I have this theory that every person holds on to things that we know we don’t need. In some ways there is a comfort in the familiar, the things we know, the job or career we’ve chosen, the partner we live with, the routine of things. Human beings like routine, things that are predictable, familiar, these things are comforting. It’s when things are pushed outside our control where we stumble, when we’re forced to move through something that scares us, causes a deep seated fear and anxiety. This is when we cling to the familiar like a life raft, hanging on for dear life and willing to go down with the ship, even when we know we shouldn’t, because it feels easier than letting go and sinking into the unknown.
For me, I can pinpoint exact moments in my life where the idea of hanging on to familiar comforts, routine and relationships seemed easier than the pain I knew was on the other side. I remember the exact moment I knew I had to let go of a relationship that no longer served me, I was married to a man I respected, loved and who was at the time my best friend. The problem was I wasn’t in love with him anymore, and the thought of staying married hurt as much as the thought of leaving.
I sat in my car in the parking lot of our apartment building, sobbing into the phone with my mom, asking her if it was okay for me to leave. It’s as if I needed permission from someone else to validate what I was feeling. I know my mom tried to understand, but she could only offer her support from 3,000 miles away. The ultimate decision to stay or go had to be mine alone.
I didn’t arrive at the decision lightly, I agonized for over a year before finally making a choice. I never wanted to hurt someone as much as I hurt my ex-husband, the look on his face when I told him was pure devastation and heartbreak. The words exchanged, the promises broken, the expectations never met, the sting of failure, the accusations and judgment. I felt all those things and more, deep, dark and twisted, the pain settled in my gut. Little did I know that the worst pain was yet to come. I thought breaking someone’s heart was devastating, no that wasn’t the worst. The deepest darkest pain came in the months following the separation, the loneliness, depression and overwhelming sadness , the letting go hurt more.
Looking back, I would handle things differently. What I know now, I couldn’t see back then. Pain forces change, it forces growth and even when we don’t want it, it forces us to let go. I won’t say I regret leaving, but I do regret the hurt I caused. I spent nearly a decade married to someone I loved and respected. In that moment, as I would now, I’d ask him for his forgiveness, for the pain I caused, for the pain to come and to understand it was never about lack of love, I had to let go, for both of us. Staying meant holding both of us back from necessary growth, as individuals, as human beings. I am sorry to have caused pain, but I am not sorry for letting go.
I’m still learning to let go, and lean into the pain when it comes, and it will always come. Even though I still love the familiar routines and patterns of my life, I know the greatest growth comes when I let go, push outside the comfort zone, and allow myself to experience the pain and the passion of this life. I would rather experience every nuance of it, and regret nothing, letting go of things which don’t move me forward, even when it hurts.