I dunno. It’s all pretty good. Sort of. They say it’s the new normal but nothing about it feels normal. I recently texted to a friend.
What would normal look like to you? Married again? She responded back.
The first weekend after I filed for divorce that I didn’t have Bella was the worst weekend of my life. I laid on my living room floor aside the fireplace and time passed in slow-motion as I stared at the wall. I made one attempt at life and it was my laundry. I pulled out a load, folded it, put it away and when I arrived back aside the fireplace I checked the clock. Seven minutes had passed. Seven. That was it. I laid there both as a mother who had in some way lost a child and in some way a widow who had lost a spouse. Divorce is a death. I had lost both child and husband, and in that, I had lost my family. There was an undeniable void.
I figured I’d do better the following weekend when I had her. That proved just as hard. With Bella for the weekend, I felt like a babysitter. It felt like a job, a chore (with no pay). It was just me to decide if we should go to Panera or not. It was just me watching her do funny things with no one to glance over at and make eye contact so as to together acknowledge the beauty and hilarity of a four year old. I was so broken with no energy or life to offer. I dreaded having to show up and take care of someone when I couldn’t even take care of myself.
I made myself a rule that I couldn’t go to bed before 9:00PM those first few months.
8:57, 8:58, 8:59… I’d watch the clock tock, then hop into bed as soon as I my permitted time ticked. I had survived another night.
Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself. This is one day at a time, my pastor reminded me. I quckly learned it wasn’t just day to day, I was surviving minute by by minute, breath to breath.
Kaylee, people come out of these things one of two ways. They either are bitter and angry. Or they let it completely transform them into kinder gentler people, my coworker told me one morning early on after I filed.
I’d never done divorce before. I had no idea what it would look and feel like. And I didn’t know much other than slowly I had lost myself and was no longer someone I liked or a person I wanted to continue to be. So I decided to give myself space and permission to fall apart, to allow God to completely unravel me so that I could be put back together again into something a lot more the-me he had designed me to be.
Ironically, the very first thing I felt I should do was to give up church for the summer. I knew I needed to seek God in my own kind of way. I needed to find my own space for grief - to stand before my creator where I could yell, and scream, and question, and let the tears pour down my face. I didn’t want to do all that sitting in a church pew; lest people think I’d been overcome by the Holy Ghost. For the most part my plan for solitude was a success. Except that one time where I sat on a bench staring at sand dunes sobbing only to turn to see a runner staring at me. The music of my headphones had drowned out the sound of his feet beating on the path. I quickly shared my story in hopes it would save the moment’s embarrassment as I used my hands to wipe away the tears of vulnerability. With hands on his hips, as he tried to gather his breath, he shared the death of his brother two weeks prior. And just like that, our souls found solace.
I also gave up cooking for three months. Easy Mac would suffice.
I responded to emails only when I could.
I called people back when it felt right to, not when I felt I had to.
It was a season of giving up everything I had known and thought I knew. And at times, that big empty void teased that it might just have the ability to consume me. But I pressed on in the belief of something more on the other side.
But for all that I told myself I didn’t have to do, I did do ONE thing. After those two weekends I decided I wasn’t going to do either of those again. I learned that my life had forever changed. Life as I knew it was gone. Completely gone. My world was shattered and I had no idea how to rebuild it. The only thing I knew to do was to “NOT do that again.”
So I planned one thing each day to look forward to. That was it. That was the only expectation I had of myself. Emails could wait, texts weren’t going anywhere, the world could go on without Kaylee Page. The only thing I had to do was make one thing a day happen in my life. And then let pain do its work.
I wandered out into the desert, sat myself down and set up camp. But the thing I learned about deserts is that they can actually become a certain kind of cozy. I recently read the following:
"Sometimes we are in the in-between for so long that we don't know how to leave. We've lived without an exit-strategy, without vision for a future that is healthy and whole, and leaving somehow becomes harder than staying. The desert has become our friend; the waiting has become our home. Why venture into a bright, shiny new place when we have become really good at living in the dark?"
It was my friends words what would normal look like to you? That called me out of my desert of wandering and searching. I looked back at the past year and saw that each new day where I had one new thing was just the beginning of my heart learning to beat again - but this time to a whole new rhythm.
I’d been in the in-between for so long that I didn’t even see that my new normal was emerging, a new life I had been creating all along. Of course it didn't feel normal because new never feels normal - it's new. I now read. I color. I walk. I find fun creative ways to love others on my weekends without Bella. I now swing on swing sets, I build sandcastles on the shores of Lake Michigan and I giggle late night giggles on my weekends with Bella. I've learned to fall in love with my life and I practice each day at loving myself.
It was a year where a lot of things died off, but I now see that the space carved out was space for my beautiful new normal: which I've found, has nothing to do with being married.