I’m watching a friend on Twitter go through the emotions and machinations of having been an avid blogger and social media user through tenure…and then go through a divorce. I won’t link to it here because I’m not a huge asshole, but it made me think about my own experiences. My own wounds are only semi-raw, so I thought I would write a couple of words.
If nothing else, maybe it’ll lend some insight into my own process for those currently suffering through similar. Or maybe it’s just navel-gazing.
I have experienced loss and failure, both personally and professionally. Without a doubt, my divorce was the single most painful thing I have ever experienced. I’ve lost people I’ve been close to, and I have failed because of my own short-sightedness, but divorce is a loss and failure in a totally different way. There’s no way to communicate how bad the pain is to someone who hasn’t experienced it. For me, the pain was in the realization that I couldn’t keep a promise to another person. It was the only time I have ever really broken a promise, and it was compounded by the realization that my broken promise impacted my family, his family, and our children. None of them had signed on to our promise, but they were all caught in the fallout.
Diamonds may be forever, but marriage isn’t. Turns out, it’s not legally hard to undo a marriage. In my case, my ex-husband isn’t a bad person. He’s a likable guy and we still co-parent. I still love him. But, we had different views on what love looks like, how much of ourselves we were willing to share, and where our lives were going. Having to realize that, and then uncouple all of the things you built while you thought you were working together, turns something built with the hope of forever into a business transaction. I still cry when I think about the contrast between what I hoped for and what came to be. In my case, I think my children and I are better for the path we’ve taken, but no one dreams of being divorced. No one prepares you for the instability it leads to at a time when your heart hurts.
I went through my divorce as I was beginning a lab in a new place. Like the person referenced above, I had written a blog for years on the ins and outs of my personal and professional life. I wrote about my successes and failures as a scientist and mother but, my divorce was so extraordinarily painful that I could only keep that pain…and shame…to myself. More than anything, I felt like I had betrayed the universe
When I married Strange, we agreed to dispense with the “’til death do us part” and “as long as we both shall live” nonsense because I couldn’t bear to ever break that kind of promise again. We agreed to keep trying and to love each other’s children as our own. Those seemed like more realistic promises.
There is nothing like divorce to make you realize how deeply flawed you are as a person and there’s no handbook for dealing with that kind of hurt. Sometimes I thought I was past it, and would try to open up to the world about it, only to realize the pain felt fresher than I thought. Sometimes I hid. Sometimes I cried. I surrounded myself with people who loved me and I pushed people away. Sometimes I let people down. Sometimes I over-compensated. All of it led back to the guilt of my broken promise.
So, the last couple of years I have been trying a new approach. I’m just trying to find forgiveness. I’m trying to find a way to forgive myself. The hurt is still there and sometimes I need to let it wash over me like a wave.
When the wave passes, I try to remind myself of two things. First, I’m human and I can choose whether to learn from the paths that didn’t lead where I intended. It’s ok to take time to reflect and learn. I’ve learned a lot about love and promises. Second, I hurt because I loved so deeply, and that was a blessing in my life. Denying that hurt somehow denies my capacity for love. Remembering why I hurt somehow makes it tolerable.
Remembering that capacity for love lets me find it again, to stoke it and nurture it for the part of the journey I’m on now.