Right after your wife leaves you and you’re crying and barely able to breathe, the only thing you want to know is: When is this going to end?
I’ve never had suicidal thoughts, but when I felt that for the first time, that’s when I knew why someone would do it. To shut it off. I was a naïve optimist who had never felt pain from life. At least not the kind that rewires you.
I liked talking to people who had been through divorce and understood what I was dealing with. I was always a little bit like “Fuck you” every time they’d sit calmly on the other side of the table with a smile on their face and assure me it was going to be okay.
They were smiling because they remembered and were so relieved they no longer felt that way.
“Just give it time. Everything will work out. You’ll see.”
I wanted to punch every person who said that to me. I would scream on the inside: “You can’t know how this feels! You must not have cared as much! You must not have hurt this much!”
One time, a divorced mother told me she sometimes enjoyed when her son was with her ex-husband because she was able to do fun things that would be otherwise impossible.
On the inside, I screamed: “You’re a shitty parent then! You must not love your son as much as I love mine! I will NEVER enjoy my son not being home!”
I’ll never forget feeling that way.
The rejection fucks you good. You’re not good enough!
But then all the sudden your child is gone half the time, too, and the combination of those two radical life changes just ruins your insides.
You pray and beg for relief. You drink vodka sometimes even though you’ve always had a never-drink-alone policy. You indulge in escapism with friends and books and movies, but when you wake up in the morning, life is still real and hard.
You’re still alone.
Your heart is still broken.
Your life still feels over.
And all you want is for your friends’ predictions to come true: Everything’s going to be okay.
Lessons From the End of a Marriage
That’s the name of the blog and book written by Lisa Arends who I like and admire very much. Yesterday, she published a post called “The Shortcut for Healing After Divorce,” which I instantly clicked because I want to know the secret and tell everyone!!!
Lisa’s clever post title compelled me to read the story where she expertly told me something I’d been figuring out along the way.
There is no shortcut. There is just… the way.
Nobody wants to hear it because we all want things now, now, now. There’s no immediate gratification when your spirit is broken. The amount of love and laughter and adventure and friends and family and new life experiences it takes to recover is pretty immense.
The journey for each of us is exactly how long it’s supposed to be. I think the road is the same length for everyone, but some people are better conditioned to run to the finish a bit faster.
No tricks. No magic.
Just slow, sustainable healing as you rediscover yourself.
Andy Dufresne: Forget that… there are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.
Red: What’re you talking about?
Andy Dufresne: Hope.
Signs Along the Way
You’ll see them without even looking hard.
The first one I remember is that I could go have dinner with a girl without feeling that Everything is wrong feeling I’d had for so long.
And then you notice the silence at home isn’t so loud anymore. You can be there alone and just be still. And it’s home. It’s safe. It’s okay. That’s when I knew everything would be okay.
And then you develop new routines. Make new friends. Build a new life. I can do this.
And then you can drive by places that used to make you cry, but now they don’t.
And then you can walk by the very spot where you proposed to her and surprisingly your heart keeps beating.
And then you can sit with them at school events for your child and laugh like old friends.
And then you can learn about an out-of-town trip they’re taking without that familiar panic setting in: Where are they going? Who are they going with? Oh fuck. Oh shit. I’m dying.
It’s not something you could have understood two years earlier. It’s just… okay now.
You’re not dying.
It’s like magic, but it’s not magic. You walked the path.
Everything is no longer going to be okay someday. It IS okay. Right now.
You can live with your son being with the only other person on earth who loves him like you. You love him just as much, but don’t carry guilt for enjoying life even if he can’t be there, too.
You can feel tangible joy.
You can feel brave.
I’m not just different almost two years later.
I am the best version of myself I have ever been.
You crawl out of the emotional shit tunnel just like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.
A huge gulp of air. Of emotional freedom.
And now anything is possible.