The other side: More on Divorce

“No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become.  No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell.  There are no maps of the change.  You just come out the other side.  Or you don’t.”
~ Stephen King

My divorce, so long in the making, was final at the end of March.  My cousin, Erin, came down for a long weekend and stayed to hold my hand in a mostly empty courtroom on a Monday morning while I answered questions from a bored-looking judge for five minutes so that he could declare my marriage dissolved.   My ex didn’t come; in Illinois you don’t have to have both parties present to finalize a divorce, and I had decided that the whole thing would probably be easier if I didn’t have to face him.

Divorce is strange.  It can be equal parts terrifying and debilitating and liberating.  Even world-ending.  It’s unexpected for some.  It feels inevitable for others.  The cutting of a cord. The removing of a limb.  A decision that you make, but that feels as though it had been made without you.  One that somehow feels equal parts devastating and hopeful.

It’s the end of something you never thought would end, and the beginning of something you never prepared for.

At least, that’s how it was for me.

Divorces seem to be like couples; each one of them is different

Two years ago, my ex began chasing madly after a career a thousand miles away.  It seemed to make him happy in ways that his work here did not, so I encouraged it, and I sacrificed for it.  My time, money, and all of my needs were placed on a chopping block of my own creation.  I dutifully swung the ax without even questioning, because, after all, we were a team, and I was nothing if not a team player.  Don’t get me wrong.  He never demanded, or even asked for, such sacrifices.  Honestly, he didn’t even know I was making them.  I did that all on my own while he was away.  I believed the sacrifices were temporary and in service to our relationship.  My choice.  My consequences.

At first, he left for two weeks a month…then a month at a time…then six weeks between every stop home.  His priorities changed slowly at first, then seemingly all at once.  Looking back, I can see that his heart left this place…and I suppose me…long before he did.

When my marriage began falling apart, I felt scared and alone and incapable of living my life.  I went through stages where the farm felt like way too much. The animals felt like way too much.  My job felt like way too much.  It felt like I was treading water, barely keeping my head up, all the while watching the waves get rougher all around me.

Bills.  Sick animals.  Farm emergencies.  Broken equipment.  Collapsed ceilings from my then-leaking roof.  None of them had seemed so impossible when I was part of a team, when I had the emotional support of someone equally invested in building this life with me, but they began to pile on as I dealt with one after another mostly on my own.  There was so much to do.  So much to learn.

The truth is, Jeremiah is an incredibly capable person with a laundry list of skills that he always made look easy and that I didn’t possess.  He’s a gifted builder.  He’s good with heavy equipment.  And, damn, can he mend a fence and hang a gate!  When he left, I lost the most meaningful relationship of my life, and I lost at least half of the expertise that had kept the farm running.  The loss of the second made it difficult to find the emotional space to deal with the loss of the first.  It was the proverbial double-whammy, and it made me feel like every piece of my life was coming undone at the seams.

Putting a life back together that has come apart at the seams is a slow task.  Putting a heart back together that has come apart at the seams is an even slower task.  I’m still working on both.

Here’s the thing I’m learning: if you tread water long enough–and just float when you need to–you eventually get strong enough to swim.  People always say “it gets easier,” but when you’re facing a struggle, those words do you a disservice.  I believe the truth of the matter is a little different.  It doesn’t get easier; You get stronger

I’m not saying this in the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” so “stop being a pansy” and “rub some dirt in it” kind of way.  Rather, it’s worth acknowledging that the character traits we tend to admire–grit, compassion, self-awareness–they all come from living through the days we spend in that uncharted, unexpected territory in our lives.

I’m starting to believe that life gives us the experiences required to make us who we want to become, and that becoming the person we want to be is the result of walking through those experiences with all the openness we can muster.  You walk the “blue and lonely section of hell,” and if you let it, it will teach you.

This place, these animals, all of this work, and even the dissolution of the most significant relationship of my life…they are my teachers right now, and I’m discovering that it’s usually easier to let them teach me than it is to fight them on the lessons.

I am learning.  Everyday, I am learning.

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21 thoughts on “The other side: More on Divorce

  1. ❤ so beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your story. It is a message relate-able and applicable to most of life's difficult journeys. I am sorry you had to go through this, but man, look at the person you are becoming! How far you have come! So much learning and growth. In the moment it is hard to see how far you have come and will go, but one day you will look back and see with a clarity you would not have thought possible. All so long as you keep an open mind and heart to allow yourself to be vulnerable and learn and grow.

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  2. I love your perspective of what you are going through. Life really is about discovering who we are and who we are not… and everything is presented to us again and again until we are ready and open to receive it. You are going through a rough patch, for sure. But you are wise to allow your place, the work, and the animals to show you what you need to see and know. That is the very reason I go out to the wild with the animals and roam the land, to watch and listen. This is a nice gallery of photos you’ve put together. It gives the reader a real “feel” for your world. I look forward to more of your writing as you evolve from this “blue and lonely section of hell”. Beautiful prose, Cherity. It is some of your best.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. I will say, my animals have been my stability in all of this. I can’t imagine how I would have made it through some of the worst of it without knowing that I needed to get up in the morning to feed them or they wouldn’t eat.

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  3. Hi Cherity. I think you are amazing. I am so sorry you are going through what you are going through, but I think you are on a very good path to recover from such a traumatic, life changing sequence of events. I only hope the best for you and whatever and whomever it takes to make you feel good and strong about yourself, I wish it upon you. Animals are genuine. They are loyal, compassionate and I believe they can truly feel your loneliness and struggles. They will always stand by you and give you that nudge when you need it. Best of luck in all of your future endeavors. Keep faith…… Renee N8284Y

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  4. Beautifully written and as I read I could virtually feel your pain. I’ve not been divorced but both my children were divorced some years ago. It does take a piece of your heart and changes how you view the world. Thank goodness you had your animals that needed you. I consider our animals as life lines. Mine have saved me during bouts of depression and are still helping me see the light of day.

    I hope that you’ll soon be feeling much less distressed and helpless. You are a strong young woman as evidenced by your post here. The photos are so pretty. Stay strong as you grow accustomed to a new life.

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  5. My Wonderful Friend, I have lost my ability at fresh, flowery words, but care very much. As always beautifully written but reading this i truly want only to reach out, support and hug my wonderful friend!! So sorry, care a lot!!

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  6. “The blue and lonely section of hell”. What a beautiful and appropriate phrasing of something that is so hard. Thank you for your honesty and thank you for your courage and thank you for your generosity. May the light shine on you and may you find joy in the morning.

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  7. As always, you write beautifully, Cherity. Your words and willingness to share the difficult things in life help people know they are not alone, and for me, it serves as a reminder of how strong you truly are.

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