The Surprising First Thing I Did After My Husband Moved Out

A bucket was necessary but not for my tears.

I remember the day my husband walked out of our shared home of 20 years like it was yesterday even though nine months have since passed. The house was suddenly extraordinarily quiet, calm…peaceful even. My ears felt like they were full of cotton — the only sound getting through was the persistent pounding of my heart. A quick ear canal check proved I had not accidentally left earbuds in.

The pets looked up expectantly, waiting to see where I would go so they could follow and stay within feet of me at all times. Maybe they gave a parting glance at the closed front door but who knows? Not everything with blood coursing through their veins understood the magnitude of what had just happened.

Looking back on the moment my husband moved out so many months ago, I can admit the first thing I did after he left was kinda crazy, kinda whackadoo. I stood alone with my arms hanging heavily at my sides in the overwhelming blanket of quiet in the entryway, and turned toward the hall closet. Opening the door, I got out the vacuum, unraveled the cord, plugged it in, and destroyed the silence as the machine sucked up every last bit of his dysfunctional dust. I felt lighter and freer with every forward and back motion.

From there, I moved onto the task of washing the floor and Annie Lennox’s song came to mind. I sang a few of the lyrics out loud because I could and because it felt right.

Perhaps it’s normal to clean a house after a spouse has moved out. Perhaps I’m not as crazy as I thought. Maybe women throughout history have mopped instead of moped.

By the time I was done, it was as if he had never been there.

I did not cry when my soon-to-be-ex left on that day in February. My tears had been spread out over the 25 1/2 years we were married; I didn’t have any more in me. There were so many times while he still lived in our home when I’d take our dogs out for a walk at night after a particularly ugly fight, and the saline would slide down my cheeks without ceasing. For some reason, I never thought to bring a tissue so my oversized t-shirt became the recipient of my grief.

The trails of my tears over the years were long. There were times I’d cry while alone in my car on the freeway. The miles of tears I cried safely seat-belted in flowed onto the I-5 freeway and evaporated into the dry air.

There were times I’d cry while pushing a red shopping cart at Target. The aisles of tears were agonizing and sometimes a little embarrassing.

I even cried face down during an acupuncture treatment and another time during a massage as I realized they were the only men to touch me in over a year.

I am confident the amount of tears I cried during the sad years of my lengthy marriage would overflow a rain barrel, but on the day my former husband fled our dysfunctional marriage, the only moisture sliding down the surface of my body were beads of perspiration as I exorcised my ex’s energy with a mop and Mr. Clean, making a tidy transition from Mrs. to Ms. without the need of an oversized t-shirt or a Kleenex.

Catherine Nichols makes no secret that she doesn’t belong in Southern California. She recently found the spot she wants her ashes scattered, and it’s definitely not on the sand nor in the sea. Until she makes her move, she writes on Medium, over-promises and under-delivers on most things, and stresses about her 10-year-old dog’s three kinds of cancer.

Far more interesting internally than externally. I write to quiet the voices. Deleted Facebook & Twitter thereby immediately quieting 1000’s of voices.

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