I rarely have of those nights any more. You know the ones I mean… where no matter what you do, sleep refuses to come and your mind tumbles wildly through the night hours. Not like in the early days after my husband left me, where night after night, week after week, sleep was elusive and, when it came, filled with painful dreams. But I experienced one tonight. And now, here I am, at 5am, sitting at my desk with a cup of tea, staring out onto a dark bleak snowy landscape waiting for the dawn to break and banish the night.
It makes sense why it all came to a head tonight. It was Valentine’s Day on Friday and all that online gushing about how wonderful other people’s spouses or partners are can kind of get to you after a while. And then on Saturday I hosted an annual winter party that for fifteen years my ex and I hosted together, so perhaps it was only natural that he’s been on my mind a lot.
When I couldn’t sleep tonight, I picked up my iPad and started scrolling through my Facebook page. I came across a quote that made me immediately think about her.
You know who I mean.
So, given that I was already on Facebook, I checked out her page for the first time in about a year. She’s made it private, so I can only see one or two photographs, but I recognise many of the places she’s posted photos of – places I used to go with my ex and where he’s now taking her.
Of course, I checked out his page too, and any chance of getting sleep was gone, because all I could think about were the good times we had together, and question for the millionth time, why did this have to happen? Why did my family have to break?
And then the bad times rushed back in, before, during, and after he left me. Ugly times. Times when I figured out the spot in the river I would slide into should things become too hard to cope. But it was my family – my broken family – that stopped me from taking that final step. My kids had been devastated enough by his actions. I couldn’t – wouldn’t – add to their pain by an irrevocable action of my own.
Over the past almost five years I have healed. It took time, and you know what…? My life is richer, fuller, and yes, happier now that it was before. I was looking through some photo albums the other day and noticed that in the photos taken before my ex left me he was smiling, but I wasn’t. After the divorce, I started smiling. I think that was deliberate at first. I didn’t want to record on a photograph the pain I was feeling inside, but over the years the smiles have become natural.
And then I clicked on one of my favourite websites – Brainpickings. Sometimes what you need to see is right there in front of you. The article was entitled 13 Life -Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings, and although all 13 lessons touched me, it was the last one – Forgiveness – that really hit home.
13. In any bond of depth and significance, forgive, forgive, forgive. And then forgive again. The richest relationships are lifeboats, but they are also submarines that descend to the darkest and most disquieting places, to the unfathomed trenches of the soul where our deepest shames and foibles and vulnerabilities live, where we are less than we would like to be. Forgiveness is the alchemy by which the shame transforms into the honor and privilege of being invited into another’s darkness and having them witness your own with the undimmed light of love, of sympathy, of nonjudgmental understanding. Forgiveness is the engine of buoyancy that keeps the submarine rising again and again toward the light, so that it may become a lifeboat once more.
The ending of my marriage might have started my personal submarine descent into those dark trenches, with tonight being one of those long dark nights of the soul, but it has been – and will continue to be – the love and support of family and friends that has allowed me to resurface stronger than ever.
I haven’t forgiven him – or her – yet and I’m not sure I ever will. Not completely. They caused too much pain. Too much darkness in my life. But…
It’s still almost two hours before official sunrise, but my heart feels lighter already.