*I wrote this post quickly and on the fly last night. But the thoughts are older than that, meaning these feelings and events happened months ago, but I just felt compelled to write about them now*
I finally changed the outgoing message on the answering machine. Yes, I still have an answering machine. Before it was still his voice, the same one I heard practically every morning and evening since I was 20 years old. The same one that said, “I will”, as he stood across from me on the altar, with our family and friends looking on from the wooden pews. The very same voice that said “I love you’ hundreds of times and then years later finally admitted, “I don’t love you anymore.”
I left his voice on there for a while because at first I thought he might change his mind. I thought he might come back. My heart wrenched and my throat caught every night when he would drive out of the driveway, away from me and our children, after they were tucked into bed. We were lying to them as best we could about the fact that their parents were not going to stay together. There had been so many lies and they continued. I would leave the window after I watched him go and sob into the pillow on my bed.
I wanted him to stay, but at the same time I did not. I cried because I wished our life together could have turned out differently. Sometimes I even cried because I wished I would have made different decisions. The pain was like a dense ache all over my body and so many things that used to be important were now afterthoughts, like food and showers and getting out of bed.
It wasn’t until we decided to divorce that I realized he definitely was not coming back. We sat in the room with the counselor, the one where I always sat in the same left corner of the sofa in his office, and my soon-to-be ex-husband always sat in the same mauve-colored arm chair. The one where I bawled as he told me he no longer loved me. The one where I could see it written all over his face.
Then the moving guys came to get the few pieces of furniture he was taking out of the house. He took every last piece of his clothing from the closet. After that day, I bought a new desk for the home office and made it solely mine, decorating it just as I wanted. I began to clean out items here and there, that were technically “his” because someone from his family made them or gave them to us. His old photographs and things I never need to see again. I used my mental magic eraser to get rid of some of the pain. I was doing my best to move on.
So it came one day when the kids were at his house instead of mine, when I finally decided to change that message to have my voice. I’ve only heard it a handful of times since. These days, even my mother knows to call my mobile phone, instead of the home phone. I don’t know why I still have a home phone, I guess for emergencies. That is the theory anyway.
That was the day that I fully accepted that he was not coming back. That was the day that I knew it was time to let go of his voice that changed, both in words and tone. The voice that would no longer command my ears to listen. Because he was not coming back and even I, at that point, was too far gone from what our marriage had devolved into, to want him to return. I was ready to change that outgoing message because I was ready to be done with the past. I knew it was time to change the voice in my head too. I knew it was time to make it say, “You can do this Elaine. Your happiness does not depend on him. Your happiness depends on you.”
The phone rang last night and whoever called did not hang up in time for it to cut-off my outgoing message, so I heard my voice say “we are not home right now”. I smiled and silently thanked him for leaving those many months ago.
I have a voice again.