My parents divorced when I was five, or maybe four? Maybe I was six. Does it matter? I was young enough to still need somebody to hold my hand while crossing the street, yet old enough to remember crying out for Daddy when I realized he wasn’t coming home to kiss me goodnight. I was young enough to still need someone to tell me to eat my veggies, and I was old enough to…well…still need someone to tell me to eat my veggies.
I’m a paragraph into this post, and I’m already crying. I suppose that’s what this blog is all about, subjecting myself to ultimate public vulnerability so that somebody out there reading this will know they are not alone, but boy, is it hard sometimes. I’ll type a sentence, erase it thinking it makes me sound weak, and retype it exactly as it was, because being strong doesn’t mean trying to erase how you’re feeling in hopes that nobody will see you stumbling.
Life is full of slips and stumbles, but if you have the right mindset, it’s also about getting back up.
If you’ve been with me through 10 things I learned from my mom AND dad (they are two very different posts, and probably two of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written) you know that I am extremely fortunate to have had two loving parents, who may have had irreconcilable differences which made them unsuitable partners, but who were also able to put their differences aside when it came to raising their child.
Sometimes it was still messy, and painful, and confusing as all hell, because divorce goes against everything a child is supposed to understand. As functioning “adults” in society, we may not still emotionally grasp divorce, but to some degree, we can wrap out minds around the concept. In a child’s eyes watching their parents, the people that created them, explain that they just don’t love each other and that they just can’t forgive each other anymore, doesn’t register.
Blake and I have differences. For example, it drives me crazy when Blake leaves his clothes on the bathroom floor in the morning, and it drives Blake crazy when I leave the milk out. These are things that can be dealt with. In other words, they aren’t deal breakers. I have accepted that no matter how many laundry baskets I buy him, his clothes will probably still end up on the bathroom floor before he takes a shower, and no matter how close the fridge is to the counter, that very counter is probably where the milk is going to end up.
We also have deeper differences. I know it seems like Blake and I live in a Nicholas Sparks novel because we lived in different countries, traveled all over the world to be with each other when the odds were against us, and now this gorgeous Australian with an accent to die for has moved across oceans to be with me. It’s a beautiful story, but it can also be quite a struggle. We are talking two people who have grown up in completely different cultures. We are talking two people whose friends and families live in opposite hemispheres. Even though we are together, the distance always lingers, and figuring out which country we should be living and working in is far from easy. We made a promise that no matter what challenges life presented us with, we would never again go 10 months apart. Somebody is always making sacrifices. I spent a year and a half bouncing back and forth between Australia and America, studying abroad and then returning to teach. Blake has now spent a year and a half away from his loved ones. Finding long term balance is crucial and nearly impossible at the same time.
Blake is one of the most caring people I’ve ever met, raised by two parents who were clearly put on this earth to raise him and his two siblings, because from what I (along with everybody on this side of the world who has met Blake) can tell, he is gentle, kind, and everything that anybody would ever hope to find in the person they plan to spend the rest of their lives with. Blake is understanding, communicative, and at times even overly concerned with my well being, and that is probably the way he was raised. I wouldn’t change it for all the money in the world. If you had offered me that record breaking power ball ticket a few weeks ago in exchange for Blake’s thoughtfulness, without hesitation, I would say thanks but no thanks. Every time.
From a young age, when my parents were taking care of my sick brother, both working full time jobs, and were in the thick of their divorce, I learned how to negotiate my way around my own brain without interruption. I learned to think, feel, and figure things out for myself.
I had independence memorized before most children were learning to read.
I had letting go memorized before most children were learning to hold on.
Experiencing divorce and losing a sibling has taught me to be a self starter and a self solver. Sometimes, I just need solitude. I just need silence. I don’t want suggestions. I don’t want someone to force feed me answers, even if it appears that I’m searching for them. I want to figure things out inside my own head without any outside influence. This is the way that I learned to think. This is the way I sometimes STILL think. When I am hurting, I want to be left alone long enough to make peace with the struggle. Irrationally, I consider it patronizing when others try to help me, as if they don’t believe that I can work it out on my own, like some foolish algebraic equation.
When Blake is hurting or feeling lonely, I wrap my arms around him. I offer him encouraging words and together, we come up with a plan of attack to whatever challenge he’s facing. We map out pros and cons. We analyze the beast from every angle, and we find a solution.
This is where that whole balance thing I was talking about comes into play. The way I solve my problems is full of I’s and Me’s, and the way Blake solves his problems is full of we’s. Am I some selfish monster who hasn’t yet learned that being in a relationship means being one half of a whole? God, I hope not. I try to incorporate kindness and patience into every aspect of my life, from acknowledging the homeless and volunteering when I can, to practicing forgiveness and second chances. While I am sitting here circumnavigating my thoughts, Blake is trying to figure out all of the ways he can help, all the career solutions he can conjure, and all of the advice he can summon to end whatever hurt I’m feeling.
I pray every day, EVERY day, that I will never have to go through what my parents went through or what so many of my friends’ parents went through with divorce. Next to being trapped in a cage underwater with a great white shark dreaming of various ways to tear me apart, divorce is one of my biggest fears. Sometimes, Blake will hold me, and I’ll feel so complete that I can’t imagine not having this wholeness. I’m so lucky to have found that which so many people go their whole lives without. I catch myself looking at Blake when he’s sleeping, or concentrating on something, and I think oh my God, he’s actually perfect.
But here’s the thing, he’s not, and neither am I.
All I can do at the end of the day is hope that he understands that when I’m fighting his help, I need it the most.