the beginning

May 14, 2014

ElsieSpringEveryone has a different version of the same divorce story. They are each our own, true to our perspectives, filters, shoddy memories and all our emotional baggage. It’s when we’re going through the hardest things that we wish everyone outside of us could be inside. Just for a glimpse.

Divorce, like childbirth, is only slightly the same for each person going through it. For the most part, it’s your very own experience. Each divorce, a snowflake…but less pretty. And maybe still as magical–sad but true. Because we will survive it and it will refine us, and there is so much peace about the decision. We are on our way to a better place, somehow.

Right now we’re just drifting down.

How did we get to the place we were? How did we sit there for so long? To say how it was out loud, as I do to my friends and family, is shocking. I say things that I cannot believe I allowed as the core of my daily existence. But this is what we do. We adapt, we give in, we settle, we slowly erode.

It is so easy to forget we’re on the right path, right now, even though it’s so clear. I find myself scared, here and there, like when I’m packing boxes. What the hell am I doing? Is this really happening? I’m writing his name on boxes with a Sharpie, and my name on others. His will go there. Mine will go there. And then later, when I’m getting ready for bed, I notice his pajama pants where they always sit. Plaid, black and dark blue, and so familiar. I start to cry because I’m going to miss knowing where the pajama pants are. There are these things that side-swipe you even when you are certain.

They warn you about childbirth too, but only a little, because everyone knows you aren’t going to really know until you’re doing it yourself. And who can prepare you? And who can tell you the truth of what you’ll experience anyway, when it will turn you and itself inside out to make it your own?

The reality is that we’ve intentionally separated in our own home for three years. If you do math, which I generally don’t but I can even figure this, it was not long after Elsie came along. But it certainly was not her, or her brothers. We were a clear mis-match from the start, and I hate to say that, but I’m telling the truth. We are on the same page about this. We ask each other now, Why would we get married? WHY? What would possess a person to think, Yeah this relationship is pretty terrible, but I suppose we should get married next…

I don’t know. I was a different person then, and so was he, just like all humans, we’ve evolved into something more grown, despite ourselves. Life just does that. It teaches you to stop fighting yourself, the one that wants to stay a child, scared and stuck.

Maybe we thought it would change. Maybe we just didn’t get it, like we couldn’t have understood childbirth or divorce. Marriage was just an abstract Thing, which sounds ridiculous. And maybe we both settled, not for a bad person, but for a bad relationship, as some sort of punishment to ourselves. We were much more insecure and broken back then. We were not healing or supporting each other in healing. We were bringing out the worst in each other.

One of Ryan’s closest friends visited before we got married. We were walking through the Mall of America after eating dinner and he was next to me. He asked, Does Ryan make you happy? And I remember the feeling of panic, something bordering on terror, because I could not answer him, or myself, honestly. I blathered on about how another person shouldn’t be responsible for my happiness, but blah blah blah, sure, blah blah…

I remember the look on his face, a little confusion mixed with concern. An engaged girl should want to shout YES! to that question, without waxing philosophical about it.

And so it went. I knew, while I tried hard not to know. We got married and we pressed on, we tried hard to make it okay. To make it better. To wait for the miracle. To change. If you’re looking for answers, there’s none to be had, other than that. It sounds so trite, but it is as simple as this: We made a terrible mistake.

Sometimes redemption comes by staying in the mistaken marriage. Sometimes it comes when leaving the mistaken marriage. It is really really hard to know what to do, and when.

We were scared, so we parted within our home. We lived, co-existing and co-parenting, married but not married at all. The documents were the only thing married about us, and we made a decision to live with that for too long, we can see now.

We have each been alone now for so long and yet this breaking away from each other is still terribly painful. Pajama pants are painful. A person should be allowed to curl up for a while and only talk about this, like Divorce Treatment, but there’s no time. Divorce is a whole lot of work. Moving across country is a lot of work. The daily grind with family is hard work. And so I’m here, plugging away at these things. I’m spending quiet hours here and there, alone and separating a life into boxes, allowing the feelings to come. And I have friends who love me so unconditionally and they are so wise and so willing to help. I have a family that supports me and wants us home and will continue to hold us. I have these three kids, who are doing so incredibly well amidst this flux.

In the middle of a birth, there comes the transition, inevitably. That period of time when a woman is entirely certain she will die. She’s wrong, most of the time, but it does hurt that much. The reality is that that much pain means she is so much closer to bringing her baby into the world, birthing that new soul, and her own.

