August 2014, probably one of the longest months of my life. The days felt like decades and almost seems like another lifetime ago, it was definitely another life ago. 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 halt in the middle 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 didn’t fall out of the cart. As the cart slammed on the brakes, your body plunges forward, only to be slammed back into the hard, plastic seat, a myriad of thoughts and emotions flash through your mind. Every emotion, nuance, image, memory, thought lingered an eternity, yet, in reality, the journey through the mind is only a split millisecond. This is how I describe the unconscious awareness that divorce was inevitable, and this was a ride that I would continue to pass by the exit over and over again until I consciously found the strength and clarity and take hold of the brake next to me. How did I not realize I was in control all along?
Yet, the roller coaster accelerated for me, I pushed the gas and lamented that I was an unwitting and unwilling passenger. After all, I boarded this now failing amusement ride 25 years ago. At that time it was bright and shiny and I was in love with the ride. It was filled with thrills and appeared to constantly be headed in a new direction, however 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 highest highs and then the lowest of the lows(the lows were subterranean).
That month my ex slept away from our home many nights, after provoking a fight. He would show in the morning, claiming exhaustion from sleeping in his car or at one of his guy friends. Even I didn’t believe that. He would blame me for not listening, not understanding, not being in tune with his feelings. I wish I would have looked more closely at the passenger next to me – not being in tune with his feelings(!?) – and see the passenger next to me was another woman. However, I refused to acknowledge my peripheral vision, this was the only ride I had ever set foot on in the park. Instead, I steadily focused my attention forward, certain I was making progress, refusing to see all 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 habits, their smells and their intentions. They all play their part. What’s the expression, people come into your life for a reason? Well, it’s true, even the ones who turn your stomach are there to teach us. Everyone who boards your cart leaves trash or baggage and valuable life lessons. There was one nauseating fellow who navigated in and out of my cart. Everyone loved this seemingly harmless guy… a big teddy bear with the dutiful understanding wife 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. In a blink, at one restaurant dinner, a “friend” made an overt pass. 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 normal reality. My known passenger of 25 years returned from his urgent 9 pm phone call (no he’s not a doctor) distracted and anxious to pay the bill. Shaken by my experience I sought safety and refuge and shared my stranger danger story on our ride home. Guess what? He didn’t care. He didn’t care that his close 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 model, while I clung to the faded wooden and rickety tracks that provided warped comfort.
There were many other mini stops and starts that left my head and heart hurting, but the jarring fact that my for better or worse partner had parachuted off the ride and left me in the hands, literally, of a sewer rat filled me with an inconsolable ache as the track in front of me disintegrated. The fact that was I shrank and could have cared less who was seated next to me. Finally, as we derailed it propelled me to at least recognize that the controls were literally in my hands. As instantly as I understood the ride was falling apart piece by piece, I also understood that I had the power to get off the ride at any time. It was liberating to see who was boarding. At times, tunnel vision returned, fear consumed me and I prayed for someone to save me or for the ride to repair and for the same 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 frantically scanning, searching for the exit. Although, I purchased my ticket years ago, and I still screamed with faux 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. Sometimes, I watched the ride in slow motion. Yet, the experience of the 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 began to apply pressure. I knew I couldn’t handle another abrupt, uncontrolled stop, however, I finally 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 feared, my father. Patiently and without interference he waited for my ah ha moment. He witnessed, with sadness, but without interference, the decline of the wooden roller coaster. He cringed and watched as it(as I) fell deeper and deeper into despair and when finally at the end of August I said, “I’m scared, but I’m ready, show me the way”, he held my hand 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 didn’t save me, he empowered me. With shaky legs, I firmly stepped and changed my course, leaving behind the depraved world in which I had become enamored. At the risk of another fair metaphor, it was like the House of Mirrors, the truth was hidden in illusion. My path was lit and with shaky determination the world in which families no longer boarded together, single passenger lines divided couples, the constant of the ever-changing passenger and drifters insidiously building and rebuilding our roller coaster was being left behind. It was being discarded.
As I linger in August of 2017, I realize that August 2014 was a month of not sudden abrasive stops, but a month of spontaneous beginnings. The universe kept sending me stronger and stronger messages until I was no longer 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 marched confidently in the direction of a new thrill ride, but ultimately a quiet determination took hold and one foot in front of the other, 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 tired fair groupies are not worth a mention. So, without further belaboring the first day of a different life, farewell Tucson, farewell old life, farewell, and good riddance!