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I will not be sharing much more directly about my divorce out of respect for my children and their father. And well, because that is a past chapter and it is time to focus on the new chapter!
I will say this though, divorce is a loss on so many levels. Lost partner. Lost family. Lost friend and friends. Lost dreams, a lot of dreams. It is a loss that is not truly or widely spoken about. It is often dismissed, the grief that comes with divorce. But let me tell you, it is real and deep and it doesn’t just go away overnight. Or after six years. Grief shows up when you least expect it to and when you don’t want it to.
It shows up in aisle four at Home Goods – when you are shopping to pass the time without your children and you see a serving platter for entertaining and think how perfect it would be, only to remember, “Wait, I no longer have a husband to entertain with or really people to invite over.”
At a soccer game – when it is still early and awkward and uncomfortable and want to share joy over a son’s goal like when you were married.
In the grocery store – when you go to pick up something you used to get for your partner only to remember that ingredient is no longer needed in the house.
When scrolling Facebook – and you see all the 15-year anniversaries, all the odes to wives and memories built and memories to come, and you look at your finger and no longer see your wedding band.
When cleaning up old boxes – and you find the love letters you wrote to each other back in the day and wonder, how did we lose this?
I could go on and on. In the minivan. At the doctor. On the couch watching a movie. You name a place and time, and grief over my divorce has probably come unexpectedly and unwanted. Still.
Yes, the loss of a marriage and the dreams that came with it cuts deep.
And it is more than loss. With the loss of my marriage, came a shitload of shame, and again, more feelings of failure. I felt embarrassed by my divorce, by being divorced. People avoid the subject like it’s the plague. Very few people acknowledged it. And when I tried to talk about it, the conversation was often short. So, I didn’t really talk about it a lot, still don’t fully share the depths of pain and sadness and shame. It was, it still is lonely at times.
I felt like a true failure and honestly, still do. How could I do this to my kids? How could I have not kept my marriage going? How come I am the only one I know who doesn’t know how to have a successful marriage? How come I couldn’t keep the one thing going I dreamed of in my life for so long? How come I couldn’t make it work?
My divorce gutted me and somedays I feel like the knife is still in there, twisting away, even though it was the right thing for us and our family. Truly.
But that doesn’t take away the pain.
And it certainly didn’t give me strength back in 2016 when I was trying to return to being The Orange Rhino. Or in 2017. Or in 2018.
While I started to feel better in 2018 and really pondered getting back to writing, I had come to the point where I worried it was the point of no return. You know what I mean? The point when someone calls you and you forget to call them back and then too much time has passed and you feel bad/weird/awkward calling? (Or is that just a me thing?)
I didn’t know how to come back AND I was scared to come back. Scared of looking silly for disappearing, scared of more negative comments, scared of well, let’s be honest, writing.
This past summer. I was enjoying the beautiful day, walking along, looking at the flowers and the blue sky, feeling the warm sun against my face when all of a sudden, bamn! I was crying. Something was said in the podcast that triggered a totally unrelated thought. I was crying because it hit me – not only did I not show up as The Orange Rhino because I didn’t know how to after so many years, but also, to be brutally honest, I was more than empty inside back then, part of me had felt dead inside.
The part that was alive was mustering up all energy it could to be the best parent that I could be in the moment, under the circumstances. The part that was alive was just trying to survive, just trying to stay afloat. The part of me that was alive was friggin’ exhausted. To say the very least. And the part of me that was alive, damn well knew that if I started journaling, if I started writing about my pain and sadness and grief, that I would sink.
I couldn’t afford to sink. I had to be present for my lovely, loving boys. I simply had to keep so much bottled up so that I get out of bed every day, so that I could show up. I simply could not admit to my full range of feelings or I wouldn’t be able to show up in the way I wanted or in the way my kids needed.
Now mind you, the way I was showing up wasn’t even that beautiful. But I showed up. And I learned what the word “grace” really meant and what the saying “I am doing the best I can in this moment, right now, that I can” really meant.
I used that word and that saying, consistently. And I showed up, consistently. (And maybe that is why that parenting advice about being consistent with boundaries and rules and consequences and all bothers me – because sometimes just being consistent in showing up is a feat in itself, a feat worthy of being honored.)
But, with all of this sh*t bottled up, and despite giving myself grace and knowing I was doing my best? the part that was alive and showing up? Well, I was yelling. There were days that I didn’t honestly even have the energy to change or care because I was yelling as little as I could and that was my best – in the moment. After the negative comments about my ability to not yell,
So yeah, writing scared me. Writing meant truths would come out and I didn’t want to face them. I didn’t want to write about my yelling given the commentary about me being a fraud and a failure and I didn’t want to write about my aching heart, my broken spirit, my grief. So, I avoided writing like the plague, just as talking about my divorce was ignored, perhaps even more. But I avoided more than writing. I avoided The Orange Rhino altogether.
Writing is only part of The Orange Rhino world. I could have very easily have showed up and posted old tips, old stories. I could have very easily have still supported all of you and enjoyed that immensely. Except for one thing, one major road block.
The Orange Rhino didn’t just remind me of someone who is determined and choosing not to charge with words, but to remain calm, loving and warm when provoked and triggered. No, at that point in time, The Orange Rhino reminded me of all the harsh words that had been thrown at me and it readily reminded me of my marriage and well, now my divorce.
My EH was woven into so many memories of The Orange Rhino. The note he wrote after I completed day 1 of not yelling. The orange flowers I received on day 365 of not yelling. The frequent texts reminding me I could do it, that I just had to get the kids to school and then the day would be easier (oh did mornings suck when they were little!!) The book launch party when “Yell Less, Love More” came out. The time in our lives when we were a family of six. My marriage ended as The Orange Rhino community had already slowly started fading. The two endings were infused together in my mind. How could I return to one, when the other I couldn’t return to? So, again, fear won and I stayed away.
I even stayed away from the color orange for a long while. Truly hated seeing it. I hated seeing my book, The Orange Rhino image, my blog. As I sit here now, writing, figuring it all out as I type, I think it was easier to hate the color orange than it was to focus on what I hated about my divorce. I could close the door on The Orange Rhino and be done. I couldn’t close all doors to my EH because we still co-parent together. So, I closed The Orange Rhino door, kind of.
The Orange Rhino wouldn’t let that door fully slam shut. Instead, The Orange Rhino stayed in my mind and quietly listened and just wouldn’t leave me be, even when I wanted it to! I wanted to shut down the blog, but couldn’t bring myself to. I wanted to throw out the orange clothes, but something made me hold on. I wanted to let go of the trademark on The Orange Rhino, but part of me refused. No, The Orange Rhino firmly and confidently remained on my mind all these years, even after all the negativity I threw around. Yes, The Orange Rhino confidently remained calm, patient and loving despite being triggered and provoked by me.
Whoa! Hhmm, I just freakin’ realized that. Goosebumps, seriously. Full circle moment and I am at a loss for words. The Orange Rhino, Orange Rhino’d me!
So, I guess, The Orange Rhino never really left after all. The Orange Rhino stayed so that when I was ready, I could stop yelling at myself and my life so much.
So that I could return energized and determined to remain calm, loving and warm when provoked by my children and now also, when provoked by my life and…myself.
AND so that I could return to this amazing community. Thank you for still being here and for reading my story, for giving me a place to put it. I feel better already just getting it out. I feel lighter and freer. Again, thank you.