“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to realize this too was a gift.” Mary Oliver
Divorce sucks. Most days I cruise through without much thought about it (sort of); but then there are days the ugly hand of reality just slaps me so hard, right across the face, and I have no choice but to feel the sting.
Today was one of those days.
Its been a rough week or two in general; but I sailed through it like a warrior, seemingly unscathed by the many obstacles and attacks hurled my way. Or so I thought.
Have you ever learned a new skill? Sure you have! Lets take roller blading as an example.
Initially, you’re ridiculous. You can barely stand up on your own legs. You’re wabbling all over the place, falling every two seconds, and you look like Bambi. After several embarrassing falls and hits to your ego, you start to get the hang of it. You eventually skate a few feet without falling and you feel like a champion. You’re a roller skating beast! You’ve got this.
Then you hit a bump.
It wipes you out. You aren’t stable enough to withstand the bumps because you’re still so new.
But you get back up, willing to keep trying and learning how to do this.
You keep practicing and before you know it, you’re cruising. You can even handle a rock or two in your path, a few unexpected twists, and some small obstacles thrown your way. Your confidence builds and you feel comfortable in this new skill you’re learning.
All of a sudden, you’re picking up speed and while it seemed ok for a minute, you’re now remembering you’re still very new at this. You start to lose your balance a little bit and suddenly, there’s a hole you didn’t see.
Bam! You’re leveled, and all the reasons you avoided roller blading in the first place come rushing to your mind.
It’s scary. It’s hard. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll look like a fool. People will judge you. It will be embarrassing. You’ll fall. It will hurt. And who roller blades anyway!?
You were right. It sucks. But then you have two choices. You can either give up, or you can accept that eventually it will get easier and you’ll get stronger, get back up and try again.
Depending on how important it is to you, you’ll choose the latter.
I haven’t roller skated in years, and I never learned how to stop successfully. I always had to run into a wall or a fence or a car parked on the side of the road in order to stop. This seems to be a theme in my life.
Today, I hit the wall.
I was sitting on the first day of MOPS (mothers of preschoolers), at a church I don’t belong to, as the newby no one knows; smiling and nodding as we awkwardly sat around the table making small talk. I had been to MOPS before when I was in Savannah and loved it. I loved it, but it had a bitter sweet feel to it because I went to MOPS through one of the most difficult seasons of my marriage. I was pregnant with my youngest and continued to go after he was born. Shortly after he was born, MOPS ended and so did my marriage.
As I drove to MOPS today in a new place with a new start, I was optimistic. I was excited. Hopeful to meet new friends and find my place in this community of moms with young children like mine. Yet as I drove, I had a gnawing feeling in my gut. Flashbacks of that period of time going to MOPS in Georgia crowded my brain space like a bunch of teenage girls at a Justin Beiber concert. I shook it off and carried on. After getting the boys all settled into the nursery I headed upstairs to the room and my phone buzzed.
It was an email from my lawyer. A disappointing, extremely frustrating, but very typical email filled with lies and bull crap.
I felt like I had been gut punched. I struggled to not let my shaking insides show and to remain stoic in front of these new women who knew nothing of my story. Conversations flowed and my smile hid my overwhelming fear and anxiety like a gold medalist. We plowed through the general intros and moved into the “let’s get to know each other speed dating style” game.
Question 1: Tell each other about your kids.
No problem. This is my absolute favorite subject. Let’s talk all day!
Question 2: Tell each other about your marriage.
Boom. Gut punched. Wall hit.
I looked around the room at these women, all of whom are married; most of whom are stay at home moms, living some version of the life I’d always imagined and wanted for myself and my boys. Everyone smiled and stated how long they’d been married and began telling their stories of how they met. Purely the highlights of course.
It was my turn to speak and there I was, in one of those moments where there just is no way around the truth. “I’m actually in the middle of a divorce.” Cue pity groans and sad faces and awkward silence. It happens every time, I’m used to it. I try to make the other person feel more comfortable and assure them that I’m ok and so are my kids and in fact, we are all better off.
While a divorce is better than the alternative in this case, better does not mean easier. The marriage was painful, but the divorce is crushing.
Sitting in that room filled not only with memories of my past but fears of my future, I felt sick. I felt the life get sucked out of me and I instantly had a headache and my body felt numb and tingly.
It’s amazing how connected the mind and body are. I’ve always known this but spent years of my life running from my emotions and trying to figure out how to avoid feeling them. Now that I have no choice but to feel them, I don’t enjoy it.
But I can’t run from them anymore. And I don’t want to.
A broken heart, though it feels like the end, is really the beginning. Hitting rock bottom is a gift. It is when we come to the end of ourselves and have nothing left but our broken pieces and shattered heart, that we can become real. There is no more hiding. No more running. It’s raw, it’s ugly and it’s devastating to look at.
But amidst those pieces; the splintered, jagged, stabbing pieces, there is hope. Hope of being rebuilt. Hope in renewal, strength and wisdom gained from a busted heart. You can’t go back and make the details pretty. You can’t change the story that’s already been written. But you can take a step forward and write the next chapter.
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway
There is a Japanese art form called Kintsukuroi.
The Japanese mend broken objects by aggrandizing the damage with gold. They believe that when an object has been broken and has a history, it becomes more valuable and more beautiful. I share this belief.
God is the mender of all things broken. What I absolutely love about Kintsukuroi is that you know the piece has been broken and restored. Rather than hiding the brokenness, it is accentuated with something even more valuable. The brokenness is in fact highlighted.
I believe this is me in art form.
My heart has been shattered multiple times. The path of my life has been paved by broken pieces. There have been a lot of mistakes, bad choices, and embarrassing falls. I’ve looked like a fool, injured other people, and lost all hope in redemption.
I used to think the goal was to figure out how to heal the broken pieces and to somehow live life as if there had never been any cracks. That I had to learn how to walk a smooth path and have a story of, “I once was lost but now I’m found.” While that will be a part of my story, it won’t be the whole. I don’t know that I’ll ever be totally “found.” And I’m not sure I’m supposed to.
I’m learning that broken things are often some of the most beautiful.
Today I felt broken. I felt like a piece of pottery, dropped and shattered on the floor. Not whole. Incomplete. Busted. Fragmented. Unkept. Defeated.
Rather than running from it and trying to smooth it over and make it ok, I let myself be where I am. I gave myself permission to just be hurt. To be wounded and embarrassed. To be angry, disgusted, and frustrated. To feel empty. To smash into the wall. To have fallen and to not be ready to stand back up yet.
It’s not pretty and it’s not what I planned, but it’s real. God is picking up the pieces and mending them one by one, restoring each piece with gold, making me more beautiful and more valuable than I was before.
This road is still filled with pain, and parts of it always will be. But I am not walking it alone and there is beauty in the brokenness.
When I get to the other side, I will buy a piece of Kintsukuroi art and display it proudly in my home as a reminder that though I am broken, I am not defeated. Though I fell, I got back up. Though I appeared worthless, I am worthy and valuable. Though I struggled, I made it through. Though it may not be pretty, it is beautiful.
“I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.” Kristin Armstrong