Saturday, March 30, 2013

If you love me at all, don't call.

When we first broke up the thought that The Mr. and I would somehow stop being involved all together was so mind boggling I just refused to accept it. I told him I thought it would be helpful for us both if we could kind of check in with each other from time to time, support each other.

This was my grand idea for how to get healthy after two years of a toxic marriage, and this is why God invented therapists.

I have this friend who is, in many ways, 100 times more interesting than me, but in many other ways we're like two peas in a pod. She expressed one of my favorite similarities perfectly at a friend's wedding a while back. She had just been spilling her guts to who I think was someone's parents that she'd met ten minutes before...? I don't really know that she was sure herself. She turned to me at a break in the conversation and said, "Whatever it is that makes people afraid to open up and talk about themselves, I think I have the opposite of that."

Which is why it should come as no surprise to you that one day in therapy I asked, in a slew of angsty, concerned, frantic questions, "But, I mean, should I keep talking to him? Like, maybe we could support each other through this! Maybe it would help us both to..." I'm sure I would have continued, but Professor Rationality (Let's call my shrink that. He's so very logical.) could have knocked me over with his cocked eyebrow.

"Why would you do that?" he said, his voice kind but dry. "It's over."

And you know what? He's right.

One of the best things I've ever done is decide to cut off contact with The Mr. as much as I can manage. There's the occasional text about a lease agreement or some detail about his Harley, but it has been at least a good solid month, maybe two, since I've taken his call. I can say unequivocally that it has been a profound step in my healing.

I mention this because I know this can be a big thing for some people. To be divorced is to have a relationship with someone that is likely the most intimate relationship you've ever experienced, while simultaneously being irrefutably toxic. The dichotomy is enough to disorient you and cause you to wonder if your should trust your own judgement several times over. At this moment in time, take it from me, four months (today!) in and going strong... or not so strong... or terribly weak at times, but going nonetheless!

Don't call him (or her).

Don't call him, and don't pick up when he calls you. Don't text him, especially when you're angry, and don't respond to his bitter or pitiful texts. Don't email her. Don't page her. Don't write him a letter. Don't send the Pony Express. Even a telegraph is out of the question. In every situation that it may seem remotely feasible just say no. 

I recognize some of you out there have children and joint custody and mortgages and such to work through. My heart goes out to you for all the challenges this must present. My advice is to find the system that works best for you with the least amount of direct contact possible and stick to it. (*Side note from 8 year old me: Dear divorced parents, Communicating through children is a terrible idea. One day they're going to grow up and realize what you did. Love, a child of divorced parents who communicated through her.) There is nothing more likely to mess you up in the head than poking around in a dead marriage.

Divorce means the end. Forever. Thank God for that! Even if you don't feel like it at first, build the habit. He'll show you ways to be grateful for it.

One of the things that my mom told me that was true could be paraphrased thusly: When you fill your life with the subpar and that which does not serve you, you have no room for the magnificent or for that which brings you joy.

You can do it. Let it go. Say goodbye. Open you your life to greater possibilities. You deserve better.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Maybe you should get

For those of you out there who have heard this statement reluctantly leave the lips of your loved ones, you are not alone. There is a depth of grief that comes with certain life events that your average momma or papa bear just doesn't know what to do with. I sincerely hope you have people in your life that love you immensely and want very much to help you, and for some people that may be enough to get you to a healthier place. For those of us who have spent one too many nights rehashing the breakup with our best friend, bishop, sister or the poor, unsuspecting guy who sat next to us on a bus, there is another place to turn. We have the option of seeing a professional.

I've encountered three basic camps on this issue. 1. Camp Shrink-tastic. 2. Camp Never Can Decide-y Pants. 3. Camp I Don't Need Your Voo Doo. To the skeptic I say, okay. Don't get therapy. Everyone has to work this out in her own way. I sincerely wish you luck. To the enthusiast I say, I hope things are going well for you. The rest of this post is for group two, the as of yet  undecided on the topic. I'll write this in the way I imagine a Q&A session might go. You'll be the Q, I'll be the A. My qualifications to be A are: I have seen a shrink or two in my day. One odd, a couple totally unhelpful, one pretty good, and Professor Rationality (we'll call him) who I see now I like quite a bit. Also, I am, as an acquaintance once described me, "very opinionated".

