’Twas night; the floods were out; it blew
A winter hurricane aloof.
I heard his voice abroad and flew
To bid him welcome to my roof.
I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest
And laid him on my couch to rest;
Then made the earth my bed, and seemed
In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.
– from “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief,” by James Montgomery
Several people have asked me why I’m not writing about the divorce, given that I’ve written so openly about other difficult personal issues. Some have even thanked me for not blogging about it.
While I have written openly about my family of origin, my faith journey, and my problems with my relationship to the institution of Mormonism, I’m actually pretty selective in what I blog about. I rarely reveal difficulties at work, or with friends and my immediate family, although I do celebrate them as often as I can. And even if I try to focus on my own internal issues, I worry that they’ll spill forth some kind of negative influence beyond my awareness, something I couldn’t have predicted no matter how sensitive I try to be. And finally, the main reason I want to avoid blogging about this topic is that our children are online, and sometimes read what we post. If you leave comments, I hope you’ll keep that in mind.
I’ve thought deeply about this, and I’ve decided that I do want to blog about one struggle. It’s worth bringing up because I know I’m not the only one who’s suffered through it, and our society reinforces the situation: and that is the sense of isolation and the feeling of deserved judgment and the deep grief that the one departing a relationship can experience post-separation.
In my case, I felt that our mutual friends would largely rally around Jana, which made sense to me. I deserved to be ostracized. I was the one who hurt her, right? I was told, partly by people and largely by my religious background and a lifelong burden of guilt that I was fundamentally a bad person, and that I deserved unhappiness, and every punitive measure, perceived or real, that came my way.
This is another reason I haven’t blogged. I feel like the contingent of voices would respond: “Well, of course you’re suffering. You brought this on yourself and your family. You deserve it.” There’s a part of me that feels like no matter what I write, it’ll be interpreted in the worst possible light. I’m trying to overcome that fear, but this is definitely a moment of vulnerability.
Parts of November and December were some of the darkest days of my life. But I feel like I’ve clawed my way out of that pit. Largely this has been due to the undisguised love of my wonderful, beautiful, resilient children. Part of it has been my own faith that I am and always have been a good parent, whatever my failings as a spouse.
But it was still hard to shake the sense that I was a horrible person, a failure as a human being. What saved me is that my friends rallied around me. They immediately offered places to stay during and around Thanksgiving and Christmas, offered furniture and other items, reaffirmed my core goodness (while acknowledging the complexities of life and relationships), and welcomed me with warm and healing hugs, both virtual and real.
The real turning point came when I spent Christmas with my friend Christie. She picked me up from the train station, and I dropped off my things in her beautiful guest room. We stayed up late talking, eating nachos and watching the Hogfather. When we said good night, it suddenly dawned on me that she was going off to sleep on the couch in her office, and that I was going to sleep in the master bedroom. At that point, I lost it completely, and she comforted me while I cried and cried.
I think it was at that moment that it really sunk in–to my core–that I was a human being of worth, of value, deserving of love, and that some incredible people, whose judgment I trusted, had faith in my essential goodness. And I think this is something that I’ve struggled with my entire life.
I know it’s not always easy to be a friend through your friends’ divorce. I want to thank everyone who has extended love and support and the many who will continue to do so throughout this difficult process. I know that Jana has wonderful support networks who’ve rallied around her, and I’m deeply grateful for that. But I’m thankful, too, for every overture, every kind word and facebook comment and tweet and email and voicemail (which I still may not have responded to–apologies!), dinners, dance lessons for the kids, futons, catsitting–the list goes on. Thank you.
And I want to make it clear that I’m not comparing my suffering to anyone who has been hurt in a relationship, and it’s my sincerest desire that my blogging about my experience doesn’t diminish or devalue anyone else’s pain.