Cathy Eads, of Atlanta, Ga., reflects on how to move forward after a painful disruption. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
“My books are friends that never fail me.”
When crisis enters our lives, some of us head to the cookie jar, some to the TV remote, others out into nature, to phone a trusted friend, or possibly to some sort of substance to numb the pain. I am one who heads straight to the bookstore. I begin to look for answers, insight, explanations, and causes for my plight in the words drawn from someone else’s experience or expertise.
I generally believe I cannot go through something that someone else has not already lived through and learned from. Often, some of those people have graciously taken pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and provided me with a book in which I can find solace, advice, and confirmation that I am not alone in my struggles.
At present, I am going through a divorce, which was preceded by about a decade of my 27-year marriage unraveling slowly and painfully. Once the plan changed from working to reconcile and rebuild the relationship, I donated my stash of a dozen or so books about how to save/repair/improve a relationship. Likewise, I’ve recently acquired (so far) six titles on self-love, adult attachment styles, unlearning patterns and beliefs from childhood, attracting a well-suited life partner, essays to change the way I think, and a workbook for healing. I’m sure this new collection will continue to grow.
I recall that when we first started dating, one of our favorite places to go for a night out together was the gigantic Joseph Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Ky. I guess I have come full circle in “completing” that relationship.
Before making the decision to split permanently, we attended copious therapy sessions with four (!) different marriage counselors and invested much time, effort, and funds attempting to repair what ultimately has been deemed “irretrievably broken.” While I can’t help feeling deep sorrow at choosing to end such a long-term relationship, I am (finally) certain it is the right decision.
So, I am trying to focus on the incredible growth that came from the lessons learned during the difficult times, and the grand opportunities this new, unexpected, chapter will offer me. I also occasionally remember with gratitude the many good times we shared, and that our union resulted in three wonderful new human beings. The ending of this, or any, marriage is not altogether a failure.
Through all the therapy, and attempts to reconcile, I’ve become much more self-aware. I’ve had to reflect on the part I played in the dysfunction and the dissolution of what once seemed a rock-solid bond. There is no doubt in my mind that my soon to be ex-husband has been one of the greatest teachers of my lifetime. I know I am a stronger, smarter, more resilient, and more compassionate person as a result of our tumultuous marriage.
I predict the divorce process will earn me even more knowledge, skills, and tidbits I never asked for, but surely need for my journey. I try to remember my current situation represents a tiny slice of what makes up the rich, tasty pie of my greater life experience. While divorce defines a part of my reality right now, it does not define me.
Rather than dwell on the fact that I am walking away from something unhealthy, I’m choosing to see myself as someone stepping out into the light on a bright new path forward. Along this detour, I’ll continue to learn more about myself and strive to live my best life as the days continue to unfold. I’m choosing to take care of myself. I’m choosing happiness and contentment.
I wish I could say I never experience the pain of euphoric recall, and that I never shed a tear mourning the loss of what I thought we had. While I am strong, I am not a stoic. From all that therapy, and my trusty books, I have learned that feeling and acknowledging my emotions and letting them move through me, rather than denying them and soldiering on, makes me a more complete human being, a more grounded, compassionate (and sane) person.
I’m hopeful that someday I may find another partner to love and share life with. In the meantime, I’ll keep visiting the bookstore and continue learning how to improve my skills at navigating this life, so I can be an even better potential mate. It’s probably a good idea to add some fun fiction to my collection, too. After all, we can always use more friends.