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We learn as we go

You know you watch too many movies (and read too many
novels) when you start observing your life from a distance, like through a
camera lens, rather than experiencing your days in a way that allows the
sights, sounds and feelings to wash over you and stick. Seems a fair
description of me lately as I go through the motions of starting life over. As I’ve
been depressed and despondent, hardly able to function, yet there’s this voice
in my head sizing up my choices, like the narrator in Bridget Jones Diary (only
my life isn’t nearly as humorous and my commentary isn’t emphasized by a great
soundtrack). My inner voice can’t resist poking fun at me, making sarcastic quips
as I wallow in self pity or get all determined to dig in and tackle my problems
only to deflate and give up within the day. When life throws you for a loop it
is easy to sway between these two states of mind every ten minutes. I often
feel as if I’m floating, wishing I would land so I can plant my feet firmly on
the ground. But the earth still seems so far beneath me that even if I point my
toes I simply can’t touch it.

During this ordeal, I’ve learned there are people who’ve
dealt with worse divorce and financial issues than I. Lots. Trust me, they keep
coming in an endless stream.
Getting divorced is like getting pregnant. When you’re pregnant, it
suddenly feels like EVERYONE is pregnant, or at the very least, their best
friend, mother, sister, co-workers, etc… are.  And everyone attached in any manner to pregnancy feels
compelled to tell you childbirth horror stories, as if this is going to make
you more pregnant-savvy and prepare you for what is to come. All it really does
is make you feel panic, depression and/or confusion, thank you very much. But
people do mean well, and I suppose it is nice to be reminded that the most
trying stages of your life are naught but common human experience. Divorce is
like that, but at least anyone who has ever gone through it tends to be
sensitive and supportive, which helps you feel less alone. Such an alienating
and crushing life experience isn’t easily to forget and people feel compelled
to help you through it. I’m grateful to new friends and old who have displayed
concern and caring for me during these dark days.

I will not share the details of individual people’s
divorces, though I’ve heard enough stories to write a dozen novels with spine
tingling scenes. But I will say that a few gems I’ve heard had made me rather
proud of my own painful, (but not hateful) divorce. Like the friend whose wife
put all his clothes in the driveway and poured paint on them because he
wouldn’t return her call in a timely fashion.

Or the friend whose spouse went to law school, made him pay
for it and used what she learned to take him for everything, leaving him to the
ears in debt as she boasted, “I’m not going to stop until he’s destitute,
unemployable, and ruined because I’ve learned how to accomplish just that.”  And she did.  Now, ten years later the anger in him bubbles to the surface
at just the thought of her. Or the friend who shared just a few words of the
nasty commentary sent to him on a text that he plans to keep in his phone forever
just reminding him how evil his ex can be. He shared it to me and said, “This
is so I never soften towards her ever again. My significant other never liked
me as a person. She likes the life I provided, but not me and after living
together for 18 years in that state, I have good reason to resent her!” Or the
fellow who described alimony as a woman’s idea of a pension plan. Or the woman
who was cheated out of her life savings by a spendthrift husband who, after
bleeding her dry felt she had nothing left to give, thus was dispensable. He
agreed to provide support, but bailed the moment she left the house, leaving
her destitute and unable to care for her child. Then he pleaded a case that he
was more fit to raise the child than her due to his financial position.

I listen and wonder how romance, once blooming with promise
and joy, can take such a 180-degree turn. Divorce changes people like the
invasion of the body snatchers. Sad. And listening to numerous people unload
the heartbreak and fury attached to their divorces, I began wondering if my
depression wasn’t just about my own losses, but also because a magnifying glass
has been held up to highlight the endless stream of romance stories with
unhappy endings that are everywhere around me.   Listening to these scenarios is witnessing the death
of everything I’ve always held most dear – the idea that love endures. I’m a
big believer in happy endings – and if this one isn’t it for me, I’d like to
think the next one will be. But to trust that, I need to come across at least
one happy ending.  Sad to say,
romance novels are the only place you find happy endings anymore, and damn if I
haven’t given up reading that kind of material years ago.

Anyway, it seems the entire world population has a story to
share about divorce, and not a day goes by that I’m not treated to yet another heart
stopping tale of anger and loss.  Everyone,
everyone, from friends and family to
lawyers, doctors and Indian chiefs, continue to lift one eyebrow and say, “You
may think your divorce will proceed amicably, but it will get ugly. They all
do.”