MilesTia

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendi May 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

Beautiful writing about a painful subject. All my love you you, Heather.

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Ed Cyzewski May 14, 2014 at 10:07 am

All grace and many prayers for you today and as you step through this transition.
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Sarah Bessey May 14, 2014 at 10:07 am

Dearest Heather, clasping hands with you across the kilometres. Beautifully written, of course, but my tears are real for you and with you. Praying for both you and Ryan and your babies. Proud of you.
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angi May 14, 2014 at 10:12 am

I lived this, almost exactly, but different in the way that snowflakes are. And, I was certain that I would die. And I was certain that I was doing the best thing for myself and my children. And that was the strangest paradox. And now, 7 years later and remarried, I still cry at the fact that my children have to deal with two homes.

But, I know what it is to be happy. My children see an example of love, every day. Their father and I love them deeply and have formed the most amazing coparenting partnership.

All my love, Heather. And strength….
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Kelly @ Love Well May 14, 2014 at 10:13 am

This stole my breath right out my lungs, it’s so painfully beautiful.

I think the worst thing about loving someone in the midst of divorce is knowing the agony they are enduring, even if it’s ultimately life-giving, and being able to do little more than offer ice chips and a cool towel to wipe the brow.
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Kim May 14, 2014 at 10:15 am

I love you.
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anna whiston-donaldson May 14, 2014 at 10:17 am

This is beautiful. And hard. Like life.
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Kate May 14, 2014 at 10:17 am

Heather, sweet friend… I can’t even begin to understand what you’re feeling. This is powerful writing. Praying for you and your family, my dear. Every day, pretty much, I think of you, and I just want you to know that I send a hug each time, through air and emotion, to you.
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Heather B. May 14, 2014 at 10:17 am

This got me right in the gut. I cannot imagine how difficult it was to share but thank you.

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Diana Trautwein May 14, 2014 at 10:18 am

Oh, Heather. So now some pieces begin to fit. I am sorry for the pain of all this, but hopeful with you that a turning has happened, and will continue to happen for both you and Ryan. In my mind, divorce is a last resort – but I’ve walked with enough people to know that sometimes, it’s the only resort. Period. You are so strong – stronger than you know. I wait with you to see the flourishing that will be.
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love May 14, 2014 at 10:18 am

sending you love.

what kelly said above really resonates with me. offering you those and my love & prayers.
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alexandra May 14, 2014 at 10:19 am

Tears are in my life, and I wish I could just come over and listen. I wish that so hard right now that my teeth are clenching. I love you. Praying for you. HOLD ON. We’re all here.
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Leyna May 14, 2014 at 10:21 am

Wow. Just…wow. This is the most amazing, honest, poignant, painful, eloquent and REAL description of this process I’ve ever heard. Someone somewhere, someday will read this and it will keep them from making a terrible mistake. In the midst of your pain, you’re doing enormous good. So much <3

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Leigh Ann May 14, 2014 at 10:24 am

You’re always in my thoughts, Heather. I’m sorry you’re going through the pain, but I know you will come out on the other side. Beautiful writing. xoxo
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Mandy May 14, 2014 at 10:38 am

“In the middle of a birth, there comes the transition, inevitably. That period of time when a woman is entirely certain she will die. She’s wrong, most of the time, but it does hurt that much. The reality is that that much pain means she is so much closer to bringing her baby into the world, birthing that new soul, and her own.”

This is truly one of the best analogies for divorce I’ve read. I’m three years past separation now and while there are still twinges of sadness over what might have been, what is, right now, is so much better. I’m stronger, more confident, and in so many ways, happier.

Hugs to you.

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Carla May 14, 2014 at 10:49 am

I was in a similar place last fall and I recognize these emotions you’re describing. It seems almost insulting that life should go on so nonchalantly when you’re suffering so. Now, all these months later, everything is less raw but there and it sneaks up on me at unexpected moments. The best thing I’ve done for myself is write about it, talk about it and be in it. Without hours or days to wallow in my feelings (there are kids to raise and a job to go to and life in general), it feels as if each encounter where I could speak my truth was a release, a working through, a sorting through. Thank you for writing about your experience, it’s a hug to us all going through it. Sending you so much love and strength.
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Kristin Shaw May 14, 2014 at 10:51 am

It’s amazing that there are so many similarities and yet so many differences. I remember so well this feeling of “Well, we have been together this long… I guess we should just get married.” And it was both the wrong decision and the right decision at the time.
Sending so much love as you navigate this. I was alone when I went through my divorce, and you are doing your best to go through it with three kids. You are strong and brave. xoxo
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Jess May 14, 2014 at 10:53 am

You are able to tell these things which ache with such beauty. I can’t imagine the hurt but I think the birthing metaphor is a good one, I hope you will cling to that. You are a wise and brave soul.
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Amanda May 14, 2014 at 11:05 am

You are so wise. The comparison to labor, that lesson which for me resonates always with the wisdom that the more you fight the more it hurts and the longer it takes.