Q: How do I find a therapist?

A: Ask your Bishop for a recommendation. He likely refers people in your ward for therapy often. If you prefer a non LDS counselor or don't want to ask your bishop, ask around or talk to your buddies, Google and Yelp.

Q: What do I look for in a therapist?

A: Decide what issues you want to work on and look for a therapist who specializes in that. If he doesn't do the work you're looking for, ask him for a referral. Also, you may prefer a male or female, LDS or non-LDS, etc. Do your research, then email or call. Feel free to ask a reasonable amount of questions before scheduling an appointment.

Q: How do I know if I found a good one?

A: This is an important question that most people don't consider. The first session should be an interview with the therapist where you ask him or her anything you want to know: where she went to school, why she chose this field, what her methods are, how she structures a session, etc. You'll need to feel you could build trust with your therapist and feel confident in her abilities to lead you on a path to healthier living. Don't be afraid to shop around 'till you find the right fit. It's important. Once you're in therapy, know that the process brings up a lot of emotions. It's not uncommon, therefore, to feel deeply after a session or to be very tired. Ultimately, however, you should feel hopeful throughout the work.

Q: How long will I have to be in therapy?

A: This one is really must be taken case by case. It depends on what you want to work out, how often you attend, what the theories of your therapist are etc. The man I see is pretty firm in his belief that therapy is one of many tools to be used for the time that it's useful. He recommends an appointment just once or twice a month and has no qualms with the idea that our sessions will likely end when I go off to school in September. This is something you will want to discuss with your therapist as early as the first interview.

Q: So, what happens when I get in there? I mean, do I lay on a couch and close my eyes and talk about my childhood while some grey haired balding man listens and writes down cryptic notes while occasionally parroting my expressions?

A: Good glory, I hope not. I have never been laying down. That would be weird. And I hate when people just parrot what I say in a validating way. How the session is structured is largely up to you and your therapist. He'll help you identify where your thinking patterns have become distorted and are causing you grief. He may have exercises for you to try (ie:writing a letter to someone who has wronged you), books for you to read, or practices for you to incorporate in your daily life to help move you through what you've been struggling with.

Q: Couldn't you just talk to your friend? Isn't it the same thing?

A: In some cases, talking to my friends has been way more helpful than seeing a shrink for me, but I happen to have phenomenal and wise friends and family who are kind, down to earth, and helpful. That being said, with the therapist I have now, I do feel like going to a session to work with him is different for these reasons.

1. I don't feel guilty burdening him with anything I'm going through.
2. It's a set time for me to "work" on important challenges regularly.
3. He's been in practice for 27 years and is very scientific in his approach. He is excellent in explaining
to me what is a normal reaction/function of the brain and/or body and what I can expect to come next. He puts things in a helpful context for me, helps me see where my upbringing or relationships were off or unhealthy. Sometimes when you've grown up in chaos or been in an unhealthy relationship for so long it can be hard to distinguish what's healthy and what's not on your own.
4. There's something about paying for something that causes one to be a little more invested, action oriented and concerned with results. I find this helpful and motivational.

Q: Isn't therapy for crazy people and sissies?

A: No. Well, I mean, actually yes. Counseling sessions can be useful for some forms of psychosis, however, all candidates for counseling need not display symptoms of psychosis or even neurosis. As for being worried about people thinking you're a sissy, that makes you a sissy much more than attending therapy. (Nipped that one in the bud, didn't we? ; )

Okay, kiddos. That's all I've got for tonight. If you think of any more shoot me an email or post in the comments below. I'll add any good ones to the list. Sleep well, and whatever you are doing to help yourself through this, I sincerely hope it's working.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy Monday

This week I have a list of ten things that are better to do than think about that one time when you were married.

1. Go buy yourself a fancy salad, a box of Lucky Charms, a gourmet burger, or something equally as affordable yet frivolous. Eat it with gusto.

