Traveling Alone

Sunset - Tel Aviv

This year would have been my 31st wedding anniversary. It is instead the first year of my new life as a single woman. Finding myself at square one again, I feel the sense of surprise and injustice I remember from my childhood when I would land on the longest slide just as I was anticipating winning at Chutes and Ladders. I am on my butt again, starting over. We are encouraged in early childhood to believe that if we work hard and give something our all, we will win, or succeed, or be rewarded. I know that there are other messages we are given as well, such as “if at first you don’t succeed… “, and the one about learning from our mistakes, but somehow these come in on a softer frequency or we hear them as white lies alongside our inherent cultural competitiveness that stresses “going for the gold”, getting the “A” and the “cream rising to the top”.  It is strange that we can see that big slide right in front of us the entire time we are moving forward, and still be so upset and surprised when a roll of the dice lands us there.

My marriage has been the single through line in my life for the past 30 years. I have friendships that have lasted longer, but there is nothing else that has required the same daily attention, constancy, and commitment.  I am confused about what happens now. I have been traveling on one circuitous bumpy road for a long time and now find that the road has ended abruptly.  It does not seem possible or desirable to turn around. There are so many roads that are adjacent but not obviously connected to my old road that my way now seems unclear. I find myself moving on slowly while paying close attention to the changing landscape. I have no real desire to fall immediately into another relationship.  I am excited about having time on my own to get to know myself, my interests and my desires. Yet, I feel the longing to continue on in my life with a traveling companion.  Can I be my own traveling companion?  I miss the relationship part of marriage. I miss the partnership, and the intimate day in day out sharing. Can I create partnership and have an intimate relationship with my self?  Is it enough to share my life, my accomplishments, my joy, and my struggles with my self?

Sometimes I try to retrace my steps to find the place where my husband and I took different paths. Did we begin to go separate ways during a big moment in our lives like when I decided not to go to Israel with him, or was it during a small moment when I was too distracted to listen to a story that he really wanted me to hear?  Was I the first to walk away emotionally without being aware that I had left, only to react later to his frustration when he was not able to find me? Were we playing out old as the hills dramas that we brought with us from our birth families? Were we locked into relationship patterns that were begun many lifetimes ago?  The popular wisdom is that I need to understand what happened and what went wrong so I can shift my behavior, or I will soon find myself in the same relationship with another partner.  I know that this is true.  I can already recognize familiar behavior and old patterns in unexpected moments with other people in my life. I know aspects of myself I would like to change and I am more aware than ever of habits that must have driven my husband crazy. Still, I can’t really say why our marriage did not work for longer than it did. I only know that we both believed in it, that we tried everything we could think of, and even so could not find a way to go on any longer in our lives together. I do not feel like I made a mistake or married the wrong man.  It feels more like we went as far as we could together and then one of us had to turn off and take a separate path.  I am gradually learning the landscape of my new solitary path, and each day I learn a little more about traveling alone.

3 comments to Traveling Alone

  • Lauren

    Hi Marlene, I hope I am not putting my opinions where they don’t belong. I think that everything in our love lives cant have an explanation. Looking back on my relationship with Jeff, (we were close to divorce after moving here) I can see some of the ways I behaved were very damaging to the relationship and he can see his, but we both still have things that we cant explain why we were bothered by them or why we reacted the way we did. In order to move forward, we took responsibility for our own behaviors and forgave those of the other. Mainly, we just try not to go back. Its sad because it was a long time and for the first year I was so sorry I wasted so much of our time together-or at least thats how I saw it-now I see it’s just how life goes.
    Sometimes I am just shocked we made it through. I can understand why people just say the hell with it-and your circumstances and stress were extreme.
    You need to give yourself a break. Maybe there are parts of your personality that you want to change, but it needs to be for you and not for some relationship that hasn’t happened yet. There are things about me that I have hated for years and finally started to actually change. Some I have eliminated, some I have accepted that they aren’t as bad as I thought, and some are a constant struggle. But I asked my family for help and they have become very good at speaking up. Especially Jacob and Eli-they will flat out remind me when a behavior shows its face-they are quick to say-Mom go take a chill pill! I dont let it offend me anymore.
    This is the good thing that came out of our near divorce-I was forced to look at it all. Now I am a better person, a better wife and a better mom-and I feel so much better about myself.
    Anyway-it all is what it is-and move forward and change what you dont like about yourself and dont worry about the rest.

  • cynthia

    Thx for the reminder of your writing blog today. I had forgotten and when I saw you this weekend and we reconnected, I realized how much I miss your “realness”. Your musings are therapuetic and we can all gain insight into our own journey’s from your honest and poignant words.
    But there are two life changing events you omitted, maybe inadvertently. The deaths of your beloved children, Ariel and Zalman. I don’t know many marriages that could survive one much less two of these gut wrenching heartbreaks, certainly not mine. You are not supernatural, the odds were against you. Be kind to yourself and Ben.
    love you,

  • Dear Marlene,

    You are now in the camp where half of us married people came to, we got a divorce from the carved in stone person to love and be with forever except it did not work that way and surely we would have done everything possible to make our marriages work. We did and it did not work anyway. I cannot forget though that you are a lovely woman and through hard times you are still a lovely woman. Truly. You are. In time all these strands will weave together for you into the wonder that you are, Marlene.

    Love, Ann Garrett

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