Me? I continue to shake my head in a condescending way and
say, “You don’t know my ex. Perhaps we can’t live together, but we can work
together. Always have. Always will. Besides which, we’ve already discussed
things and have agreed on how to proceed. I’m moving to Florida to arrange work
and set up a life that can support me and my daughter– Mark and the kids even
packed the truck for me and sent me off with a hug. There is nothing to fight
about. We have jointly agreed it is time to separate, but we appreciate our
colorful past and recognize what was good. We will be best friends always.”

Why does this always earn me a jaunty “you’ll see” smile? 

Then IT happened. I was hit with a lawsuit contradictory to
all our agreements that threw all our congenial plans out the window. Suddenly,
after years of loving parenting and caring for my husband, I was being accused
of being an unfit mother, an adulteress, and an all around horrible person who jaywalks.
An abandoner! And just like that, I’m dragged into a battle for my respect and
my children, who overnight changed their opinion of me. Spending their days as
if all things are normal with my ex while I am in my dismal state in Florida, they
grew cold and unresponsive – My eldest even wrote to tell me she never wanted
contact with me again in a message filled with such venom and ugliness that
when I showed it to a few selective confidents they crinkled their brow and
said, “And you want a relationship with this child why? I don’t believe any
parent could excuse those comments, nor should they. I wouldn’t.”

I sat with that message for a day, rereading one
particular line in a long paragraph of vicious accusations, (and this wasn’t
the worst.) You are no mother. You are a
sick, sad, confused individual in need of help and I need NOBODY to tell me
that.”

I tried to think of any circumstances that might
inspire me to say such a thing to my own mother, no matter how mad I might be,
but short of sexual abuse and/or being burned by cigarettes as I was locked in
a baby highchair, I couldn’t imagine any.
So I thought, OK, enough is enough.  Time to let go. Time to stop crying and defending my family’s
behavior. Time to stop trying to understand and be patient. Time to stop crying,
hiding, and feeling so sorry for the state of things. Time to stand up for my
rights, to set the record straight and remind everyone I’ve been a good parent,
wife and family provider for over 20 years. I may have been out of work the last 5 years, but during that time, our life tanked. Now I’m relocating to a place where I can kick into action to provide opportunity for my family as I have for the past 20 years. I was major financial contributor for most of our life, and I recognize the need to be that once again. Don’t know how I’ll rebuild, but I have to try. All I know is I sure don’t deserve this kind of
treatment – certainly not because of some selfish scramble for money or custody
or because of a defensive knee jerk reaction to a jointly agreed, long overdue separation.

Now, here I am, changing lawyers, gearing up for battle, planning to
devote every resource I have to force a fair distribution of assets. I will
fight to be recognized as a good mother, even if it means I end up with nothing
at all in the end, a ‘la war of the roses. It’s the principal of the matter. And
at long last, instead of being devastated and feeling beaten and alone, I’m actually
angry, feeling strong.

 Yesterday, I paused in the bathroom and got a
glimpse of my own eyes. They were not unlike those of all the people who have survived divorce, the ones sharing horror stories, warning me to
beware, prepare, and not to trust. And recognizing that I have finally been dragged into
this ugly state made me sadder than ever.

 Everyone was right. I WAS naive. My upcoming battle is the comeuppance
I deserve for boasting that we could end 20 years of loving each other with
respect. I was wearing dark sunglasses to hide tears – but they were really just rose
colored.

But even as I prepare for a fight now, I still wish they were
wrong.  I am finally angry, but
beneath that emotion I still feel a deep sadness
– a sadness so profound I feel awash in it, as if melancholy is seeping
into my pours and will leave a parlor on my skin, heart and mind forevermore. I
can’t imagine ever feeling cleansed of it.  

   Of course I’m mature enough to know this too will pass. Life
goes on, and happiness only awaits those brave enough to sake steps to
pursue it.  Divorce when a marriage
has gone wrong is a very important step towards happiness for both parties. It may be a horrible end of something on the one hand, but it offers the promise and hope of
a fresh beginning too.

 Mad, sad, or whatever…… I hang on to that.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

4 responses »

  1. Interesting blog. Says a lot. Good luck (you will need some); hang in there. A lot of people, including me, have a very high opinion of you.

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  2. Teach me how to cook rolls!

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  3. Today is going to learn to swim. Even though I was 20 years

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  4. Good site. I will go more often to you

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    Reply

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