2. Wink at the cute grocery checker, shamelessly. 

3. The next time someone asks you about your ex, pretend you're wearing giant Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, rockin a ridiculously long strand of pearls and smoking one of those long, slender cigarettes, then say in your best English accent, "Oh, darling, that was my first husband."

4. Next time you are alone in your car, scream at the top of your lungs. It can be a word or a phrase or just a scream. There was a lot of this going on in June Bug (my sweet ride) last December between my nanny jobs. I can attest to its effectiveness. 

5. Remind yourself of the mood elevating properties of very good chocolate. We're not talking Hershey's. Say it with me - Godiva.

6. Hang out with a kid. A happy one. If you can't find a happy kid, watch the video linked in "Chin Up, Buttercup" above that's made by a kid. 

7. Get a professional massage. If you can't afford a massage, get one from a student clinic in the area in which you live. Sometimes these clinics can be just as good, if not better, than someone you google, and they're usually about half price.

8. Watch your favorite trilogy all in one night. Star Wars, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, or just choose your favorite three Wes Anderson films. You really can't go wrong. 

9. Think of your least favorite memory of your mother-in-law for three solid minutes. Then open your eyes and realize that never has to happen again. : )

10. Hug someone you don't know. Don't say anything. Just hug, smile, and walk away. 

See? You feel better already : )

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

Somewhere along the line in the kingdom of Mormondom, somebody decided that when we die we will see a movie of our lives. We will sit there with Jesus and God, sharing popcorn and sometimes God will say, "Oooh, yeah. I remember that. You really shouldn't have had that impure thought" or "Bought gas on Sunday, I just docked you 10 points." Then Jesus chimes in and says, "Oh, come on, Dad. Maybe you could let him off easy for that one." And thus we strike the perfect balance between Justice and Mercy, the two eternal moral imperatives.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say... I do not believe that is how judgement will play out. I mention this for a reason. Stay with me here.

Everything I understand about God and Jesus and their united mission (Moses 1:38,  Isaiah 53:5) tells me there is more to life than an infinite list of "good"s and "bad"s that have been recorded during our lives that culminate in some final balance that will tip the scale of our eternal destiny one way or another. The God I worship and love is a teacher. His ultimate goal, His work and His glory is to take us from the moment we let Him in, and set out on a divine tutorial with us. That tutorial starts with a spirit, eternal but young and simple, and ends with a fully developed, immortal human being, shaped and molded, trained up and knocked around, then polished into becoming the very best he or she can be.

The gospel is too often taught in terms of black and white, good and bad, right and wrong. Anyone who's reading this blog knows that life is full of complex situations, tailored personally to challenge and stimulate the growth of the person experiencing them. I have a wonderful friend who was the closest thing I had to a big brother through my divorce... besides my big brothers, who are great... but they were not really around. Every now and then when I was up to my eyeballs and nauseated by the blackening skies ahead of me I would send him a text saying something like, "Do you think it's wrong to get a divorce? I mean, won't God be mad at me? A covenant is a really big deal, you know?"

My friend would wisely respond with comments to the effect of, "I think you underestimate how much God knows the human heart and how forgiving He can be. Divorce is one potential solution to a problem. Sometimes it's the best one."

He's in pretty good company with this mentality. I've been listening to conference talks on my iphone lately when I can't sleep. Last night I heard Elder Holland say, "In the words of that prophet (Joseph Smith) I too declare our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views and boundless in His mercies and blessings than we are ready to believe or receive." (The Grandeur of God, General Conference, October 2003.)

I feel like I'm coming to a place now where I am starting to understand that God is an infinitely knowledgeable, merciful, just Man with a mission. He teaches us in black and white, but I believe that's for our own safety. Training wheels. We are designed to develop in our spirituality to become able to discern for ourselves what is truth, and then have the integrity to act according to it. The stark categories of "good" and "bad" give way to fine tuning oneself to God's will for us in that moment.

One day, very near the end of my marriage, I went to the temple looking for some clarity. I wanted so badly for God to say, "If you're righteous enough, if you two just get back to reading and praying more, be more dedicated to service in the church, if you look to me with all your hearts, your marriage can be healed," but God is wise and He knew better. What He told me instead when I asked was, "I don't want any marriage to end, but there comes a point where you have to protect yourself."

