Life’s Big Epiphanies
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” —Yogi Berra
You know them when they happen: Like an anvil, you are struck with the certainty that your life has just shifted and now you are in a new, unfamiliar place. It can be a gradual awakening, or quite sudden. Maybe it’s because of a shift in you, or maybe it is due to an event so big, so important that it can literally leave you breathless. When you are at the precipice of the next big chapter in your life, it can be among the scariest–and most exhilarating–moments you will ever experience.
That was how it felt when I finally led with my heart and said it. Or, in my case, didn’t say it. Embroiled in one of our almost-daily arguments, my then-husband went for the “big dramatic moment” and asked: “Do you still love me?” He’d posed this one dozens of times as a way to close off any further conversation, and it worked. I always managed to answer “yes” or “of course” or something reassuring. But this time, something inside told me to be true to myself. My heart wouldn’t let me do it . . .not this time. So instead I took a deep breath and . . . said nothing.
That was the beginning of the end of a long and unhappy chapter in my life. The next day, he asked me the question again. This time I was able to answer: ‘No.” Allowing myself to voice what I had been feeling inside but was too afraid to say was nothing less than an emancipation: At long last, I was being true to the inner me. I knew my life was spinning into a whole new direction, but had no idea what I would find when I got there.
What made this night different from all other nights? Several recent events had come together to lead to this overdue epiphany. First, there was the death of my favorite former boss. He was like a father figure to me, and the loss was very sad. But the fact that I didn’t have a chance to say “goodbye” to him, even though I knew he had been battling cancer–I was angry at myself and angry at my husband, who discouraged me from making the drive to see Al in the hospital, as he had discouraged me so many times before from reaching out to people who did not further his cause.
Al’s death taught me a valuable lesson: Showing up for things really does matter. Showing people you care–not just saying the right things, but actually doing something to show them–is important. Words are nothing without the actions behind them. Around the same time, a member of our community died from a freak construction accident. Another reminder that life is short and you never know how much time you have–so why sleepwalk through it?
Then there was the playdate with another family in the area. Apropos of nothing, my husband thought it important to volunteer to this couple, both of whom were math teachers, how pathetic my math skills are. Another illustration of his willingness to put me down and keep me in a corner, as he always did, to fill whatever his current needs were–even if it was just coming up with small talk. It didn’t feel small to me, though. This is what started the argument that night.
And finally, there was the e-mail. A long-lost friend–never a boyfriend, but more of a “friend with benefits”–found me on a social networking site and sent me a note. Innocuous? Maybe. So I sent a nice note back, nothing untoward. But then a note came back that revealed more, became more personal. Soon I was thinking about him more than I wanted to admit. What was this? I had never cheated before. But it felt like a betrayal. Why was I engaging in this extracurricular flirtation, albeit online? It troubled me. At the same time, seeing myself through this old friend’s eyes–as someone attractive, smart, funny–gave me courage. He helped me see that maybe someone else out there would find me lovable, that there was life and yes, maybe even love, after this marriage.