I heard from a girlfriend today. She’s going through a divorce, which sounds so casual. Unfortunate. Like a urinary tract infection or a flat tire
But the woman was a hurt bird, her heart aching so deeply that it itched deep within. And yet it was an itch she couldn’t scratch. How could she not have seen this coming? How could she have been so foolish? She probably screamed into a pillow, sitting alone in the closet so her children wouldn’t hear. She could sob out all the empty, all the fucking ugly, and yell at God for doing this to her after all the years of being faithful.
And the poor fragile thing might just take wedding photos – the natural ones by the tree and not the staged one by the professional photographer – and tuck them toward her bosom like an aborted life. Over and over she would stare until they become damp from the tears dripping down. She finally tore at them, ever so slightly, until she began to furiously rip them until they were confetti, letting the pieces fall down like snowflakes by her fancy silver heels.
She reflected on the last two decades, all the rocks and twists, the babies and hospital rooms and beach vacations. And she didn’t rise until her head was aching and her child was calling from the next room. “I’m coming, baby. Momma’s coming.”
Or maybe that was me, back then.
“Tell me it gets better,” she asked, reaching out for a steady place. For a railing to hold. For a way to scratch that damn itch. No one understands the pain of a life ripping apart, like flesh tearing into two jagged halves, unless you’ve been there. Unless you’ve stared at the face of your three-year-old child and realized that from then on it’s brokenness and every-other-Christmas and Daddy and Mommy just can’t be married any longer, for reasons you’re too young to understand.
Yes, it will get better. Better in the sense that you own your own future, and you can run your house however you damn well please. You can let your children stay up late and tape quotes all over your bathroom mirror. You have to earn a living for your family. Which is daunting, but also good, because no one can take that away from you.
And out of nowhere you’re eating buttered bread in Paris and driving around the Northeast in Autumn toward the yellow-gold sky. You’ll find yourself kissing a man who makes you tingly and excited, wearing sky-high heels in a comedy club in Los Angeles, feeling beautiful and full.
But honey, it’s not about finding another man. It’s about finding YOU. The amazing and beautiful you that got lost somewhere amidst all the babies and Thanksgiving turkeys and years of cooking pizza. It’s about trusting that God hasn’t abandoned you in a dark place, even when you feel abandoned.
It doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t come fast. It takes sobbing in the closet and lots of horrible lonely nights and unfortunate drunk texting. Because ripping is a slow and painful process, and admitting your own failures takes maturity. Even years later, you still get angry, for so many hurts can’t be easily undone.
I sent her a picture of me in Paris. I felt like my heart might explode from happiness when that photo was taken. Actually feeling, after so long of being numb.
To you, my sweet wounded bird. Take comfort. There is a space out there where you can breathe again. It’s full of promise, where you can sleep late and fly eight hours to anywhere and say to your children someday with confidence that you did your very best and made it out alive.
My therapist once told me I wasn’t going to get a consolation prize. Someone else’s leftovers. A used-up life. It will be a life that is brilliant. Hopeful. Fully restored like a 1950’s Thunderbird. He was right. I leave my home every day, with two healthy children, off to school and off to the dry cleaners and off to work. Off toward the future that was waiting for me, despite those long closet years.