Love will not betray you, dismay you, enslave you
It will set you free.
-Mumford and Sons
It was a violently windy night. Everything around me was moving, but I stood dead still in my tracks. The sound of the wind moving through the branches and leaves above my head faded into the background as I listened to words that began to heal something in me that had been damaged for years. I still can’t quite describe it: something broken coming together that I never thought could be fixed.
It was exactly two months after my husband and I had separated. I called him and said, “It’s time. We have to make the call. Face to face. It can’t wait anymore. I’m on my way.” I hung up and headed in his direction.
When I moved out, I asked for it to be a trial separation. Even though we both really knew it would and should be permanent, it seemed less scary to call it that. We would “give it a couple months, just to be sure”, and then make the final call. I had marked the day in my calendar, and when it finally came, I was ready to be relieved of the countdown.
I had needed my freedom for quite some time before there was ever talk of divorce, but I quietly fought it. What started as a silent, internal battle with myself became a resounding, external one between us that only grew exponentially as the years passed. We had been hurting each other by staying together. We both needed to walk away so we could live and grow. The writing was on the wall, but we ignored it for so long. That stormy night, we finally faced it head on.
And so I was standing in the front yard of a house I used to live in, watching the wind destroy flowers that I no longer cared about. How do you say goodbye to someone you love? How do you let go? The problem was, I couldn’t. I wanted so badly to let go, but I was afraid of the pain, and of what I didn’t know. I was in the boat and I could see the shore; I was starving for it, even, but I was still too scared to take off the life jacket.
“We’re calling it, right? I just need to hear it,” I said, raising my eyebrows and then letting them fall. I focused on looking him in the eye, trying to erase all the fear that might be showing in mine.
As usual, I wasn’t being very brave. It was all an act. The phone call. The focused, intent drive over. I was still holding on, but was acting like I wasn’t. I maybe even fooled myself into thinking I had and was simply there to make it official. But I was bluffing. What I was really doing was leaving it up to him, putting myself second, just like I always had.
He saw through it. He knew my routine.
“Yeah,” he replied, nodding, looking down at the ground for several minutes, his hoodie covering his face. But then he looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “Amanda, I have to let you go. I have to do this. For you. This marriage is killing you, and I can’t watch it anymore. So just go, baby. Hit the ground running. And don’t stop. Grab life by the horns and don’t let go.”
I’ll never forget that moment. He said those words slowly and with conviction. He spoke every syllable with pain and love. With urgency and authority and no room for negotiation. It was a sweet but firm command. Just go. Like I was born to just go and live my life and so what the hell was I waiting on?
“Don’t you dare worry about me. I’ll be just fine. I will gladly take ten years of pain to see you happy. Just go.” He raised his arm and pointed into the distance, away from him and into the unknown.
For so long, I had blamed him for my pain. For not growing and changing alongside me. For letting me lose myself so I could keep us. Once the seed of resentment was planted, it grew into a forest. Our marriage caused me unbearable pain and isolation, but I was too scared to take responsibility for my own needs. And just like my inner critic always had, it told me I didn’t deserve much to begin with. And so I suffered through my growing pains, making us both miserable. That night, he handed me my freedom. Just like that. No more trial separation. No more dragging it out. No more hanging on. No more excuses for letting my life pass me by. No more life jacket.
On the way home, driving through my old neighborhood, I looked up at the sky and smiled and thanked God. My heart was broken, but I felt so relieved. Instead of the familiar misery, I had peace. It had finally ended. It was finally over. No more decision to make; it had been made for me. It wasn’t hanging over my head anymore, and I could live my life. I felt light, uncaged. I felt free. It was still a long and winding journey ahead, painful even, but I couldn’t have asked for a better departure from the driveway.
The thing about letting go is there is no instruction manual. You don’t think; you just do. You put one foot in front of the other and keep going. You wake up every day and keep moving, and you don’t look back. You can’t keep glancing behind you because you must focus on what’s ahead. And you simply welcome the space between where you were and where you’re going. It’s like getting a tattoo. There is no escaping the sting until the work is complete. You just embrace the pain and smile because you know change is good but it doesn’t come easy.
Looking back at that night, it’s hard to see how I could have been so scared of something that ultimately gave me the most beautiful thing: a full life. But that’s exactly how I learned heartbreak is not a mistake. It’s a gift. It’s not something to run from but to follow. Everything beautiful starts with a broken heart. The road from heartbreak is less traveled, but it leads you to the most breathtaking places.
When a door closes, it is your saving grace, not your demise. Maybe that rejection wasn’t what you wanted, but what you needed. That “no” could be the best damn thing that ever happened to you.
So, sit there with your heartbreak awhile. Let it become your fuel. Let it remind you there is no such thing as what could have been. And whatever it is you might be falling from, it’s your chance to just hit the ground running.