Wishing you the glow that eventually comes after the transition. All of you.
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Liz @ ewmcguire May 14, 2014 at 11:22 am

Beautiful and heartbreaking, Heather. Sending love and peace to you.

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suburbancorrespondent May 14, 2014 at 11:30 am

You’ll make it to the other side. Because you have to. Just hang in there.
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Cecily May 14, 2014 at 11:32 am

Sending you love, lady.

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Sharon May 14, 2014 at 11:33 am

Yes. This.

I, too, felt the breath leave as I began reading this, and fought back tears, shaken to read words that so poignantly describe what divorce feels like. This is amazing, and I’m going to keep it with me. Thank you for the gift of your words.

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Nichole May 14, 2014 at 11:55 am

This is so hard to read — that you’re struggling now and that you’ve been struggling for so long. I’m thinking of you and praying for you.
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thekitchwitch May 14, 2014 at 11:58 am

Here. Listening. Sending love.

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Tracey Addington May 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Beautifully written. I am 4 years on the other side, but you captured, hauntingly and eloquently, what the experience is like.

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Natalie May 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm

What a painfully honest, brutally beautiful reflection. I understand. I have not lived it, but I have lived through such rough times in marriage that I didn’t know if we would make it.
Hugs to you.

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Pam May 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm

The timing of this is so perfectly painful, but I’m glad you wrote this. I’m glad someone else might understand about the pajamas.

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molly May 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Wow. I’m so impressed with your ability to put this into beautiful beautiful words. Pajama pants just made me cry.
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Denise May 14, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Oh Maverick. Oh you beautiful, wise, tender woman. I am hugging you, and giving thanks for your honesty. This piece is transcendent. Real. Painful. True. Beautiful. So much love to you, my dear Maverick. xoxoxo always, Goose

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Justine May 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Ending – it’s both a terrible and beautiful thing because yes, it feels like you’re closing the door to all that effort made in all those years, but what you do get is this precious new beginning. And you’ll be a different person with a different life, and sometimes, that’s the best thing we can do for ourselves. May you find peace, love and comfort in your hardest moments and joy in the moments in between.
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Rese May 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm

aww – dear Heather, I’m so sorry to hear this . . . but it sounds as if this new path will be a fabulous one!

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Heidi Ashworth May 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I’m so sorry, Heather. I hope that this change in your life will bring you all the blessings you deserve.

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jana May 14, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Oh, the words are beautiful. The birth and new will be beautiful as well. Because you are you and you are amazing. Love you and sending peace and prayers your way.
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Carolyn Dingman May 14, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Sigh. This is the really awful sucky horrible part that you will look back on and wonder how you got through. But you’re getting there. And now you’re a divorce blogger. *wink

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Jenn May 14, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Thinking of you as you turn this new page of your story. <3
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Naptimewriting May 14, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Oh, my. Yes.
I’m new to this process, very very new to this process. But I’m not really, because we’ve been watching from the sidelines as our marriage falls apart, rushing in to coach each other and ourselves to fix something that we probably should never have made.
I’m more than a little worried. Because for me labor was manageable and birth was genuinely rough, but the wallop that knocked me off my game was the four years that came next.
So as I transition from “hey, we can be like Gwyneth and consciously uncouple” to “oh my word, if it’s this hard when it’s going to be a good thing, what do screaming and ragingly hateful people do?”, I’m supposed to know it gets much, much, much worse? Good thing I’ve been practicing my breathing.
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Gonne May 15, 2014 at 6:06 am

