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I’m a private person. I’m not one to bare my soul on a blog. That’s one reason that many of my clients, and even some of my friends, don’t know that I got divorced on the last day of January, this year.

On a scale of “private,” if I’m, say, an eight, then my ex-husband is a “ten thousand.” So I’m going to try and stay away from talking about him any more than needed.

But divorce is hard, and I know that a lot of people go through it. And, it can feel very, very lonely. It can be a harder grief than death, because you get less sympathy.

One reason is, our culture has a very strong idea about what life is “supposed” to look like.

You grow up in a cozy two-parent home, go to college, meet that someone, get married right after college.

You take your college-educated selves into the workforce and establish yourselves professionally. Then after a few years you have a couple of kids. It’s your happily-ever-after, and you live it until you grow old together.

Except, real life isn’t like that.

Real life is messy.

Beach-Selfie

Real life might be realizing that you’ve been very, very unhappy for a very, very long time and if you don’t do something about it now you’re just going to keep getting more unhappy. So you make the hard decision.

Real life isn’t picture perfect. Real life gives you storms. It gives you wind in your hair and sand on your face. Real life isn’t retouched. It’s raw and beautiful and crazy.

I’ve come to realize that even when someone’s life looks perfect from the outside, it never is. There are tragedies, losses, unexpected challenges. Maybe it’s a couple who wanted kids and never had them. Or had kids but lost one (or more). Or someone who had the seemingly perfect family, but then saw a child succumb to drugs and alcohol, or depression.

It’s someone who never found the “right person” or someone who found that person and then lost them tragically. It’s someone who had kids early and struggled financially. It’s someone who did well financially, but sacrificed closeness with their family.

I’ve heard all these stories, loved all these people. There’s one thing all the stories I hear have in common: they go on. We go on. We get past the loss and find a new beginning. We learn, grow, continue to hope. We become stronger, wiser, more generous, more loving.

There’s no “perfect.” If there were, how would we become these things that we so need to become?

In the middle of all the chaos, there’s beauty. We lead ourselves astray with the fairy tale, and we use it to make ourselves unhappy. But we can go beyond the fairy tale, and that’s where there’s a fierce joy that you never knew was there … until you reach it.

The fairy tale was what kept me mired in discouragement and self-abasement for so many years. I was going to “make my marriage work.” I wasn’t giving up! I would see this thing through. I won’t go into all the things that made me change my mind. I’ll just say that by the time it ended, the unhappiness was a physical ache in my chest. I lived in a constant state of anxiety, until I finally was pushed over the edge and had to do something different.

It’s unpopular with some people when you resist the fairy tale. We’re all supposed to buy into this, if only for the sake of the people who are still trying to buy into the fairy tale.

The more I look at how life unfolds, the more I realize it isn’t a fairy tale. It isn’t a clear-cut story.

Instead, it’s beautiful chaos. It’s a song that keeps changing keys but it is lovely for all that. It’s a poem where the words don’t make any sense until we’ve been willing to lose something, let go of something. It’s a picture where we don’t prepare, where we let the wind blow and the waves crash and all the craziness happen, and we just enjoy.