Marriage Made an Actor Out of Me

I expected those first few months at home to be a period of adjustment to being newly divorced and newly sober. What I hadn’t counted on was the tender longing I felt whenever I thought about Scott. Every night we talked on the phone about our time in Arizona and our day-to-day lives at home. I was surprised at how much I looked forward to those calls, and how comforting it was to hear his voice. In the light of day, I would scold myself for being so weak-minded.

We had spent 30 days together in an artificial, isolated environment. In the real world, our differences would spell disaster. We made no sense as a couple. Except, of course, for the fact that we couldn’t stand to be away from each other.

My therapist, Marguerita, said, “What if the reason you thought you were terrible at relationships is because you were not being your true self while you were in them?” She plopped a fresh box of tissues on the table, and I quietly blew my nose. Normally, if I cry at all, I never do so in front of other people. But after leaving treatment, I was crying all the time.

“That’s the thing,” I said. “I feel like I deserve an Oscar for my performances over the years as ‘best supporting’ whatever — wife, mother, school volunteer. But I’ve been playing these roles for so long that I don’t know who I am anymore. I went to the store yesterday to get stuff for dinner and burst into tears because I picked up a carton of milk. I hate milk. My children don’t drink milk. I was buying it out of habit because I think a good mother is supposed to have milk in her fridge. But if someone asked me at that moment what I wanted instead, I wouldn’t have been able to answer them. I’ve forgotten how to be myself.”

“But this man you met in Arizona — you said that you felt like yourself when you were with him.”

Marguerita looked at her notes. “You said that you didn’t have to pretend with him.”

“Yes, but that was because I was never going to see him again.”

“But you were yourself.”

I looked up to find Marguerita staring at me over her glasses. “Perhaps,” she said, “this is a good place to start our quest for the real Laura.”

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