I feel a little like I am looking through a tunnel at a bright and shiny entrance ahead. Do babies feel this way when they are entering the birth canal? A baby may not cry from fear or trauma or shock, but from the uncontainable joy of ultimate possibility that awaits when transitioning into the light after spending its entire existence in darkness. My passage is not one of birth, but rather renewal and regeneration. At this time I know only what has passed behind me, with a vague impression where my transition will lead. Despite the uncertainty, each step feels like a fluid progression that has been illuminating a path of tremendous creative, emotional, and spiritual growth with increasing intensity.
On December 1, I moved out of the home I have shared with my spouse of 22 years. I am moving willfully—no, eagerly—from the darkness into the light. Heart first, not head first. I am dancing through this transformation. Each step will fall wherever it takes me.
Most people who are reading this essay might be quite surprised. My spouse has been supportive of all my whims for two and a half decades, including graduate school, nonprofit board service, family caregiving, and even tying the knot in the first place. But for most of the past 15 years, we have been growing in different directions at an accelerating pace. When we said our wedding vows in November 1995, we were aware that we would both grow and change over time. The best we could hope was that we would grow and change in ways that would continue to overlap with one another. Despite our best intentions, we have followed different leads.
Over the years, the one thing G and I have learned to do exceptionally well together is keep up appearances. I have strained myself at times to ensure that our friends and family believe that we have been growing ever closer into a deeper partnership with each passing day, while in reality we were teetering with each foot on opposite edges of a treacherous, growing crevasse. At some point I began to wonder whether we were working so hard to paint a warm and rosy portrait for outside observers, or whether we were creating a mirage for ourselves.
Eventually, I ran out of the energy required to maintain the facade. The abyss between us had grown so wide that trying to span it stretched me transparently thin. Every time I omitted information from a conversation, adjusted my schedule, or made choices contrary to my own preferences, I felt certain that my carefully chosen words were no longer sufficient tint to preserve the crumbling illusion for any audience.
Faced with a choice between losing my footing and tumbling into the growing chasm between us or tearing myself into two as a failed bridge to either side, instead I leapt for my life. I have not landed on solid ground yet, but the risk of sailing through the air on my own outweighs the certain death that would result from remaining on the alternative trajectory.
When we first discussed our separation, G told me he had been anticipating a major change in our relationship for two years. Shattering the fractured, smoky glass veneer brought me profound relief. G’s readiness has boosted me with a tail wind of energy that will ensure I land on my feet as a healthy and whole person. We are committed to reconfiguring our relationship cooperatively. Already we have both begun to make better decisions for ourselves.
After 22 years, we both have a better understanding what love and friendship mean than we did in our youth. We both love each other, and we will always be friends. Love and friendship are essential components of a strong partnership in marriage, though by themselves are insufficient. While the partnership deteriorated long ago, this change will enable us to maintain a connection that will be healthy for both of us as individuals.
My recent move marks the beginning of a transition process for both of us. I do not know how long I will stay in my current home or where my next steps will lead me, literally or figuratively. Consequently, I have not vacated our house completely, which affords transitional space at home for G as well. This change has opened tremendous opportunity for both of us to grow into our best possible selves.
Regeneration is a fragile process. Both G and I will survive and thrive. Finding new rhythms and directions will not be easy, nor will every step be graceful for either us. We will put forth our best effort to proceed with love. We are each on new paths of endless possibility and the future is bright.