I sat at a table in a conference room in a mid-town Manhattan office building, surrounded by six strangers who were executing a transaction that would affect my future. I listened to my lawyer crack jokes as he placed yet another form in front of me to sign, keeping me from asking myself “what am I doing, buying my own apartment in Manhattan?”
Just three years before, I thought I’d be in the ‘burbs with my husband of 30+ years, playing tennis, volunteering at the Met, enjoying my time as an empty-nester. Despite the fact that my friends often reminded me that I hadn’t been happy in my marriage for a while, I was determined that with effort, I had the power to make it work. I thought people who divorced gave up too easily. “Divorce is not an option for us,” I preached.
Apparently it was an option for him.
Even after he left, I still clung to the belief that all we needed to do was pull on the metaphorical wellies and foul weather gear to get in the muck with a good couple’s therapist. After doing the hard work, I fantasized that he’d say, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Then he’d move back in and we’d act like honeymooners, rediscovering each other.
“No, Ginny,” he said. “I’m not coming back.”
I sobbed asking myself, did I not work hard enough; managing a beautiful house for him; supporting his career; coloring my hair and toning my body at the gym? What happened to my power to make things work? I did everything ‘right,’ why did it fail?
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” my therapist said. “A thirty year marriage is not a failure. Relationships have expiration dates. It’s the end of Act II. Let’s look toward Act III.”
Three years later, at the start of my Act III, I walked into the bank to have a big-ass check cut. The bank teller smiled at me because she knew that check was a big deal. I smiled back, having all sorts of feels; excitement for fully committing to living in Manhattan—something I’d fantasized about doing since I was a young adult. Loneliness that I was doing it all on my own. And fear that maybe I was making too BIG of a commitment at a time of my life when I had no effing idea what my future will look like. My present life didn’t remotely resemble that life in the ’burbs.
The next day, after I signed my name thirty-seven times, my attorney said, “it was a pleasure working with you. It was the easiest closing I’ve ever done.” My all-male team of attorney, broker and banker congratulated me with hugs.
The seller—karmically retiring to Westchester, a few miles from my marital house—she said “It’s a great apartment. Lots of good vibes.”
And then we were done. It was even a bit anti-climatic.
After years of trying to power-through my marriage, forcing it to work, convincing myself that ‘failure wasn’t an option,’ this major, life-changing step took little to no effort. Maybe because this time, my philosophy wasn’t “failure isn’t an option,” but “if it works, it works.”
I was still anxious, not entirely sure about the financial commitment, worrying ‘What if I don’t like living there? What if I can’t afford it?” But inside I knew I it’d be okay, and ultimately, I had all the power to change it.
On that gorgeous fall day in New York City, I stuffed the thick folder of signed papers into my purse and decided to walk. I found myself heading uptown toward my new neighborhood, toward my new life. It wasn’t hard at all.