And laid him on my couch to rest.

’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

The Best Guest Room in the World
The best guest room in the world

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.

18 Comments

  1. bravo, well put. I left my first husband as it was clear we couldn’t live together. We were both good people but it didn’t work. I didn’t want people to take sides and for the most part it worked. I still have many wonderful memories of that relationship and learned a great deal – and that is always with me. Accept your grief as natural and know that Rumi had wise words that apply today: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

  2. Erika

    “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.” Yes. 🙂

  3. John, we only have mutual friends (e.g. G), but I just wanted to say that I have always appreciated your writing, and this post emotionally resonated with me. Having worked with many couples, some that improved, some that didn’t, I can understand a little of the isolation and the loneliness, as well as the need for support and to feel loved and valued. I am glad you are getting some of that. I wish you and Jana, and your kids the best!

  4. Melissa

    You know, I really wanted to dislike you for a bit (hey, if we’re being honest…) but the fact is, I like you too much. I like Jana too. I like your kids. Together or not, you’re all really great people I like having in my life. So there *pfft* 🙂
    I think the fact that you’re thinking about this at all tells a lot about your essential goodness, your worth as a person, and you should own that. And as someone who struggled, pretty much daily with the thought that if I had just done this, or that, or the other thing (this went on for quite a while) and that perhaps then my family would be intact…well, you know what? It happens. It isn’t pretty, it doesn’t feel good, and quite frankly, it can be hell on earth.
    But in the end, something happens and you realize, things really do happen for a reason. And while that reason may not be clear right in this moment, it’ll come. I promise.

  5. You’re both amazing people, and both people I would feel incredibly honoured to call a friend. I can’t imagine the pain you’ve both gone through, and all I can think to say is that though I’ve never met you, I love you, as much as this type of e-relationship allows.

    You deserve happiness just as much as Jana does.

    I don’t pretend to understand of fathom the relationship you two had, or why you felt it necessary to end the marriage, and honestly, I don’t care. It’s none of my business and something that doesn’t change my gratefulness to you John for the community you fostered here which really helped me when I needed it.

    I value both of your insights and experiences and continue to do so.

    I wish all of you the best, and hope that you, Jana, Catgirl and Gameboy all each find contentment and fulfilment in whatever life choices you pursue. I feel no judgement towards any of you, only admiration and desire for happiness.

  6. Sandra M. Odell

    I lived with you for six weeks. You were the first person I met upon arriving at the dorm, literally greeting me with open arms, and you were the first and only one to encourage me to continue writing, again with open arms, when we met after the imposed 30 minute break.

    As one who’s survived her own internet fubar, I could only wish that I had your restraint and discretion in a time of pain and change. Never, *ever* doubt your worth as a father, friend, and human being. Continue to open your arms to yourself. You’re worth it.

  7. I’ve started and aborted three different comments on this today. I have a LOT to say on this, but it can wait ’til we can stay up and eat nachos again. In the meantime, I’ll just say this:

    It is very, VERY easy to be your friend, under ANY circumstances at all.

  8. Dejah

    John,
    I am grateful for what you have shared here, and please know that I understand what you are talking about and I appreciate your discretion.

    I do want to say that Melissa’s comment above really said it fantastically and she’s right at so many levels. I’ve been through this too, as the “dumper” as they call it. The pain, grief, shame, guilt, all those emotions are real, important, but also, at some point, you must let them go.

    It is natural to question your own character.

    I had always prided myself on my integrity as a human being. I’ve not been interested in gossip, ulterior motives, none of that. When my own divorce happened, now 3 years ago if you can believe it, it was nothing short of a living hell and nightmare. Loss of treasured friends occurred. It was a truly sad, painful time.

    But to get to the most important point here, Melissa said so beautifully, “But in the end, something happens and you realize, things really do happen for a reason. And while that reason may not be clear right in this moment, it’ll come. I promise.”

    She’s completely right, John. It will make sense at some point. Things really do get better.

    I know you don’t wish to disqualify other’s experiences, etc etc. But above all, don’t disqualify yours. This is indeed your opportunity to become the person you want to be.

    Namasté.

  9. Anita

    I wish I had something more soothing to say, but I think you deserve to be loved. I think you are important, essential, valuable and lovable. Peace, Anita

  10. jan

    Hi, John. I don’t know you or your family at all, but I grieve for you. Most of the people who have commented here have gone through a loss similar to yours, so we all *do* have that in common. But it feels so…..uncommon…when it’s happening to you. The sheer unloneness is terrible. I remember it……. too well. But…..moreso than that empty feeling, I remember another one that followed close on it: the recollection of a joy that was even deeper than this sorrow. And that joy was the one that my partner and I shared when we *were* partners. It’s very human to feel the hurt, and you *must* do that. But allow yourself, also, to remember the love. Let that recollection, the knowledge of the good that you and Jana had and *did* together, fill in the grief-gaps. One thing about time, and the lives that are tied to it: it moves on. We cannot stop it when we are in a ‘happy’ place, and we cannot make it move more quickly when we’re sad. We can only be certain that change will come. You and Jana and your children will make it through this, John. You will find that you love and are loved, still. It’s the most wonderful *and* humbling experience, all at once.

    (and to think I came here to participate in the book give-away! *Snort*! There were much more important things to share…..)

    take care, John!

    jan

  11. As a child of a divorce, I want to say thank you. Kids are every bit a part of a divorce as the parents. Your kids are lucky to be so well cared for.

    Namaste, John

  12. John,
    I’m really sorry about this whole thing – I had no idea this was happening. I’ll be praying for you. You are a deeply good person – I wouldn’t be coming here to read about your life and spiritual journey if I didn’t sense that in your writing.
    I am sorry – these are difficult times, and I don’t have the words to say.

  13. Kathy

    I am not leaving our friendship. I just happen to have moved to Minnesota and to be woefully inattentive to nearly all Irvine friends. I’m glad I thought to check your blog today because I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how you are.

  14. Rich

    It’s been a while since I dropped by. Hope you are finding the peace you seek. Divorce is hell for a time. The loneliness can be overwhelming — especially in public places. I wish the best for all of you involved. My house and telescope are still at your disposal if you ever find yourself in Utah.

  15. RichardKW

    John – I have been out of touch (as usual) and apologize for not being there (or, here?) to offer support and friendship. So, considered them offered! Not much to add to the previous posts except to echo Erika. Even though I felt that leaving my marriage was the right thing to do, I still felt like a terrible, worthless person after doing it. Maybe it is not so much about being right or wrong but about leaving the day-to-day validation that you matter to another person, even if it seems like only to take out the garbage.

    I haven’t figured out yet whether things get clearer over time or make sense eventually or whatever – but when I look back on decisions like this I keep finding more layers of meaning and complexity, some pleasing and some that raise doubts – which Elaine Emmi’s quote from Rumi said better than I can.

    So, I will happily add my validation stamp to your personal-worth parking pass from your sojourn on our little planet (which also goes for Jana as I care about you both). I also hope to see you in person as well as the kids before too long. In fact, there are a couple of things of that nature I will email you about (about which I will email you?) Take care!

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