Finding a Way Out of the Sadness of Divorce
Desolate. Quiet. Too quiet. One miserable emotional ghost town where nothing good takes place except getting the hell out of there.
The Isle of Despair.
I hate that place and still at times I fall into the trap door vortex that lands me smack dab in the middle of lifesucksandiamtotallytakingmyballandgoinghomefollowedbypoutywalk.
Then I get real with myself.
And I crawl into a ball with my hands over my eyes and sob. Shameless wailing that feels like no grief I’ve ever encountered in any other situation I’d consider grievable.
A dear friend of mine recently lost the love of her life to a terminal illness. This was a second marriage, a beautiful and much-deserved second chance for the both of them. One evening as we walked our usual route with canine children talking about the things girlfriends discuss on ponderous walks, she said something that quite frankly shocked me. “Divorce is worse than this, than losing someone you love too soon. I mean, this sucks but it hurts in a far less destructive way. He didn’t choose to go. It’s so much more horrible when someone chooses Not You.”
Mrs. Not You right here, and I have to agree.
There are a million little fractures in my heart from my divorce. A million first things on my own. Those awkward events where the blank space next to me felt so obviously vacant. Trying to fix things, the empty half of the closet, the stupid crystal picture frame he had to have on our registry, giving back the ring I’d worn for nearly 11 years–the ring without an end that was to symbolize Forever, his birthday, our anniversary, driving past our first apartment, burning the garlic bread and remembering how he nearly started a fire in the oven the first time he tried to make me dinner by setting the garlic bread on fire, when friends tell you they saw him at dinner with someone, remembering my daughter’s face when we told her Daddy was not going to live with us any more, when he moved in with someone else way too soon, when the house feels much larger and far too quiet because it’s a Saturday night and the kids are with him this weekend.
Despair waits patiently for the raw edge to show and then rips into the spaces it finds a foothold. Even though it ended–and we have in so many positive ways mended our hearts and lives, knitted them carefully into something new and different, stronger and better–it wasn’t always all bad. Despair knows that and takes full advantage when the chink in our armor finds itself exposed.
I think I cover my eyes and roll up in a ball when I cry because in some way I’m hiding from the things I don’t want to see, from the things that wield the most devastating blows.
Am I too much? Am I not enough? Did I try too hard? Should I have tried harder? Am I even lovable? Will it always be this way? How long do I have to feel this way?
My guess is probably. I’m also willing to bet those of us who identify with muddling through the desperate pain of rejection believe the lie that we are alone in experiencing this sickeningly awful loss.
The Turning Point
Usually once I’ve let myself feel the unfairness of it all, I just feel better, like I faced the thing under the bed and figured out it wasn’t a big scary monster dead set on eating me and repurposing my rib as a toothpick. Once I dump out the mess and take inventory or just feel it, I find out it’s just not as crippling as I feared. I know better than to believe those things and shut them down as quickly as I’m able. Fear and doubt camp out, whispering to me when I’m tired, overworked, or my soul’s undernourished, and the lie finds a way to seep into the old wounds. While its relentless pursuit festers, and I ignore it and keep burning the candle. With a blowtorch. Once I just let it out, I’m left with Garfield eyes and an excuse to eat a pint of ice cream. On my way to the bottom armed with only a spoon, I think about what’s good in my life, where the quality lies in the day-to-day actions I take, and in the long game because that’s what matters.
Things go bump in the night, and that’s scary when I’m alone and I don’t want to be. But now I know I can handle the bumps, that I’m equipped to care for myself and those I choose to support and love, who love me in return. I’ve learned to fix things or throw down the wrench before I make it worse and phone a friend.
Finding a Way Out
The path off the Island of Despair is different for everyone who lands there, but all who survive have chosen to leave it behind.
Let the Light in!
Open the curtains wide and feel the sunshine, the source of life for all of the beautiful things that grow and nourish us. It’s just cold and one long miserable rain storm when residing in despair. There’s nothing helpful that comes from staying to roll around in the muddiness of a past that, well, just left you all dirty. A visit back to the desperation of how that time felt only provides two benefits in my opinion (and benefits might be a bit of a stretch). Visiting reminds me how much I don’t want to be there and serves as a healthy deterrent to finding myself there again for any measurable length of time. Looking back at that place, that time in my life, and remembering how it tore me apart brings my current reality–my presence in the present–into sharp focus. Like a kaleidoscope in my hands, the slightest twist in perspective reveals a different picture worth examination.
Despair provides me with a benchmark, a point of reference for how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, and my heart swells to near bursting with gratitude and thankfulness for the quaint, quirky village that is my wonderful hodge podge of a life I’ve built, a place I never would’ve ventured had it not been for the less than preferential experience of divorce. Headed for whatever adventure awaits, I don’t even look back once I’m away from that place. And I smile because I can’t quite remember why I found it so dreadful and scary in the first place.
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