I changed into my dress and walked the aisle. I felt beautiful, and I thought he was so handsome. (I will always remember that.) I cried during my vows. “You may kiss the bride.” And then he turned to the audience and pumped his fist in the air. They laughed. And I laughed. I threw my head back and laughed.
One month shy of six years later, and it is a dramatically different scene. “Oh my God. Oh, Jesus. Oh my God, what am I going to do?” Screaming and sobbing into my pillow so I wouldn’t wake the baby, and he is on his knees beside the bed with his head in his hands. My sobs pour out of me in a constant stream of waves and convulsions; his sound like choking, stops and starts and stops and starts. It feels like time is frozen, but simultaneously somehow, unraveling all around us.
He eventually stands up. I look at his face and instead of a person, I see a pile of rubble. I study my hands, which are shaking and numb and ghostly white. I look back to him, blink, and say calmly, “I’m in shock.”
It is terrifying and wondrous how one moment can so dramatically change reality. How fragile reality is.
By some absolute miracle, the sun rose the next day. Every moment was tenuous that day and for days afterwards. Weeks, really. I had no idea what to do next, and so I waited. There were two things I knew to guard: my daughter, and my self-respect. Because anyone who has been through this will tell you that you cling to your self-respect like a lifeline, when so many people seem to have a different opinion about what you should do and they bring their own fears and junk into the middle of your situation as if you don’t already have a shitload of your own, thank-you-so-very-much. So you push these things aside and you just look into your own eyes. And when my self-respect (or conscience, or holy spirit, or what-have-you) said, “It’s time,” I knew it was time. And so I went through the big D and I don’t mean Dallas. And let me tell you that it is something you travel through. Not to. Not around. You go through a divorce.
And then it was time to survey the damage. Except, here’s the thing. I am a woman of action. I’m not super interested in details; I’m not good at puzzles. If it takes too long, it simply loses my interest and I set it aside for something new. My shattered heart – this was the jagged puzzle to end all puzzles, and so probably the best way to describe what I did with it…I kind of swept it up into one big, moderately tidy pile. Sometimes I would sit and look at it, and sigh, overwhelmed and at a total loss as to what to do with it. Then, as is my way, I found something else to do. This new thing had been a long time in coming, and as such, it will always remain and yield good dividends. This is grace; this is God working good in the midst of my (our) imperfect world. But when I do something, I do it. And man, I did this new thing. I jumped in with both feet. I went all in. And running full blast, I stumbled over that rubble. Smack! I fell down hard, right in the middle of that shattered mess that I had swept up just months before.
And guess what? I was already pretty banged up before this whole thing started, and as we all know, when you fall and you’re already injured – it hurts worse. It hurts like a mo’ fo’. It can make your head spin. So I think it’s best to just sit still for a minute. I’m going to be kind to me, and absorb the calmness that I myself can create. If you want to sit down with me; or if you have stumbled as well and you find yourself on the ground, and you want to resist the urge to stand in your mess and prance around flapping your arms and wringing your hands and pretending that it’s not a mess; if you want to be still and authentic and courageously, if haltingly, vulnerable…then we will have something in common. We can survey the mess, and we can sort through it for the valuables. Maybe I will cry, or you will. We will definitely laugh. And I will practice letting go – letting me be me, and letting you be you. I will practice taking this world as it is, and not as I want it to be…or that’s how it goes anyway, I think.
So, here are some questions…
In your life, what part of the healing process is passive? And what part is active? How do you participate in your healing, and how do you find yourself just receiving?
I sincerely value your insights.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert,
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.