My Facebook inbox has been overflowing in the months since my separation and eventual divorce became more or less public knowledge. The well wishes and words of encouragement I’ve received from unexpected sources have truly been a godsend at times, and I have found a few unlikely allies among friendly acquaintances. Among those messages are a couple dozen or so of a different kind that I have hesitated to talk about in my “public voice” for a number of reasons…and then I remembered just why I have this job.
I have been a writer in the practical sense for as long as I can remember. As early as kindergarten, my head was full of characters and story ideas, and at about the age of seven, I started dragging my mother’s electric typewriter (in a suitcase) from the hall closet to my room, where I let my imagination come to life. Most of my childhood was spent either with my nose in a book or bent over that typewriter, telling the stories in my head. When I was finished, I would read over what I had written, congratulate myself on a job well done, and promptly throw away the finished product.
You see, even though the brown-haired girl on the page was bold and always brave, I was not…I was almost 30 before anyone other than a teacher read anything I had written…unless you count the papers I occasionally wrote for cash in high school and college. Talking myself into pursuing legitimate freelance jobs was a long, arduous conversation, until finally someone reminded me that there was a reason that this comes naturally to me, and it probably wasn’t just for my own amusement or to secure A’s for a handful of lazy, poorly-rounded math and science majors. Maybe I had something to say.
When I finally began to share scenes from my life on a blog, I realized the quiet girl who was afraid of her own shadow had been pushed behind her bolder alter ego…not only that, but people seemed to like her even more. The Quiet One made an appearance again when my marriage started to go off the rails. Very few people knew just how much we were struggling. Who wants to admit that her once-charmed existence is hanging in the balance? I didn’t. Who wants to admit that they’ve failed? Not me!
I was wrong. My Facebook inbox proves it, with messages like this one, from a girl on the other side of the country, whom I haven’t even met in real life:
“In your article you wrote, 'Quite simply, I often feel like a failure. I never thought I would be here.' Not that I want anyone else to feel like I do, but I'll be damned if you didn't hit that dead on. I don't tell anyone else what's really going on or how I really feel because of that. I just go day by day doing my normal 'housewife' routine and just tell myself that in a couple months it will all be different.”
And this one, from a girl I haven’t seen in almost 20 years:
“I have a question for you….. How'd you decide to finally call it quits? It's just not working here, and I don’t know what to do for the benefit of my girls…”
There are more like it…girls like me who are struggling and don’t want anyone to know. I should’ve been writing THEN, when I was in the thick of it, rather than talking about it in hindsight later…but it’s better than nothing. Just don’t misunderstand me. I am no one’s inspiration. I am not the poster girl for divorce. Divorce sucks, and I don’t recommend it. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I miss having my family together. I miss the person I married…but once I realized that person really no longer existed, I knew what I had to do, and I’m okay with it.
I’m not trying to write a manual. I screw up all the time. I did when I was still married, and I still do now that I’m on my own. I’m not writing about it because I think I’ve got it figured out. I’m doing it so everyone else knows they’re not alone. I’m writing about it for all those girls who have confided their own struggles to me. I write about it because I’m just like them.