Who am I? Life after divorce (guest post by Jeri Walker)

It is my pleasure and delight to introduce to you Jeri Walker, from Word Bank, who has written a wonderful piece about some of the complications in life which have reflected in her journey and my own, in the last year.

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Divorce happens. But yes, there is life after divorce. Sometimes the writing is on the wall, and at other times the break comes hard and fast. My marriage ended at roughly the same time last year as Lizzi’s. Her willingness to share the arc of that huge life event brought me solace in a dark time. Here was this brave creature on the other side of the ocean publicly coming to terms with starting life over again. The only sharing I could muster were cryptic Facebook posts of quotes focusing on heartbreak and strength, not to mention status updates related to cleaning out my closets. When your spouse leaves the country twice, you sell his shit like hotcakes.

Being abandoned is an epic way for a marriage to come to an end. Sometimes husbands get into taxicabs and never come back. He made his message clear by leaving his wedding ring behind on a living room side table. The day I finally pawned it evoked a bittersweet moment when I became a country-song tableau of a woman wronged in the worst of ways. Don’t mind me, I thought as I stood at the counter. Certainly I wasn’t the first jilted woman to bring such business their way.

Just over a year later, the details are still too fresh to share in much depth. Needless to say, the whole experience left me entertaining that timeless question: Who the fuck am I?

In the adventuresome days of youth, I swore never to lose myself to a life of quiet desperation. Yet, that is exactly what happened over the course of my relationship. We met at nineteen while working a summer in Yellowstone National Park. Love came hard and fast. A few years later, after three summer seasons in Yellowstone and two winter seasons in the Everglades, we tied the knot in Las Vegas and honeymooned in a tent on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Life’s infinite possibilities abounded.

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I’ve always felt I knew myself fairly well, but I now know it’s possible to grow by leaps and bounds in one area of life and remain completely blind in others. From the beginning, it was a given neither of us wanted children. Rather, we devoted ourselves to three demanding pets. We cultivated a love of food and travel as well as the arts. Anyone on the outside looking in would readily note how close and cultured we seemed. Quite unintentionally, I made the mistake of defining myself via a relationship rather than as an individual. In the process of becoming we, I forgot about me.

In retrospect and tons of therapy sessions later, it’s gradually became clear how growing up with a severely bipolar mother conditioned me to think detachment in those closest to me was normal. I spent the first nineteen years of life trying to connect with a mother who barely acknowledged me, only to devote the next nineteen years attempting to solve the puzzle that would shed light on my husband’s aloofness. The man I loved was just never fully present.

My resilient nature is both a blessing and a curse. This existence of mine has hinged upon the ability to be self-reliant. Because I hungered for the security I never had as a child, I ended up marrying someone I essentially ended up parenting. In the end, he said one of the things he always admired most about me was that I always made the right decisions. Always. How could I have known the internal struggles he faced? Though I sensed something was amiss for years, I have come to terms that it’s easy to overlook warning signs when everything coasts along well enough at the surface.

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I tried to keep my sense of humor throughout. I would joke and tell people my life had become a mix between a Lifetime movie and the Jerry Springer show with a dash of Dr. Phil thrown in. Thank goodness for family and friends who were there to listen to my woes. Admittedly, the best revenge came in the form of how I wasted no time getting back in the dating saddle. Though loyal until the end, once betrayed, I owed him nothing. I owed it to myself to not sit around on my ass.

At the time the worst events were taking place, I was copyediting Mandi Castle’s novel Dear Stephanie. She casually mentioned it would be okay if I needed more time. Relief crashed down, and I noted the irony of how my ex was the male version of her protagonist Paige in many ways. In my pain, such an admission to a client probably wasn’t the most professional thing to do, but that’s a hard line to walk when the clientele I work with knows the power to be had by sharing personal stories.

Fear makes us behave in such illogical ways, and yet I hung onto my marriage for dear life for way too long. All I ever wanted was a safe and secure life. Even false security is better than no sense of stability at all until life comes crashing down. So many frustrated years I spent wondering why he wouldn’t open up, why he wouldn’t talk to me, why he just wouldn’t let me in even though he was clearly my best friend.

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My mantra over the years became what’s wrong with me? Turns out my issues paled in comparison to his. We all weave a narrative of the person we are and dwell in that invented past. In truth, all we have is the present. We can choose how we remember things. We can invent our past as well as our future.

By and large, I lost myself in the maze of trying to connect with two people who will most likely never find themselves. The past really is the past. Rather than dwell, my reaction was to heed the call of my old self. I didn’t crawl into a hole and think the sky was falling. I got on with life.

