I am going to interrupt our regularly schedule programming as something has been bothering me about these last posts and I think I finally put my finger on it.
When I write on this blog, I try to be as truthful to my experience as possible, try to give it the nuance it deserves. My marriage ending so abruptly was a huge earthquake in my life that shook me to the core of my being. I want to talk about how it felt, and all the lessons I have learned since, yes. The way I make meaning out of it is by trying to weave this experience into the larger fabric of human existence, to try to perceive the larger pattern in this fluid catastrophe we call the human condition.
I started this blog as my own personal war on shame, even before I had the privilege of reading Brené Brown’s research on the subject. The moment you talk about something, you bring it into the light and allow others to come forward with their story. You discover you’re not alone in experiencing these things and therefore not broken or a freak of nature. It is my message in a bottle and I hope someone who has also felt the anvil on their hearts reads it and knows they are not alone and that there is hope.
But. Our stories do not live in a vacuum. My story is intertwined with his and for many years you would not have recognised them as two sides of the same one, they were so different. So, I cannot speak for him. I have tried very hard to respect that boundary, and think for the most part, I have.
Beyond Compassion for my Ex
Last night it occurred to me that while I have mentioned compassion for my ex in these posts, I have forgotten an important part, one that gives the necessary nuance to this divorce experience.
Because of the way he left, it felt like I had been amputated from my own history, from the twenty years we spent together. I didn’t know if any of it was real, any of those amazing trips we took, the moments of intimacy, the times with our kids, if they meant anything anymore. I wasn’t sure if he had ever loved me, if there had ever been any good in our relationship. I wondered if I had just been the victim of a massive twenty-year dupe.
It wasn’t until I went through the rage, fear, and ruins of love and began to carve a path out, until I really began to surrender to the reality of the death of the relationship that I could begin to see it for what it was, what I always knew it to be: a good marriage, full of love, trust and support.
That is why I want to honour who he was during those twenty years for me. After all, that is what I long for most myself: to have who I was for those twenty years—the lover, the wife, the mother, the friend—honoured through all the stages of a true apology. Unfortunately, that takes showing up and communicating and some courage to be vulnerable and well, we are not quite there yet, and may never be.
Still here is a baby step in that direction.
I married J because I loved him. He was quiet, gentle, kind and very direct and clear about his interest in me. I knew where I stood with him and it made me trust him. Besides that, I loved the way his mind worked, which was so different from mine. I loved the way he tinkered with things, was always doodling. I loved the sheer non-linear-ness of his thought pattern. He was not a big word guy, but a visual thinker (which makes sense being a visual artist). He brought a sense of play and creativity in a way that I could not. Our house was a rogue’s gallery of art and found objects—some even hung from the ceiling. He came with a community of artists who talked about art and big ideas and where I finally felt like I had found my tribe, that I belonged.
I loved when he showed the girls how to use tools to build things, how he helped them make stuff. He would make them elaborate snow forts in our backyard in Montreal. He would help them with their school projects. Everything he did was different and creative and unexpected.
He made me laugh. We travelled well together. I can count the fights we had (up until that last year, of course) on my fingers. For the better part of twenty years, I felt really loved, like I was the luckiest woman alive.
Though it still hurts to think about, I can welcome the pain as part of the price of having this experience. I loved him with all my heart and felt loved back. We made two beautiful children together. I see his influence in them every time they pick up a sketchbook or see one of his expressions flit across their face. My daughters have his eyes.
I don’t regret marrying him. I would do it all again.
Now, would I do some things differently, knowing what I know, now? You bet your divorce papers I would. But if transported back to that day in 1996 in the Luxembourg gardens in Paris when he found a ring on the ground and asked me to marry him, I would still say yes. Even if all the timelines end up in this heartbreak.
Being able to say that aloud allows me to re-integrate those twenty years back into my own story. I chose out of love. This marriage is part of my own hero’s journey and not only do I have two beautiful daughters to show for it, I also have the experience of having built a life with someone, and all the lessons you learn when you live with, and love them for that long.
It is worth taking a moment to reclaim that. Also, there is a kind of defiance in it, which—I won’t lie—kind of pleases me.
Now enough about him. Let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming—that is to say, focusing on me and my journey.