“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see. Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home….”
For many, 2017 has been one long year of testing our strength, compassion, empathy, and above all, our humanity. It has brought many of us in our country closer together—to truly look at one another and appreciate our differences, to see the beauty of the individuals who make up the patchwork of our beloved country, to view our own lives within the bigger picture, to imagine ourselves in one another’s shoes, to feel the pain, displacement, and historic enduring inequality of whole cohorts of people, and the compassion to say: “I stand with you” and make our voices heard. We’ve begun to question ourselves and the functioning (or non-functioning) of the world around us. This year has brought so many problems to the light of day—and although I truly wish none of the hurt that goes along with it was happening— I try to find the positive, and I believe the positive is and will be the light. For too long, we’ve looked aside, pretended these very real problems weren’t happening—maybe because they didn’t affect us directly or because we weren’t ready to deal with them. It has made us see that the status quo is no longer working, that it never truly had. When the light shone down, the cracks in our fabric quickly became earthquakes, ripping open the fault lines of our society— and if we want to heal and move forward, we need to come together and collectively say “enough” – let’s figure out a healthy way forward, for you, for me, for us all.
2017, the year fault lines erupted—allowing the light in.
Similarly, there are things that happen in all of our personal lives that test our humanity, humility, resilience, strength, ability to connect with others and ourselves in order to find the courage to persevere in times of struggle. This time of year, I always take a step back to actually witness and appreciate all the wonderful things and people in my life; However, this year brought that yearly life-reflection to a whole new level.
I have never felt more love and support in my entire life than I have in the past 6 months—but I know I’ve had this support before, the difference being that I chose to embrace it this time. I chose not to walk the tight rope alone, to no longer pretend I should carry such a heartbreak on my shoulders alone—I asked for help, I let others hold my hand, guide me, support me, and surround me—and it made all the difference in the world. Today, I stand so grateful for the solid foundation of family, friends, and love I have surrounding me—love I’ve always had, but rarely before embraced—the life that came before my marriage, saw me through my marriage, still withstands after my marriage.
I’ve been fiercely independent from a young age, I always thought that was the only safe way to live without ever having to depend on anyone—I actually once thought that was my “strength.” And living in a backwards society that teaches us that vulnerability and receiving help are weaknesses, it took me a long time to question this behavior and the ill-informed assumptions that feed it—and realized that it was actually embracing my vulnerability, lowering my guard, connecting authentically with others, and asking for help that were signs of me finding my strength—and laying the foundation for connection, real connection, the key to happiness, resilience and love—the reason we’re here, how we survive, how we love, and how we heal.
In life, you can always dwell on the bad, all the ways life has hurt you, the occurrences that could have hardened you— or you can focus on all the good (and there’s always so much more good), all the ways life has blessed you, provided for you, given you more than you’d ever want or need— and you can choose to be grateful and move forward, happily. I chose the ladder—and how could I not? Right now, I’m sitting here feeling my baby boy kick inside my belly knowing he’ll be arriving any moment or any day—and with each kick, I couldn’t possibly feel more happiness or love. No, I’m not where I thought I’d be today, but I’m here, I’m standing, and I have so much love both inside & around me—and I can honestly now say I’m happy, content, and full of hope for the future. That future just looks a little different than I previously pictured—and that’s okay.
When you choose to love, you’re putting your heart on the line, you’re taking your chance in the arena—and if that love falters and you’re lying face down in that arena as Teddy Roosevelt describes, your “face marred by dust and sweat and blood,” you have choices to make. You can let a failed love keep you down and make you bitter, or you can let it lift you up and make you better.
I always find that after life storms subside and you’ve had adequate time for self-reflection and healing, you not only discover a little more of yourself—but you see your truth more clearly. Retroactively, I now see the fault lines of my marriage, the slow widening of small cracks we long ago chose to turn a blind eye towards. In pretending they didn’t exist, we let things that could have been worked through and bandaged, widen. Instead of healing these cracks and allowing them to make us stronger, we ignored them completely and instead held tight onto the picture of how we wanted things to be without being willing to work for it—just hoping that picture itself was enough to see us through.
It wasn’t. The fault lines erupted—but it allowed the light in.
We’re about to welcome our son into this world as our divorce is proceeding in the background – and as we separate our joint lives into two, neither one of us know what tomorrow holds. We both acknowledge that after this, our separating is for the best, but we are also both grieving the life and dreams we’re leaving behind, to move forward as two separates—to find two new futures, apart.
