“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
Each year, my children and I cross the country to visit friends and family for several weeks. We spend the last week in paradise – a place surrounded by the Pacific on one side, and vineyard-covered hills on the other. The air smells like eucalyptus, and my children pick lemons off the trees and make fresh lemonade. They swim all day and run around barefoot with their cousins.
This year it was hard to leave. Going home meant facing my divorce again. Mine is no ordinary divorce, and it’s certainly not a Good Divorce (not that I really believe in Good Divorces anyhow – I’ve yet to meet anyone in real life with children who has experienced a Good Divorce). At any rate, mine is a Very Bad Divorce, one that includes child custody issues, teams of lawyers, various psychologists and other mental health and addiction experts, and some really serious stuff that caused what the attorneys call “the breakdown of the marriage.”
On top of the divorce itself, I struggle with the IDEA of getting divorced, the public failure of being divorced in a society that values and celebrates seemingly perfect families. Here are just a few of the things I have heard lately about women who get divorced:
Women with children shouldn’t get divorced.
Good women don’t get divorced.
Women who get divorced are screwed up.
Or they were too dumb to marry the right person in the first place.
Women who get divorced are selfish.
They damage their kids.
Their kids will ever, ever be okay again.
Divorced women are crazy, lonely, pathetic, slutty, desperate.
Divorced women are failures, losers.
They are LESS THAN married women.
All of these things banged around in my head when my plane landed. They’re still there. Not every moment. But often. They come to me in the dark when I can’t sleep, or on gorgeous autumn days at my children’s school, or any time that I’m scared or frustrated or tired. Sometimes they can swoop in and destroy a perfect moment, like when my son hits a home run and all I can hear is the other dads cheering him on. I miss the moment because I am panicking at the thought that my son is the only one there without a dad – I am the only mom there alone, trying to navigate the tricky world of raising a son without a real dad.
SO, I’ve decided that I can’t afford to miss any more of these perfect moments. I don’t want to miss them – they are few and far between, and my children are growing up fast. I need to reclaim some of the peace I found in my paradise getaway. To do this, I’ve decided that I need to become stronger. And more courageous. More vulnerable and less shameful. I’ve decided that I need to do some work – on myself, for a change. Because I have spent the last several years trying to do a lot of work on someone else – my soon-to-be-ex-husband. And let’s just say that my work failed. As it should, because I learned way too late that you really CAN’T FIX SOMEONE ELSE.
So now it’s time to take that time and energy and start to concentrate on myself.
I don’t know where this path will take me, and I have a feeling that parts of it won’t be very pleasant for a risk-adverse, “would-rather-die-than-be-vulnerable,” “fly-under-the-radar” person like me. I look to Dr. Brene Brown again, for some inspiration as I start:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
This blog is my first step in owning my story.