for Lisa….

This morning I was introduced to a woman whose eyes took me back three years in time.  This post is dedicated to her and all the other “Lisas”….

“Lisa” and I met awkwardly and unexpectedly, in a waiting room, through a mutual friend.  Our friend wanted me to meet Lisa because she is struggling through the end of her marriage, and our friend thought my blog might help her.  I reached out my hand in hello and Lisa took it, but when she turned her eyes to me, my heart broke.

The tears were about to spill over, when she asked me, in a soft voice, “It does get better, right?”

Oh boy.

I remember those days.  I remember the fear and the helplessness.  The near desperation and the loneliness.  I knew no one my own age who was divorcing or had been divorced.  I felt like I was alone in a sea of people making different choices from me.  I didn’t have anyone to point to and say “THERE!  That’s what I want to have!  That’s what I’m aiming for, too!”  I remember saying to Annie, before she had left her marriage, “I need to see a divorced woman who has made it to the other side.  I need to see someone who is happy and content and past all of this.  I need to see it and I need to see it NOW because I am afraid that it doesn’t actually exist.”

When your marriage is falling apart — whether because you are leaving or he is — you’re awash in doubts and regrets and uncertainties.  It seems that every time you find something you feel certain about, another wave of doubt washes over you and you’re floating in ambivalence again.  The pain of the broken dreams and smashed hopes is palpable; it’s true:  depression hurts.  And the whole time, you’re grasping for a lifesaver that you can ride to the other side.

What has amazed me (and my friends who came through it after me) is how similar the process is for most of us.  No matter the reasons for the marriage’s failure, or the proportion of guilt assigned, the process of moving through those feelings and struggles is very, very similar.  True, some people stall at one point or another, and some are more extreme in the expression of their feelings at particular places along the way, but, overall, the journey is very similar.

And thank God for that.

Because, Lisa, there are lots and lots of us who have been where you are.  Who have had the same fears and sadness you are facing.  Who have had to pick up the pieces of lives blown apart and start anew.  Small steps…. little victories… until we begin to create a life that is whole and good and hopeful again.

In fact, hope might be the defining feature of these new lives.  Not the feigned or desperate or false hopes you’ve experienced time and again as your marriage has unraveled, but the true, buoyant hope of possibilities grounded in the certainty of your own strength and knowledge of your own needs and desires.  I have had my heart broken twice since my divorce, but it was an entirely different kind of pain.  It’s not the pain of being stuck or of being hopeless.  It’s the pain of being alive.  And that distinction is real and true and makes all the difference.

Moving through a divorce is not easy, and anyone who claims it was for them is either lying or delusional.  Building a new life is never easy, and when you’re weighed down by the guilt and fear and doubts that you carry out of a broken marriage, it’s doubly hard.  But nothing truly worth having has ever come easily.  Nothing.  And when you reach the other side and realize that, somewhere along the way, you have put the guilt aside, overcome the fear, and cast off the doubts, you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of a life you hardly recognize but can claim as your own.

I remember reading the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” to my daughters when they were small.  It’s the whimsical, lyrical tale of a family that sets off on an imaginary bear hunt (only to, quite comically, encounter a real bear).  The part of the book that I loved, and stressed to my girls, was the refrain the family chanted every time they hit an obstacle  — “Can’t go over it.  Can’t go under it.  Guess we’ll have to go through it!”  And so the family does.

Divorce is like a bear hunt.  There is no easy way around it or over it or under it.  You’ve just got to square your shoulders, straighten your back, set your focus, and go through it.   That’s the only way to the other side.  Sitting in your misery and expecting it will change of its own accord won’t do it.  Neither will hoping that someday you’ll have the strength.  There’s never a “good time” to get a divorce.  It’s never going to hurt less.  It will suck.

But then, one day, it won’t.

One of the first men I dated after my separation told me about his divorce recovery from his first wife.  He spoke about how he had simply put one foot in front of another for what seemed an eternity but was probably about 6 months.  He told me how he’d begun to wonder if he’d ever be happy again….  And then, one day, he was running errands on an ordinary Saturday, and he went into the bank to make a deposit.  He came out and the sun was shining. He stopped for a moment and let its warmth touch his face, and as he did, it hit him.  He was okay again.  In fact, he was kind of happy again.  He said he stood in the bank parking lot and cried silent tears of gratitude.  He had made it.  He had made it to the other side.  Life was beginning again.

I think most of us have similar moments we could relate.  They are precious and they are sacred, and, if I could, I would box them up and deliver them to you, Lisa, to carry you through the days ahead.  But since I can’t, you’ll just have to have faith that yours are awaiting you.

