How Do You Say Goodbye?

pictures-630378_640Many of my friends know that hubs and I are getting ready for a move. Close friends know that I am working to declutter before we move so we can have (and move) less stuff. My closest friends know that I tend to keep everything that means anything so I have 5 “memory boxes” filled with scraps and trinkets starting from the time I was probably 18. I also have boxes and boxes of pictures that I just move from one place to another. Real photos…like they used to print years ago in actual photo labs and not just Walgreens. I’m sort of trying the Konmari method and sort of just trying to take less stuff, so I’m going through the boxes and throwing away old pictures.

When I opened the first box, I had no idea 1998 would hit me in the face like a wall. Wow, 1998. I was 23, barely old enough to drink, married for three years at that time, living in Montgomery. Pictures from my grandfather’s funeral along with visits to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Canada filled the bed as I pulled batch after batch out of the box. Beach trips with my girls, a road trip to the Saturn Homecoming in Tennessee in 1999 in my Saturn with Tomma where we saw Train, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and Hootie & the Blowfish in concert. An epic Fourth of July party with all of our friends in Montgomery. And dogs…lots of dog pictures. Dog pictures with my ex husband. Pictures of my ex husband.

A year ago – even a few months ago – these pictures would have unleashed a waterfall of tears…not unlike the Niagara Falls pictures I came across…with him in them. But I truly believe in the power of prayer, of God, of medicine, and therapy. My therapist knows my deepest, darkest secrets and doesn’t judge me for them. She helps me with them. A few months ago she had me do an exercise where I said goodbye to the ex husband, who I still held on to in my heart. I had a lot of guilt over our divorce (it was my doing) and blamed myself for it for many, many years after. Many years. Lots of blame, guilt, and regret. Things that depression is made of.

The exercise in my therapist’s office was the hardest one I’ve ever done and I cried harder than ever as I did it. But I did it. And the feeling after was like night and day. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted (and actually, it had). I was a changed person and my husband knew it that night (before I even told him what happened earlier that day). I also felt exhausted. I went home, feeling like I had been hit by a Mack truck, and promptly slept for 10 hours straight.

It’s hard to say goodbye to people or things that have been a part of your life for a lot of it. It’s even harder to say goodbye when you can’t let go. Thankfully, with therapy and prayer, I was finally able to cut my albatross and let it go. I will be the first to shout out loud that therapy, counseling, just TALKING to someone can be theraputic and help so much. It doesn’t need to ignored or shushed and should most definitely be talked about and recommendations shared. It’s not taboo – therapy is just like venting and gabbing to your best friend, but to an unbiased outside ear to get a new perspective. And therapists can provide useful tools to help you deal with life’s everyday challenges.

The ex has a good life now, I know this. I’m so happy for him, but even happier that I no longer feel like I’m to blame for everything. We both landed on our feet and we’re both now with who we should be with.

Years ago I never thought I would be able to look at his picture and not cry. But I did tonight. I stared at it for a long time, to see what would happen inside. To see if I would lose it and feel that old guilt well up. It didn’t. I looked at the picture, said a prayer for him, wished him well, and stuck it on the trash pile. That’s how I said goodbye.

A Note to My Husband

Thank you. Thank you for being there when I cry for no good reason at dinner. Thank you for holding me as I recount the emotional session I had that day in therapy. Thank you for offering to cook when you can tell through text messages that the day has given me all I can take. You are an angel sent from above. You hug me in my darkest hours and wipe thousands of tears away. You celebrate all my victories with the excitement of winning the lottery whether it’s finding a lost shoe or finishing a 5k. You support everything I do and hold my hand when I’m unsure about it. But most of all you listen. You listen to me go on and on about friends I miss, relationships that have soured, body issues I deal with, demons that battle inside me. You are the greatest listener. Thank you for being you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for helping me love myself even more. You are my hero.