I may have missed out on not cultivating enough of my own interests, but I have no real regrets. My cage had to be broken open in the worst of ways in order for me to finally strike out on my own and start becoming the version of me I could have become so long ago. I may still be scared shitless every damn day, but fear no longer has a chokehold on me. I’ve got a lot of living left to do.

 

How have you dealt with life after divorce? Or perhaps you would like to share a memorable jilted woman story.

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Truth really is stranger than fiction, and it’s a long damn story. The psychological and romantic overtones of Jeri Walker’s contemporary fiction stem from growing up in the eccentric North Idaho mining town of Wallace and then later falling in love while working in Yellowstone and Everglades National Parks. The influence of a bipolar mother and Jekyll and Hyde ex populate her literary landscape. 

She and her demanding pets call the Pacific Northwest home. In the continual pursuit of finding herself, she plans to someday live in an RV or a tiny house. She dwells online at Word Bank Writing & Editing, eternally grateful to be charting a course as a freelancer. Connect with her at JeriWB.com.

Blog: Make Every Word Count http://jeriwb.com/

Amazon Author Central:  http://smile.amazon.com/Jeri-Walker/e/B006UHV4CA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1445866970&sr=1-2-ent

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60 thoughts on “Who am I? Life after divorce (guest post by Jeri Walker)

  1. Pingback: #WriteTip: How to Write a Book Blurb - JeriWB Word Bank

  2. Pingback: Narrative Identity and Photographs: An essay by Jeri Walker | JT Twissel

  3. Jeri, I have a quote on my desk that says “When one door closes, another door opens.” You certainly have demonstrated that here. This post shows you to be the strong person I’ve believed you to be since I started reading your posts. Your refusal to give in to self-pity and the courage you’ve shown in moving forward in very inspirational. Jeri, I sincerely wish you all the best. Good luck with your writing, I will continue to follow you with interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lenie, I try to be strong but some days it’s really hard. I’ve just never been one to give up and know that some things take more time than others to work out for the best. Mostly, I just remind myself that this too shall pass. Every day is full of possibilities.

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  4. Jeri, It takes great courage and strength to discuss life’s tragedies. I congratulate you on your resilience. “My cage had to be broken open in the worst of ways in order for me to finally strike out on my own…” This is so poignant, and so true in many different situations in life.

    My heart aches for anyone dealing with loss. I’m not a divorcee, but I’m a child of divorce. I’ve seen the struggles my own mother had at accepting being a single parent. How she felt as though her fairy tale was pulled out from under her, and unfortunately, never really recovered from it.

    Best of luck to you, Jeri. I know you’ll find that self of yours, if you haven’t already, and love isn’t far behind. You have too much to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jeri, I applaud you for your courage and for the beauty of your words. It’s not easy to put yourself out there artistically, period. What you’ve done is even more revealing, as biography is. I hear the still-lingering pain through your words, yet can taste your determination to become the “you” you deserve.

    I, too, am going through a divorce, though with vastly different details. My perspective, as I move through this labyrinthine landscape, is that Tom Wolfe was right: you can’t go home again. I will never again be that person I was and could have become. She’s a ghost of my former self and even now the tendrils of her possibility have drifted with the wind. She simply doesn’t exist anymore. Regrets? Not a one, as the “me” I have become is the person I was always destined to be.

    Now that your cage is broken, I hope your new path is bright and clear and purposeful. And that you become besties with the person you were always destined to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeri, thanks for sharing your story. Heartbreak is gutwrenching. I related to your story about your mother to. My mom had severe depression and a drug addiction when I was growing up and it was hard to deal with. Now she is doing so much better. I am so sorry about your relationship. I say don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out . lol I am married now but I have been left to unexpectedly and without warning. Out of this mess has become a beautiful message. Your a great person and that guy should know what he is missing. Thanks for your honesty. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Crystal, I’m sorry to hear your mother had issues that were hard to deal with too. Mine has also been doing much better in recent years. As for men who leave unexpectedly, that too, seems to be quite common. As much as I have trepidation in sharing all that’s happened, it’s a way to also reinforce how we all go through some really tough stuff and are never as alone as we think in those experiences.

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  7. Can we identify people who turn into their parents and run scripts learned in their childhood — scripts they absorbed but barely understand — before it’s too late? So many are breathlessly charming and unaware of their damage and involuntary agenda. Sometimes past is prologue. Can we break the cycle?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Outstanding writing… an incredibly generous act of sharing a gut-wrenching personal journey. I know from my own experience, that perhaps the rainbow hasn’t reveled just yet. But it will and the pot of gold will be amazing:) I salute you… remarkable woman!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jacquie, that means alot coming from you. Just this weekend, someone asked me what you do when life doesn’t go how you’d planned it. I said I was in the middle of figuring that out, and I felt just fine saying that for the first time in a long time. Everything doesn’t have to be mapped out. It took me a long time to get comfortable with that.

