Diane's New Beginning

"Hi Dad."

"Welcome back."

My Father gives me a warm hug and a wry smile. He looks at the borrowed, flat panel, Ford Van loaded with my transportable life. "Let's deal with all that in the morning."

The drive from Ann Arbor, Michigan began 15 hours earlier, before daybreak. It is now dark. Giving him a weary nod, we walk inside. Returning to the parental home is a time-honored ritual for college students on break. It's even considered a smart choice by many college grads who can't be burdened with things such as rent or grocery bills. Being a middle-aged woman with my own son in college, "coming home" to my father's house is-let's just say, non-triumphal.

I'd like to pretend I'm on Hilton Head Island to take care of my aging father. It won't work. He would shame me in public and then run over me with the bike he rides every morning before breakfast.

The unfortunate reality is that my mid-life love affair and engagement ended after two and a half years and my life has taken a major U-turn. And that's all there is to say about that.

It's now six weeks later. The thing about having a broken heart at this stage of life is that there is no question of survival. Life goes on. So why not strive for a little maturity and wisdom-or faith?

Barnes and Noble is a ten minute walk from my front door and the Hilton Head Library is a five minute drive. Stacked beside my bed are all the books I have checked out or bought to try and figure out how to gracefully get through this "life transition." The instructions have started to blur, but it's safe to say they all recommend: 1) getting out of bed; and, 2) remembering to breathe. These are my proudest accomplishments every day.

I am an interior designer. It helps to look at my life now as a renovation project. First, there is all the debris from my demolished hopes and dreams that is still being cleared away. But it's not a complete "tear down." There are solid pieces from which I can start laying a foundation and constructing the framework for a new beginning.

There are certain things I do every day: walk by the ocean; meditate; feel grateful (of course I read The Secret); and get on the scale. There is gratitude that my type of anxiety gives me terrible stomach aches and almost all that weight gained over the last two years is gone.

On that long drive from Michigan to Hilton Head, it became clear that some tough love was necessary to keep things under control. These were the new rules: no shutting down; no obsessing about age; no getting tied in emotional knots.

So far so good on the first two. As for the last, all those feelings go in letters that will never be sent, but rather put in a file that will be burned at the end of one year. Sure there are the wrestling matches with the "Fear Furies" who arrive at 3 a.m. And there is all that sadness. Lots of tears are shed on those walks on the beach. But the ocean comforts me and teaches me about change and continuity. It gives me the will to stay open to possibility.

The truth is, wonderful things have opened up since my arrival on the island. That first morning, as I unloaded the van in the driveway, a wonderful woman with masses of beautiful white hair walked up to me. "Your father just passed me on his bike and insisted I come over and introduce myself. Hi, I'm Joyce."

Joyce later took me to Qigong in Jarvis Park-yes, the very class featured in the November issue of Pink. The group invited me for coffee at Barnes & Noble after class. Female friends are the best cure for heartache. This group of wonderful women extended themselves and offered the first lifeline.

That's where I met Joann. She's a "wonder woman" and knows everything that's happening. She took me to a Lifelong Learning seminar with David Lauderdale from the Island Packet; she introduced me to the Hilton Head Toastmasters Club (my membership kit just came in the mail); she took me to Carolina House to hear the cellist from the New York Philharmonic in a private recital; and she told me about Volunteers in Medicine (VIM).

VIM had an open house to recruit volunteers during my second week here. On the second and fourth Wednesday each month, there are evening clinics and that's where I'll be.

I came to Hilton Head because of my father; because my son is at SCAD in Savannah; and because my two dear friends-who introduced me to my former fiancÈ-are still here. Each one of them makes me feel less alone, but each has a life that does not include me. I have to create my own.

The goal is to build a balanced life. Doors keep opening and thankfully, I keep choosing to walk through. I have a library card, a yoga instructor and I'm friendly with the woman at the Publix seafood counter. My singleness and sadness are facts, but they are not my occupation. Especially, since I need a paying job.*

I want to laugh and share stories and good times with people, to participate in my community and to be thrilled to live on this beautiful island surrounded by ocean and sunshine and warmth. One day at a time. That's enough to make a new beginning.

*Since this writing, Diane has secured a fulltime design position with Sea Island Kitchens!

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.