My husband is one of the most stoic, emotionally impenetrable people I’ve ever known—and I’ve long known that words aren’t how he expresses himself—so today, I am grateful for the best apology he could have given—since it’s now been a few weeks that he has turned things around for himself, his kids, and me. I’m grateful that he is on the road to health & happiness again, grateful to have his support in my last weeks of pregnancy, grateful to witness Charley’s pure happiness & laughter having her dad back in her life, grateful that my son will meet his dad when he is born, grateful for our continuing friendship—grateful that although we couldn’t make it work as a couple, we will always be a family, and will always make it work for our kids.
All the things that took a huge toll on me the prior months: watching someone I love, the life we’d built, and our marriage simultaneously combust right in front of me without being able to do anything but sit and stare, have now settled—and as I sit here today watching as the last of the flames fall to the ground—I can’t help but think (with optimism) of what can and will be rebuilt in its place, the clean slate we both have to move forward with, as we move on with life and love.
It took me years to learn that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to take a step back, put your own emotions aside in certain situations, to better understand what’s actually happening—the bigger picture. The truth is that others’ behavior towards you is often not a reflection of you or anything you’ve done, but a reflection of what is happening in their own hearts, an internal struggle that can no longer be contained internally—so it spills out into other parts of their lives, affecting the people closest to them. Sometimes those who truly love us most, hurt us the deepest; but if you look at the situation from another angle, you can empathize with these loved ones, the pain they must be feeling to hurt the people they love most in life, as well as themselves. Somehow this process was a lot easier for me in other life situations, and it took me longer when I watched my marriage turn a corner of no return—but I’m here now, I’ve arrived, and I’m happier and healthier for it.
Anyone that knows my husband knows the kind of person he is, which is why many are still standing shell-shocked—they know how amazing of a husband & partner he was to me for many years, how kind and generous he is to those he loves, and most important of all—what a rockstar of a dad he is to Charley (and fur-kids: Kaiah, Logie, Zero)— and will be to Teddy. This is the person I know he is at heart and who he is working to become again. My supporting him fully was never in question—only how best to do it without it further affecting my children or myself, was.
I love my (soon-to-be-be) ex-husband, my best friend of the past 8 years, and my sole co-parent with my whole heart— and that’s something that hasn’t and never will change. Our individual lives are going in different directions now, but our priorities aren’t, and at the end of the day, that’s what now matters to me. We are, have always been, and will continue to be a team when it comes to our children—and we’ll always be supportive and friends to one another. And I couldn’t be more grateful for this.
We are all human, and we’ve all been here before in varying situations and to varying degrees, so to pretend you’re invincible or free from fault in this life (or in my case, our marriage) is dishonest and further damaging. The fault lines in our marriage erupted, and although it happened the way it did, a marriage is two people and there’s no way I get off the hook with a free pass. When fault lines erupt, they allow the light in—and in retrospect, I realized that I too walked away a long time ago, just in a different way.
To me, our marriage was not a failure—OK maybe in the traditional sense, yes, but not in the ways that now matter most to me, and I’ll never regret a day of it—I chose to stand in that arena, I chose to put my heart on the line, to fight for what is ultimately the greatest thing this life can give us—love, and love is what we had for a very long time—producing two children, who are my heart and soul, providing support through some tough life losses as well as graduate school. How could I ever regret something that brought so much happiness, support, and goodness into my life, if even temporarily? We may have lost the final round, but I know it’ll be okay. And if-and-when life gives me another chance, I’ll do it all again—but very differently. I know myself and needs much better now.
Later today, Charley and I, along with my 9-months pregnant belly, are heading to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Medfield, an annual tradition I only missed one year in my 33 years of life—and for the first in 7 years, Brian will not be there beside me, with us. Although bittersweet, it’s okay. I’m in the process of re-finding myself, my happiness, and one day at a time, falling more comfortably into my “new normal” and finding grace with part of that being a “single mama.”
Despite a bittersweet 2017, this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful, hopeful, and will be saving grace.
[To those curious or interested: The “Left Expecting” blog post has moved to its own domain and is now separate from the kiddos’ letters: Leftexpecting.com]
Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic,” Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
“…It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat….”