Why am I here?
It's a legitimate question.
Because as I walk on this journey, I am finding more and more that I am not alone, and that it feels good to connect. To engage. To recognize that the mistakes as learning opportunities, see the patterns, release the patterns. Love the patterns and then let them go. Invite something new, better, deeper and more into our lives. And if we ask, it will come. I know this to be true now.
Which is why I am really here. Two years ago, through a series of very bad decisions that are best left for private conversations or at least over a drink, I almost lost my marriage and my family. The only family I have known for the past 12 years. And at the time, I didn't care. I had completely disengaged from the universe I'd lived in, mostly in comfort, for so many years. It's like I discovered a new planet, bought a space suit, then hitched a ride to the nearest space station. And once I was floating in space...there was relief. I felt free. Light. Yet, in control. I knew what I was doing. I was gonna wash that man right out of my hair, because HE was the problem. I was the enlightened one, I knew what love was. Blah freakin' blah.
I announced my unhappiness in one breath, and my desire to leave in the next. Our marital strife was not a surprise to him. We had two little kids, stressful jobs, and not a lot of time to work on the core of our relationship. but what surprised him, knocked him down, was my desire to leave.
It is probably important to note here that I am an orphan. My mother died in a car accident on the day the state took me out of her custody. After six months in foster care, my grandparents rescued me and I came to California. One of my earliest memories is being greeted at the airport by my grandfather, decked out in a checkered sports jacket that would from therein be referred to as "my airport jacket." Another is sitting in the judge's chambers, accepting my grandparents as my new parents. There are fleeting memories for a period of time, lovely memories of going to the A & W on the beach in Pacifica, riding my bike, playing with neighbors. Then the ambulance. Then the announcement. My grandpa and I were alone. My grandmother, who had been a nightmare of a mother to my mom, but a jewel of a grandma to me, was dead of a heart attack. My grandpa and I, alone. Flash forward a few years, a wife and severe alcoholism later, and I was left at the top of the driveway of my aunt and uncle's home with 2 suitcases in my hands.
And here I was again, this time anxiously packing my bags out of choice. In retrospect, I can see how I displayed many of the classic signs of attachment disorder I had seen in some of my students. Impulsiveness. Resistance to love. Superficial positive traits (I was so charming! So happy!). Lack of responsibility. Check, check, and oh yah, check. But I wasn't concerned about getting help at that time. I was just concerned in getting the hell out of there, and fast as possible. To that gravity-free state.
I moved into a tiny apartment by my work and entered once again (yes, why have one husband when you can have two? Duh. This wasn't my first rodeo!) the stress of shared custody, awkward conversations, and a constant aching that I couldn't quite get a handle on, no matter how much I did to divert myself from it. I landed my spaceship twice on my home planet, but then quickly got drawn back into the weightlessness of the life I had when I wasn't with my kids and my spouse. Gravity was overrated.
Spoiler alert: wherever you go, there you are. Oh, and the space station isn't sustainable...
It all came crashing down when I finally filed for divorce. I thought I would feel great, free to move forward. Instead I was overcome by a crippling depressive state that led me to spend whatever "free" time I had in bed, wondering aloud what I had done, and praying to change not my situation, but me. It had become very, very clear by now that he wasn't the problem. I was. For the first time in years, I owned it. On the 28th day after I filed for divorce, I wrote in my journal that I would never let this happen again. I had to heal myself, or I would be forever in the clutches of this force that seemed to yank me out of what was good for me and what I needed, just when I needed it most.
Then something happened. My prayers were answered. On the Saturday after the Friday divorce response deadline from my spouse (to which he didn't respond), I was headed to the French film festival opening, but needed to change cars - a weekly hassle- with the ex. In the days since he had finally gotten wise to my shittiness, he had stopped talking to me. I expected a word-free exchange, usually done by text message. Instead, he sat in the car that I was supposed to go take temporary ownership of.
What I remember is this: he rolled down the window, asked me if he could ask me a question.
Do you really want to get divorced?
You would think I would just say, "NO!" as loudly as I could, because that's what I felt. Instead, like a moron, I said, "not particularly." Idiot. But maybe not. Even though I had realized that I had lost, no given away, the love of my life, I was still reticent to jump back in. After all, I had learned a lot of things over the last year about myself, and the biggest one was that I didn't want to walk back into something I wasn't prepared to fight for. To die for. To commit to.
He had not been wrong when he had said, "you're willing to commit to your work, your kids. Why won't you commit to me?" Until that moment, standing in front of an open car window, it wasn't a matter of won't. It was a matter of can't. Until that weekend. Something inside me clicked, and suddenly the feeling of gravity felt good. Safe. I was home to stay.
Less than a week after we reunited for the final time, I got myself into counseling. I also started talking very openly with people about my struggles, not to be a victim but to hold myself accountable for the havoc I had wreaked on my family and friends. I also made a commitment to stay engaged in my life, something that as a child of trauma could be so difficult. That state of space? As a child it was a protective device. As an adult? It prevented me from the deep and meaningful experiences I knew I could be having if I trusted, just a little.
So that is why I am here. My name is Antonia. I am 40. And I am here to engage with the world. Hello.