Who the Hell Am I? I Am Divorced
Out of all the events in my life, divorce has been the single biggest thing to shape me as a person. I am sure that anyone who has been through one of their own is not surprised by that statement. Divorce is hard. It is brutal and unrelenting. Divorce rips a person down to their barest form, and makes them question everything about life. It can fill you with bitterness and hate. Divorce can taint future relationships. But, if you are lucky, it can push you to become a better person than you were before it all began.
Someone once told me that the divorce process feels like mourning the death of a loved one. When you strip it down to its most essential pieces, there could not be a more accurate statement. In marriage, you give yourself completely to another person and plan to spend your life with them. Then, through some combination of events and reasons, divorce comes, and you lose that person.
I know not every divorce is the same, and not every couple coming out of the event has the same dynamic afterward. Some people remain friends. Some were escaping abuse or neglect. Others are still bound together through kids. Some saw marriage as nothing more than a game that was always going to end. For me, it was gut wrenching.
By the time the divorce came around, I had a minimal amount of feelings left in me for my ex-wife. We had grown distant, and the marriage felt loveless for the last couple years. But even then, when it was finally real, I found myself curled up on the floor, unable to move, struggling to lift myself to start the day. I called into work on several occasions. My mom would visit to make sure that I was eating and taking care of life’s bare essentials. How could someone I had grown so distant from cause such total devastation?
Afterwards, I lied to myself. I told myself that it was a long time coming, that I had prepared for this moment, that I had already processed and grieved. But it was not true. I was denying the facts in front of me. I refused to deal with the pain, not wanting to admit my failures. I hoped that no one saw past my eyes, where I locked all those fears deep inside. I was not careful, and I fell headlong into a series of doomed relationships, destined to fail from the start. In those relationships, I looked for someone to fill the holes that riddled my soul. I found commonality with others in the smallest things. I ignored warning signs, and I lowered my standards. I pretended that I knew how to love again, despite not knowing how to process all the loss still bottled up inside. I clung to the lies I was feeding myself.
My life became a series of relationships with various degrees of commitment and depth. I looked for someone to help me feel something other than the pit of despair still bubbling deep inside. And I kept telling myself that I was fine, that I had already moved on, that I was ready for what was next. The truth is that I never stopped to completely let myself deal with the hurt.
Sure, I found little ways to take blame for what had happened. I could have been more attentive. I went into the relationship with unrealistic expectations. I did not speak my mind enough. These partial truths made me sound profound. It seemed as if I had grown so much since the divorce, become so self aware. But that false perception did not last forever.
I realized that I needed more time to heal. I looked deeper inside and saw the flawed person that I had brought to my failed marriage. I began to understand what it meant to take responsibility for myself. I learned to look at the things that I can control, my actions and reactions, and trained myself to handle them in different ways. It hurt. A fresh new wave of emotion and regret pummeled me in the face like the right hook of a boxer.
But after the hurt, there was healing, real self retrospection, true growth. I did become a better person. I was more self aware. I recognized the parts of me that required fixing. Even though some of them are still taking work several years later, I know that I am capable of overcoming them with honesty and help.
Divorce may have changed how I dressed, the way I cut my hair, who I hung out with, how I spent my time. But that was just surface. What it did for me? It forced me to confront myself at my lowest. It showed me how I measured up to the ideal of myself in my head. It made me reexamine my strengths, my faith, my preconceptions of the world, my control of situations. I would like to think that it made me a stronger person. But it did not happen right away. There were many times where I thought I had changed, but it was not for several more years that I realized how long the transformation was taking.
Am I thankful for the lessons learned through the experience? Definitely. Would I trade all those lessons to avoid going through the hurt? I would like to think not, but I do not know. I may not like my ex-wife, but I am grateful for the good times that we had. I hold her no ill will anymore. We are all young and naive at one time in life. If we allow ourselves the opportunity, we can all learn and grow. Divorce was a catalyst to redefine who I was in almost every way. It is hard to imagine that the scars I carry from the event will ever fade away completely. But they are no longer scars of bitterness and resentment. They are reminders of my past and the great lengths that I have since traveled.