How Is This My Life?

Yesterday, I said it again: This is not how I pictured my life.  It’s a phrase I have uttered far too many times over the past several years.

I’m not the type of girl that overly fantasized about how my life would look when I grew up.  I didn’t cut photos from magazines of my dream wedding. I didn’t see 2.5 children, one of them definitely a girl, living in a large house with a picket fence. I didn’t picture what my husband would look like or what career he would have or whether we would have a dog or a cat.

I had some assumptions. I assumed I would be married. Forever. I assumed I would have children, and yes, even assumed at least one would be a girl. I assumed I would have a short career and then transition to being a stay-at-home mom with a healthy volunteer resume to boot. I assumed I would be happy. My husband would be happy. My children would be happy. And all of us would be healthy.

In my mind’s eye, my life would look like this: my husband and I would drive together to our son’s soccer game. We’d cheer for our son together. We would take him and his three brothers out to eat after his game.Together. In one car. I’d ask my husband about his day and he would ask about mine. We would celebrate our son’s victory as he would tell us both – at the same time – about the kid who kept trash talking him on the field. We’d smile at one another and everyone would be content. It’s not too much to ask. It’s not a wild daydream. Families live like this everyday. Mine was supossed to.

Reality, however, does not mimic that picture. Last year, while sitting at my youngest son’s soccer game, my boyfriend and I took our seats on the far end of the bleachers. Soon, my ex-husband rolled up in his wheelchair and stopped next to us. A few minutes later, I heard a familiar voice and glanced back to see me ex-boyfriend sitting behind us. I laughed at it then, mainly out of awkward discomfort. I laugh at it now because it makes for a ridiculous story and I love ridiculous stories… even if I do sound a bit like a floozy.

I’ve written about this notion of life not turning out the way it was supposed to: and I know I am not alone. So often I hear some variation of this phrase uttered from friends who are going through a divorce or the death of a loved one or some other traumatic incident. “How is this my life?” they ask.

This is exactly what I said to my friends yesterday as we sat by the pool catching up on each others’ lives. I told them about my son’s 20th birthday and how my ex-husband joined us for dinner. This is a rare event as he spends most days comletely bedridden from  a rapidly progressive stage of multiple sclerosis. As we sat at a local restaurant, it all seemed so normal as the banter from our boys bounced back and forth across the table. When our food arrived, things ceased normalcy. As he looked at his salmon and quinoa, my ex-husband asked one of the boys to feed him as he is incapable of moving his hands to his mouth. It seemed silly for my son to get up from across the table to feed him, so I offered to do it instead as I was seated next to him. Our four boys carried on eating and talking and laughing as I fed their father.

I told my friends that I can’t quite put words to the feelings I had around this situation. I don’t talk about the pain of our divorce much any more. Partly because it’s been eight years since he moved out, and partly because I don’t know how to share my truth about it without getting in to details that are not mine to share. Needless to say, divorce incites the kind of pain that causes your heart to PHYSICALLY HURT. The kind of pain that you hope no other loved one will ever have to experience because you don’t know how you possibly went through the deepest of pain without actually dying. But in some mysterious way, the pain ends up settling and you go about doing things  you never thought you would do. Like feeding your ex-hiusband his dinner at your son’s 20th birthday party. You do it not to be a martyr and for others to recognize what a big person you are. (The irony of sharing it here is not lost on me, but getting kudos is not my intention.) You do it because you find a way to love again. Despite all of the pain or anger or sadness, you love again because love is freedom and  the alternative is too dark a place to stay.

I wish I had a way to speed along the heartache for those of you who find yourselves asking how your life turned out this way. I know that the garment of grief is heavy; my hope is that you will not stay under its weight for long. I hope that ultimately you will understand that love provides the strength you need to shed the burden you carry. Real, honest love, that is. It cannot be manufactured. It cannot be hurried. But it can be cultivated. So when you fall into some weird scenario like feeding your ex-husband you can practice choosing love. You can do the thing you never thought you would do, the thing you never pictured when you assumed life would deal you a different hand. And in time, my friend, I think you will see that it is love that allows you to move through these questions and realize that althougth things look different, you are still okay.


Categories: Divorce, Friends and Family, Marriage | Leave a comment

In a Word: Clamor

I’m going to do it. I’m going to do one of those things I said I would never do. I’m going to start a post with the definition of a word. Ahhck! I feel so uncreative. So weak. So … so insipid. But here it goes.

