In 2000, I packed my things and left my husband of 26 years. We had spent a lot of time & money in marriage counseling & it was worth it. We were sitting in a group session one day. A woman was screaming at her husband. Her face was red, and the tendons were standing out on her neck. I forget now what it was she was screaming at him about, but loosely translated it was, “Change to suit me!” My husband looked at me & I looked at him. When it was my turn to share, I said, “I never wanted him to have to change to suit me.” My husband nodded & said the same thing. That was in December. It took a while to find a lawyer & find a place to live, but I moved out on July 6, 2000.
26 years to the day after we were married.
I cried as I packed & I was scared. I was 50 years old & I had never made more than $10K a year in my life. But the previous summer, I discovered that I had a talent for ballroom dance–and a sudden burst of energy, the like of which I had never known before. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was suffering from thyroiditis. I thought I was well for the first time in my life.
I lived in New Jersey, then, I moved to Bayville, a small town on the Barnegat Bay. As I drove over the Raritan River, I felt a sense of peace. I KNEW, down to the soles of my feet, that I was doing the right thing.
The house was lovely, with a view of the bay. I knew the mother of the woman next door to me. I hoped to own my own dance studio one day. I danced 4 to 8 hours a day (thyroiditis, remember?). I became a good dancer–but I never learned how to be a good business woman. I bought my own studio a year later. In 3 months, I was broke.
And sick. My thyroid had burned itself out. My levels were so low that it affected my ability to read, write and do arithmetic. Later, a neurologist said that when the levels were too high, I probably had a stroke. Anyway, I had to close out a business without being able to understand simple declarative sentences. I could understand the individual words, but not the meaning of the sentence. I remember looking at my tax return. The instructions said, “Send this copy into the IRS. Keep this copy for your records.”
I couldn’t figure out what to do with them.
First, I cried. Then, I called my ex-husband. I gave him temporary power of attorney. He read the instructions out loud to me & helped me close up the business. To this day, we are good friends, even though he has remarried.
I healed. I tried to work at a lot of things, but I had lost so much cognitive ability that it was hard to do anything.
Writing fiction was out of the question.
Slowly, the artificial thyroid hormone began to stabilize my endocrine system. Reading came back in 6 months. Arithmetic took 2 years. Writing took 6 years. I got a job at a garden center as a cashier. That gave me practice with arithmetic & memory (we didn’t have scanners & I had to memorize the prices). I love plants & part of my job was looking after them.
An uncle died & left me a little money, not much, but enough for a down payment on a house. One of the men who worked at the garden center lived in Pennsylvania. He had a large home that cost 1/5 of what it would have cost in New Jersey. Also, I knew that if I couldn’t find a job out here, we could carpool to New Jersey.
I started looking online. Before the divorce, I had begun a wish book, a scrapbook of pictures of the way I wanted my life to be. I had cut out a picture of house in the woods.
It was the same style as one of the houses I saw online.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, in 2006, I drove out to Pennsylvania. A wonderful real estate agent spent the day showing me about 12 houses. I fell in love with this one. It had skylights, a screened in porch as well as a deck, a fireplace and was surrounded by woods. I remember driving up the road to the community. A brook ran along the rode & we had to stop for wild turkeys. 2 deer walked calmly by as we got out of the car to look at the house.
Once again, I was scared, but this place had a feeling of rightness about it.
I made an offer, we negotiated for a while & I moved in on February 14, 2007.
And then, reality set in.