Rather than New Year’s Resolutions, I themed 2017 my year of freedom; 2018 of peace and joy.
Like most things in life, you plant a seed and eagerly, rather impatiently, wait for it to take root and grow. While we may be in our last 30 days of 2018, I’m (finally) seeing the fruit of these intentional themes. Hallelujah!
While I feasted and played card games in my aunt and uncle’s cabin on Donner Lake over the Thanksgiving weekend, it dawned on me that 3 years ago I was in a very different - a very dark, lonely - place.
In 2015 I spent Thanksgiving alone, housesitting for my sister and eating Vixen Kitchen’s paleo Chai & I ice cream for dinner.
I had no desire to be around family.
I felt like a failure.
I felt unworthy, unloved, and alone.
I didn’t want to see people happy; families together and putting in the effort to spend the holidays side by side.
. . .
My marriage was over.
I had moved two states away from my “home” for the last 16 years and had been living with different family members for two months, bouncing my daughters here and there as we found some stability.
I didn’t have a job (I had been raising our daughters and freelancing off and on for the last 4 years).
I didn’t have a home to call our own.
I had just spent half of my savings on marriage counseling (that didn’t work) and moving out of state to set clearly defined boundaries.
. . . .
Talk about rock bottom.
I haven’t shared my marriage and divorce before because I didn’t think anyone would care. Perhaps no one will. However, I’ve felt a pull on my heart for months to share my story. Maybe it will resonate with one person, offering a glimmer of light and truth - of companionship. If so, I’ve done my job.
With a topic like this, I’m not sure where to begin…
We joked that if we had a band this would be our cover art.
This day back in April 2009, and all it encapsulated, was the beginning of something epic, or so we thought.
But, our first year of marriage was difficult. The highs were high, but the lows were miserable. We were ridden with selfishness, naivety and conflict.
In conflict, I retreat. I need space to walk and think or journal or a night to sleep on it. That didn’t go down so well, and if memory serves me right, I may never have explained to him my way to process. Instead, I was questioned, pushed too far out of my comfort zone - which pushed me farther away - and utterly frustrated, resorting to anger because I couldn’t understand or articulate my feelings well enough to be heard or known.
Sometimes we need to be pushed a little to see that our way isn’t the only way. However, there needs to be patience, grace, love, and communication in doing so. That didn’t exist. Only the feeling that he was right, and I was always so wrong, my feelings wouldn’t be validated because other people had it worse than me.
And so, this vicious cycle continued.
My parents who divorced when I was 10 were not examples of a good marriage, offering zero guidance when it came to conflict resolution. Since it was never modeled to me, unfortunately my marriage became the battle ground to figure it out. Yet at the time, I didn’t realize it. Nor did I give myself the space and grace to settle in and accept myself as a new wife trying to navigate marriage; letting go of the ideal of the happy all of the time, white picket fence married life image I had in my mind.
I figured there was something wrong with me. While I shared the good, the bad, and the ugly, I still held on closely to my hidden fears of thinking I wasn’t good enough, or worthy enough to be loved.
Despite showing the ugliness, my unrelenting, high walls kept me from exposing my heart and letting go of any pain and limiting beliefs from childhood as well as previous hurtful relationships. I thought if I didn’t measure up, he would leave. I thought if I wasn’t perfect (though we both knew we were both far from it) he would abandon me.
If I’m truly honest, I thought he could fill a part of my heart that ached with emptiness. Though a Christian who knows better, I thought he could save me and make me whole.
These unspoken, juvenile expectations kept me from uniquely showing up. And in turn pushed him away. Exactly what I was trying to prevent, I manifested the outcome by my actions and behavior.
Now, he wasn’t a saint either, but I’ll tell the story from my POV.
Many nights I went for long drives or sat in our car to escape the noise.
On a couple of occasions, I got myself a hotel room because I needed to get away. Our pseudo one-bedroom apartment didn’t provide the space I needed to retreat. yes, I’m an introvert and my introvert need for alone time was not met in that first city apartment of ours. Also, a friend I greatly respected told me of all the nights she got a hotel room for herself and how it saved her marriage.
I thought it could do the same for ours.
I hate to even admit this, but at times I would pack my bags, ready to leave and never look back because I didn’t know what else to do.
I felt so stuck. So small. Unheard and unloved.
Here I was, next to a man who was adored at work, passionately throwing himself into his job, leaving me at home alone or on the sidelines, soaking in his fans praises but ignoring mine.
I wanted to be in the ring with him. Doing life with him. Not an afterthought.
Fast forward to the day we were leaving for our one-year anniversary trip to South Africa. A trip I was so looking forward to as it had been 5 years since I had last stepped foot on that fine, bewitching soil. I had it planned to a T - with a safari, a coastal drive, wine, my beloved babies at Kwethu Children’s Village (an orphanage I had volunteered at 5 years prior), and an adventure we’d take together – one we’d tell our children about some day.
Of course, I have no clue what we were fighting about now, but hours before our flight, we had an intense fight, culminating in me watching a stack of our plates thrown to floor, smashing into a hundred little, jagged pieces.
