I quietly got divorced this week, with little fanfare, no announcements and certainly no celebrations. A lot of people think I already was divorced. Over 740 days ago, I wanted out. It was the hardest decision of my life. I didn’t believe in divorce. I believed in God, family, and promises. And here I sit almost 22 years later, and it’s done. No one gets married thinking they will walk away at 20 years. There’s a phrase that’s been rattling around in my head for quite awhile. “I was just a girl….” I was just a girl, a long time ago, with a dream. I wanted a family, I wanted to be a wife and mother, and I wanted home to always be a haven, a safe place. I was just a girl dreaming of my wedding day long before Pinterest. My first marriage was in 1987 to a man I dated all through college, for 4 years. It ended a few short years later when he found the 19 year old. I was devastated. But time healed, and I believed in hope, I believed in the dream. So I tried again. And the fracture runs deep. There is carnage and an emptiness.
The word “freedom” has been thrown around a lot this week. “You must be so relieved, you’re free to get on with your life”. People have congratulated me, people have said “don’t say the word bittersweet.” And I don’t tell them, deep inside, there’s not a lot of relief. Divorce is awful. I became someone I didn’t recognize. I took on darkness and intense sadness. I can’t believe it took over two years. I am sorry to my daughters. We failed you, and you deserved so much more. I am sorry for the times I could not shield you from pain. I am so sorry for your own fractures. I’m mostly sorry for all of the times I had to say sorry, knowing it wouldn’t help. I told you I was writing about divorce because I never want to blindside you on social media. I am only writing the beginning of this story because I cannot take this experience and let it be meaningless. I want people who are still married, either happily or down in the trenches fighting….I want them to learn something from where I have been. I want the married to deeply embrace that you cannot repeatedly fracture your foundation, even with small fissures, and expect it to not crumble underneath.
I can’t give any advice on how to stay married, happily or not. I can give lots of advice on how to not stay married. But tonight, not any time soon. It’s a healing time, we need more laughter, more deep breaths, more softness in our voices. We need forgiveness. Freedom will only come through forgiveness, and no one heals in the middle of a war. I searched deep tonight for the meaning of freedom. I understand what people are saying to me “you’re free” , but this quote resonated more.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” Nelson Mandela
We are never free without forgiveness. I will embrace that over and over again, for as long as it takes. I will pray for strength and grace. I will bury anger with compassion. I will seek to soothe, not ignite. I will try, and I know I will fail. So I will try again. I will share some day, and I hope it will help someone. I cannot let the sun set on this story, without believing it might bring someone else hope.