life that had held me up had fallen away & I was left to stand or fall.
And boy did I stand. Sometimes I’m not sure HOW I managed to survive but I did. And I didn’t only survive, I began to thrive. Once I let go of who I used to be and embraced who I was becoming, things started happening. My private practice took off & I soon went from a small, part time practice to a full practice with interns & contractors. My dream of becoming a college professor came true when I became Adjunct Faculty for a university. Things started happening in crazy good ways and I was often found doing the happy dance around my office or home. I moved out of my mom’s house and into a 5 bedroom home in one of the wealthier communities in Colorado. A year ago, my children and I moved to Northern California to build the next phase of my dream life. I have never before felt such peace, love and joy in my life. That’s not to say it’s perfect but it is MY life. It’s the one I have chosen to create, not one that was decided for me.
I don’t say this to brag. Not at all but because I know what it is like to be in the pit of despair. After my marriage ended, I remember lying in my bed with my children sleeping soundly as tears rolled down my face, soaking my pillow. I also remember the day that I decided that I was no longer going to feel bad about what I couldn’t change. I taped an index card on my mirror that remind me that happiness was a choice. I know what it feels like to face fear & do it anyway. I know what it’s like to wrestle with demons & make peace. I know what it is to not like the person in the mirror and I know what its like to become best friends with myself.
I’ve always believed that we go through things in life to grow but also to be able to help others. I believe that it is my responsibility to reach back & extend a helping hand to someone who has been where I have been. Because I have walked this path, I know how hard it is but I also know how incredible it is on the other side. That’s why I do this work–why I lay bare my soul for the world to see. So that maybe my life can inspire someone else to get to the other side of their own personal hell. So that maybe some woman who thinks she’s unworthy because her husband cheated will realize that it was never about her, but always about his inability to love well. So maybe, a mom who is scared about her children’s future will know that she WILL make it. So maybe, there will be a man who is inspired to be a better father, knowing his children deserve it.
The ashes of your burned dreams are the breeding ground from which you’ll rise. I know it. I’m proof.
(c) Lisa Vallejos, 2014