Once in a while when I was married, my husband would take a hike in Papago Park with me.
The last time we did this, he was waiting to tell me he wanted to end the marriage. He was waiting to let me know he was having an affair. He wouldn't talk to me about anything. He was just waiting.
The wait was so painful for me. For years I had defined myself through my husband's eyes. And for the past several years the distance between us had grown so great - he engrossed in his addiction, I in my own. His evenings were spent alone in his office, reading. And when I was gone to bed, his nights were spent having phone sex or texting his mistresses. I knew that we were in bad shape, but I somehow thought that eventually he would change. For me.
I was wrong. It was I who needed to change. I needed to stop defining myself through him. I needed to stop finding bits of self-esteem in the tiniest bit of attention I could scrape from him.
The evenings alone and the nights abandoned for masturbation and 1-800 numbers were only survivable because I had a blind faith that he would never do what I knew in my heart he was doing. I lied to myself on a very deep level. I believed in the good man I had married, not the man who was living with me. I wanted the good man to come back, and I waited.
Now, living in the same town still, I find myself trying to avoid old haunts. Not an easy thing to do, really. I only live a few miles away from our old home. So I pass places full of dark memories on a daily basis.
Since my divorce, I haven't gone back to Papago Park. The last time we were there together was just days before we decided to divorce, almost two years ago to the date. The desperate feeling of abandonment was palpable to me. He was so angry with me and wouldn't speak a word of his anger. Instead he seethed it. And I, being engrossed in my own fear, could not fathom what was about to come.
That hike sticks with me. It was a typical happening in our marriage. I was up at 7 a.m. in the desert in spring. A perfect time to hike. I had asked him to join me and he said he would. He rose at 2:30 p.m. A NOT perfect time to hike in the desert in spring. By the time we were near the trail's end, I had heat stroke. He was furious with me. I should never have been in the desert sun at 3 in the afternoon. I am not capable of handling the heat. But to him, my heat stroke was proof of my character flaws. And he was angry. Not concerned. Just livid.
I never wanted to go back to that park again. I never wanted to remember the horrible pain of that final moment in our marriage. His disgust with me. His hatred of me.
But today. Today I needed to hike. Today I needed to do something for me.
Where better to do it than the place I once loved?
Where better to do it than the place I felt so much grief?
I must reclaim my space. I must no longer let myself be defined by the bad relationship I lived through.
I am my own self, full of possibility.
Today I reclaimed Papago Park as my own. It is a space that carries memories, but it is not a space to be avoided any longer.
I am defined now, not by my husband's opinion of me. I am defined by my own actions.
Today I took action.
Today I hiked Papago Park.