In late May, I took an eight-day road trip. It seemed like everyone else up and down the East Coast had busted out of Dodge, too. With COVID-19 infections down and vaccinations up, the dam had burst on the past year’s pent-up frustrations. Some folks were rushing to restore normalcy. Others were still daintily dipping their toes into the outside world again, fearful of their next move.
These are natural reactions to the aftermath of disaster. But I have learned the hard way that neither one protects from future calamity or provides a framework for starting over.
My ex-husband and I spent 20 years building the American Dream – two kids, thriving careers, growing retirement accounts, and that coveted Brooklyn brownstone. Then it imploded. He had an affair and served me with divorce papers. We spent years in court. The market crashed. I couldn’t find a good job.
At first, I tried to mirror pre-divorce life as closely as possible. I was so afraid of change that instead of replacing the cracked urn on the stoop that first winter, I simply tied rope around it. I got the house and paid the mortgage through a patchwork of temporary jobs, child support, and rental income.
But my husband never came home. The kids grew up. My youth slipped away. House and health misfortunes cropped up. When I could no longer afford the mortgage, I put my house up for sale. No amount of clinging to the past had kept me safe from change or challenges. Nor had it cured the pain of betrayal.
I spent a year decluttering and shedding most of my possessions. The evidence of a lifetime passed through my fingers and, with it, the emotional weight of the objects and dreams I’d clung to for comfort. My fierce attachment had caused my pain, and surrendering my grip purged it. I felt lighter than I had in years.
Alone and in my 50s, I was finally free of the fear that had dragged me down. So I moved south, where I had no job, no home, no friends, and
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