[Photo from The Fresh Exchange.]
Earlier this summer a day like any other passed quietly and without fanfare. Only, it wasn’t really a day like any other. It was the day that five years ago, my now ex-husband and I began the very difficult conversation about how we were going to get divorced. If you haven’t been reading that long, yes, I am divorced. I don’t speak about it at all necessarily as this isn’t a blog about divorce. But if you didn’t know already, I thought maybe you should know. I was married at 26. I was separated at 28. I was divorced at 29. Those three statements have played a huge role in shaping who I am today, and what motivates me as a woman, a blogger and a mother. I don’t wear a t-shirt that says, “Hi, I’m divorced!” (Although somedays I think I should.) I had no idea what was about to happen on that day five years ago. On a day like any other, I hit a wall. I won’t discuss that wall in any particular detail, because those details don’t belong to me alone and I’m not of any unfounded belief that this story is fully mine to share. Out of respect to others and their privacy, in particular my ex-husband who is very much a real, live person, I’m going to gloss over those things. Details aside, the wall I hit had been inches from my face for a really long time and I had been carefully turning a blind eye to it without even realizing I was doing so. When it was no longer avoidable, I smashed into that wall with such force that it literally rocked my entire existence off its foundation and the whole house of cards came crumbling down overnight. For a very long time I wasn’t fully sure of who I was after that or where I was going. But I knew one thing. Without any doubt, I had made the exact right decision and for the most part I never wavered in my understanding that I was doing the only thing I could to save myself.
Oh. P.S. This is going to be a long one.
I sat down this morning on the front porch with my coffee and my laptop. I was planning to finish up a very different kind of blog post, and I’m not sure entirely why, but I felt the need to write this one instead. Perhaps it’s because on a near daily basis lately, I can’t help but reflect on this life of mine that I never anticipated living. I never imagined owning this house. I never really even thought I’d move back to my hometown after being away for over ten years. I certainly never planned to be in the relationship I am in. (Because, duh, I was married.) Hell, I never even planned on being a mother in the standard get-pregnant-and-grow-a-baby sense. Precisely 90% of my life (or more) is in sharp contrast to the life I was setting myself up for or the dreams that I had for myself back then. And I think that’s why I felt the need to sit down and share a little bit about how grateful I am for this life I have, but also how grateful I am for being divorced. Maybe that sounds crazy to you. Or maybe you know exactly what I am talking about. But my relationship with my ex-husband, my marriage and my divorce were all pivotal in leading me to where I am today. I don’t believe in accidents. I absolutely believe in fate, at least to some extent. I passionately believe that the universe will always get us where we’re supposed to be, but we have to be brave enough to listen and to act when our guts are screaming at us to go a particular way. Sometimes people get married and stay married for a hundred years. Sometimes people get married and do not stay married for a hundred years. Or even twenty. Or even five. And guess what? It’s ok. Really, truly. It’s ok.
For anyone who has ever said that divorce is the easy way out, I would say quite simply, “Then you obviously you have never been divorced.” Without question, getting divorced ranks among the most difficult things I have been through in my 33 years. By far. There is absolutely, undeniably, unequivocally nothing easy about divorce. Surviving divorce is no joke. Let’s not kid ourselves. Even now, in 2016, firmly smack dab in the midst of the 21st century, society looks down on divorce with complete disdain. We see it plastered across headlines in bold letters as if divorce somehow automatically equals failure. And let’s be real here for a second. People fear failure. It’s human nature. And then there is divorce, which somehow makes us all feel vulnerable and at risk of that very failure we find so scary. Other people getting divorced feels threatening and frightening and it challenges us in our own lives and our own marriages, and it in turns makes everyone whisper, avert eye contact, look the other way. For years now I’ve been wanting to talk more about being divorced and to open up a conversation that is more honest and more real. Divorce sucks. But sometimes, it is absolutely necessary. You might be shaking your head and saying, “No. Divorce is never an option.” Well, congratulations. You obviously aren’t at a point in your life that you need to get divorced. Because if you were, you would feel far differently.
