ending one chapter and starting the next

I’m on the verge of a new chapter in my life. In a month or so, I’ll be moving in with my boyfriend of almost a year. It’s a change we’ve come to see as right and necessary, one that we’re both excited about. The weight of maintaining two households with pets has become an increasingly awkward and heavy burden on both of us. We want to share a home base, to have the chance to create routines that don’t involve one of us racing 15 minutes away to the other house.

I’ve lived with two other men, one of them two separate times. Moving in together wasn’t deliberate or planned, but either horrifically premature or a haphazard decision based on circumstances—or both. I didn’t get a chance to think about what it meant, if I really even wanted it, what I would be gaining and losing. I jumped in blindly, head first, with the assumption that of course I wanted to live with this guy, why wouldn’t I? Even if I had some doubts, it was just for a couple of months, so what was the big deal?

With hindsight, I see the big deal.

Even now, coming at this from a totally different place, it’s so easy to be distracted by the pull of everyday tasks, the mounting to-do lists and plans that come with big decisions and moves. But it’s not enough to just know I want it and get busy doing. This is a pretty profound beginning, and if I don’t take some time to honor that—to recognize the ending that’s inherent in any beginning, to consciously let go as I move forward—I feel like I’ll miss out on some important steps. I might wind up feeling more lost and confused than excited and gratified and grateful.

Like what I felt right after my wedding. I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I got married. I don’t regret marrying my college boyfriend, but I wish we’d taken the time to talk through a lot of things before we got engaged, and I’d understood what a huge transition it was. When I got back to work after the honeymoon, I felt disoriented, depressed and hopeless. Post-wedding blues aren’t uncommon, some of it due to the fact that you’ve been frantically working on a project for months and of course there’s a letdown once it’s over. For me, a lot of it was because I didn’t pay attention to the fact that I was changing my identity, taking on a whole new role as a wife and life partner, without taking any time to recognize that I was losing something, too.

And then it was backwards during my divorce—I struggled to let go of the identity I’d built during the marriage, belonging to someone. That period was all about the ending, versus getting married being all about the beginning—and each time I didn’t see that I needed to process and honor BOTH. Meeting my toxic ex just as I was stumbling toward a new truth, right on the cusp of learning who I was without my ex-husband, slowed the process down by about two years. Once I got out of that relationship/nightmare, I was finally free to get to know myself. Date myself. Give all my time and energy and attention to ME.

For the first time in my life, I was my only priority. I got to decide what I did and when I did it. I reclaimed myself, rediscovered my self-respect, and enjoyed the heck out of it.

After a year, when I decided to start dating again, I did it knowing exactly why I wanted to eventually find a partner, with a clear set of intentions and a deep attachment to my singlehood. I had fun with the experience, and eventually stumbled across someone who I grew to love, respect and appreciate, someone who shares my core values. I’m not with my boyfriend because I was unhappy alone—the opposite. I’m with him because I finally figured out what it means to be happy, what it means to be aligned with what matters most to me.

It means being authentically myself. Caring about myself and allowing myself to screw up and say no and have needs. Writing new rules.

It means feeling free. Relaxed. Safe. Loved.

It means taking care of my life, my health, my cats, my home, my friends, my family, my money, my job. All the things I’m responsible for—and not being manipulated into taking care of any person or obligation I’m not responsible for.

It means making sure I have empty moments to stare up at the sky and quiet my mind.

It means curling up with a book for hours, only getting up to find snacks or go to the bathroom.

It means experimenting and exploring and having adventures. Traveling to new places. Doing activities that I love and trying new ones.

It means feeling whole within myself.

It means carrying all of that forward with me, always, through every new chapter and every transition, not taking any of it for granted or forgetting how important it is.

I really treasured my single life, my tiny cozy apartment. It was so straightforward and fulfilling. I loved coming home on a Friday night and reading until I fell asleep at 9 p.m., waking up early to a quiet Saturday alone, making myself a special Christmas dinner of steak salad, creating small everyday rituals. I’ll miss those things. There’s loss in most big changes, and these things are what I’m losing. At the same time, I’ll be coming home on a Friday to make dinner with someone who loves me, waking up early on a Saturday to a quiet day of bike rides, gardening and cooking together, celebrating holidays and creating rituals as a couple. A new fulfilling life with my partner in our new home.

Being on the cusp of change is a really powerful thing, if we remember to check in and pay attention to how we’re experiencing it. It’s an opportunity to take stock of what matters to us, what we’re leaving behind and what we’re taking on. Every new beginning marks an ending of something else, every ending a new beginning, and all that we feel about both deserves to be fully honored.

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