Recently, I returned home to NorCal from home in Vermont. The states are almost as far away from each other as one can get in these United States and, though the politics are similar, the attitudes are about as distinct as the weather. There's an ethos to mountain people that runs in my blood. There's a collective conciousness in Vermont, a belief in the common good that imbues every social interaction I have there. In Vermont, and throughout those mountains in which I grew up (a bit further south in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia), I feel a total absence of self-absorption, self-importance, self-aggrandizement, self-anything. People just are, simply, but they are far from simple people. They don't change the landscape of the tech world with the next next thing in the Cloud, but they can tell you which clouds are which and what it might mean for the weather, which will affect their crops, their snow, ski tourism, and, therefore, the economy. Same endgame -- way, way different strategy.
I'm not saying that Silicon Valley is full of narcissistic assholes; though it has its share, it has a huge share of wonderful people, too. I'm just saying that Vermont is absent any arrogance, and that is so refreshing and restorative to my spirit that I return to the Valley having truly "reset" each summer, prepared for the onslaught of self-everything.
This year, though, that reset took a different turn, for, while away, I made a life-altering decision to end my relationship of 22 years, 15 of those spent married. It is unlikely that I'll ever write about the reasons for this decision, for, ultimately, it is a private matter. That said, I don't want to be the subject of gossip and rumour, so I'd rather declare it up front: I've filed for divorce from The Guv. It is a decision made without hesitation or regret after seven months of marriage counseling that I entered with an open heart, trying to save our union. I loved the Guv for 22 years and likely always will. But some pretty awful things happened that irreparably broke our marriage, and I reached the day when I couldn't look myself in the eye anymore and stick in there, not for the kids, not out of fear, not for anything. I finally decided that my "self" mattered a lot more than I thought it did.
My focus these days is on my kids, and, when they sleep, it's on me, trying to figure out who I'm going to be. I've been someone's Better Half for over half my life -- since I was 16 years old -- and I'm not even sure I know who I am without my best friend at my side. Sometimes I forget the depth of my pain, and then, in those dozen moments each day, I want to call him to ask a question, to share a story, just to hear his voice -- and I can't do that anymore. I reach for him in the night, and the bed is empty and significantly colder. It's like a habit that I have to break, and it's a pain worse than death. I once read that when you love someone so much it hurts, the only way to stop it is to love yourself enough to stop the pain. I'm working on that now, and I know that I'll get there on the wings of my children's smiles and on the backs of a host of Silicon Valley girlfriends who somehow always know just when I need them -- and on my own strength, which I am only now realizing I had in store.
There are a lot of negative things about divorce on which I could focus, but I'm going to remember my lifelong mantra: I choose to be happy. Of our 22 years together, 21 (by my count) were outstanding. I know what it's like to be richly loved and to give the same in return. Good memories made cannot be taken away or revised, even in the worst of battles, and I cherish them all -- every love letter, every photograph, every recollection. Two beautiful children came from our union, and they truly are the best of both of us. And if I had it to do all over again, knowing even that it'd end this way, I'd sign right back up (well, save the worst of the past year). I have few regrets about the life I've lived to date. I walk away from my marriage knowing that I gave it my all, and that my all was enough even though it didn't work. I walk away with a heart full of love for a family that exists in a different form now. And I walk away knowing that I'm young enough to start over when I'm ready, and I will.