One small step after another.  It’s the only way any of us got here.  It’s how you’ll get here, too.

And someday, you’ll feel the sun on your face and the hope in your heart.  Again.

P.S. — There is an email button on this website.  Feel free to use it.  🙂


Filed under divorce, healing, marriage, relationships, sadness, single mom

10 responses to “for Lisa….

  1. One thing that surprised me as I expanded beyond my own blog was how many women (I’ve read only a few blogs by men) have been through the same process. This loose network of blogs hosts women who are early in the process (not even formally separated) all the way through to women who are done with divorce and settled into a new relationship. It has women who are struggling, women who have struggled and survived, women who have endured and barely survived, and everywhere in-between.

    Lisa, follow the links of comments from blog to blog and discover a world of connections and stories that will buoy you through this difficult time. Document your own experiences, comment on others and/or ask questions, you’ll be very welcome.

    Be strong,

  2. Wow. Sure wish I had this blog available to me when I went through MY divorce. I was frozen with pain for over a year. Lisa, listen to the advice here. It really does help to network with other people. You will indeed get better. I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

  3. What beautiful words to read when you are in that sea of unknown at the beginning. A lovely post TPG.
    It will be okay and the lessons you learn are lessons you never could have imagined you needed to learn, could survive, and grow from.
    I look back at where I was a year ago and can’t believe all that has happened inside of me – I wouldn’t trade ME for anything! Life is good.

    • Isn’t that the truth, 35MS? What a difference a year makes, when you actually get busy living. I know some people who were at the same place I was, at the same time I was…. and some of them are still stuck…. it makes me very sad for them. That kind of pain and sadness is debilitating. I wouldn’t trade places with them for anything in this world. But none of us gets here easily, as both our blogs can attest… 🙂

  4. I have read this three times today. Each time, in tears. I have no idea where I’m at in this process. I just know it hurts horribly. It’s nice to know that someday it’ll feel different but I can’t see that far. And although I find ways to breathe these days, the sadness my heart feels constantly just won’t fade. I wish it would. I wish I knew how to help it move through so I could feel something else.

    • Ah, yes, another Lisa… 🙂 You know, I read your posts every single time. I don’t often comment, but I read them and say silent prayers for you. Your last one was important… transcendental… and I’m not sure if you realized it or not. You have crossed one of the many invisible benchmarks in this process, Lisa. You have started the journey of living for you and figuring out what you need to be whole and be happy. When I read your last post, I thought “Aha! Now, she’s moving toward the light.” I suspect that you can’t feel that yet, that, as you wrote, the sadness won’t seem to fade, but you have made a very small and very important shift recently. And it’s those small but important shifts that create huge movement toward healing.

      Your husband’s ambivalence will ultimately be his downfall, I suspect. You are capable of so much giving and generosity… I sense in you a strength that will prevail beyond his waffling and indecisiveness. I suspect that, in the not to distant future, you will decide that you are worthy of someone who is capable of being a whole and healthy partner for you, who is not uncertain about your place in his life, and who understands that your lovely nature is a gift to be treasured. And when you do, that’s when your real healing will take off… 🙂

      I have absolutely no doubt that there are happy days ahead for you. No doubt at all.

  5. Lisaofcourse

    Thank you so much for this post!! While the tears finally spilled over several times today I just kept saying out loud to myself “I deserve better” over and over and over. I’ll keep saying it until I have better for me and the kids. We deserve better! I need better. That sounds so general but it really sums it up.

    I love my husband but it’s not enough. There has been an ongoing lack of respect and now there is a lack of trust.

    The pain and hurt i feel is overwhelming, but I also have a ton of anger and disappointment in us both. How could we let us get to here? We’ve known each other since high school. We were friends first. Now we are about to blow our beautiful family apart. Realistically, can we still be friends? Coparents? There are so many unknowns! But you are right…i know that eventually I will be able to focus on hope for the future and not fear bc that is who I choose to be.

    It’s devastating. I know there will be many, many more tears. But, I also know in the deepest part of my heart and soul that I will be ok. And today, of all days, to end on that note is more than OK! Thank you for reaching out to those of us struggling through a most difficult time!

    • 🙂 Welcome to my blog, Lisa.

      Glad to hear that you’ve found your mantra of deserving more. And it’s not so general — the best truths are the simplest ones, I think.

      You sound very healthy and aware of what’s in front of you; that’s a big part. My friend Annie likes to say that just because something is sad, doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing. So, let the tears flow and keep moving forward. You’ll get there. 🙂

      Good luck.

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