Early in January 2019, I wrote in my journal that a sea change was coming. A sea change is defined as “a profound or notable transformation.” I thought that because I was ending some things (marriage, a family structure, part time work) that I was near the beginning of a new journey. Little did I know, I was already in the midst of it. A year ago, I was deep in the middle of the ocean.
It began the day Sarah was diagnosed with leukemia in April 2016. I knew something was wrong but could not accept to what degree until the evidence was overwhelming. At that time, I lived by denying many things. I denied she was sick, denied that I felt unfulfilled, denied that my spouse and I weren’t connecting. Her cancer diagnosis was the universe’s equivalent of ripping a cosmic Band-aid off my consciousness.
I clung to the threads of denial throughout the year after her diagnosis. I lived the push-pull of accepting reality versus what I would like it to be: less painful, less uncertain, less scary. Cancer treatment and its effects, our new unwanted reality, continued to knock down the door and flood my soul. I learned to sit and breathe while waves of emotion washed over me.
Sarah’s treatment progressed. I successfully accepted and adapted only to be left with feeling unfulfilled and in a surface level relationship. And I would have continued there if not for more cosmic Band-aid ripping and less energy with which to fuel my denial. It takes energy and time and mental space to maintain an effective denial. One and a half years into a child’s leukemia treatment is only a little more than half way. I had no extra energy left and she had months to go.
I had also learned to walk through life scarred and aware of our basic vulnerability. We are only a phone call away from heartbreak and crisis. It was still a push-pull dynamic of what was actually happening versus what I wanted it to look like but reality continued to win out. I continued to mature. Somewhere along the way I had stopped maturing. It caught up to me. In my late 40’s.
If I was unhappy or unfulfilled or not connecting emotionally, it was my own fault. It was time to pick up the mantle of my own agency. The end of my marriage and subsequent messy divorce gave me ample opportunity to practice agency, individuation and choice. No one was going to save me from myself.
Placing responsibility for my life and happiness entirely on me was both daunting and liberating. Personal agency meant no longer accepting another’s solutions and when I didn’t like them, complain or more likely, silently seethe. Once I began owning my own behavior and emotions, if I didn’t like an outcome, I could only look in the mirror for the person responsible.
A year after I wrote a “sea change is beginning,” I look back on a nearly four year transformation and see that I am at the tail end. Akin to looking back on a massive storm, I turn forward and find my hand on the tiller with clear skies over unfamiliar seas. Still a bit daunting, I revel in my agency and have developed a taste for not knowing what will come next. I am no longer certain in my unhappiness but happy in my unknowing.