Heather, oh sweet LOVE!!! I.Simply.Adore.You. Your heart still risks and is wide open after all this…that is the incredible tenacity, courage, perseverance, hope and love which we all see and adore. It is so beautiful because it is so dangerous to remain so open and in doing so in spite of where YOU are, YOU are giving lifelines to others. And that’s unbelievably you, willing to give even now. Will be praying for both of you, and your babies. His real, otherworldly, bizarre, unimaginable and life giving perfect love casts out all fear. Praying for you all to be flooded in your new beginning. Much much love, Gonne

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kristenkj May 15, 2014 at 8:59 am

Damn, Heather…I am so sorry. This was beautifully written. And again, I’m sorry…
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Anne May 15, 2014 at 10:35 am

HUH? Heather!!! I wish I were in Austin packing boxes right next to you. I really do. Oh my goodness. What a difficult incredibly difficult time. And in spite of it, this piece is amazing. Your insights, your acceptance, your honesty like steel. Or light.

And talking frankly, who among us really knows what we’re doing. I spent the morning before my wedding sobbing, terrified– not at all sure of my motives or what this would lead to. I’d told an astrologer a few months earlier: “I don’t THINK he’s an axe murderer…”

Knocking you down with a hug.

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Erin May 15, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Rarely have I ever read anything that has spoken so deeply to me. Thank you. And hugs and warm wishes to you as well.

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Christina May 15, 2014 at 4:22 pm

My fingers are on the keyboard, attempting to write what I think. It’s too hard. I feel like when I am reading these updates I have a glimpse into your heart. It feels intrusive, yet right. Know I am praying for ALL of you during this transition Heather.
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Kimberly | Red Shutters May 16, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I had to read this twice – how could something so beautifully written be so devastating?

Adding my good wishes for you into the universe, hoping they come to you quickly. Keeping you in my thoughts.
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Suzy Soro (@HotComesToDie) May 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm

I’m wishing you well on the next phase of your journey. Sending a lot of love. Especially to Elsie, who hopefully still has no residual breathing problems. jk. xo

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erin margolin May 17, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I love you, your honesty, your making yourself so vulnerable to us here.
Many (including me) benefit from reading your words.
Sharing this with the world is a gift, Heather.
Your writing is a gift.
I know it feels like shit and everything is dark and you’re reeling right now.
I’m hugging you from miles away.

And so grateful to know you and read you and that our paths have crossed.
YOU ARE A GIFT.

Sending you peace and love and strength.
xo

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Maria May 17, 2014 at 6:20 pm

You have my email if you need to talk, dude. I wish you peace. It will come, unexpectedly. And then the good days will keep coming, one after another.

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hyacynth May 17, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I am thinking of you, Heather, and praying for your heart during this difficult time.

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Kim Jorgensen Gane May 18, 2014 at 9:06 am

Oh, Heather. I can tell that you will be fine, that your kids will be fine, and it sounds like he will, too. Wishing all of you a smooth transition, lots of love, patience, and grace. If anyone can make divorce extraordinary ordinary, I suspect you can.

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Katherine Stone (@postpartumprog) May 18, 2014 at 9:34 am

I love you, and love you, and love you some more dear friend. And I’m wishing you the utmost in peace and contentment and even happiness. xoxoxoxoxo

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Darcie May 18, 2014 at 11:59 am

Oh Heather.
Hugs to you & yours as you navigate this next chapter. xo

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Elaine A. May 18, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Such a true comparison. I love that you are calling this “the beginning”. Thinking of you lots. xo

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Robin @ Farewell, Stranger May 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I’m sad for your sorrow, but in awe of your wisdom. All the best.

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Robbie May 18, 2014 at 2:31 pm

I am truly sorry that you are going through this but you write about it so powerfully and beautifully and still heartbreaking.
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Michael from Dadcation May 18, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Hoping this process is as quick and painless as possible…
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Anne @MidlifeBlvd May 18, 2014 at 11:18 pm

I was very touched by this, Heather. My thoughts are with you and your family.
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Stacy @bklynstacy May 19, 2014 at 9:22 am

Heather, sending you so much love and strength. And also nodding my head so hard at this, it might fall off: “[Life] teaches you to stop fighting yourself.” If we’re lucky, that’s what life teaches us. I’m so glad that you are walking that way. Please let me know if I can ever be an ear. I am a divorce fairy, you know. A role and I privilege I took on after I wrote my book. I so desperately wanted to be the company I could not find. (And if you’d like a copy of the book for company, email me your address. There’s a lot of crying in it, but also a lot of grace.) xoxo
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Karla Archer May 20, 2014 at 9:03 am

Thinking of you, Heather.

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