Ever since I moved to Paris, I have had more than one friend compare my journey here to “Eat, Pray, Love”. To tell the truth they weren’t far off; not to ride on Elizabeth Gilbert’s coattails, or in any way compare my life, or writing ability to hers, but.
I purchased her book months before it became the talk of the town. No one I knew had even heard of it at the time. Maybe that is par for the course living in the deep south. New York phenomena takes longer to filter down to us.
To be honest however, I did not make it through the entire book the first time. I was unable to read past the crying on the bathroom floor scene. It hit too close to home.
Much like Gilbert’s story, from the outside looking in, we were the perfect family. I was married to a handsome, successful business man. We lived in a house everyone envied, which I had designed. We had a great son. I didn’t even have to work. I taught yoga and was back in college for a second degree in art. I spent my days painting, writing and caring for the house and my family. We took frequent, fabulous vacations, staying in four star hotels. What more could I ask for?
That was the question that plagued 80% of my waking thoughts.
That, and the its twin,
“What is wrong with me?”
Because despite a very deep love for my husband, and his for me, I was miserable. At night, wine and hours upon hours of Law and Order SVU had become my best friends. I had every self-help book imaginable. I was in prayer groups, attended bible studies, did volunteer work, exercised and still I exhausted those closest to me, crying about my life. I kept telling myself if we could just make it to 65, we would be sitting on a porch somewhere, holding hands and laughing at the arguments that seemed the current mainstay of our marriage. But another 16 years to get to that point felt like an eternity. We were on counselor number 7 I think, to no avail, when I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I had just lost my mom. All I could think was that I didn’t want my life to end like hers did. Too many unfulfilled dreams.
The ensuing yearlong separation and divorce held more pain than I can recount here.
Crying wasn’t relegated to just the bathroom floor.
I cried everywhere, all the time.
And then the day arrived for us to sign the papers. I will never forget the two of us sitting in my attorney’s office alone while she went to make copies of something. My soon to be ex husband had not even bothered getting an attorney. He had not contested anything and been generous with the settlement. I looked at the very legal documents obliterating what was supposed to be “until death do us part”. My name, Kimberly Anne Benjamin, Plaintiff, VS. It sounded so aggressive, Versus. All I wanted was to stop crying.
I signed the requisite lines quickly and handed him the pen. He looked at me and said, “I never would have divorced you. Never.”
It felt like an arrow to the heart, because I knew he was telling the truth. And yet, the question that ran through my mind was, “So how did you see this working out then? You would just take more solo trips, or stay at our condo at the beach more (Yes, we even had a condo at the beach) while I quietly followed in my mom’s footsteps, drinking myself into an abyss of disappointment and bitterness?”
Little did I know at the time, but, this was my first step.
Paris was still seven years away. Between then and now I would sell two houses and remodel three. I would start another business. I would become engaged to a man that depleted a big chunk of my settlement, for which I am still paying. And go through some very gut wrenching moments with my son. But that too was a part of the journey. A part of getting down to the very basic question,
“What do you want?”
Followed closely by
“What do you want badly enough to go after?”
Here, today, this is what I want. Living in Paris. Helping women realize their dreams.
We all have stories. We all have journeys. We all have choices. Some of the stories are beautiful and happy. I have lots of those. Some of the choices don’t turn out the way we hope.
But then, a lot do. We are always moving. As someone wise once said, “Everything we do either takes us closer to where we want to go, or further away.”
What choices are you making today?
Are they taking you closer, or further away?
If you want to hop on a quick call to tell me your story, I promise I will listen. And then we can talk about how to get you from pain to laughter.
À demain et Bisous!