The closet years

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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.

 

Comments

  1. SPECTACULAR piece, dear Amanda. Thank you.

  2. Beautiful. Just beautiful!

  3. Beautiful. True.

  4. Amanda.. Thank you! You are such a gifted artist. This piece spoke volumes to me. – Shannon

  5. This is gut-wrenching and gorgeous and hope-laced. Thank you, Amanda.

  6. Oh Amanda, thank you for being so brave, for putting words to the emotions some of us can’t even face. This is a beautiful, truthful piece, offering so much hope in the dark pit of hurt.

  7. This is beautiful and reassuring at a time when I need it. Glad I found my way here.

  8. Yes, yes, and amen to all these comments. Really incredible writing, Amanda. And even better? That it’s not fiction. It’s you.

  9. Amanda, this is so, so great.

  10. I love this. :-)

  11. YES, yes, yes! A thousand times yes! I was that woman crying in the closet during the ripping apart, who somehow found my way back to ME. I had a three year old daughter who needed me and I too saw her future with two parents who weren’t married to each other, and it was devastating to me. Yet somehow she not only grew, she thrived, and when she was six years old I met her stepfather, a man who has loved and cared for her every minute of her life since then. I believe that my previous marriage set me up for my current one because without the loss I couldn’t know the consequences of leaving my marriage to chance. You have captured my heart in this post and I want other women going through the closet years to know that there is HOPE. I am living proof.

  12. The problem being is I’m 64 years of age. I guess the consolation is I probably don’t have too many years ahead for closets or anything else. I raised 4 children, homeschooled them. Was in my home full time for 35 years doing that and a whole lot more and my husband who had deceived and made horrible financial as well as personal decisions had an affair, was abusive in every possible way and just walked away leaving my children devastated and catapulting our lives into even further horror. There isn’t time or space here but I suppose my reaction to this piece isn’t one of hope. I have nothing financially, I immediately began to work to support myself and son in college and high school daughter I continued to finish homeschooling and help her through college. They are all on their own doing well but I know still in pain. I support myself but at a huge price. I don’t pretend to know the future but unless God performs a miracle my future is one of working extremely hard the rest of my days. I own nothing but a vehicle in order to work. My joy is knowing the Lord and my children. My world completely turned upside down and I’m very lonely.

  13. If I could put it into words after a betrayal after 35 yrs or marriage, I would say “almost” just that. Thank you for putting those words down. So many of us out here needing to know it’s not just us feeling like that. Looking to the future!

  14. Wow powerful expressive words. Yes it is a pain that is deep, numb, raw and real.

  15. You courageous wise hearted woman, thanks for this. I have five women in my bible study who in a the process of divorce and four who are already divorced, they will love this for you have written their heart.
    Thank you.

  16. Nicely done. You touched on so much that is common among the divorced. Thanks for reaching out and connecting so well with this piece.

  17. Excellent, Amanda!

  18. I remember the day the unraveling began and though I haven’t been physically present in the days in between I knew that photo of you was coming. Sure of it because God’s love for you is unchanging, sure, perfectly perfect. Love you! This piece is a lovely surrender.

  19. Girlfriend, this is so well-written and so honest. I’m grateful that you have made it through the darkest places and are able to encourage others that they will make it, too.

    I’m so proud of you. Proud of your kids. Proud to be your friend.

    BIG hugs. Love you!

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