Anger seethed in both of us.
To be honest, I can’t believe our friends even drove us to the airport in that state.
But again, we continued to push it under the rug, hoping it would sort itself out if we ignored it.
Sidenote: we went on our South African trip and had an amazing adventure, minus the time I thought he was going to get killed by a lion, or the time I pictured us getting murdered in the backseat of a car in Jo’berg, or our car getting broken into and my bag being stolen in Cape Town. Despite a all of that, it really is a beautiful country and If you need travel tips, I have them!
However, we returned and life continued as it had.
Our next big fight, shortly after returning (and going back to school to study nutrition) was when my beloved goldfish Pinto and his fish bowl were thrown on the floor, vanishing forever. I watched again in horror as another thousand little pieces of glass and water covered our floor.
A mere hour later, I took a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant.
It was time to clean up our shit.
Easier said than done!
Having a baby doesn’t make ANYTHING easier. Emotions, expectations, fatigue, uncertainty, you name it, are heightened. In fact, more is left to ambiguity as you stumble through those first months simply trying to survive and keep this little person alive.
Amidst quitting my job to stay home with our Charlie Bear, taking a break from school, and navigating this new life I had as a mom + wife, I also had my eye on someone who, based on intuition, was no good to have in OUR life.
I met her awhile back and upon meeting her, I felt I had to keep her close. There was something about her that rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t care for her presence in my husband’s life.
Always listen to your intuition!
However, my lack of trust for her didn’t really matter. She had finagled her way into our life and my husband was beyond pleased with it. Especially when they decided to have a relationship.
I don’t need to get into the details of how that went down. Your imagination of trying to rationally talk with someone who believes they were placed on the planet to be with your husband will suffice…..
If this happens to be where you are now, know that while hindsight is 20/20 and in the midst of things you want to think the best of your spouse by giving them the benefit of the doubt with excuses - stress, fatigue, finances, etc – you have to face up to the truth.
Sit down and ask!
Be brave, be bold, prepare for an answer you may not like, yet know that you are still worthy. You may have had a piece of the unraveling of the relationship, but that doesn’t mean you are less than. Their actions are on them. Own yours, yes, but don’t carry the burden of their poor choices as well.
Take comfort in this from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Or if you’re an ’80’s child like me listen to this on repeat!
Why am I writing this now?
I know someone needs to hear that there is still hope.
This minute, this day, this month, may not be what you expected in your life, but it’s not over. There is hope to be had; dreams to dream, goals to crush, laughter to be relished in, and love to be shared.
You aren’t alone.
Life - for everyone -is messy, good, bad, happy, sad, hard and easy. See Ecclesiastes above!
Seasons come, and seasons go. Like the leaves that fall in winter, they bloom again in the Spring with the light of the sun. You will get through this and be a better person for it - if you choose to be!
It’s up to you to look for the good. To make a choice to not give up. To make the choice to show up. No one cares more about you and your dreams than you. Let go of what your parents told you, let go of the limits your teachers put on you, let go of the ideals you cling to, and show up as your weird, badass self. Shine, my dear!
You, yes you, are more powerful and wonderful than you allow yourself to be. Lean into that power!
For me, my current goals are still a few miles off, but with each day I show up, the closer I get to achieving them. Once achieved, there will be more goals to set. One foot in front of the other, dear friend!
The process continues and so must you. You must be brave enough to keep putting one foot forward, even if the world if pitch black and cold. Believe in yourself and that ache for more in your heart.
What else have I learned?
I was a month shy of turning 28 when I got married. Now edging closer to 38, I look back and see that scared, young girl, unwilling to stand up and speak her voice. Too scared to risk sharing her heart.
I look back and see myself trying to have at it alone, despite having this person next to be who was in it with me.
Today, I know my worth. Today, I know my voice. Today I’m clearer on what I will and will not allow in my life.
It’s ok to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish! Especially this time of year, amidst the enchanting carols and twinkling lights, a lot of people are stressed with the financial burden, the chaos of activities, the family obligations, etc.
Here are some tips on how to say sane this (holiday) season:
Remember you can’t be perfect.
Take time out to 1) have a bath (or go to the spa), 2) have lunch with a friend, 3) sleep in, 4) eat the damn chocolate or drink 2 glasses of wine, 5) exercise – whether that’s at a gym or a walk, and 6) say “No!” to the activities that won’t bring you joy.
Slow down. Have a dance party with your kids or by yourself. Crank up the music. Watch a movie and don’t do anything else. Schedule down time.
Avoid the crowds. Shop online or locally.
Get into the real holiday spirit. Visit an ice skating rink, visit Santa, make gingerbread cookies, build a gingerbread house, catch a holiday play
Get crafty if that’s your thing!
Spend time with family or friends that make you smile! You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with – choose your friends well! Happiness and joy is contagious, let their joy rub off on you. Just don’t be the Debby downer in the group ; )
Give! Be kind; give a hug; give a compliment; smile; donate; buy coffee for the person in line behind you.