When I chose to leave my marriage, I was shattered. People don’t realize how much you break when you’re the person making that choice, but I can assure you, we break into a thousand pieces of shattered hopes and dreams. My hopes and dreams were lofty, and their breaking was devastating. I have come to know that we truly are more beautiful for having been broken, and yet there didn’t seem to be enough gold to hold all of these cracks together. Would I be sharp and fractured forever? I couldn’t imagine how I would heal, but I prayed that one day I could.
I remember, as a particularly rough wave of grief rolled in one day, that classic line of a Dixie Chicks song ringing through my head: “They say that time heals everything, but I’m still waiting…” And I was, and I was very much unhealed as I stumbled into the world alone, feeling completely naked and afraid.
My journey through my first marriage and co-parenting experience lead me straight into the middle of the woods, lost and unsure of how to find my way back to me. I didn’t know who to be after those seven years. I had become a wife in a terribly toxic marriage. I was a bonus-mom to three, and though the ties that bound us were special, I ended up feeling more extra and unnecessary than a wanted bonus. I wished things to be different, and despite my internal little-engine-that-could, I couldn’t force the change I was so desperate to see — in myself or anyone around me.
For nearly seven years I watched myself slowly and unknowingly fall into the scarcity trap. There wasn’t enough to go around, and I was about to lose what I wanted to be mine. Not enough love from my wife, not enough time with our kids, not enough validation for my role in our family. The ‘not enoughs’ screamed in my ears until I couldn’t enjoy a single moment for fear of what I might be missing in the next. The poison of believing I was expendable and unneeded slowly crept in until it almost killed me. It turned into resentment for every minute I lost, every second I should have been a part of, every recognition I did not receive. It was no longer solely the heartbreak of missing out on time with the kids, it was the resentment that she/he/they had that time. It didn’t matter who it was, if it wasn’t me, I couldn’t be happy. My insides raged a daily war with the outside world; I wanted them to see, but I was the only one blinded by the toxins.
When I unexpectedly walked into my new life, I carried all of this with me. Yes, I had begun the unending, powerful work of healing, but I showed up with gaping wounds covered up by make-shift bandaids that would burst wide open if I moved just so. It was painful and unpredictable. Not enough time had passed, I thought, and yet here I was, opening myself up again to love and light. It was terrifying. And if I had learned anything, it was how to put up my armor as soon as any perceived threat appeared, and I was, in all ways, armored up.
It was less than six months from the day I verbalized needing to leave my previous marriage and falling in love with my wife. By any measure, it was not enough time to work through all that had split me open over those seven years. And yet the healing came just the same.
As I let myself love and be loved again, I began to rebuild trust. I saw that now, here, things weren’t so tenuous. The hurricane could rage outside and it might shake our windows and knock out the power for some time, but we would recover. Together. And in our first two years, we truly have dealt with our fair share of hurricanes. And yet, despite the debris left by each passing storm, I continue to heal. My wounds are closing and scars are forming, no longer requiring bandaids at all.
It happens a little at a time, but it happens because of safety, security, and sensitivity. It happens inside a partnership where we are both valued for who we are and what we bring to the table, from our emotional trauma to our enlightenment. It isn’t just about time. It’s moving through time alongside a person that can truly hold space for you and your pain, who sees you as whole even when you still feel so fractured, who knows how to be gentle around the edges that still hurt. This is the gold that molds us back together. The tenderness of attentiveness is miraculous. And of all the traps I fell into that I was scratching wildly to climb out of, her soft whisper saying “it’s okay, you’ll find your way out, and when you do I’ll be right here” was just the reminder I needed to breathe deep and try again.
I am not healed, and I am not sure I ever will be fully. Today I have more scars than wounds, but even scars can ache from time to time. And yet I have released myself from the stories that kept me prisoner for so long. It’s not a story I need to tell anymore. This is a different chapter with different characters, and the heroine within these pages has removed her armor and is once again wide open to every gift yet unwritten.