Maybe it's because I'm so literal that I've had such a hard time with this. A peak into the mind of me would show you separate bins for right and wrong. I'm always sorting and striving for the "right" bin. But when it came time to sort "divorce" into one or the other, I was nearly paralyzed for the better part of a year. My operating system would flash "wrong" in red and move on to the next decision, but as time went on, again and again and again the thought came up for classification. Should I get divorced? How can it be wrong when staying married feels so incredibly wrong too?

So for those of you out there who are a bit rigid like me, a little black and white and stuck on this categorizing thing, I leave you with this thought: the thing that is right is the thing that brings us closer to God, closer to peace, closer to healing, closer to being whole, always. There is no movie, in the end. There's only a being, cultivated by the life she lived. Every choice she made to come closer to Christ was the right one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top 10 reasons I'm happy I'm divorced

You know how we do that thing where we pick something to identify ourselves?

I'm a student.
I'm a mom.
I'm a doctor.
I'm an artist.

What am I these days? I'm divorced. And not only am I divorced, I'm divorced and sad about it. When I introduce myself I have to cavity search my brain to see what other significant facts I can offer about myself. When people ask me in my singles ward where I moved from I have to invent a way to explain why I was attending the family ward close by. When people ask why I'm in Portland or what I do here I have to find some way to not say, "My former husband told me if I didn't move here to be closer to his family, he'd come without me. I actually never wanted to leave my perfect apartment three block from the ocean in Long Beach, California." There's currently a lot of bitter in here, which I feel is fair. I mean, let's be honest, the last two years were painful in a way I found previously unfathomable. But today I am tired of being bitter and sad. If I have to be "the divorced lady" for a while, even in my own brain, I can at least be a happy divorced lady.

So, without further ado, the top ten reasons I'm happy I'm divorced.

10. There is no stinky man breath in my bedroom, or beard hair trimmings in my sink.

9. There are no guns and nothing camouflaged in my apartment, and there never will be.

8.  I can keep my hair as short as I like and rock as many mustard colored cardigans as I please without complaint.

7. I know exactly what I will never tolerate in a relationship again and how important my wants and needs are.

6. I can sleep in and work part time, completely guilt free.

5. I get a do-over at one of life's most important relationships, but I get to keep all the wisdom I gained along the way. It's kind of like being sent back to high school, knowing what you learned in college.

4. There is no one to steal the covers while I sleep, or complain about how much I spent on them.

3. I don't have to be a mom yet, and I never have to share custody with The Mr.

2. I get new first kisses.

1. I get to go back to school this fall . . . in Hawaii. I just got the letter of acceptance last week. This never, ever, ever would have happened if I were not divorced : )

So, yes, it's sad. Yes, my heart is broken. Yes, I had a moment yesterday afternoon where I sobbed like a baby for 30 minutes, but also, it's pretty freaking amazing. And it's good to feel and embrace that too. I firmly believe God doesn't want us to spend the rest of our lives rehashing or punishing ourselves for what happened, or grieving the loss forever. Life does go on, and life is a beautiful thing, especially when you're the one at the wheel again.

What's your number one reason you're happy to be divorced?

Oh, and PS - My good friend recently sent me a mixed tape for my birthday and this was on it. It's where the title of this blog came from. You have to see it. It's too good not to, and totally relevant to this post.

No Man's Mamma, Carolina Chocolate Drops

Friday, March 15, 2013

I do not believe in fairies.

Sometimes, I think love is dead.

Sometimes I listen to pop radio or country or watch a movie with J Lo in it and I think it's all made up for the sake of money. Sometimes when I am really sad I think I will never find love again...or maybe I never did? Maybe I made that whole thing up and people just use and hurt each other to get what they think they want, but at the end of the day we're all so screwed up that we don't even know what we really want so the world is just a blur of food and sex and spectacle. Okay, I stole that last part from Lloyd Dobbler, but sometimes I lose hope.

And then, I read things like this and I feel better, even if it's just a little bit.

