There is a card on my refrigerator, given to me by a dear friend right after my break-up, that says, “Hang in there. It is astonishing how short a time it can take for very wonderful things to happen.” The past month has been a testament to how true this is.
A month ago I was despairing. I was more than three years into a job that usually held new attorneys for a year or two and had well surpassed burn-out status. I was living in the same apartment that my boyfriend (basically fiance) of three years had moved out of two months before. A mausoleum, despite all my efforts at making it my own. And so small was our city that every time I left my house, I was nearly guaranteed to either run into my ex or someone affiliated with him. Then. Then, I received an email from a friend and colleague of mine who I had told about the break up and that I was thinking about moving back to the Bay. She had received a job notification from a friend for a great public interest organization and urged me to apply. I did. I had an interview a week later and two days later was offered the job. Then the house hunt, the perils of which I have documented in previous posts. In one month I managed to acquire a job doing the impact litigation I have been yearning for and an absolutely awesome apartment in what has become a very desirable part of the Bay Area. The sweet amazing universe. I am simply saturated with gratitude. I am also certain that this experience, of things falling into place exactly as they should, is not unique to me.
I have started a new chapter of my life. I am thrilled and excited and certain about this. But of course, there are parts of that last section that have stuck with me. When I was conducting the walk-through of my apartment before leaving Sacramento, my landlord offered me time to just walk-around. “Say good-bye” she said. I took her up on her offer. And as I paced the empty rooms, I had the most profound sense that I was walking head-on into my future and away from the life I had envisioned. It was a sliding doors moment.
I am still amazed at how real that other life feels. How real that other Deborah feels. How I can almost imagine driving back to Sacramento and having it there, like I never left. My ex gardening in the back, our apartment full of projects and stacks of things we had never found a home for.
Cheryl Strayed captures this feeling so beautifully. She said, “I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
So I salute it. From Oakland. I honor its existence in some other realm and turn back to the life I’m leading now. This new chapter. In its beautiful infancy.
After three weeks of panic, endless craigslist checking and visiting dark, carpeted studios that were out of my price range, I found a place! And I still don’t quite understand it. It is lovely, with hardwood floors and a view of the lake, a full 1-bedroom and about $600 below market price. It is everything that I had written on my “dream apt” list several weeks ago (absent a washer and dryer, but I can handle that). It is far better than the place that was offered to someone else on my birthday.
For the past few weeks I have been repeating this mantra incessantly and come to rely on it for reassurance and emotional soothing, “what is meant for you will never miss you and what misses you was never meant for you.” When I went to the open house for my current apartment, surrounded by about 30 adults of a similar demographic and my first inclination was to bolt, I stayed and filled out an application and repeated in my head “what is meant for you will never miss you. What is meant for you will never miss you…” It turns out this apartment was meant for me.
And so I moved this weekend. I signed the lease one week ago and spent last week packing- a process that has never felt so heavy hearted and sad. The apartment hunt has both humbled me and filled me to the brim with gratitude. The lesson I take away is this: In the darkest places, we have to allow the faith that things will unfold perfectly to create a glow bright enough to lead us out.
Because there isn’t enough going on in my life right now, my ex just reached out to ask If I want to get a drink.
I didn’t respond immediately. I gave myself permission to think about it. Really weigh what makes most sense for me. This introspection is a new thing. Progress.For the past few days, particularly when I was packing just to come down here for the week and start my new job I was overcome with grief. I think I stayed so busy stressing out about finding a place and starting at a new organization that I put all of the relationship stuff into a dark closet where I could ignore it. But leaving Sacramento means really leaving my memories and this relationship, whatever miniscule shards remain. It’s been almost three months and yet this concept still grips my stomach and brings the tears. I had no idea that I had inadvertently been sitting vigil since November. Months later, moving on was staring me right in the face and still, it brought me to my knees.
The text from my ex was an opportunity for me to really check in. Of course I want to see him. In this tempest of change and fear and novelty, I would give anything to feel the familiar comfort of his arms. The safety and support that had a way of warming my blood, like clothes fresh from the dryer. But if we went out that’s not what I’d get. Not at all. I’d get this new version. Not the person I dated for so long, the person that I knew everything about, whose mannerisms became so familiar to me that in the past three years, despite my annoyance, I’d picked most of them up. I’d get the version that wants to be good friends, that has settled into being pals (“Super excited for you to be heading to Oakland!” he said in his text) and I’m not there yet. That version doesn’t feel comfortable to me. It just feels vapid and sad. So I said no. I said no and then cried, because after three months, after feeling like I was really moving on because I hadn’t cried in a respectable chunk of time, despite this noncrying likely having to do with being really distracted, It’s still there. There is a deeper place carved out for the sadness though. It’s familiar. “Oh, hello again tears,” I think. I welcome them in for a while, let them do their cleansing and then continue on to the next thing. Because moving forward feels right, despite that sadness, and this enormous fear and the rapidly approaching ledge I am about to sail off of.