I spent months floundering around after those words passed through my lips. “I think we need to talk about getting divorced.” And then I packed up the house we had bought just eighteen months before. I filed all of our belongings into boxes and bins. All the while, I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. I couldn’t cover the mortgage alone as I had only left my job three months prior to blog full time, so I took photos of the house that months before had held so many promises and found tenants on Craigslist. All along I was making nice on the internet and sharing cocktail recipes and photos of parties, while inside I was dying. I had friendships that struggled because it was difficult for me to enjoy brunch when I didn’t know where I’d be living the following month. I had friendships that struggled because it was difficult for them to just simply check in now and again to see how I was doing. I found a new home for one of our dogs. I found a place to rent that was ok with my other old black dog tagging along. And then I found another one, and another one and another one. I struggled to pay bills, I put my student loans into forbearance, I dodged people from high school at Target so I didn’t have to engage in friendly banter. I spent a lot of time crying. I spent a lot of time feeling like the person I was had died along with my marriage. I spent a lot of time hearing from people who had oddly specific ideas about what I should do or what I should have done. I spent a lot of time alone. Sitting in parks. Binge watching old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. Crying. Taking walks with my dog. Drinking coffee on the porch of the house I was renting. Reading personal accounts of divorce on blogs wherever I could find them. Crying some more. And then, eventually, the ground stopped seeming to move. It got easier to wake up and shower every morning. The fog over my brain started to thin out. I started to feel real, true joy again. The anxiety that had been rattling around in my chest started to subside. And I came out of the storm not just ok, but better. So so so much better.
Five years later, I truly want to be able to simply share a little hope. I know someone is reading this right now who is scared and feeling alone and ashamed and like a giant failure because your marriage is falling apart or it is already in shambles and you’re trying to rebuild your life, trying to figure out who you are when everything you thought you knew is proving to no longer be true or real. I know first hand that absolutely nothing makes you feel as alone and as isolated as divorce. So I just want to say, you are not alone. If I’ve learned anything these last five years it’s that far more people than any of us could imagine are divorced. We just don’t do a good enough job of talking about it. Young people. Successful people. Highly respected people. You are not alone. No one grows up and hopes to some day have “divorcée” scrawled across their resume of life. Guess what? Sometimes life doesn’t give a shit about your plans. Sometimes life has a better plan for you, a better life for you, a better you for you. A you that is stronger, wiser, happier. A life that is fuller, richer, more incredible than you could ever imagine. And if you don’t take that step forward, you will never know the beauty that is waiting for you on the other side.
I say all the time to people who I speak with personally about it that I am a wildly passionate advocate of divorce. That might seem shocking, but please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am a huge advocate of divorce because I am also a hopeless romantic, and I believe passionately in marriage and in the beauty of a love so deep that nothing could threaten its existence. My marriage? It wasn’t a marriage at all. It was a relationship formalized by some dusty legal document somewhere that acted more like a set of handcuffs than as a life force. I knew life and love and marriage could be so much more and frankly, I don’t believe in living miserably together forever until the end of all time simply because you promised you would. Promises are made and broken every day. I believe in laughter and joy and working through your shit because you bring out the best in each other, strengthen each other and lift each other up. I do not believe in keepin’ on keepin’ on when you systematically tear each other down or feel dead inside or genuinely feel fearful at the thought of spending your entire life feeling like you do within the confines of your marriage. That, my friends, is not a life I’m interested in living.
These days, I jokingly call myself a poster child for divorce. I don’t mean it to be glib. Five years ago today, I was a few weeks into wading through the traumatizing aftermath of a wild decision I never thought I would make. If you’d asked me then, I’d have told you my life was in complete disarray. I believe I most often referred to it as, “Oh, you know. I just set my life on fire. That’s all, no big deal!” Today, I have literally never been happier in my own existence. I have never felt more stable, more humble, more full, more peaceful. Don’t get me wrong. I have stress every day over work, money, motherhood, the list goes on. I have a million things I’d like to improve (like my weight, the fine lines on my forehead and our ugly kitchen), but I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Which I suppose is the entire point of this incredibly long ramble. To encourage you to trust in the journey. To trust that you will end where you are supposed to be. You never know. You may just wake up one day in a big white house, with the most beautiful baby, a gaggle of amazing step kids, and a partner who somehow, incredibly matches your every heartbeat. It’s possible, friends. Even when you think it’s not. Trust me, I would know.
[Images + lettering from The Fresh Exchange.]