Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two Years Later

It is quite an experience to have your life cut in half like a block of cheese.  (Try as I might I can’t come up with a better simile though I am sure there are many.)

That is exactly what it felt like on that fateful August night two years ago this week when my husband said he was leaving. 

I begged him to stay. 

I pleaded. 

Yet, his actions were swift and complete.  There would be no discussion, no mere separation.  It was going straight to divorce and there was nothing I could say to change his mind.

You see, even though he was less than truthful about why he was leaving, he was very clear on the fact that he was divorcing me. 

I begged him to go to counseling with me. 


I pleaded with him to reconsider.  “Just leave a sliver of hope alive for us,” I said. 


Now, two years later, I see that this amputation, this blade he brought down on our marriage was, in some ways, the kindest cut of all. 

(Did I just write that?  Did I? Oh dear readers, I think did.) 

You see, as painful as it was, had he given me any sort of hope, I would have contorted myself into someone I did not know. 

I was ready to sell my soul to avoid getting divorced. 

Yes, to some extent I was fighting to save my children’s intact family, but they were grown and off to college. 

No, it was less noble that that. 

I loved my husband, but I see now, it was in a rote, long-married way.  It was mere habit by the time Year 30 rolled around.  What I was really clinging to was not him, but to the institution of marriage.  At that time, I needed it to give me an identity and to make sense of my life.

Two things.  One: I am a creature of habit and someone who thrives on familiarity.  I had both in my marriage.  I knew marriage (or thought I did) and my role in it. 

Two:  The stigma of divorce remains strong in our culture and affects women much more than men.  I had bought into the notion that being divorced meant I had failed as a woman, that I had failed my family.  I was also absolutely, positively freaked out to think of myself as divorced.  It was OK for other people but not for me.  I didn’t even allow that possibility for myself.  Furthermore, I would not let it happen to me.

Life flicked me right off that little pedestal, didn’t it?

I wish we had had the wherewithal as a couple to go to counseling, not to save our marriage, but to help us both disengage from our relationship that was not working.  It would have been a tough job for a therapist to pry my fingers from my preconceived notion of what my life was supposed to be like.  I would have come to the awareness eventually and it still would have been painful, but I would not have been left with the shock and trauma of the sudden amputation.  It still leaves me breathless to think about it.

Ah, but things happen the way they happen, don’t they?  I have to trust that there was a reason for it all, so I don’t fixate on that anymore.  My current life is so much better than I ever thought it would be.  I have improved physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I am not as judgmental as I used to be.  I am more empathetic. I am healthy, have good relationships with my sons, a career I love, the world’s greatest dog, some wonderful friends and am in a new relationship where I can be totally myself and be totally loved. 

You can be sure, the lessons from my first marriage do not go unused both in my current relationship and in life in general.

Yes, I signed on for a lifetime of commitment with my marriage, but I see now that sometimes people are only with us for a season of our lives and that’s OK too. Through most of our marriage, it was good.  We laughed.  We danced.  We were good for each other until we weren’t anymore.  Best of all, we produced two noble, sensitive, intelligent, loving human beings from our union.

I have hundreds of pictures of us as a family.  Up until a few months ago, I couldn’t even look at them. 

Then I heard an interview with a man who studies memories.  He gave an example of a man who complained that he was happily listening to a symphony on his record player, feeling the music elevate his soul, but right at the end, the needle skidded off, making a hideous screeching sound.  The man complained, saying, “It ruined the whole experience for me!” 

However, the researcher pointed out that while the man was listening to the music, he was enjoying himself completely.  The way the song ended didn’t change the actual experience while it was happening. 

Ah!  That example resonated with me completely. 

I can look at those pictures now and smile because while it played, the music was sweet and it was real.  Yes, the needle slid off at the end, calling a screeching halt to the song, marking the end of a life that I knew, but that does not lessen the value of that time together.

So many of the songs in our lives may end before we think they should.  Some will end with a screeching sound, leaving us aching and shocked. Others just made fade away, leaving us straining to hear another note, wondering where it went and why it went away. Our outrage or bewilderment is natural, but useless in the end. 

Other harmonies await.  There is more music to be heard and celebrated.  

Let us endeavor to enjoy every single note.


Shelly said...

What an inspiring post, my friend. I only wish that a year ago, you could somehow have read this post then.

I would venture to say it would be a hard thing for your ex to have come out of that in any better place than you have.


Anonymous said...

Hi Betty, great post. I've wondered how time and distance have affected your perspective. I'm glad to hear you are doing well.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a good analogy.
You lost what you thought was your identity, but I think you found the real you in the process.
Keep enjoying life, Betty!