This is a true story. I know because the wife in the story is my cousin. It melted my icy heart, just a little and seemed especially appropriate for the blog

True love will find you in the end. Familial love. Love of friends and strangers. Romantic love. And if all those fail, undoubtedly, God's love. For today, let's embrace what we've got and what we've got to give.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A question for you

So, I just popped in to see if my page views for this new blog I'm testing out had increased from the initial 30ish of the first day I posted.

There are currently 639 page views for this site, but now you're here, so that's 640.

Well, hello lovely people. It's nice to see you here. Apparently I am not the only person with an interest in the well being of the devout yet divorced. That's comforting, and exciting, so thanks for logging on.

I also noticed that we have two brave souls who have started following and two other brave souls who have posted comments. If this is going to be maximally beneficial we're going to need to shift this into a conversation. Don't get me wrong, I have got plenty to say. It's just that there's all this wisdom and experience chillin out there in the hundreds of you who have logged on so far. Single, married, divorced, remarried, widowed, never thought about it, all of you. This one was on my mind today. This one is for you.

Is there a place in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for the unmarried? This includes the -not yet married-, the -no longer married-, and the -never want to be married-. (That last one is particularly thought provoking for me.)

Go ahead. Shout it out. I want to hear it. What say you? Leave your comments below.

And really, thanks for checking this out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Actually, He never said it would be easy or worth it. (Don't worry though, I'm pretty sure it is.)

I have some thoughts to share on a particular phenomenon I've observed during my short stint in Divorced Mormon Land. When a person crosses over into this place of desolation, one of the many, many things that can happen is that the entire operating system on which he has been running his life goes on the fritz. Here's an example for you.

I remember one day when I was in massage school in California I was chatting up a woman who was in her mid 40s and living life divorced. While petrisaging a trapezius I glibly spouted off my simplistic theory regarding how to have a successful marriage. I should know, after all, I had been married two seconds by that point. These are the words I recall toppling out of my mouth.

"Well, I just think... I mean... okay. You ask God, is this the guy for me? And then you wait for your answer. If He says it's okay, then it must be. I mean, two people can work anything out with God, right? So unless he, like, hits you or something, then you just work it out. And you can, because God will help you. He wouldn't let you have a trial you can't handle, you know?"

Luckily, the woman was kind and gracious and gave me a somewhat knowing half smile, then let it slide.

I tell you what though, I believed it. I had served a mission based off a variation of that kind of faith. I'd picked life paths and made major decisions retaining in remembrance these ideas. I'd deliberately stepped out into the great unknown again and again in little and big ways trying and testing this theory. I believed it so much by that 25th year of my life that I had it inscribed on our wedding rings. His, fashioned after birch bark and mine, a mother of pearl inlaid leaf. "If the root be Holy" and "So are the branches" respectively; a verse from Romans. This wasn't a passing thought for me, it was sinew.

Divorce derails our operating system for life like nothing else I know. What else can possibly cause a person to feel so incredibly rejected, confused, broken hearted and alone all at once? What else can leave a soul so scared and unable to trust for a time? When we hit this moment, or maybe it feels like this moment hits us, what do we do?

Well, I don't know about everyone, but I know about me. I called into question everything I had once thought to be solid and reexamined it with a fine toothed comb. In this numb kind of stupor I thought for hours and hours on end while watching nauseating amounts of Netflix and knitting 702 scarfs for Christmas gifts: Is that real? Was I wrong about that too? Is anything worth working for? Investing in? Can anything be trusted?

This process cannot be undertaken without addressing the most epic and fundamental of LDS doctrines and beliefs, and yes, I went there too.

