For The Leaving
Words by. Stephanie Greene
Sometimes I think about the way we betray ourselves when we’re young. We need to be heard, to be seen, to be loved and it itches at the back of our spines. We forge these bonds out of emotions, hormones, religion, music, and the unknown. We learn how to map the stars together, backs pressed against the hood of the car and every word catches in our throats because there has never been anything so sacred as the sky in the deep desert. Sometimes we think we could just drive until we run out of gas. We wonder what the world is like outside the lines drawn for us. We don’t leave though. We make plans instead and those plans burn in us like desperate hope.
If I believed in shoulds I would say that I should have done it. I should have listened to the screaming in my body, the ache to drive away and find something else. I should have let every responsibility I had carried since I was four fade out of sight behind me. I almost did once. I was already on the edge of the city, far past where I had been before and I drove for a while before I turned around. It was maybe the turning that left me hopeless. It was the endless strings of expectation strung through my heart that kept me from facing the wild then. I felt tethered. I felt like I owed everyone else every last spark of me. So I went home, back to the known and to the rising sense of losing myself.
What would have happened if I had chosen me then? Would I have still ended up locking eyes with myself in the reflection of the oven door, sliding handfuls of pills down my throat, waiting to float away into the quiet? Would I have still ended up married too young to someone who didn’t love me? But would I have still had my kids? Would I have still found my way through the wilderness and into wholeness? Maybe another path wouldn’t have changed anything or maybe it would have changed everything. This is why shoulds don’t matter; they don’t speak to the unfolding of who we are and they don’t honor the road we took to get here.
The thing is, when we’re young, we believe in each other. We hang on tight and hope that someone else will help us touch the sky. We make plans that might never happen, but that feel so real. We dream about independence and we tell ourselves we’ll take the first chance we have to just drive. We who hug the space between what we see and what we feel find ourselves in the middle of nowhere because it speaks to us, because we see our truest selves reflected back to us. We somehow believe that we are infinite and capable of almost anything. Inevitably we face the moment we’ve waited for. We drive northeast like we’re really going to follow our hearts all the way out. We feel out the endlessness of leaving with nothing we own and nothing we don’t want in the seats next to us. We let the music swell and we try not to think about how unrealistic this all is. Inevitably we’ll either commit to the leaving or we’ll turn around.
I have turned around too many times in my life.
I have left my soul crushed at the staying. I have faced the dark quiet of never being able to breathe deep enough. So when it finally came time to choose me or the marriage, my heart or the coldness of being unloved, freedom or someone else’s addiction I chose to keep driving. I chose me for the first time, but not for the last. Every moment since then has been a choosing;
there has not been a moment of ease since divorce became reality, but oh my god, there has been freedom. Freedom that tastes like an undoing of every betrayal, like billions of clear stars in the pitch black, like finally shedding expectation so that I can breathe again. Freedom that feels like committing to the wild, to the healing, to the becoming.
I would give anything to sit face to face with myself then, before the desperate breaking. I wish I could cup my own face, hold my own gaze, and tell her that the leaving isn’t so terrifying, that the world outside the lines is more sacred than we thought, that the swell of freedom isn’t just for us it’s for them. My kids will taste this air too. We’ll swim out from under the current of divorce together and we’ll breathe this new air. Whatever else happens in life, we’ll have this one thing: freedom belongs to us. We fought for it. We chose it. We keep choosing it because it’s the only option now.
There are a hundred reasons why I couldn’t keep driving then and there are a hundred reasons why I couldn’t stay now. I always knew the hard part was always in staying gone. No matter how many times I left I always came back again. I always lost myself again. I always betrayed myself again.
Until I didn’t.
There isn’t a single should that matters anymore. Retrospect is just an altar of where we’ve been, a thorough knowing that is free of shame and regret. That is where we once were and this is where we are now because of it. This is where we are now in the awakening. This is, and has always been, good and sacred ground. It’s in the living where we finally unfold our spines and reconcile to what we weren’t brave enough or ready enough for when we were young.
Unbetray yourself. Unwound yourself. Undeny yourself. Whatever it takes, however it opens you, wherever it takes you.
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