When I first wrote about what happened, it took me three full days to push publish. This hesitation was borne of many different tangled threads, but one of the strongest was the fact that I felt a deep sense of shame. It is one of the strangest things to explain, especially because given the events, this shame was better suited to someone else’s shoulders. Nonetheless, I felt it so acutely that it hurt.
I felt ashamed when I had to call each and every one of my five siblings and explain that my marriage was over. And despite the circumstances, I still felt as though I was letting them down somehow. I am the older sister to four strong, fierce women, and when I suddenly found myself face to face with the reality that I will be divorced before I turn 32, it didn’t feel like I was offering them much of an example to look up to anymore.
I am the younger sister to one logical, has-his-shit-very-much-together older brother, and having my life thrown violently back into flux after just finally getting settled felt like an embarrassment.
Having to tell my Granddaddy, whose marriage lasted more than sixty years, that my own was ending after only five – I could barely stop crying long enough to get those words out.
And to you guys, and those beyond the close inner circle who knew what had been happening, I was simply ashamed to admit that my marriage was over. I took my marriage seriously; words are important to me and I felt my vows deeply. My parents divorced and although it wasn’t traumatizing, I still swore up and down that I would never allow that to become Olive’s reality. I felt ashamed that I was suddenly part of a climbing statistic, ashamed that those who don’t know me might lump me in with those who didn’t work hard enough, try long enough.
Nothing felt further from the truth.
There was a lot of shame in those early days, and a huge part of this healing/growing process has been realizing that it’s not serving me to carry any of it.
There were several things that helped me come to this awareness, and mass quantities of creamy sheep’s milk feta ranks embarrassingly high on the list, but I realize that’s a somewhat personal taste so I’ll skip straight to the things that may be relevant to you, too. I heard from many of you who have gone, or are going through, very similar situations. It’s heartbreaking that there are so many of us out there living this, but it’s also very exciting, as weird as that may sound.
I have been absorbing so much lately, so much information and experience, and the conclusion I keep arriving at is that this can only be a very, very good thing. First, because in the words of the lovely Louis CK, “Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad.”
This can only be a blessing. I know this to be true, and I think you do, too.
Second, because there have been an odd amount of references in my life lately to brokenness having a greater purpose. This idea is quietly singing to me from all sides, and I am trying to listen. I don’t buy into the idea that you must suffer to create, or that sadness is somehow more meaningful than joy, but there is intrinsic value in the shadow side of life. Immense value. Rather than pushing this experience away simply because it’s painful and I didn’t want it, I’m trying to see that.
Secrets exist because of shame, and shame can only survive in silence. All of it fell away as soon as I began to speak.
My family has been so incredible, and I sort of wish I could rent them out to others going through similar events, everyone should be lucky enough to have their words and their wisdom (if you are going through this alone, please email me and I will share them with you.)
They are a powerful bunch, a force to be reckoned with. And at the end of each of those five heart-wrenching conversations in mid-December, I sat for a few moments and absorbed the individual reactions of each of my siblings. The emotions ran the gamut from anger to protectiveness, disbelief to raw, scraping sadness, but in no conversation was there even one ounce of disappointment. Not one.
Talking to people has been an incredible thing. It’s allowed me to push my way out from the sometimes-strangling weight of this, and laugh instead. There is nothing better than simply being able to laugh – there’s nothing my family does better than untangle a situation with their enviable wit. It is immensely healing, and thank the lord for that.
For anyone who finds themselves standing beside me here: We can’t swim upstream on this, you know? Life is happening the way it’s happening. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but it’s here. You’re living it. So let’s stop looking behind us at the smoking rubble, and start looking ahead and realizing that we are free.
I know it might not feel like it. We don’t typically think of freedom as feeling scary, painful, or overwhelming, but there’s nothing more comfortable than a cage. And I understand that the cage was something you wanted and actively helped create – I did too- and its time will come around again, if you want it. But right now, you are free of something that was not good for you. Truly.
I know, too, that a lot of this feels like weakness – tears especially- but don’t be ashamed of them either, they are helping to cleanse you and move you to someplace better. There’s an incredible book called Women Who Run With the Wolves (I know, I know. Just trust me, Ok? It perfectly blends the worlds of feminism, academia and hippie-dippie nonsense. Read it! Even if your marriage hasn’t evaporated!) and the author, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, says “Tears are a river that takes you somewhere…Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better.”
That’s the movement to focus on. There’s so much joy to be had in this life, truly. Put your energy, as much as possible, into forward momentum. Circle the wagons, fortify yourself, laugh at the situation for the ridiculousness that it is, and forge ahead.
Lift the boat, love the cracks. Wait for the light come in.
It won’t be long now, I promise.