The past year has been difficult. Life since October has, at times, felt unbearable, so painful and frightening that I have not known how to get through the next hour let alone the full day.
For reasons which will be obvious to most, I can divulge no details – other, that is, to say that, back in the Autumn, I finally had to make the sad and hurtful decision to divorce my partner.
The reasons, the ongoing legal proceedings and the likely outcome must remain confidential – and are not my purpose in this post.
It is the unexpected emotional fall-out with which I wish to concern myself today: Massive loss of trust, and a terror that others would condemn me (because they cannot see the full picture), dismiss my concerns or, even worse, blame and turn against me for doing this hugely difficult thing.
I was not, to cut a long and weeping story short, sure who, if anyone, would remain my friend, on my side, still loving me.
This is probably a very common by-product of divorce. I wouldn’t know. When I got married, it was, in my eyes, for life – and I had no intention, no future vision, of my world containing a severance of this nature. So, for all that I know that there was no other decision I could have made, I do feel a sense of failure.
There is something deeply, and atavistically, wounding about having to face the fact that some people you thought loyal, you had always seen as friends, are not, in the final analysis, prepared to support you in your long and desperate journey of deliverance; that there are those who judge you for what you are doing or, in sitting on the fence, condone all that has led to a decision no one actively wants to take.
However, it is not with these thin friendships that I wish to engage today (or ever: They have proved a point I now have to act upon); it is with the band of true friends who have been with me every step of the journey – and who have given me such love, support, care, respite and even joy during possibly the most difficult year of my life.
These people, knowing who I am, have seen, with utter clarity, that I had to do what I have done. They have never doubted my testimony or tried to argue me out of this lonely, sharp-stoned path. They have never once used emotional blackmail to wither me with guilt – and, for all these reasons, I thank them profoundly.
But there is more than that: This group of souls have, by loving and caring about me, allowed me to see glimpses of the person I had forgotten I was, have shown me that I am lovable and worthy to be a friend of others, that I do have good qualities – and, most importantly, that, when this nightmare ends (as end it must, eventually), I will still have people in my life.
I am not going to name names, though some of you will know who you are. But: To my friends in Scotland (with whom I have had such lovely stays, who have always been there for me and who gave me a lovely, exciting stocking full of presents for Christmas); to the family who live nearby (and who have been so supportive and gave me a wonderful party and gorgeous presents on my birthday, amongst many other acts of care and kindness); to people I have met through Silent Eye weekends (who have kept in touch, made me laugh, met up with me and been there to help); to relatives who have phoned at the right moment or sent a caring email; to the doctors at the local surgery who have dealt so patiently and kindly with the painful physical reaction to what’s going on; to the new friend in Weston, and to so many ex-pupils, who have lifted me above my misery and made me smile; to all of you, my sincerest thankfulness that I have such gems of friendship in my life – and that, when the road is dark and pitted with nails, you are there to light each section, hold my hand and make sure I don’t fall too often.
It is a truism, is it not? That the distressing events of our lives teach us who our real friends are (be they blood-kin or people we have befriended along the way); that divorce, like bereavement, is a great divider – and not everyone can cope; that such times bring out both the absolute best and the worst in all humans.
I am not sure whether this situation has brought out the best in me or not – and I will not know for sure until it is all over. What I do know is that I have been surprised and humbled, touched and reduced to tears of loving emotion on many an occasion – and, sad to relate, tears of probable rejection (certainly a luke-warm willingness to offer a hand) on others.
Ironically, my heart, during this long war of attrition, has both thawed and hardened. My sense of my own sanity has never been stronger or clearer – because no one goes through the financial and emotional devastation of divorce without a damn good reason. It is not something to be enacted on a whim, on the back of a trifling moment of marital discontent. Sadly, there are people in my life who choose not to believe this self-evident fact, and who judge me as if I were a capricious and spoilt madwoman, willing to destroy all at the touch of a legal button.
But, thanks to strengths I never knew I had (and which I am increasingly able to call upon) and the loving kindness of my Inner Circle, I will survive.