I have noticed that for most people, the word divorce rolls off the tongue like any other word, but it is not that way for me. When I try to say it, I feel my throat tighten and when someone else says it, I feel myself flinch. The word holds pain and sorrow–so much so that when asked about my marital status, I prefer to say I am no longer married rather than using that word.
For a short period of time, I was seeing a great life coach who helped me with many things, one of which was re-framing this aspect of my life. She encouraged me to come up with my own definition for the word. I tried to see beyond what I was experiencing at that time, and came up with this definition:
Divorce: A deep, dark, difficult decision, out of which rises a door, through which discovery, development and a new direction are possible.
I was texting my friend Kevin awhile ago and he gave me a pep talk on staying positive. I replied that mostly, I am staying positive. I just wish the future wasn’t so muddy. He replied,
The future is muddy regardless…just sayin’!
I paused to think about what he said, then had to agree he was right. The future is always muddy. Regardless of well-laid plans, current health conditions, or whatever else is happening right now, the future is muddy and uncertain.
In the book, “The Immortalists”, one of the characters states that her mother gave her the gift of uncertainty. When I read this, I had to set the book down and ponder. Uncertainty is a gift? How is that even possible? I had to unpack this idea.
I have always been an easily frustrated and impatient person, which is evident in old videos from my youth. I remember one in particular where I can be seen chasing my brother around the yard. Since he is older, bigger, and stronger, I cannot catch him. Suddenly, I stop running and stand there, arms straight by my sides. I’m sure if there was audio to accompany the video, you’d hear a loud “Humph!’
Because of this, I have often prayed for patience. When I was in high school, I had heard that Amen roughly translates into the words “So be it”. When I first heard this, it was magic moment. I had always thought of Amen as the bookend to a prayer. I begin with Dear God and end with Amen. “So be it” now felt like waving a magic wand and what I ask for would appear. Ta da!
Needless to say, this caused me to pray more fervently for patience. But instead of feeling patient, I was presented with many challenges that tested my patience–situations where I my frustration rose. Not at all what I was praying for. Clearly, I was missing something.
In his book “Notes on Love and Courage”, Hugh Prather writes:
“Yes there are other considerations. There is no end to the considerations: feelings of the people involved, your word, your commitments, the possible consequences. But a time can come when there isn’t much of you left, and all you have is enough strength to act, just enough to put an end to it by turning your back and walking out.”
These words so perfectly describe my struggle to separate from my husband. There was so much to consider, but in the end, I realized it was best to go. Coming to this heavy decision and moving out was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I am normally a very high energy person, but the whole process left me exhausted. I spent the first few months in what could be called a cocoon-like state. Basically, I made it to work, ate and slept A LOT. I can’t remember ever sleeping as hard or as often as I did during those first few months.
As my energy slowly returned, I felt a very strong urge to document and work through what had happened and how I was feeling. I created a google doc titled “The D Word” and started writing. I have never been much of a writer, but something inside me was cracking open and all the feelings and thoughts I had stuffed for the past 25+ years came pouring out. Needless to say, there was quite a lot to process and express.
At the nursing home where my mother-in-law lived, there was a woman named Alice who had dementia. She wandered the halls with a puzzled, worried look on her face and would continually ask, “Where do I go, dear?”
We would always walk her to her room, or at least point her in that general direction. When she arrived at her room, the puzzled look never left her face. Arriving there did nothing to calm her confused, restless state.
One day, I walked by her as she was sitting down to dinner. She touched my arm and again pleaded with me. “Where do I go, dear?”
Instead of directing her to her room, this time I said,
Well, Alice, you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.
I’m not sure where those words came from other than she was exactly where she was supposed to be–at dinner. For the first time since I’d met her, the expression on her face changed from confusion to delight. She smiled and gave me a thumbs up.
Recently, I’ve had some great conversations with my Uber drivers. I love to ask them questions and for some reason, they open up to me and share some interesting and fairly personal stuff. One time, I asked my Uber driver what brings him joy. He replied,
Being at peace with myself, liking and knowing who I am. Everything else spirals up from there.
His answer was a lightning bolt moment. I was struck by what he said and I saw the lesson in it. If he had asked me the same question, I would have replied something simple like “my kids, mornings, and the smell of fresh cut grass.” His answer was much more meaningful, deep and true. Before we can really find joy in other things, we must first know and be comfortable with who we are. We must be able to love ourselves. This isn’t being conceited or selfish. It’s contentment that comes from being self-aware.
One day, when my son got off the school bus, he was all out of sorts. I don’t remember what the issue was, only that he was not his normal self. There was a mom, Jenny, who picked up her daughter at the same stop. When she saw the state my son was in she said:
Everybody’s working on something.
Her words have stayed with me ever since. When someone in the checkout line at Target is cranky, cuts me off in traffic, or says something rude, I think of this statement and wonder–what is that person working on? Are they experiencing something really hard to deal with right now? Thinking about it in this way gives me a chance to pause and find a bit of compassion. Everybody’s working on something–be it a hard day at school or work, a cancer diagnosis, or loneliness. Sometimes these things feel like a heavy backpack, the weight of which causes people to lose their cool and say or do something out of character.