Old Kitty said...

Lovely BB!!! May you continue to create music of your own! I'm so glad you are able to look at your family pics again too! I'm so glad you're out of that dark tunnel and headed towards light - with full orchestral accompaniment! Yay! Take care

Lin said...

You survived, Betty! And you did better than succeeded and thrived! Did you ever think two years ago that it was even possible?

We did. We knew you had it in you, pally. :)

It's funny, but I just gave this same thought to a co-worker who was remembering the anniversary of her mom's death. I told her not to remember her death and funeral, but to remember her in life and all the fun they had together. I think it is human nature to remember the end--I wish it wasn't.

I love that you have come so far. I love that you are so happy and confident. I love that you are such a great role model for us all. I just love Betty!

Leah J. Utas said...

Yes, excellent point, Betty. Enjoy the music.

Linda said...

Excellent post! Thank you for sharing. Blessings

ellen abbott said...

two years already! what a great post. bad endings shouldn't ruin all that went before.

Laura said...

I can't believe it's been two years already!
It's hard to accept that things happen for a reason and that some good can come out of a bad situation. However short and bad my first marriage was, I had to learn to accept that it was meant to be. I left that marriage with a precious gift (my then one year old daughter) and it took me years to learn that it all lead me to where I am today. :)

Ami said...

I really love the music analogy. SO important to realize the enjoyment and happiness that was there. Things end. Sometimes that's okay.
(((hugs))) to you and thank you so much for the courage you've displayed in sharing your journey from there to here.

BECKY said...

Betty, I know I've told you a zillion times, but you are an amazing writer! You could take your blog posts during these past two years and create a book that would touch so many lives. Your words need to be read by the multitudes....

Pat said...

This is a very inspiring and thought-provoking post. You've been through hell and back. So happy to see you on the other side! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Glad you found yourself again!

Tabor said...

You are truly wise in being able to evolve so fully and to write about it so well. I am sure that the man you were married to is also not the man you realized you were divorcing. This post should be in every therapists office for a lost soul to read because it says so much about who we are and how we see things in the moment and then see them looking back. Divorce does have such a stigma attached to it...making it seem simple rather than the complicated process and event that it is. Blessing to you on this new journey. The path you have chosen seems strewn with flower petals!

Unknown said...

BB - I loved your post today. You have such a way of putting thoughts to words. I had to send you an email - I always have more to say. Thank you for your blog - I love it.

Olga said...

So beautifully written and it gives me some hope. My world was turned upside down just this month--not expected, not the plan at all. I will give myself the time to heal.

Ms. A said...

If you think back to two years ago, would you ever dream you would be able to write what you just said? Anything you write is always beautifully written, however, the content of this post wasn't even a prospective thought, at that time. You've come so far!

jenny_o said...

I am so happy you have found such good things after all the pain. You look so happy in your pictures from the last year or so! Enjoy life!

My Mind's Eye said...

Hey BB dear sweet friend....Bless your heart you have weathered this storm like a classy lady you came out on the other side classier and twice the lady.
Keep on marching to your drum it has a good beat
hugs Madi and Mom

Deanna said...

So well said. I love the record analogy.

Gigi said...

You, my friend, are so very wise. I'm so glad to see how far you've come and that you are happy.

Unknown said...

Reminds me of the saying about when one door closes, another one opens. Glad to read that your door open to something wonderful!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty - you have been through so much and by noting some of your thoughts here over the last two years allowed us to see your new green shoots and also to remind us that there's always life after ... I'm just so pleased you're enjoying yourself and are happy with the new you - and those around you have been so wonderfully accepting - that shows your true character ...

So pleased and happy for you - Hilary

Anne Gallagher said...

Congratulations on getting through the last two years. You never know how strong you are until you have to be. And now you're just Herculean.

christine said...

what a wonderful, positive post - well done you:) You are an inspiration!

Juli said...

Well said. SOooo well said.

Sally Wessely said...

Bravo! I want to stand up and clap. You have woven together such a beautiful picture for us of how you have been able to integrate your life before with the life you now have. Too bad others don't take the time to learn about integration. Yes, you life was split into two distinct parts. That happens with death and divorce. It is tempting to compartmentalize, but it is healthy to integrate the two halve. You have done that so well. This has made you you a complete and whole person. Thanks for sharing.

Pat Tillett said...

Two years already? That is amazing. A new chapter in your life and it seems to be a good one. Another great bit of writing my friend.

Shan said...

I can and cannot believe it's been two years. But baby, look at you now. <3

Baby Sister said...

Your words are so inspiring, Betty!! Beautifully written. I can't believe it's already been 2 years! Crazy. You're awesome!!