I had a companion on my mission that remains to this day the most like Jesus (sans beard) of any human I have ever met. I love her in a way I have never loved any other person. She used to say to me, "Truth is Truth...that's what makes it Truth," and even after all these shananagins, I agree. Truth is distinct. Truth is discernible. Truth resonates. Truth can be trusted. And if you are searching for it, Truth wins out in the end. Because of this I am never afraid to pause, when life demands it, and reevaluate or double check my math in making this most epic of all commitments to be a fully active Latter Day Saint. A woman doesn't give up her sexy underwear willie nilly. There is a good deal of thought that goes into this, even still, and in all this thought, I've come again and again to this:

There is doctrine, corroborated, Godly, Spiritually sound and trustable. Then, there's what people think is doctrine. One will, in fact, sustain you. The other will confuse you when rubber hits the road, and maybe break your heart. My favorite example is in the above title of this post. Find me the verse that says, "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it" and I will buy you a pie. It's not in there. Neither is, "God will not give us any trial we can't handle" (it's temptation, there is a difference) or "Everything happens for a reason". These can be lovely, doubtlessly well intended sentiments, but if having my world rocked a few times by seriously difficult things has taught me anything it's the following.

If you want to make it through the extremities of what human beings can put each other through, you better know your religion. Warm fuzzies from Young Women's lessons are intended to be a gateway drug, not  long term sustenance. The world we live in requires us to be mentally present enough to be discerning, to be thoughtful and engaged and introspective about what we are doing with our daily lives. Thank God (literally) we have something that can be put to the test and not found wanting. Thank God for the Book of Mormon, for the Bible, for His Spirit, for prayer, and for every conference address Elder Holland has ever given. (I'm almost through them all now. I have an awesome app for that. Ask me!) Thank God that the Plan of Salvation, even if it or our leaders don't discuss divorce explicitly, explains where we should look and what we should do when life kicks us in the teeth. I used to think of the gospel of Jesus Christ as something pretty to look at, but obsolete in moments that shook me to the depth of my character. Thank God I learned better.

The statement's half true. Christ didn't say it would be easy, because He knew intimately how insanely difficult it could be. He lived through the moment where, even in the presence of an angel sent to strengthen Him, "being in agony He (Jesus Christ Himself) prayed more earnestly." (Luke 22:44) That was for you and that was for me.

In the broken down moments, the moments of previously unfathomable distress and despair, in the moments where all our best selves can think to do is pray more earnestly, we have a choice. We can ruminate on what a well intended teacher spouted off in a thoughtless moment that now seems sickeningly saccharine. We can delve into the areas we all have of our testimonies that are yet green, perhaps dark, underdeveloped or unexplored. Or, we can reach for light, for truth, for stability and safety. This is not some desperate act of a delusional, wounded being to lie his way into a false sense of security. It is an act of clarity and incalculable courage--commendable and brave. We can reach for God and watch brilliant truth resonate it's way into our souls, one moment at a time, luminescent and satiating.

That truth, that light changes us into beings capable of love where once all we could feel was pain. It heals the things we do not believe can be healed, and if we cling to it, live for it, sacrifice for it, it will change us into beings so full of love that we become capable of abiding a celestial glory. In the end, that, I would say, is worth it.

It's okay to be okay.

Photo attribution here.

My divorce was finalized November 27, 2012. In December I was living alone in a two bedroom apartment, trying desperately to figure out how I was going to make the ends meet, how to get my body out of bed every morning and how to get myself to stop crying in inappropriate locales (read: work, church, family gatherings, grocery stores etc.) I made the very conscious decision that I would go ahead and celebrate Christmas that year, all alone in my apartment with my cat. I bought a tree, some gifts, a little tinsel, found a Pandora Christmas station and felt so improved I decided to make what seemed at first to be a courageous decision to throw myself a little Christmas party.

The day of the party I was a mess. I spent my day dreading the looming evening. I was exhausted, chubby from all the comfort eating, my social skills were rustier than a VW Bug in Hawaii and I terribly, deeply, unmaskably sad.

Driving home from work that day I passed, as I always do, the apartment where The Mr. and I used to live together. That day there was a great deal of holiday traffic that unavoidably stuck me smack dab in front of that apartment for what must have been 20 minutes, but felt like forever. I sat there, sobbing, screaming, pounding my steering wheel, cursing like a sailor and hating every last thing I could think of about my life.

When I got home, family came and helped me pull myself together. Guests showed up one by one and were sweet and congenial. They even wore the Ugly Christmas Sweaters I'd requested, then personally reneged on. In retrospect I know they must all have been wondering why on earth I'd decided to throw a party less than four weeks after filing for divorce, but ultimately it's a memory I'm grateful for.