The word is clamor. defines clamor as:

1. a loud uproar, as from a crowd of people: the clamor of the crowd at the gates.
2. a vehement expression of desire or dissatisfaction: the clamor of the proponents of the law.
3. popular outcry: The senators could not ignore the clamor against higher taxation.
4. any loud and continued noise: the clamor of traffic; the clamor of birds and animals in the zoo.
verb (used without object)
5. to make a clamor; raise an outcry.

verb (used with object)
6. to drive, force, influence, etc., by clamoring: The newspapers clamored him out of office.
7. to utter noisily: They clamored their demands at the meeting.

Now, having defined the word, I confess:  I clamor. It seems to be my word of the week, or perhaps the month, or – God, help me – my life. Clamor. That’s what I do. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. At least not all the time.

May Wright Sewall, a suffragist from Indianapolis, once read a petition she was about to sign regarding temperance. The petition stated that those who signed that petition would agree not to clamor for more political or civil rights. At that, Sewall declared, “But I do clamor.”

She was not content with the conditions that were put upon women of that time. So she refused to sign the petition, and she continued to clamor. Thankfully so. She became an instrumental force for change in this city.

Unlike Sewall, however, my clamoring is not so civic minded. My clamoring is more personal. More internal. I defined the word because of the emphasis put on the noise, uproar and outcry. That’s exactly what is happening inside of me. As I travel the road of healing from my divorce, I find that there is a constant outcry inside. An uproar that things are not like they should be. Or maybe I’m not yet as I should be.

This week I was hit by another wave of grief. I had a doctor’s appointment in the building where my ex-husband and I used to go for my OB check-ups. As I walked into the building, I was flooded with memories of those times when we were best friends, excited about the future as we added to our family. Now I was entering the building alone for a procedure that had me fairly concerned. The contrast was profound. At first I tried to ignore the pain. But when I was back in my car, alone and quiet, I let the mourning commence again. The tears came in a steady stream and I felt the clamoring begin… the “vehement expression of desire or dissatisfaction.”

Funny that the definition uses the words “desire” and “dissatisfaction.” Clamoring goes both ways. This week, while my boys have been with their father, the clamoring inside has been far more noticeable. At times I’ve tried to rise above it, to suck it up or to learn how to be content. During other moments I have tried to claw out of it by various means that are not healthy or helpful. Mostly what I’ve discerned is that the deep longing is not going away. And that’s okay. It’s okay to want more. It’s a sign that I’m still healing. And it’s an indication that the God who loves me fiercely is not going to let me stay the way I am. In fact, I believe it’s the gift of his spirit that allows me to feel the dissatisfaction AND the desire to be more.

More than the woman I think I am sometimes.

Something for which I will never stop clamoring: coffee.

More than a divorcee.

More than broken.

More than a friend.

More than my smile.

More than middle-aged.

More than a mother.

More than my losses.

More than a writer.

More than my mistakes.

More than even my victories.

More than.


Categories: Divorce, Faith, Marriage | Tags: , | 11 Comments

My husband is FORTY!

I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal… 40. But it kinda freaked me out. Everyone at my husband’s  office wore black. They had black balloons and napkins and cakes with R.I.P. signs on them. Our friends decorated our driveway with signs that said “40” all up and down the sides. I wanted to tell everyone passing the house that it wasn’t me turning 40. I’m still in my 30s, I would tell them. No one asked, and I’m sure no one cared.

 He had a great day though and our family loved on him so much. We gave him lots of affirmation about what an amazing guy he is. More on that later because there’s a story there. I just had to shout it out again to let it sink in… BRET IS FORTY!

My son, Eli, kept saying, “Lordy, Lordy, Daddy’s 40.” Then after he had said it a few hundred times, he stopped and said, “How do I know that rhyme? And why am I saying it?” Funny how kids just talk to talk sometimes and then pause when they “come to.” 

I always thought “40” wouldn’t be a big deal b/c we have so many friends who have crossed over that bridge before us, and they’re still pretty cool. But it does sound older. Maybe I’m scared that it means I have to really grow up. Maybe when I visit the kids at recess I won’t be allowed to chase them and make them into pretzels. Maybe my hippie chick days will have to come to an end. I’ll have to wear mom clothes and get  a mom hair cut when I turn 40. Oh gosh, what is this crazy talk? I’m tired and I’m not the one turning “40”…. YET. My time will come and when it does, I will deny I ever said any of this. Got it?  Forty is no big deal, right? Right. 

Categories: Marriage | 2 Comments

Blog at