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  9. Jeri, your story is both heartbreaking and inspirational. Thank you for sharing it, and to Lizzi for posting it. When I first met you in Seattle, I was impressed by your quiet strength. No one knew that you’d have such an opportunity to put it to the test, although it’s not surprising to me how you’ve forged a new path and claimed this phase of your life with such courage and gusto. The best is yet to come, hey? The best is yet to come. xo

    Liked by 2 people

      • Lizzi, your blog felt like the best place to start. Much like Laura’s blog where I first shared writing about my mother’s mental illness. Last night, my nonfiction critique group read and discussed this post after we finished our longer piece up for the night. I still didn’t go into specifics, but now they are committed to helping me see the writing through as I write more detailed pieces.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s so wonderful that you have HUGE support from other writers, both professionally and personally. I think in some cases the specifics can be best left unsaid, or at least drip-fed rather than allowed out in a deluge. It’s a tough balance and one I confess I haven’t always got right myself, but it’s worth doing the writing in order to establish (for me, in my own mind, if nothing else) the heritage and shape and implications of Now.

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    • Laura, all kinds of great stuff is to come. In so many ways, this is just a chance to get to know myself even better. I decided a long time ago I better like myself since I have to spend so much time with her. That was a good choice given the course my life has taken. This time around, I’m going to be damn sure to set myself on a better path. Years of perspective on my side is shaping up to be a beautiful things.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thx so much for opening up to us, Jeri. Life is sure filled with peaks and valleys, isn’t it? I’m glad to hear you have a new relationship that has good communication. Communication was lacking in my 1st marriage, too. It’s so different in chapter 2 of my life. All the best to you in forging a new life for yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Doreen, having met and then married so young I can now see how I never had the chance to meet enough guys to really tell what it’s like to find one who can open up. I have such great conversations now that I never had with my ex. I really do believe the right people enter our lives at the right time.

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  11. Jeri, these are such words of wisdom, “We all weave a narrative of the person we are and dwell in that invented past. In truth, all we have is the present. We can choose how we remember things. We can invent our past as well as our future.”

    What broke my heart is how he left his ring on the side table in the living room for you to find and discover he’d betrayed and abandoned you.

    Through the heartbreak, your strength shines through. Who are you now? A brave, inspiring and amazing woman!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jagoda, he later countered how he left his ring with how I had stopped wearing mine at some point in the two months leading up to him skipping town. Looking back, I can’t see how things could have happened any other way, but I certainly hope I’ve experienced my share of upheaval for the next umpteenth years to come.

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  12. Pingback: Who am I? Life after divorce (guest post by Jeri Walker) | geraldfreeman

  13. Thanjs so much for sharing this Jeri. Although you had s particularly difficult situation to deal with, I think it’s not uncommon for the devotion to ‘we’ to take hold – especially at a young age. I had a similar ‘we’ experience & at that age & although my break up with my husband at the time was amicable the sense if ‘me’ was completely list & made the breakup pretty devastating. You’ve done an awesome job of putting your life back together. You truly are a very strong woman & I really admire what you’ve accomplished over the last year. Go Jeri!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kathy, if anything the whole ordeal necessitated I get serious about the freelancing. It’s been scary to take the full-time plunge, but I’m happy I did. All of this has also made me once again feel like writing. I have so many things I want to say to the world, but I was second-guessing myself for too long. I know I have a voice. It’s time to start using it. I think some of my old writing voice got lost to the “we.”

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  14. It’s funny how many times the hurtful things are the stuff of writing. Experience=depth. Then again, it’s amazing how often great good comes from what at first seems bad. Thank you for sharing yourself, Jeri.

    I love this article about the Japanese art of Kintsugi: the repair of cracked ceramic with gold: https://dicklehman.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/kintsugi-gold-repair-of-ceramic-faults-2/ The idea of it helped me put life in perspective a few times. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • DV, I love those pics of the repaired pottery. We all grow stronger and more beautiful at our broken parts. Too often I tried so hard not to get more broken parts, but that plan has totally backfired. On the other hand, all of this has made me really reassess how I’m going about living my life. There’s a Vonnegut quote about continually jumping off cliffs and finding ourselves on the way down. I want to jump off a lot more cliffs in the coming years 😉

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  15. It’s sad but all too true that all too many of us have experienced divorce. It probably shouldn’t surprise me when I hear of the ways people choose to end relationships but it does. My sister-in-law was just weeks away from delivering her first child when her husband walked out and left a note saying he decided he really didn’t want a “kid” after all. My own split was less dramatic, but jarring because it was 3 weeks before Christmas. Just days after we separated I ran into him with his new girlfriend which he happily introduced to me right there in the mall. I’m not sure who had a more stunned look on their face – me or her! Thank you for sharing your story Jeri because it helps to remind others that they aren’t alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marty, I’m just now starting to share my writing on this event in a critique group. It’s a big step to get our stories out there, but then it becomes so obvious how most people have gone through the wringer in one way or another. As I share more details, I really do hope my story can help others realize they aren’t as alone as they think.

