In my early 30s, I was living what I thought was the dream life.
Signed with a great agency, at my ideal weight, and engaged to the man of my dreams, all while planning the most fabulous wedding in the Hudson Valley. It all seemed so fairytale autumn chic -- the beautiful foliage up against my gorgeous vintage gown. You get the picture, right?
Well, on a Monday night, nine months before my wedding, the picture quickly changed. I came home to my apartment with anticipation knowing that my fiancé was finally home from his out-of-town gig.
"Hi honey!" I said. I walked into our kitchen and started talking about my day -- asking questions and hearing no response, which was odd because he was the biggest talker. After a moment I took in his silence. I glanced around the corner, looked at his eyes, and asked, "What's wrong? You look sick."
Then he dropped a statement I could not have imagined. It came out of nowhere, like a tidal wave. He looked me in the eyes and said, "We can't get married."
He added, emphatically, "Di Ana, you know this" (like it was my idea) and another "we can't get married" fell like a missile.
What was so penetrating was the WE.
We had been together for almost five years. We were living in a gorgeous apartment in Tribeca. We had an adorable dog. We had begun to build a life. It was he who didn't want to get married, not we.
"So," I said, "You've thought about this for a while. Is there someone else?"
He denied it vehemently, but I knew he was lying. Later, I would find my assumptions were right but that night I was made to feel like I was so wrong. That I was taking away the focus on the fact that we can't get married.
As I started to process what was happening I asked him, why? His response: "I am sorry, I am so sorry," over and over again without a breath -- only an "I am sorry" symphony supported by his crying.
I was immediately aware of every nerve ending in my body, as if each had a shard of glass in it. I sat on the edge of our couch as not to be too close to him, and said, "Why does everything hurt?" And there we were: my cries looped with his, "I'm sorry" reeling over and over again.
And no other words were said. Finally, I knew I had to get out.
"I can't stay here." I stood up, not knowing where to go. I ran out of our apartment and the door clicked behind me.
The most poignant memory was the silence after the click. I waited in the hallway, but he didn't come. Standing there, the carpet's pattern made me dizzy. Surely he will come after me, I thought. But all that followed was silence.
I flagged a taxi in the middle of the West Side highway and fell into it, sobbing uncontrollably.
The taxi driver asked, "Ma'am did someone die? I am so sorry."
I replied, "I think I did."
And I never saw my fiancé again. After spending five years together it was as if he vanished into thin air.
I had no idea, but that moment was an invitation to my life's greatest awakening. I thought getting married was the answer and I was so wrong.
There were so many things I was choosing not to see as I buried myself in creating perfection as opposed to authenticity.
In all honesty, I was not very self-aware. I was also not the best partner. I had ridiculously high expectations, was often very critical, and I lived for my relationship and was building nothing for myself -- nothing I was proud of, except this dream wedding I would have to now cancel, alone.
What followed was a lot of searching for answers. How did I get here? I went to a lot of therapy, exercised like a mad woman, went on many retreats, and I even saw a psychic, folks -- for real.
One day, I was listening to "Landslide" (how good is that song?) and it hit me. This lyric: "Well, I've been afraid of changing cause I built my life around you." Bam!
Thank you Stevie Nicks!
I had built my life around other people -- their expectations of me.
I decided to find out what I wanted. I realized that, although having the perfect Hudson Valley wedding, the apartment in Tribeca, and the successful fiancé is always nice, I was asleep at the wheel. I tried to make myself feel worthy by outside validation, and this was my road to self-destruction.
So, I set out to not only survive, but also thrive, on my own terms.
I owned what I brought to the table. I discovered I was smart. I had often let his criticism keep me quiet. I began accepting that I was human and flawed and maybe that was OK. My vulnerability was my strength. And there was no way I could hide it and I kind of didn't want to.
I stopped feeling shameful and learned how to forgive myself, which was a far cry from the "critical motivation" I lived by up until this event.
In short, I got real with myself.
The woman I became is not always at her perfect weight, or with a gorgeous man on her arm, but she is much more relatable -- more compassionate and understanding. She is confident and surrounds herself with people who love and accept her.
She strives to have purpose over perfection.
The "I'll be happy when..." mentality is a myth. Your happiness begins right now, with you. Married or not, perfect body or not, money in the bank or not -- who cares? I got lost in the pursuit and I was forced to realize that losing love meant finding myself.
I am so glad I did.
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