Five years. It feels like a lifetime.
Five years since I got my divorce. I was only married four and a half years, so I’m now longer divorced than I was married.
I never thought I’d end up divorced. I married the man of my dreams, the man I was planning to live with for the rest of my life. Then things changed. He no longer felt capable of living the life we’d planned together. He couldn’t cope with the life I loved. He wanted a fresh start. We separated and divorced within a span of six weeks, after a tumultuous period of discord and dissension.
It took two years for the dust to settle. Two years for the reality to sink in – the husband of my dreams, the man I’d married as an innocent 20-year-old bride – no longer existed. He had started a new life, and so had I.
My memories of those years haven’t faded. I’ve worked hard at creating a new life for myself, carving something from nothing in this new experience called single mothering. In the early years I often cried myself to sleep. Other times I couldn’t sleep at all and woke up at three, four o’clock in the morning, shaking from tension and indecision and agony. And eventually I discovered that there could be joyful moments even in this new reality.
There were moments when I could appreciate the time I spend with my two children. Our bedtime routine was sacrosanct; we read stories, shared important events of the day, and reveled in the silence that descends, without younger children to interrupt their special time. We took trips together in the summer, stepping out of our home environment to go on boat rides, visit the science museum, eat out , and stop worrying for a brief spell of time about the day-to-day pressures of life.
There were moments when I could appreciate the depth of understanding I’ve gained, the insight into other people’s pain and the ability to commiserate in ways I couldn’t do before I experienced pain myself. Times when friends came to my house to borrow books and ended up spilling the beans about a spat with a spouse or a battle with infertility. And even though they apologized afterwards for sharing their woes, I knew they felt comfortable revealing because they saw that I empathize – a skill I didn’t have back in the day when life was smooth and easy.
And there were moments when I knew that, hard as it is, the alternative – of staying frozen in a marriage that wasn’t functional – was worse, and that this life-stretching experience is clearly what God intended for me.
Not that it isn’t painful. It is. But over the past five years I’ve developed in a way I never could have evolved in otherwise. I’ve discovered new pieces of myself that I never knew existed. Pushed beyond my limits, into a new role and a new place in society that is far from my dream role, yet that I’ve accepted with my head high. I’ve learned to manage with just my own company on Friday nights and holidays. I understand what it means to create a happy home with my own inner resources, even without a partner at my side.
For two years I struggled to find my footing on life, and for another two years I floundered and slipped, treaded water and gained equilibrium. And finally I felt I was ready to move on. To begin again. To face a new life called remarriage, perhaps step-parenting.
Because I want to keep giving. The resources I’ve gained from these years have made me into a better person, a stronger person, enabling me to relate to another spouse, other children who need me. There’s something in my future that will allow me to utilize the skills I’ve developed from my years alone, my years spent single parenting.
Only… it hasn’t happened yet. To say you’re ready isn’t the same as finding the right one. And finding the right one the second time around is infinitely harder than finding him the first time around. And I wonder if this stage of life will ever end, if I’ll ever get to the next one, the one called happiness and stability.
I try to be strong, to show a happy face to the world. A friend once told me that no matter what you’re feeling inside, it’s important to look good on the outside. But sometimes the despair comes, and I have to fight it, to remind myself that God won’t leave me in limbo land forever.
As a believing Jew, I know God has a plan for me, as He does for all of us. And so I wait, knowing that eventually that plan will unfold, and I will no longer have to wonder why.