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  16. Wow, Jeri. How incredibly moving this significant life event is. I am so sorry to hear all that happened. While I’ve not experienced this situation and never hope to, I’ve had some significant life altering events with family members, all in one year. From what you have shared about your divorce and that year of mine, I am reminded of one particular bible verse in Psalm 40:2 in which I found comfort. “He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” And you have said something similar in saying “I didn’t crawl into a hole and think the sky was falling. I got on with life.” Thanks for letting us feel this event through your outstanding writing.

    It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lizzi.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I married a man who was the opposite of me thinking we’d make a well-rounded pair. It was a complete disaster almost from the start. People told me I looked ten years younger after my divorce!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jeri, you are such a gifted writer. I know you often focus on editing, but don’t get too busy to keep writing! There were so many quotes in here that I loved, that it’s hard to pick just one or two. I’d love to hear more of your story, and I’m sure your honesty will be helpful to a lot of women in similar positions. Although I know you wouldn’t have chosen this turn, your path ahead looks brighter than ever.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Meredith, thank you for all of the kind words. Now that life is starting to settle into a new pace and my freelancing is going fairly well, I do intend to get more writing done. Probably not on my novel, but rather with shorter pieces for wonderful blogs like Lizzi’s and magazines as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Very brave, can totally relate and I’m so sorry. My once wonderful tugboat capt husband of 22 years came home in Dec. from being out to sea and told me he had fallen “in love” with his cook and I have been in shock and unable to function ever since. I had no idea. We were close, we had so much fun together. Midlife crisis or just bad behavior? So now I just GOT IT and finally understand and I will be filing for divorce. There’s no future, he doesn’t know if he wants to be married, not sure if he ever wanted to be married. How nice for him. Therapy has helped for sure, but the pain is beyond anything I’ve ever endured.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. This resonated with me so much it was painful.
    I, too, have lost myself in a maze of trying to connect with various people. I find my adulthood too often repeats my childhood. I’m not doing that anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Samara, as I find myself connecting with new people it’s such a different experience because I have so much more perspective now. It’s so hard to recognize trouble spots while living (and surviving) through them. But now I’m kind of excited about getting to know this new version of myself.

      Liked by 3 people

  21. Wow… I was holding my breath and realized I’d stopped breathing entirely mid-way through this post. It was raw, real and I am so glad you are coming out the other end of this experience a stronger and wiser woman. (With plenty to write about…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Candy, there’s no doubt the whole ordeal will fuel my writing for years to come. I realize more and more now many of the reasons I struggled with the novel I’ve been working on for eons now (well I haven’t touched it in over a year now) is because of all of the ways my relationship was dragging me down. The split has brought some much-needed clarity, even if it meant getting my heart stomped on.

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  22. Life after divorce? Its been 35 years and I’m still seeing new things about that process. The writing can be on the wall for a long time before, seen but pushed aside in sheer stubborn determination not to be the one to mention it, let alone act, and when the other person moves out and then the papers come it is still unnerving and disorienting. The question is the same, “Who am I now?” But then, at various levels, that’s always the question when we let ourselves be conscious of change. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bob, your mention of stubborn determination rings so true with me. I often wonder why I lasted as long as I did, but generally try not to ask why. They weren’t all bad years, but someday it’s hard to remember the good as I continue to grow and move on.

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  23. A brave share. Full of heartache..but strength and hope too. For him to just..disappear like that. What a cowardly thing to do. Devastating, at the time, for you. I imagine. I hope things continue to improve for you. Kimmie.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Wow. Jeri, your story is one of amazing strength. My heart hurts for you. That’s pretty freaky (disturbing?) that a character from a book you’re editing reminds you of your ex to a ‘T’. Therapy really cracked things open for you it sounds like. It’s amazing the influence our parent(s) have on who and why we marry the first time. You’re becoming. Becoming is one of the best things about divorce. You’re brave to share your story so soon as well. One year is a short time frame in the big picture so good for you!!

    Thanks, Lizzie for sharing Jeri’s story. It’s an inspiring one for sure. Have a great week ahead.

    Liked by 3 people

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