When your world falls apart

Every single dream I’d had shattered.

Divorce papers were signed. Things were divided and boxed. New owners had taken the keys to my house. Worse, they very quickly paved over my rose gardens for parking. I didn’t get a job I applied for–I lost it by one point–and we’d gotten ourselves into some significant debt, so this was a big deal.

I did what most women would do. I held it together until the day I stared down a spider by myself. Then I completely lost it and cried for weeks. Honestly, I didn’t see how things could get worse.

And if they couldn’t get worse, then they had to get better.

Doors cracked open, and I put my fingers in to stop them from closing again.  I took a temporary job across the country. I left my beloved cat in care of my parents, and I moved into a hotel. The woman I lost the job too–the one with the extra point–told me I was being courageous, but I scoffed at that. “It’s just a temporary job,” I said. “I’ll be back in six months.

Six months later, the position was extended, and I needed to make a decision about moving. The housing market was tight, but one weekend my best-guy friend came to town and we looked at condos–and found one that fit everything I wanted it to be. Close to the express buses, within walking distance to a church and  groceries. Something that fit my small budget. It was great to have him there to look at the things a girl might miss–he checked foundations and pipes and wires and roofs while I looked at layout and colours and the kitchen.  On the advice of my realtor, I offered exactly what they asked. I was competing with two other couples, it turned out–but after some further negotiations I bought the condo. And I accepted the job on a permanent basis.

I  flew back to Alberta to cancel, sign off, close out and finish everything there.  I said goodbye to family and friends–and some of those goodbyes were very painful.

I picked up my cat (who had gained so much weight she now looked like Queen Victoria with her robes gathered around her). Together we moved 3400 kilometres away where I knew no one except the new colleagues I met at work.  The flight from Edmonton to Montreal was excruciating for me–my cat Charlie was in the cargo hold because she was  extremely vocal. The vet had given her anxiety medicine but I was pretty sure I should have taken it instead.  However, during the layover in Montreal I was treated to a glimpse of her as they loaded that plane for Ottawa.  The luggage handler set her beside the conveyor belt, and talked to her the whole time. He reached in through the bars and petted her, and this wonderful peace came over me. I knew she’d made the longer journey, and she would be okay on the shorter flight.

We reunited in Ottawa, and together went to our new home. We had no furniture in the house and we both slept by the fireplace that first night. I waited out the rest of the week in a hotel while Charlie got used to the new digs–which for her meant finding the highest spot possible. Most often when I came home, she could be found on the top of the fridge.

The moving truck arrived a few days later. The boxes representing my life fit behind the driver. Someone else’s stuff filled up the container in back. I had no furniture except for my grandfather’s chair and an old sofa I’d had recovered when I moved into my old place.

I had no idea if I was making the right decision. I’d lost my self-esteem years before. I only knew I needed things to be different. And the woman who told me I was being courageous?  Turns out she was right.

For the first time in my life I was being brave enough to stand on my own, to accept consequences of my choices, to show up for my life. It was no small thing to figure out who I was and why I am the way I am. It wasn’t about blaming others. It was just time to be a grown-up.

I promised God I would choose joy.  If that meant I was going to be alone the rest of my life, well, I was going to be happy about it.

It wasn’t easy. It meant I had to look at what I’d done wrong in the relationship, what I should have done differently with my finances, how I could be more responsible for my life. None of that was fun.

But I wouldn’t change any of it. Come back on Wednesday, and I’ll fill you in (as Paul Harvey would say) on the rest of the story.

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