I had been physically separated from my husband for a little over three years.
The bruises on my body had long since healed and I had worked with a therapist to clear away the stains of emotional abuse I’d suffered during my time with Tommy. I was making good progress, no longer feeling the need to take medication to control panic attacks which had subsided and became almost non-existant. It was a good thing, too, because at one of our therapy sessions my doctor mentioned he would no longer be able to continue therapy with me. He announced at our last session that he was moving to Florida for retirement and was very sorry. There was another doctor he recommended but I was feeling a little let down and shocked by his announcement. There would be no more sessions. I was on my own. Dumped by my therapist.
I was beginning to outgrow the cottage in Brewster. I felt as though the walls were closing in on me. I had hoped it would be my safe place. My solace. It slowly turned into a self-imposed prison cell. I was thirty two years old and instead of feeling the need to plant roots, I was feeling the itch to move on. I knew I had to change my financial situation in order to finally rid myself of this invisible noose I called marriage. I hadn’t seen Tommy in nearly three years at this point. When a friend suggested I start dating, it simply didn’t feel right. I would have to begin with a lie, telling a potential romantic partner that I was divorced or, even more embarrassing, telling them that I was unable to obtain a divorce for financial reasons (and because I did not know the whereabouts of my estranged husband). Too much complicated business to have to explain to some poor unsuspecting soul. It felt easier to stay single for a while. Besides, I could not imagine allowing someone into my life yet. I wasn’t getting any younger and my desperation to have children was no longer foremost on my mind but hovered somewhere behind me. Friends around me were beginning to move in with serious boyfriends or marry and begin families. I wanted to be a supportive participant of those conversations about plans and color choices for dresses and layettes but something inside me was frustrated beyond articulation. Why did they get to have these neat little lives? With Families that supported them, stood by them and loved them? Why did my mother turn away from me for so long? Why did I have virtually no relationship with my brother? Why didn’t I have any long-standing friends in my life? How could I have wound up with such a poor choice for a husband? What was wrong with me? I could no longer imagine myself sharing a life with anyone. I especially could not imagine raising a child.
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I’ve always been an enthusiastic watcher of talk shows. As a child of the 70′sI grew up watching The Dick Cavitt Show, The Dinah Shore Show and my personal favorite, The Mike Douglas Show long before Phil Donahue, Oprah and Dr. Phil hit the scene. In fact, as little girl, I would pretend I was famous and being interviewed by Mike Douglas. Anyway, this one particular day I was watching T.V. and I came across an old interview with Phyllis Diller, the comedienne and star of many movies and variety shows, on one of the old talk shows. I think it was Johnny Carson or Dick Cavett. They were discussing a book. Apparently this book had changed Phyllis Diller’s life and led her on a path of success and wealth. She spoke about it so eloquently about how there were techniques and tools she used throughout her career to stay on a particular path. She was clear to remark that the book did not discuss God, or religion, that it simply focused on the individual and their ability to achieve whatever it is they wanted simply through a system of self improvement and belief in one’s path. Johnny was intrigued. So was I. I was certainly no big fan of Phyllis Dillers, but I knew she was in show business and she was sitting across from Johnny Carson discussing her lengthy successful career. The book was called The Magic Of Believing by Claude M. Bristol. I decided in that moment that I had to get this book. It was just what I needed to get on with my life. I got up, got in the car, drove to the nearest bookstore and bought the book. I came home and began reading. As was my habit, I underlined things, made notes in the margins and reread. I read the whole book in one sitting, well into the night. When I was done, I flipped to certain parts and read them again, and again. Just when I thought I understaood something, I read it again. It spoke to me. The book, though somewhat antiquated in its use of language, used examples of bits and pieces of the Magic of Believing in people’s lives – everyone from J.D. Rockefeller to Angela Lansbury was quoted in the book as having applied the principals discussed in the book; having a clear focus, using visualization techniques, positive thinking, language and putting a plan into action. Sounds basic and perhaps the same as countless other self-help books but this one spoke to me. Loud and clear. It was also one of the grandaddies of self help books. Countless others use the principles put forth in Bristol’s book. I felt as though I had the ticket to a life in my hands. A great life. One I would be excited about participating in.
No more hiding. No more surviving. I was ready to live.