I had a really weird experience the other day.
It happens occasionally, but not frequently, that I speak with my parents about their divorce. After 20 years of marriage, my mom and dad decided to part ways. I was in another city obtaining my degree at the time, and it wasn’t a decision that bothered me then, and it isn’t something that bothers me now. However, it was a bit crazy to me that after two children, multiple homes, vacations, mortgages, pets…a whole life basically, these two people basically just said “eh, I’m over it.” I know that there’s more to the story- there always is. But their discontinued love never hung over my head like a dreary cloud. It was just something that happened.
Fairly recently, though, I was speaking to my own mother about my pending divorce, and she said something that truly shocked me. Despite all of the work, and time, and heartache, and labor, and love she put into nearly half of her life with my father, she said that my divorce seemed more painful than hers.
For the past year, I’ve worked diligently to remind myself how lucky I am. My divorce mental cues have become a daily mantra: you didn’t have kids, you didn’t have a home, you didn’t share property or assets, it could have been so much worse. When I feel down, or like a failure, or just like a human being, I say these things to myself over and over and over again. I remind myself of those who have had brutal divorces, whose choices have affected other people, and honestly, to keep myself from being pitiful.
It was crazy to me, the night that my own mother said that, because for years, I had pictured her dissolved marriage as a pain I was lucky enough to never access. I was the stupid 25 year old who just took a pretty pink eraser to a mixed up equation and called it a day. I didn’t have a last name to change; I didn’t have children to explain anything to. I got to walk away.
But what my mother realized on the night that I said I was leaving my husband, and what I realize right now, is that my failed marriage is “sadder” because it really is a failure. My wedding vows were said aloud with plans I intended on keeping. I placed each plate and glass in our cupboards with a vision of a family. I held my husband’s hand and looked into his eyes and saw a partner. I envisioned a life and a future and whole world full of shared memories. I went to bed every night feeling like I’d do the same thing forever, and I was happy about it.
Despite the fact that my mom and dad didn’t make it for the long haul, they had a life. They grew up together. They had careers, they experienced loss, they experienced major successes, they watched their children learn to walk and talk and grow.
Maybe things aren’t the way they were before, but a life happened. When my mother sees me, she sees the outline of a body- someone who had potential, someone who had dreams, and a future. It’s much harder, in a way, to accept that the life you pictured for yourself, the world you created, the heart that you let open up, just won’t be.
If I had to explain what it feels like to realize that the person you loved and trusted more than anything has engaged in an affair, I would guess it’s like having someone cut all of your skin off, yank your heart out from your rib cage, squeeze the shit out of said heart, and throw it on the floor.
When you accept that your marriage has ended in such an early stage, you create a coffin in your mind. You fill it with your wedding dress, your ring, your dream home, your unborn children, your hopes and your fears, your self esteem. You lower it into the ground, you cover it with dirt, you place the black veil over your eyes and you walk back to your car and drive home. You move on. That’s the way it goes.
Somedays I feel really lucky that I walked away from my coffin so young. People probably look at me and don’t see a divorced person; they see a young girl with so much potential, so much time.
I was reminded, though, that there is a whole snow globe of hurt that I didn’t even let myself access yet. The dreams of my life, the person that I believed I could be, that we could be. But it’s ok, because you can shake up a snow globe and create a storm, and everything will still sit there peacefully, waiting for a story to unfold.
If you’re ever wondering why I don’t want to start over, why I don’t want to just “take a walk”, or “go on a date”, or “open up”- this is why. There is a life out there that I believed I would have that I didn’t. There is a universe that I’m mourning, and I can see it…I can almost touch it.
Every day I take about 3 steps closer to a better me, and I take 100 steps back right after. Good things take time. I am still learning, I’m still getting there. I am the steady house inside the snow globe waiting to be shaken awake.