I’ve been reading this nutty little book, Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life by Abigail Trafford. It was first published in 1982, and an old boss of mine recently told me tshe read it when she got divorced more than twenty years ago.
The fact that this book is still in print says volumes about divorce. The book treats the craziness of relationships, breakups, and the aftermaths in such a matter-of-fact way that it’s almost unsettling. Divorce truly is the craziest of times, and it makes people say, do, and feel things that they previously couldn’t imagine.
Here’s one of my favorite passages:
A combat soldier’s definition of courage is moving from a safe place to an unsafe place (in order to win the battle). For an infantryman under fire, courage is leaving the safety of a foxhole for a new position. In psychological terms, the definition of courage in divorce is moving from the safety of one stage to the uncertainties of the next. Courage in divorce means moving from the safety of shallow feelings in the Hummingbird Phase to the pain and confusion of the Foundering Phase. It means moving from the safety of despair in the Foundering Phase to the making of choices and taking risks for a new life in the Phoenix Phase.
So, it takes great courage to move forward through a divorce.
I love that statement. It’s so true, but because our society tends to think of divorce as a failure, we overlook the courage it takes to move through the process of divorce.
Every single decision we make is a form of courage. It can just be showing up. Going to the school cocktail party without a spouse. It can be the process of detaching. Making a conscious decision to let go. It can be the day we realize we need to get a job. Or let our friends set us up on a blind date. Or the day we refuse to let our ex get us angry anymore.
It can also be identifying our role in the breakup of our marriage, no matter how large or small. On some days, it might just be getting out of bed in the morning. Other days, it’s moving to a new neighborhood and starting over. Or letting go of a home that we can no longer afford.
And at the beginning, it can just be walking away from a bad marriage. As simple as that. As Ann Landers said, “Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
I think that most of us beat ourselves up, over and over and over again, about our divorces. We don’t realize that divorce can be a show of great strength, and each little step in getting through a divorce is courageous.
It means we are strong, and we are courageous. As Hemingway says, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”