Losing My Voice, part 2: Write the Hard Part First
WRITE THE HARD PART FIRST
Without question the very worst part of leaving my marriage was spending nights in a home I did not own without my children. I would fall asleep after hours of tossing and turning, only to awake sometime in the darkest part of the night and wonder if my youngest boy needed me; if one of them was having a bad dream. If the older two had any idea what was happening--that their mother was making decisions in an attempt to stay alive. You cannot say these things to your children. I did not know how to say anything to them. I did not want them to blame their father and I, also, did not want to bear the blame.
Night after night for many, many years I would lie awake and be afraid and agonizingly sad. I loved my family and I could not stay married.
I am writing this on a beautiful sunny morning ten years later. I have a different life. I have a job I love. A home I love. My children are adults—or very close to adulthood. They are lovely people. Interesting and compassionate and extremely funny. Their lives are different now, too, of course. They would be no matter what had happened in my marriage. They were going to grow up and do new things. I would have done new things if I had been able to stay in my marriage. But I would never have been allowed to do THIS. To go back to school. To become the person that I am. I enjoy having a drink. I swear a lot—because sometimes, especially in a therapy session, a bit of irreverence is the most therapeutic tool at hand. I spend as much time outside of my office OUTSIDE. I bought a boat.
The confines of conservative Christianity—as we practiced it during my marriage—did not allow for such freedom. It required conservative, fundamentalist thinking. It required obedience to rules I found offensive. Rules I attempted to spin in my own head. “Surely it can’t mean x, it must mean______” and then I would come up with something that felt true to me. Right to me. Something about which I thought Jesus might have uttered: “If I had been a woman, I would have said that.” But there was no room in the religion we practiced for alternatives. We claimed to know the whole truth (while simultaneously claiming that Truth unknowable). And the whole truth was held within the pages of the Christian Bible.
Anyway, eventually, I found it all baffling. And disheartening. And I was not permitted to think any other way and stay married. And I kept trying to figure out how to stay married and be miserable and the only thing I could figure out was to stop eating altogether and hopefully, eventually, die. And that seemed like the weakest, worst legacy of all to leave my kids. So I made the decision to try to get better. And that meant going away (to a house around the corner that my mother owned and graciously allowed me to live in). And it meant opening a bank account (though I had no job and I had no money and I hadn’t had a job in 20 years). And it meant getting a job. And thinking about what I might like to do since my first degree was in education but I had HATED teaching school for the brief stint that I did such a thing. Getting better meant leaving the church and all the friends I had in the world. It meant temporarily leaving the God I had spent 25 years with—or leaving some of the notions I had about that god (the biggest being that he was most certainly going to send me to hell for making all these decisions—more about this later).
And worse than anything else it meant not being with my children every day and night. That felt like carving out my heart. I was (still am, some days) so terrified that they would not recover. That they would not heal. That I had irreparably damaged those kids who were part of me, born from me. That was the worst. I had to write that first.
Now maybe I can go on and write the rest.