“What are you most afraid of?” my friend Mike asked me last year. And without hesitation I answered: “Being misunderstood.”
And so it is a startling place in which I now find myself: misunderstood in voice and action at an alarming, uncomfortable rate—by others on occasion, but most often by myself.
Shortly after the advent of 2015, my marriage of 10 years, 7 months, and 22 days ended.
And, despite all schadenfreude and conventional wisdom, there was no smoking gun. There were no fingers to point, no black and white, no right or wrong.
There was just the leaving, and the grieving, and a terrible, tremendous sense of displacement.
It’s in this humid airspace between devastated and okay that my heart now hovers, simultaneously defeated and emboldened, forlorn and hopeful, uncomfortably befuddled and magnificently certain.
I had imagined an insightful, provocative sharing of this story. But as the weeks pass and life moves on, I realize I have no insight to impart, no provocation to offer. Because divorce is a baffling, unanticipated thing. It is the total undoing of decades of expectations and assumptions. And it is intensely, overwhelmingly personal, this dismantling of a life that only two people on the planet are qualified to analyze and interpret.
Thankfully, divorce is also the rebirth of opportunity. It is a fresh start, a blank canvas.
Divorce may be my most elaborate defeat, but it is also my boldest move.
My life is overflowing with change and complexity these days. There are the simple logistics: lease an apartment, buy a bed, separate the bank accounts, and divvy up the belongings. There are gut-wrenching conversations and heart-rending decisions. And there is transformation—so much wonderful, terrible, incredible transformation. I am the goo that is the evolution of caterpillar into butterfly, unidentifiable and miraculous, devoid of shape and pulsing with promise.
I am perfectly imperfect, doing my best to own my shit, and fighting to embrace every ounce of joy and hope and love and laughter that life has in store for me.
I know I will misunderstand and be misunderstood. I will overthink and overananalyze and question everything and doubt my own heart. And there will be those who think they are clever, convinced they know something sensational and dirty, certain I could have tried harder, should have worked at it longer.
But “harder” is relative, and “longer” is conditional. And this wobbly ground? This blurry roadmap? It merely is. It is the unanticipated twist in my path that will mark me, for worse and for better and for good.
I do not know how or why or when or who or where. But I know this: I will be okay—exceptional, even. Because I am still breathing, still making, still living, still loving.
My greatest fear has thrown itself upon me, tooth and talon. And I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
Featured image by Kelly Sikkema