It was 9 a.m. on a Saturday when my friend PK woke me via Facebook message. "Did you hear A got engaged to X?" he asked.
It didn't really come as a surprise. After contacting three of my friends and trying to pursue relationships with them shortly after I fled my marriage, my ex A debuted his relationship with X six weeks after I left, making out with her in the middle of the room of a crowded party. It was how a lot people who knew us found out about the divorce. His verbal, emotional and financial abuse during my marriage was bad, but this was one of a series of horrible and embarrassing things he did to try to get his vengeance post-split.
But then something came over me when PK told me. It was relief... and vindication. Surprisingly, I was actually happy my ex got engaged. I felt like the smartest kid at the party, because deep down, it reassured me I had done the right thing in divorcing him.
As I left a year and a half ago, I spiraled out of control into an emotional tornado that seemed to clear everything in my path, jumping into sex and alcohol with gusto. There were difficulties beyond traditional split issues, including moving away from friends and truly understanding my ex's depravity. My life was not made easier by the decision to divorce, even though the decision was mine. I was lost, and didn't have a clue who I was or what my life meant.
Meanwhile, my ex's life hadn't changed. He kept the apartment and, until I could claim them, all the items I left behind in fleeing my home. He never had to lift a finger; his family took care of everything. The only thing that changed in his life was that his bed was empty. That didn't last long.
As I left, I was very conscious about not moving into a relationship right away. I didn't want to rebound. It didn't matter who was there, whether it was my guy friend AD who I was developing feelings for or the first guy I dated after the divorce who wanted to marry me after two dates. I wasn't in a healthy place, and having someone else there while I was in such upheaval was asking for disaster to knock on my door yet again. It wasn't worth it.
I hit bottom plenty of times. The friendship between AD and I fell apart. I lost my job. I had to move back in with my parents. A close friend I trusted took advantage of my financial generosity. I was so poor at one point that I had to go on food stamps. Everything my ex was hiding from me during the marriage came to light. I began losing my hair from stress. There was a sense of helplessness because I couldn't control all the horrible things crashing in all at once.
When I found my current job, I was able to pull myself back up, going into therapy and working on healing. It was difficult, but I began to recover. I moved into a new apartment with an amazing roommate and have great friends. Although I wasn't dating as much as I had been before, I was becoming stronger and healthier every day as an individual, trying to figure out my previous life and my current circumstances.
I learned so much about me, like how much I love adventure and approach life as such or how I don't have to make apologies for being smart. I started picking up the things I used to love with an usual vigor: hosting parties, writing, cooking, playing games, even telling jokes and conducting political discussions.
It was the real me. It had been buried for so long that when it rose to the surface, it was shining brighter than ever before. Yes, I still had my issues, but I was who I was always meant to be. And it felt so good. I found happiness in myself and got a sense of what I wanted from my future.
In my ex's engagement, in a weird way I felt pity for him. I had taken this time to find out who I was and be proud of myself. A was too frightened of himself to be alone for a second. I watched as he hid behind his Republican beliefs and relationships instead, trying to convince the world he loves his fiancée with the exact same words he tried to convince it he loved me. One of my ex's favorite put-downs for me was that I wasn't self-aware like him. Well, clearly I know him better than he even knows himself.
So instead of feeling sorry for myself, I went by myself to my local bagel place, read my banged-up copy of The Prophet by Khalil Gibran and sang my favorite songs while driving in the car. I called my friends, and that evening we drank wine, laughed and danced the night away. Nothing he could do that day could take me down, because I knew in that moment that I was exceptional, and deserve an exceptional man. And clearly, he wasn't one.
Being alone was -- and is, as I know from personal experience -- scary. But instead of facing that fear, many people bury it in fear of what they will find. My ex was so desperate he would have gotten involved with anyone. It was why I knew that morning his marriage would fail, and any relationship that I took on would have a better chance of succeeding than before. It's not a guarantee, but coming into a new relationship with inner peace is better than with denial of who you are.
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