August 2014, probably among the longest months of my life. It was a month of enduring a nonstop decrepit emotional roller coaster ride. Like an old wooden coaster, it was a jerky ride that without warning slammed to a stop in the midst of a decent or loop. It was one that jarred your neck and body leaving you with residual aches, headaches, and pain. The intensity left you feeling petrified as you waited upside down in suspense, praying you did not fall from the cart. As the cart slammed on the brakes, your body plunges forward, only to be slammed into the hard, plastic chair, a myriad of ideas and emotions flash through your mind. Every emotion, nuance, image, memory, thought lingered a lifetime, yet, in reality, the journey through the mind is simply a split millisecond. This is how I describe the unconscious awareness that divorce was inevitable, and this was a journey that I would continue to pass from the departure over and over again until I purposely found the strength and clarity and take good care of this brake alongside me. How did I never realize that I was in control all along?
Still, the roller coaster accelerated for me, I pushed the gas and lamented I was an unwitting and unwilling passenger. After all, I boarded this now failing amusement ride 25 years back. At the time it was bright and shiny and I had been in love with the ride. It was filled with thrills and appeared to continuously be headed in a new direction, however just like a roller coaster it just goes in a big circle. My life with my ex-husband was that way, it was intoxicating, reaching the greatest highs and the lowest of the lows(the lows were subterranean).
That month my ex slept away from our house many nights, after provoking a fight. Even I didn’t feel that. He would blame me for not listening, not knowing, not being in tune with his feelings. But, I refused to admit my peripheral vision, this was the only ride I had ever set foot on in the playground. Instead, I steadily concentrated my attention forward, certain I had been making progress, refusing to see all of the passengers, especially, the one next to me, boarding and de-boarding.
Whether you realize it or not, you get to know the passengers, their customs, their smells and their intentions. They all play their part. What’s the saying, people come into your life for a reason? Well, it’s true, even people who turn your stomach are there to educate us. Everybody who boards your cart leaves trash or bags and valuable life lessons. There was one nauseating fellow who indulged in and out of my cart. Everyone loved this seemingly harmless guy… a large teddy bear with the dutiful understanding spouse who busily swept the steps of the cart. To continue with the metaphor, he sat next to me and my partner offered to protect me from the perils of the ride. I didn’t know whether to be more terrified by the slow turn of decent or the passenger creeping closer, and his hand on my knee. I was paralyzed as his wife conversed inane stories. Suddenly, the ride took a turn and normalized, in an instant, I was transported into my twisted new ordinary reality. My famous passenger of 25 years returned from his urgent 9 pm telephone call (no he is not a doctor) distracted and anxious to cover the bill. Shaken by my experience I sought safety and refuge and shared my stranger danger story on the ride home. Guess what? He didn’t care. He didn’t care that his friend was really a shadowy fair ground miscreant, didn’t care at all because he was already off the ride and disappearing into the shadows himself. He was riding the brand new version, while I clung to the faded wooden and rickety tracks that provided warped comfort.
There were many different mini stops and starts that left my mind and heart hurting, but the jarring fact that my for better or worse partner had parachuted off the ride and left me at the hands, literally, of a sewer rat filled me with an inconsolable ache as the trail in front of me disintegrated. Finally, as we derailed it propelled me to at least recognize that the controls were literally in my hands. As instantly as I understood that the ride was falling apart piece by piece, I also understood that I had the capacity to get off the ride at any time. It was liberating to see who was boarding. Occasionally, tunnel vision returnedfear consumed me and I prayed for someone to save me for the ride to repair and for the identical sick, but comfortable loop to re-establish. The strange part about my tunnel vision was that not even at the points of loathsome fear was I looking for my ex to sit next to me. I was scanning, trying to find the exit. Although, I purchased my ticket years back, and I still screamed with artificial delight, true fear and red-hot anger burned inside me as we looped our way up and down, yet my voice still lacked strength, commitment and an unwillingness to change direction. August continued to plod on. From time to time, I saw that the ride in slow motion. Yet, the experience of this degenerate fair groupies lingered and faintly illuminated my path. Slowly I turned my head and looked around, it was shocking to see this former masterpiece that once represented such promise was rotten and fractured beyond repair. As I looked closer the fair rats scurried in and out of the shadows.
Methodically, I grabbed the brake and started to apply pressure. I knew I couldn’t handle another abrupt, uncontrolled stop, however, I eventually realized I could control the speed at which I would make my inevitable departure. I called the one person who refused to ride the rides, the one person who patrolled the park, the person who the rats dreaded, my dad. Patiently and without interference he waited for my ah ha moment. He witnessed, with despair, but without interference, the decrease of the wooden roller coaster. He cringed and watched as it(as I) dropped deeper and deeper into despair and when finally in the end of August I said,”I’m scared, but I’m ready, show me the way”, he held my hands as I pulled the brake and stepped off the ride.
What a strange feeling to be on solid ground. Unwaveringly, he continued to hold my hand, saying phrases of empowerment,”you can eat an elephant, but you have to do it one bite at a time,””know your enemy”, keep a cool head”, and”be strategically and tactically prepared.” He did not save me, he enabled me. With shaky legs, I firmly stepped and changed my path, leaving behind the depraved world where I had become enamored. At the risk of another acceptable metaphor, it was like the House of Mirrors, the fact was concealed in illusion. My route was lit and with shaky determination the world in which households no more boarded together, single passenger lines split couples, the constant of the ever-changing passenger and drifters insidiously construction and rebuilding our roller coaster was being left behind. It was being discarded.
As I linger in August of 2017, I recognize that August 2014 was a month of not sudden abrasive stops, but a month of spontaneous demonstrations. The world kept sending me stronger and stronger messages before I was no more able to restart the ride. My journey across the garbage-filled park, navigating the paper stained map, has been arduous. Sometimes I wandered aimlessly or relegated in the direction of a new thrill ride, but ultimately a silent determination took hold and one foot in front of another, I found the exit. Finally, after three years, August to August, I am exiting the fairgrounds. I empty my pockets of the crumpled tickets, broken promises, and stale popcorn. The worn out and exhausted fair groupies aren’t worth a mention. Go to these guys for help when you need it.