After that horrible night revisiting my painful past, trapped in my '73 VW Bug at one mile an hour in suburban hell, I decided something must be done. I pass that apartment every day on the way to work. It's not going away, and neither is the disaster my marriage became. It's a part of my life the way that apartment full of 1,000 dark memories is part of my commute. After that Christmas party day I implemented a new practice.

Every time I pass that apartment, I say a prayer of thanks that I am not married anymore.

The first time I did this, I felt like I was lying to God. On top of that, I thought it was a terrible thing to do. How can I be grateful that I broke a covenant? And express that to God? It just seemed wrong. But the fact that I would pass that apartment every day for the next foreseeable future, and the amount of pain it brought me every single time... I had to do something.

It's been almost three more months now. That equals 96 trips or so passing that apartment, once on the way there, once on the way home. Sometimes I feel a twinge. Sometimes my heart breaks just a little more. But sometimes, I don't even notice I'm passing it, and sometimes I actually feel grateful. I see just a little more clearly how horrible we were together, how unhealthy and unkind. I see how my life is improving every day we are apart, and I realize the truth that God does want us to be happy, both of us, and that this phase can be a blessing too.

Maybe this comes a lot more naturally to some of you. I've spent all my life trying very hard to live up to what I believe God expects of me. And yet here I am in this place I never wanted to be. It's a place that is ambiguously referred to as a "trial" in Sunday School. Not much else is said about it in doctrine I can find, other than the passing reference in conference talks. There's just this overarching, vague sense that it's wrong to get divorced. If it's wrong and bad... then shouldn't I feel... bad for doing it? Should I be perpetually miserable and destroyed for having failed so badly at it?

Today I say no. And here's what I've got to back it up:

Psalms 146:5
Proverbs 3:13
John 16:33
Romans 14:22
Psalms 35:9
Psalms 118:24
Luke 2:10-11
And for those of us really stuck on the fact that we messed it up, Job 5:17

I know God, and He wants His kids to be at peace, to be healthy, to be loved and to be happy. He understands intimately the moments when we just can't be, and He aches with us. In the moments when we can, He feels joy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Story

I met The Mr. literally days after returning home from my mission. I was raised in an active LDS home. At age 8 my denim jumper wearing, FHE chart touting mom left my Stake President Counselor dad and took (most of) my siblings and I with her. There was another marriage, first one for my mom which also ended in divorce, then one for my dad which remains intact. This upbringing left a hole in my soul that took one look at The Mr's eccentric, enthusiastic, quirky, bearded self and swallowed him whole.

When we met he already had his mission call, which by no means inhibited us from finding any and all quasi-secluded site to make out in for a grand total of one month that glorious summer. Then, he was gone. I told him I wouldn't wait, that I was headed to the Mormon Mecca of Provo, but that I did love him. He professed his love in endlessly idiosyncratic and endearing ways and told me his heart was mine, if I'd have it, then and in two years.

Two of the things I said I'd never do, because they were stupid, were 1) Wait for a missionary and 2) Get married really fast. 100 letters and 2 years and 3 months later, almost to the day, we were sealed in the temple. I was stoked out of my mind and completely oblivious to the 87 incompatibilities my brain, blown out on oxytocin inducing love rants, kisses and caresses had overlooked.

Now, I want to start this blog off right, so let me clearly state that this is not an ex-spouse bashing blog or a place to try to out do each other in tales of marital mutiny. If you're here it's safe to say your worse half has done something significant to piss you off or break your heart. I believe you. In crafting this blog and online community I'm deliberately choosing to cultivate an honest, open dialogue, civil and respectful. So I will summarize those 87 incompatibilities by confessing that I had absolutely no idea when I married him that he hated Bob Dylan and that his favorite band was Nickelback.

Yes, you read that correctly. Nickleback... as in concert going, ring tone sporting, huge fan of Nickleback.

Needless to say, after almost exactly two more years of serious marital struggles, we made like Jacob in the Book of Mormon and bid our Adieus. (Seriously, have you ever noticed that about Jacob? Throws me every time.) I was heartbroken. He was heartbroken. Such is the nature of divorce.

