“Everything I was I carry with me, everything I will be lies waiting on the road ahead.” ― Ma Jian
The divorce became final a few weeks ago. It still took me by surprise. I think it was the finality of it; that it’s now the end. And what’s been strange about this whole process, is I feel I’ve been corresponding with a faceless person who was so well known to me before but now is a complete stranger. There’s a disconnect. Like a loose end or a story that just stops suddenly without a sufficient ending. I suppose that’s to be expected in divorce. It just doesn’t lend itself to having closure. Not really. We don’t always get what we want, I suppose.
Now I find myself standing on a road I didn’t plan. I have no idea what lies before me or what to expect. I only know what’s been behind me. There isn’t a single memory of my life without him in it. It’s all very surreal to have a life with someone and then suddenly not. And now it feels strange to move forward without him. All my memories going forward won’t have him in them. Again, it’s that strange disconnect, like trying to remember something that’s lurking in the back of your mind. Or trying to take hold of something that is just out of reach.
I still can’t get used to the new norm that is my life. Sleeping in the bed alone. Making dinner for only one. Coming home to an empty house. Managing the bills and finances by myself. Not wearing my wedding band anymore. Just being alone. Being alone is still hard. Most days I’m just going through the motions, like on autopilot. I keep waiting for someone who isn’t there.
I think it’s different when you choose to live alone. You have some idea of what to expect, like the fact that it is just you in the house. But when it’s been forced upon you, it’s unsettling. It makes you feel vulnerable; exposed. You have a strange sense that something’s wrong or off kilter. That something could just spring itself on you and you wouldn’t know how to react.
The uncertainty of things is unsettling, too. I don’t know where my life is going now. I know where I want it go and how. Some days I’m hopeful about my future and the prospects ahead of me. Other days, I’m at a complete loss. The trouble is I doubt myself. I doubt my ability to do what’s necessary in order to keep moving forward. I worry about making the wrong decisions, or even the right ones. Worry and doubt seem to have moved in. (I don’t recall asking them to be my roommates. Rather presumptuous of them). I used to have him to talk things over with; to make decisions together. Now I don’t. I had him to lean on and walk down life’s road with. Now I don’t. It’s a loss to be sure.
Loss of any kind is traumatic, and divorce is no exception. And what one experiences afterwards is post-traumatic. Trying to move forward from that trauma is difficult at best. It’s bewildering and daunting. I think it’s because whatever you had, whatever you were, or whomever you had is suddenly gone without your choosing and you are left with complete instability about your life going forward. Your physical and/or emotional well being are threatened by seemingly unknown forces causing tremendous stress and insecurity.
So far, the one thing I keep coming back to or it keeps coming to me (ahem, Divine Intervention) is resilience. Being resilient actually. Of everything I’ve read or listened to from experts and those who have been-there-done-that all point to being resilient as a means of coping with post-traumatic stress. And those who develop and embrace resilience bounce forward, rather than bounce back, finding they are capable of far more than they would have imagined if their lives had stayed the same before the trauma hit.
Resilience then begets post-traumatic growth. The concept behind post-traumatic growth, according to psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, who created the idea, is that people who experience a traumatic event can come out better for it; they become a better version of themselves. They improve and they take on a more positive approach towards life.
I think post-traumatic growth is actually hope. Hope bestowed by God that we don’t have to stay and live in our trauma; in despair. That’s not what He intended for us. We are wired for purpose, happiness, peace, joy and love. But when something (or someone) gets in the way of what God has intended for us, when it goes against His desire for our lives, trauma occurs. But it’s not permanent. It’s not forever. It will leave scars to be sure, but those scars are only reminders of where we came from, not who we are.
So I stand the beginning of a new road, an unfamiliar one, with scars from my experiences. But I don’t walk this road alone. I don’t face this life without hope. God is taking my hand and walking alongside me, guiding me. He wants the best for me. He has a purpose for me. He has happiness, peace, joy and love waiting for me. I am not my past. I am my future. I am what God says I am.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11