There are many titles I have been taught to wear in my life -- daughter, sister, aunt, wife and graduate -- but I never thought I would add one more to the list. Divorcee. This article is NOT being written because this is a title that I am proud of and definitely NOT something I ever expected to happen, but it happened.
The purpose of this piece is to relate to those who are going through or have gone through a divorce to know that you are not alone in this world, because the aftermath of a failed marriage can be the loneliest chapter of your life. I now find myself picking up the shattered pieces of my own life. I am trying to put all the broken fragments back together so I have a reason to keep moving forward.
Divorce is a word synonymous with failure in our culture. However, unlike failing an exam because you didn't prepare enough or froze in a moment of high anxiety -- this type of failure involves someone failing you, as well as you failing yourself. Besides the occasional calculus assignment and my first driving test, growing up I never failed anything in my life. I was raised to never give up on anything and dedicate myself completely to everything that I chose to pursue. Growing up in North American society, you are also groomed to never settle for less than you deserve. How do you go about reconciling these two core ideals when broken promises and mismatched values imprison you in a life plagued with unhappiness.
Taking the first steps towards a divorce, the greatest challenge becomes finding new purpose for yourself when such a large part of the adult you have become revolves around nurturing and taking care of someone else. No matter what your circumstances may be, not having my spouse as part of my life feels like I am missing a limb. I can only compare it to trying to learn to walk without a leg, figuring out how to maneuver through life without my hands or see where the path will lead without my eyes. Even though physically I am fine, the loss can be emotionally crippling.
If you know someone that has gone through or is going through a divorce, here are some important things to consider. First and foremost, both parties involved need time to mourn for large scale loss. For me, it was not just the end of a romantic relationship. It also meant dealing with the loss of a network of friends and family that took over a decade to love and build trust. Sometimes you will instinctively pick up the phone to gossip with someone or share good news and suddenly realize that person can no longer hold a place in your life. No matter how much you care for the people connected to your ex -- let's face it. Unless there are kids involved, loyalty rules all and everyone connected to both of you will always pick a side. There are no words that can describe the pain that follows, so be sympathetic to this situation.
In South Asian culture, the stigma of divorce can shatter a woman's reputation. No matter how much you have accomplished in your life, being labeled as a divorcee carries the connotation in our culture that you have failed at fulfilling your duties as a wife, despite the truth that resonates at the core of the breakup. Thankfully, I have been blessed with an elaborate, strong family that have gone out of their way to make me feel supported and loved. Although they all value the sanctity of marriage, they have placed my happiness and well-being over everything else. All the strength I have been able to muster over this entire ordeal comes from them.
And when you are going through such an epic struggle, you will quickly find that some people will not be strong enough to be there for you in your darkest hour. They will not be able to handle seeing you weak and broken and may need to take a step back from you, leaving you feeling abandoned. Don't worry, if they are worth it, they will return. And if they don't, they are not strong enough to be there for you in the times that lie ahead. So no matter how much it hurts, take a deep breath and release their essence from your life. You will be ok without them since you are recreating a world of your own. As Socrates once said ; "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
It is no secret that after a divorce many people will inadvertently treat you like you are used goods. Learning to believe in your own merits and stay positive is extremely difficult when the little voice in your head asks -- who will want to love someone who has already belonged to someone else? Who wants to choose me as a mother for their children when I have already been someone else's wife? I may have scars from a failed marriage but I also know what it feels like to be adored and loved. We loved each other very much at one point and that connection once made me feel like anything was possible. I try my best to hold on to that feeling and I choose to believe that someone will love me again and this time, it will not fail.
Trust me when I say that a failed marriage was never part of the plan. Physically and mentally you come to a point in your life when every fiber of your body is screaming to be a mother, caregiver and protector of your own. Instead, I was viciously thrown back into the thick of singledom. It has been a process to focus on enjoying the simple things in life and learn how to pick myself up and just keep moving forward. So I paste a brilliant smile on my face, get dressed up, and force myself out the door to engage in a whirlwind of vibrant conversations- one after the other. Throwing around my opinions and laughter like water nourishing thirsty flowers, but all the while- deep inside - my brain circles around the same question. How did I get here? How does love fail?
The only answer that I can come to terms with right now is that "We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us". It may seem like just another cheesy Facebook quote on a single girl's wall, but these words provide me with hope. And when you have lost a marriage, broken a sacrament and find yourself staring at the blank canvas that used to hold a clear picture of your future, even the smallest amount of hope becomes absolutely priceless.
One day shortly after we decided to separate, I was told by my ex that he knew I would be fine because I am a strong and resilient woman. I had to really reflect on that word. Resilience is defined as the ability to recover quickly from difficult situations. However, I think that LOVE is something you should never have to recover from. It should be all consuming, inspiring and the type of relationship that pushes you to be better than your best. True love never ends. So if this marriage is something difficult that I now have to recover from, I should have never taken part in it in the first place. You should never have to be a perpetual pillar of strength in the eyes of one who loves you. Vulnerability makes us human. The desire to instinctively protect your partner in their darkest moments demonstrates that your capacity to love is limitless. Resilience and strength shouldn't be necessary in the face of true love. This is what I choose to believe.
In the midst of a divorce, it is easy to get lost trying to find the happiness that you tried to force in your marriage. But I have learned that the first step is to find happiness in the strength and talents you possess first. I had a difficult time reconciling the advice to become 'comfortable being alone', but decided to modify that advice to find joy in doing things that do not depend on others. Even those who love you may fail you in life, but when you do what you love to do, nothing can interfere with the satisfaction you will obtain. My saving grace through this entire process has been discovering a creative outlet to get lost in- something all consuming that has allowed me to channel this tidel wave of emotions into something positive. For me, this is writing poetry, essays, and articles. They say that it can be therapeutic to lose yourself in the things that you love to do- but sometimes that is where you find yourself too. The challenge is to discover the inner strength to believe that even if you don't have a spouse to love you, you have found something that gives you purpose to wake up each day and try again.
I am slowly learning to live life standing alone, without a safety net. Trying to leap into new situations despite my past, without fear of being hurt, bruised, ashamed or looking back with regret. Instead of living my life by planning every step, I am finding comfort in being able to let life unfold as I try to feel every moment and embrace being alive, with the rollercoaster of experiences and emotions that come with it. And I have also learned that as a single woman, there are some hard truths that I need to face -- Maybe I will never find a love that I don't have to settle for. Maybe I am not meant to have the children that my body yearns to protect. But as long as I keep writing, I know I will leave something behind to help those who find themselves faced with the same obstacles in life. Maybe my words will be my only legacy. But at least now, I am free to write my own destiny.
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