In May I separated from my husband of 24 years and my life has shifted into a place of humility and transition. I chose to change my life. It was a difficult decision because having a long-term relationship in the world I live in is such a badge of honor. No one stays together for very long when you are in the entertainment world. I loved that I could say that I was the person who had a “real” relationship and life with a husband that was forever and that I was dealing with the realities of marriage and family. And I did and we did. We both worked hard to stay together and we dealt with challenging issues that brought us closer as friends and parents. My husband went through terminal cancer twice and both times came out of it better than before. And yet that journey which made us stronger also frayed the fabric of our bond. I am not sure why but there is something about going through a life threatening situation that brings you to your knees as the patient as well as the care giver and it changes the shape of a marriage. Sometimes it can bring you to a place of un-thwarted union or catapult you into a place where you are driven to find your independence. The latter is what happened for me. Because of his illness we became bonded at a level no one could understand unless they had had that experience as well but it also weakened us as a couple. It is as though we both needed space to breath more easily and become our true self afterwards. We have always loved one another. Still we needed to be on our own to feel the change of whom we had grown into. My husband and I had become friends a long time ago and although friendship is a beautiful place to grow in relationship it is also a place where stasis can become the norm. You don’t push against a partner when your life isn’t being challenged in the areas of passion and creation. We had long since lost our tenacity to push into each other to become bigger as individuals. We were so worried about not rocking the boat of stress (stress being a huge detriment to cancer patients) we tread lightly in our world.
I am happy that I was married for as long as I was because my husband and I had such mutual love and respect for each other it enabled us to parent with focus and devotion. I was thrilled to have given our girls a stability that I had never experienced as a child.
So the end of our marriage came and the beginning of Mariel as a middle-aged woman (I use the term with tremendous honoring of having earned the title) in the world alone has been born. Now I have to care for all the dirty little details of life on my own. I met my husband at 22 and I was quick to let him take over my practical world. He made it easy for me to be a mom and an actress and I didn’t have to deal with finances or things that required me to be diligent in regard to my career. I allowed my very bright husband to take care of things that I just never really wanted to bother with; that was one of his gifts to me. Now I am a watching an economy fall apart and it has directly affected me. I have had to sell my house for half of what it was valued at a mere 6 months ago. (The good news I was able to sell it, which is rare, and I am thankful) I have taken on my investments and realized I lost most of them.
I started on my own 8 months ago with almost nothing. That is not an exaggeration. I nearly lost it all not because it was taken from me but because the nature of what is happening in the world and more succinctly it was exactly what I needed to become self responsible. I had no choice. That said it has been the most exciting and terrifying experience ever. I feel liberated and an empowerment that I have not felt as a woman before. It is funny because I have played lawyers, secret service agents, doctors and women of power as an actress but I had never experienced that power in my own life until now. I am feeling the energy that comes with taking full responsibility. I have started a business which I am in the process of making real and that holds a plethora of challenges that are new to me and I am walking through them with eyes wide open and an naivety that is humbling.
My daughters are grown up now but they still have needs like little girls. One lives in New York and is a stunning model/actress and my youngest is a star student (stunning as well) at art school here in LA. They were both deeply affected by my separation. One knew it was coming and has handled it with maturity. My other daughter felt that her world had been torn apart at the seams. There was a point at which she felt as though her heart had been ripped out of her chest (her words to me exactly) and that her very foundation had crumbled. Our family was everything to her, she saw nothing that she felt was worth leaving our life for and from her point of view I could understand her pain. What was hard was to hold her and love her through her journey of acceptance while standing my ground knowing that what was happening was going to benefit everyone in the long run.
Since it is all still new the journey is in process and every day gets us closer to a place where she can take it in and where she can’t help but embrace her mother’s newly found ease and joy. As children we know nothing more than what we have grown up with so we think that that is the definition of happiness and safety but as she experiences her own freedom she is seeing the beauty of my individuation. And of course she is mirroring it in herself, as that is what happens at 19.
The curious part of my story is that I have fallen in love. It was not what I had expected nor even wanted. I had envisioned that I would be single for years while I built up a business and discovered myself in solitude. I even imagined that I could become a renuncient. Thank God that was my imagination as I find the excitement of loving exquisite. What has happened has been extraordinary because of the ability to be me in a new place with my partner. I had been married for so long that I had habits that were ingrained in me that defined my actions and made me who I thought I was. I thought that I was weaker, less capable and I was apologetic of my very existence. That was a survival technique that I used as a child, which I carried into my life.
I remember there was a time when I was in grade school and the “cool” kids whom I longed to be accepted by used to say that I was “okay” but they really didn’t like hanging out with me because I laughed all the time at everything. It was mortifying. I laughed in embarrassment at nothing. I laughed at what others said when it wasn’t funny. I laughed following every single sentence that I spoke. I laughed hoping that no one would realize how scared I was that no one would like me. I was a walking bundle of self-hatred. I tried desperately not to giggle all the time but I was helpless to my lack of confidence. There are reasons that this happened for me largely due to a home full of addictions abuse and horrible communication. Still it was my family and I thought it was wonderful because it was mine.
This laughing had been a part of me forever…I know that part of the reason I have been quietly apologizing for being here is because I had lost so many family members, in particular two sisters one from suicide and one who is alive but suffers such deep mental illness she is not really in this world. I apologized for the fact that I was allowed to live and they were not…why was I given such a beautiful life? I had a lifetime of feeling that I must pay a price for love, joy and ease. I had always believed that happiness was given but the payment was pain. It made me not want joy for fear of the backlash. Consequently I suffered times of deep depression and isolation. Even though I was in my marriage I became a recluse.
Now I am in a relationship with someone so honoring of me being me I am in awe of him. He wants me to love myself, be strong inside and feel the depth of my beauty, which he assures me is there. He wants me to feel the elegance of my femininity and the grace and softness that he sees in me. He has been a catalyst to my “becoming” me and that becoming is a daily adventure into the unknown. So what do I know at the end of 2008? I know that I am a person of courage to face demons about where I come from, who I am and what I want to see changed in myself. I embrace my journey because I have felt more love in the last months than I have ever felt before in my life.
As the holiday approaches I bow to what I am grateful for. I am deeply grateful for the past that has brought me right to here. I am deeply grateful for my courage. I am deeply grateful to my best friend who is my spiritual guide and inspiration. I am deeply grateful to all my friends who are my teachers. I am deeply grateful for my partner who sees me and who shares his extraordinary human depth with me. I am deeply grateful to my partner too for allowing me to love him without condition and to feel loved by him beyond my imagination. I am deeply grateful to my daughters for their strength of character to address what scares them most. I am deeply grateful to my ex husband for his loving me in the face of his world falling apart. I am deeply grateful to the community that I know and don’t know who will step up to their own life struggles and bow humbly to a greater guidance. I am awed and deeply grateful by how we all work so determinedly to be better human beings everyday.