A few weeks ago, a woman who was unaware that she was speaking to a once 23-year-old divorcée, told me that “divorce is the coward’s way out.” Fine. She was a coworker, because I am broken and no one I work with knows I’m divorced. Happy, Gail?!? Of course, this isn’t the first I’ve heard of statements such as the above. I’ve ranted about them here, here, and here. I didn’t even comment this time. Now that I think about it, though, that was an inappropriate time to burst out laughing. Once I caught my breath, I started to really consider the implications of this statement. What about leaving my marriage to a sociopath makes me a coward? Then I realized… holy shit, it did take bravery to stay with the man that long. He was terrifying and I was terrified of him. For the last year of my marriage I slept with my wallet in my pillowcase and drove around with my Gramma’s jewelry hidden in my car. I spent my few free hours, between jobs and grad school, chatting and crocheting with Gail in a Taco Mayo, because I could buy a .99 soda and get refills all night and not be home. When I did get home, I drank to take my mind off my misery and would even play the “let’s see how fast can I write this essay before the Everclear kicks in” game. Both drunk and sober, I created entire fantasy worlds where my ex-husband died (through no fault of my own) and just was not in my life. I secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) wished he’d finally give into all of those suicide threats, because then it would be over. To this day, I sleep with a revolver next to me in a gun sock, occasionally cuddling it like a stuffed animal when I have nightmares about still being married. So yeah. It took bravery to stay and perhaps, by extension, cowardice to leave. If that’s the case, though, my cowardice has reaped some fantastic rewards. In the last two years, I’ve made amazing friends, had some hilarious dates, taken several epic day trips, gussied up and gone on too many dates with me-and-only-me to count, reconnected with God, chosen a new career path, lost nearly 100 pounds, taken up a dozen hobbies (only one of which sprung from my fear of my ex-husband)… … and oh, yeah… today, I have officially earned my Master’s degree. That’s right. Despite that sociopathic son-of-a-bitch doing his damnedest to drag me down into the gutter with him, I did everything I ever said I would and am going on to live my life with a bright future. I’ll never again eat free movie theater popcorn all summer or shoplift bags of frozen chicken under the dog food, because that one hundred dollar bill went missing from my wallet. I’ll never find myself pregnant and praying for a miscarriage more than freaking Rosemary, because that baby would have a father without a soul and then weeping with shame when said request was granted. I’ll never miss another holiday just to avoid lying to my family about whether or not my husband has a job and I’ll never again wipe blood from the dog’s paws. I don’t live under constant fear of eviction, since he not only hasn’t paid the rent, but faked having a job. Because I am such a fucking coward, my life is filled with absolute yellow-bellied bliss and he doesn’t get a single minuscule piece of something for which he did not work. I’ll gladly take this over the scars of bravery any day.