Preface: After reading the fabulous Sherry McGunn’s piece titled Write Your Heart Out, I decided to pick up writing a piece that had been lingering in my incomplete folder. Thank you for the challenge, Sherry.
The Finishing Touch
I’m almost divorced. I’m living in the grey area between a fully signed agreement and the judge’s final approval. It’s been a long time coming. I stopped cohabitating with my technically still-husband 19.5 months ago. I filed for a combination divorce and restraining order 16.5 months ago. I participated in a two-day trial which consisted of my being on the stand for more than two hours. I’ve been to the courthouse more than a dozen times to try to resolve, settle, and fight for my right to be safe. I’ve emptied out my 17-year-in-the-making retirement account. I’ve attended many therapy sessions. I’ve read more than 100 books. I’ve learned to meditate. I’ve bought my own house. I’ve learned to respond and not react. I’ve learned to love myself. And I’ve learned that I am more powerful than I ever thought imaginable.
I was his wife first, a mother second, and my own person last.
On the dissolution paperwork, the reason for our separation is recorded as irreconcilable differences. And that’s completely true. For the first four years of our marriage, I agreed that he could talk to me in whatever way he wanted, treat me in whatever way he wanted, deprive me of love and affection whenever he wanted, and I’d love him no matter what. My unconditional love for him grew, and it knew no bounds. I was his wife first, a mother second, and my own person last. But in the final six months of our cohabitating union, I began to disagree irreconcilably. There was a line. And it was crossed. I was scared. I was withering away to nothing. I was sent to the ER for high blood pressure. Something had to give.
And so, with whatever strength I could muster, I had a change of heart. I no longer wanted the life I was living. I didn’t want to accept being spoken to in a harsh manner. I didn’t want to accept being treated abysmally. I didn’t want to live in a hardhearted environment. And I didn’t want to love unconditionally when it was detrimental to my mental and physical health.
before i could release
the weight of my sadness
and pain, i first had
to honor its existence.
It took months of realization, reflection, and healing with a couple of trauma-informed therapists to fully understand my reality. I stopped watching television when I stopped cohabitating with my spouse. As a momma of two, a full-time employee, and a person trying to unravel some deep issues, it left little time to zone out in front of the boob tube. I knew if I wanted to make a meaningful difference in my life, I’d have to take this seriously. And in the spare time I had, I read self-help books, mental health books, and fictional stories that contained lessons to accelerate my healing journey.
I was learning that while I may not have caused or been to blame for the behaviors that occurred in my marriage, I did allow them to happen. I learned about boundaries and my lack-thereof. I learned about typical cycles in abusive relationships. I learned about red flags. And I learned about loving myself and honoring my own needs. I didn’t have to allow anything in my life that made me feel unpleasant. I had the power to live a life that made me proud. I didn’t need anyone to love me: I had to learn to love myself.
You have spent enough time worrying about not being enough in someone else’s eyes. Now it’s time to be enough in your own.
The person I was earlier was a survivor. And she survived.
Once the uncomfortable realities of my life were exposed, I was able to commit to creating a new life. That’s one of the benefits that life offers. Who you were yesterday does not define who you have to be today. You can change your mind, your opinion, and your future. It isn’t an easy process to change your life, but it is feasible. My reconstruction was based in reading, learning to meditate, believing my therapists, changing my perspective, and learning to trust my intuition. The person I was earlier was a survivor. And she survived. She held on during some harrowing times to get me to the place I am today. She afforded me this opportunity to experience this new life from a different and loving perspective. And boy do I love her for all that she was.
In the 16.5 months since I filed for divorce, I’ve bought my own home. I’ve helped my children continue to thrive during some chaotic times. I’ve learned to mow the lawn. I’ve planted a sunflower garden that was home to more than 200 awe-inspiring flowers. I’ve continued to love and trust myself. I’ve remained television-free. I’ve accepted my flaws and embraced my power. I’ve realized I could trust and be vulnerable with a deserving and desirable gentleman. And I’ve often sat back to marvel at this queendom of mine.
I will not thank you for this pain.
I will not thank you for this destruction.
But I will thank you for this lesson:
My demolition might not be in my hands, but my reconstruction is.
Sure, I may not be divorced yet. I may be in the grey area between a fully signed agreement and the judge’s final approval. But I consider that a technicality. The work has been done to create the woman I am today. I am her, first and foremost. She will always be a work in progress, but her foundation is strong. She understands her power. And she is beautiful, peaceful, and fierce.
The resolution doesn’t come when the paperwork is final. The resolution came when I learned to love and appreciate myself.
The finalized paperwork is just the finishing touch.
Wow! Joanna, powerful words and you unleash emotions of hope sadness, despair yet I feel the tenderness and hope that drives you forward. Always walk toward the light and thank you for sharing this amazing post.
JoAnna, as I sti here, I hardly know what to say…how to respond to this beautiful and brave piece. I am proud of you. Proud of your resilience and your courage to speak to what was, obviously, a very painful recollection. I don’t know if I deserve your praise it, gladly and lovingly. I have not been at my best lately. There have been some dark days, dark thoughts, certainly nothing unique as we’re all going through what I call “surreality.” Missing people we love. Missing our old haunts. Missing…life. And then, I read a story from someone like you and it brings some measure of peace, knowing that you were able to move through the darkness to the light. Bless you for writing this and for the honor of mentioning me. It means a great deal.
Oh Sherry. You’re most certainly worthy of the praise. Having darkness in our lives doesn’t define our experience, just the moment. I love the term surreality. We area social species. We are not meant to be cooped up. But we will overcome it! It’s just a dark spot.