Right now I am in the process of divorcing my husband of less than three years. I know, suddenly and harshly, what that feels like. I did not know what that feels like three months ago, just as three years ago I did not know how watching your sister die feels.
Abandonment and betrayal, disappointment and sadness — they make a potent cocktail, one many choose to drink in private. I’ve struggled with whether and how to talk about this, how to find ways that were honest and sincere (there’s that word again) without seeming bitter or vindictive.
But pain, I think, is lessened when spoken. Vicious truths are less so in the light of day. We talk so we are not talked over, so our stories are not stolen from us by untruths and omissions.
This is true: I hurt, deeply. I am wounded in real ways. Things I thought were true were not true. Someone I trusted lied to me with words and with actions. My heart was ripped open.
This is also true: I am wiser than I was.
And this: I would rather be not-hurt than wiser.
It’s the rathers that become so insidious! I would rather have my sister not be dying than have gained the life experience of this journey so far. I would rather have a happy marriage with a husband who wants to be with me than this “teaching moment” of learning who I am again, and how to trust again, and how to find honest truths when I am handed deception. I would rather be happy than heavy with the world.
But the rathers are not true. The hurt is true. The wisdom gained is true, even if it slices through us and makes us bleed.
It is not glamorous to talk about broken hearts and broken spirits. No one wants to be the person who was replaced, the person who didn’t know, the person who feels a bit naive. To admit hurt is to admit we cared. So we hide, to whimper alone and lick our wounds, while the world keeps on spinning and the most anyone hears from us is the silence left by our absence.
Let me say this another way: I was replaced. I did not know the truth of the life I was living. I feel naive and sort of silly for caring more than the person I cared about did. I have let my silence speak for me because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it.
But the Live Sincerely Project has taught me that there is strength in taking the private sorrows of our hearts to the mountaintop. It is BRAVE. It is an ADVENTURE. To respond to heartbreak with sheer determination that you will grow and you will heal and you will make it to the other side whole — that is no less of an expedition than Hillary and Norgay reaching the summit of Everest and then making it back down again.
There is no shame in heartbreak. It proves that we are not heartless.
Sometimes I think the wisest thing Jess and I do in these posts is to be completely honest. “This is hard!” we yell from the mountain. “We don’t know what we’re doing! We are making everything up as we go!”
Here’s a secret: everyone is making everything up as they go. No one knows the future, but every day we learn another way the future will NOT go. I will not grow old with Vanessa. I will not grow old with the person I married when I was twenty-six.
What we do know is our present: where we are, and how we got here. I am twenty-nine years old. I was married once. I am flawed and floundering, strong and squinting in the sun. I see anew my own failings in the stark light of day, just as I see how I was made to feel small and less-than when I am not small and I am not less-than. I am suddenly surrounded by people who are giving to me selflessly — by listening, by remembering, by offering their own stories as gifts.
I am full of new knowledge and its necessary consequences: I am more wary of promises. I will pay more attention to my own doubts. I am not, and will never be, as innocent as I was. I now know how to be kinder to people whose hearts hurt.
I am spending time with Deception and coming to know it better, just as I have spent so much time with Death and with Cancer and with Family and with Gratitude. I am coming to know Anger, Solitude and Impermanence in new ways as well. I am already good friends with soul-shuddering Grief. I am doing my best to “respect each movement of my heart.”
I am also spending time with Wisdom. She is harsh, but she is honest.
My new house is full of windows. Light pours in every morning. I wash the dishes and I fold the laundry and I give away boxes of things that no longer serve me. I read books and I talk to toddlers on the phone. I am okay and not okay in the exact same moments. I am in the air and I am firmly on the ground.