It’s hard to imagine that a year ago I was living in northern Wisconsin in a spacious 5-bedroom farmhouse on 20 acres of pristine land. We were visited by coyotes and black bears and foxes and too many deer to count. The kids spent hours on the trampoline outside the patio door, chasing the new puppy up and down the long gravel driveway, wading through the creek that ran just feet from the back of the house. That farmhouse seems like a distant dream now, though I haven’t thought much of it nor looked back to reflect on the decisions that led up to leaving it. Life sped up, our little world shifted, and we rode like hell to try and keep up with the turn of events that I myself had set in motion.
I had a dream one night that I was singing into a microphone that was strung to the top of a giant tree. Three of my students were singing with me and when it came to my solo I was surprised to find that I didn’t hold back at all, I belted with everything I had as if it were my show, not theirs. When I woke I struggled to find the song in the foggy waters of my waking mind, but later in the day the song came to me, and once I found it I couldn’t stop singing it:
When I leapt into the unknown, finally honoring the empty ache in my heart where something had been lost for a long, long time, it didn’t matter anymore what surrounded me or how many bedrooms I had.
What mattered was coming alive.
There are conventional and condemning views of what I did, leaving my marriage in the time and the ways that I did, and those are exactly the same views which had kept me confined for so long in a place that shut down my heart. I imagine that when you wake from a big sleep, there is a lot that needs to be sorted. You’ve aged. Your muscles may have atrophied, and in my case I lost a sense of strength that had previously defined and informed me.
When you are sleeping, your loved ones hurt. They miss you, they wait for you to wake up. When my father was in a coma for 3 months, every day was a cloud of emotions and prayer.
One afternoon a year ago I spoke candidly with my best friend about my choices. After all, we have led virtually parallel lives at times, sometimes running ahead or behind but always finishing together. His words couldn’t have hit home more when he said “You’re back. I feel like I got my friend back.” He was right.
When you wake up, your loved ones hurt.
There is no way that I could deny then or now that my awakening caused pain in my loved ones. My little family was taken apart, though without too much screaming or slamming of doors or fighting over custody. It was relatively calm, mature, and business-like. Nonetheless, when I took my son to counseling and she asked him what he wished his life could look like if he could have it any way he wanted, he said “Mom and Dad, me and my sister, back at the farmhouse.” And that is the heartbreaking reality a parent faces when divorcing.
My children have gone through more than just the divorce and moving over the past year. Their dad has been seriously ill on top of everything else. But even through all of that, I know that what I did in following my heart’s desire was the only thing that would wake me up.
When Dad woke up he had to relearn everything. How to speak, how to write, how to eat. It has been a mix of grief for me and my siblings since, having our once dynamic and charismatic father become an almost entirely new person, living with traumatic brain injuries.
I’ve been relearning too. Even before the upheaval, I knew that forgiveness would be required. I knew I would most of all need to forgive myself for the pain it would cause my little family, and that was the scariest part.
Now my kids and I reside in 2 bedrooms in my sister’s house and I can count the number of possessions we own fairly quickly. We live in a metropolitan area where instead of a creek running by, it’s a freight train every 20 minutes. Even as I write this I have a huge grin on my face. Because I am so happy that sometimes I burst out in song. Because I can laugh with my kids and give them so much of this happiness I have found. Because I love what life is becoming.
From the outside it may seem to others that so much has been lost. Yet if you peered into my chest, opened it up and looked into its crystal clear well, you would see that it is deep and full.
Finding our bliss sometimes means making very difficult choices and jumping the canyon we’ve been skirting once and for all.
Even if we hurt the ones we love. Even if they never forgive us.
Even if it takes a lifetime to forgive ourselves.
Are you in need of support around your divorce?
What if divorce were an opportunity to discover and claim the truest parts of yourself?
What if you had a friend who wrote you every day reminding you that you are not alone?
What if your children needed to see you this way to know what courage looks like?
What if you had a place to tell your stories with other divorced and divorcing mothers?
What if divorce were actually a bridge to your hopeful future?
What if there were an affordable way to care for yourself for the next year?
You are not alone.
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