I now live in the Northwest in a city with a vibrant arts and music scene, endless farmer's markets and all the delicious food you could ever imagine. We've got sickeningly beautiful nature to explore, art museums, excellent public transit, and a number one slot in the race for the "Most Depressed and Suicidal City." It rains here. A lot. So much that when the sun peaks out for more than 18 minutes you see ecstatic folks sporting khaki shorts and columbia fleeces running and/or biking amuck all over town.

My apartment walls are teal, my couch is authentically retro and orange, my floors are hard wood and checkered tile, just like I like them. I have a lovely roommate who understands my excessive need for sleep and ice cream at this time in my life and a Siamese cat named Samson that has officially turned me into a cat lady, and I don't even care. I do dishes when I want to and spend my money however I see fit. I work full time and support myself just fine. I teach in Relief Society once a month in the singles ward I attended six years ago and I celebrate the anniversary of my divorce every month with thai food.

I grieve, I cry, I get happy, I feel relieved. I gain clarity and then I lose it. I get angry. I get hurt. I get hopeless. Then I spend an afternoon out of my house and laughing and I feel normal for a while. Life is slowly but surely coming to a place of routine and forward motion. They're baby steps, but they're baby steps toward a brighter life.

Embracing the last resort

Photo attribution here.

I have this memory. It's from the end. We were separated, but still trying to work it out. It was Sunday morning. The night before had been yet another soul slaughteringly, but all too common night of misunderstandings and failed attempts at reconciliation. I had cried so much by that point. I'd done the crying during the fights, the crying alone while he was asleep next to me in bed, the crying to friends and family and such massive amounts of crying alone. This is a special kind of crying. It's the kind that feels like your body is being heaved about by ocean waves of grief, shaking, rocking, dry heaving, sometimes at night, sometimes on a lunch break, sometimes on Christmas, but always ending in utter exhaustion. That day I just laid there. The tears were still pouring out, but it was in the garden hose sort of way; quiet, still, almost peaceful, but dead inside. The hole in my heart had grown to the size of my head. I was curled up on our bed, ready for church in my favorite retro dress, waiting while...let's call him The Mr., was quietly ironing his shirt.

"You look like you're so sad you're going to die right there," was all he could say.

Silence. More crying.

Then, I heard this voice. It came from my own heart the way that God usually does. It resonated just enough for me to notice. It was calm, but unflinching and strong. "It's okay, baby. It's almost over now."

Divorce, in almost any circumstance is sad, but the world of a faithful Latter Day Saint, teetering on the cliff of matrimonial demise is an especially, epically complex place of torture. This world is full of words like: eternity, covenant, endure, sacrafice, commandment, priesthood, sin, temple and should. It's confusing and painful in a way that can only be known to the disciple inhabiting it. It's lonely, black and terrifying. It's not a stage in God's plan we're prepped for in Sunday School.

Also, significantly, many, many disciples of Christ have lived or are living in this world for a time. For some it's now merely a dark thread in a newly crafted tapestry of their second chance. For others it's an oppressive and all encompassing, unrelenting reality. My divorce has changed me in many ways. One of the most apparent changes to me is how incredibly unsafe and shaken I feel. Shaken, like tsunami shaken. Shaken like the death of a loved one causes someone to be shaken. Shaken down to my deepest strongholds. If I listen to my soul she is almost always saying the same thing in various ways. "Where am I safe?"

When I was on the verge of filing for my divorce less than 6 months ago I searched for such a place. I wanted somewhere that I could see just a few steps ahead on this unique path of ending what was once thought to be an eternal marriage. I wanted a place that was doctrinally sound, but a place where I could also be truthful about how deep the pain was and is. In my limited internet searching done a few nights right before bed I couldn't find such a place. Now that I am just a few steps into this journey I'm creating one.

Welcome to the place where people understand what it's like to be not married, but not single, where people can relate to feeling like you flunked singles ward, and where it's okay to love God and admit that you're mad at Him. For this time, however long it lasts, we are neither here nor there...yet, here we are. Where is the place for us in this church of families?

It's here. Welcome to the family of the devout yet divorced.