1) I learned that I don't have to ask permission. I adopted two cats, because I wanted to. I didn't have to make a case, I didn't have to prove anything. I have begun to make the house my own - to decorate in ways that please me, and to figure out what pleases me.
2) I learned I could do what needed to be done, even when it felt impossible. I've made it through several rounds of stomach flu with the kids without dissolving into a puddle. I even managed to hold back hair and rub backs. For an emetophobe, someone who would have a panic attack at the thought of getting sick, this was huge.
3) I learned I needed to take time to figure out who I am, on my own - to become an 'I' rather than half of a 'we'. I went on a few dates, met some interesting women who I enjoyed hanging out with - but realized quickly that I wasn't really ready yet. I haven't been on my own in more than twenty years.
4) I am learning what I want in my next relationship, and what I deserve. Someone who enjoys some of what I enjoy, who will go to concerts and musicals and the symphony and the opera and museums. Someone who doesn't hold me in contempt. Someone who is a partner.
5) I learned that I enjoy working out of the house. I've been a stay-at-home mom ever since I was pregnant with Tai. I hadn't realized I missed having a job until I went back to work. I feel like my days have a new structure, and I love stretching my brain in new ways.
6) I learned that I am the one. I make the rules, I enforce the rules. With the kids, and for myself. Not always a positive, but a part of the growing-up that I'm doing.
7) I learned that I'm grieving the loss of what I imagined I had, or imagined I could have, with Tom more than what I really had.
8) I learned that I don't want to go backwards. I have never regretted the decision to separate from Tom, at least, not for myself. Even when I found out he was dating, when he began having sleepovers with the kids and the girlfriend, I never wanted to get back together with him.
9) I learned that I am okay alone. Even when I'm grieving, even when I am sad or scared or lonely, I can sit with that and it passes, and I am okay.
10) I learned that I am tired of keeping my life small and circumscribed by fear. I am ready to have a bigger life. To be who I am, in all of my messiness.
It has been 14 months since Tom moved out, since the kids have been traveling between our two houses. We've learned and we have found our own routine. We have made a new normal.
Aubrey Harmon is a mother and writer who blogs at World Split Open.