Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.
–Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
It feels like I have sat down to write this post hundreds of times. Then deleted every word. Censoring, editing, worrying, consternating. How do I tell the story of my divorce? It is a story I’d like to think I’m writing for you, but in many ways it is a story I’m writing for myself—and part of the editing of the story is my attempt to understand and make meaning of how my life has unfolded up to this point (I’m also reticent to let go of my perfectionistic-people-pleasing lookatmeIhave ittogether ways, more on that in a moment).
This story is the story of the undoing of the paradigm that Brooke Bergman is a perfect girl who has it all figured out and always does the “right” thing.
That’s why it’s been so hard to write. Because writing this story is a direct challenge to that paradigm—and that’s why it must be written and shared.
Everyone develops coping skills early in life based on their temperament, environmental challenges, and what works for them. I developed this method of coping with life called: follow all the rules and you won’t get hurt.
You can see how this went for me.
Part of the “following the rules” game plan involved getting married. Then college, then husband in law school, then baby, then….
Spiritual awakening (AKA divorce).
The problems that started when my ex-husband and I were engaged never resolved. They only got worse over time. Those of you who have known my ex-husband and me have probably swirled with questions and sadness and confusion. Because we looked like we had it together. We looked good in pictures. Because he was an elder in the church. Because we sent Christmas cards. But because I was afraid of disappointing everyone, I made it look good—and even believed that it was.
But I didn’t share all of my sleepless nights agonizing about how to “save my marriage” on social media. About the pit of anxiety that I lived with. About the turbulence that lived in our home. About feeling unloved and then selfish for wanting to be loved.
Until one day I wasn’t afraid anymore of everyone knowing. That things were bad. So bad we needed to get a divorce bad. So bad I’m going to risk the rejection of my entire community. So bad I’m willing to let go of the persona (i.e. crutch) I had used all my life. Because the crutch that helped me initially, turned out to be a thing that was going to grow a mind of its own and beat me silly.
Spiritual awakenings necessitate periods of wilderness, confusion, and an un-raveling of prior systems of thought. God wakes each of us up in a unique way that will either force us to give up on the poisonous accomplice we’ve been using, OR we drink more of the Zombie elixir until there is no hope for us returning to life (it is worth noting: theologically, I do NOT hold the position that God causes negative events such as illness, death, or divorce; but oftentimes it is the most excruciating events of life that cause the most profound change—pain will either break us or make us softer and more compassionate. This is the meaning of redemption).
Henri Nouwen, 20th century mystic and theologian, tells us that, “ the prayer of the heart opens the eyes of our soul to the truth of ourselves as well as to the truth of God. The prayer of the heart challenges to hide absolutely nothing” (The Way of the Heart). Many of you saw the gnawing emptiness that I couldn’t hide in pretty pictures—it appeared in tension, irritability, and judgmental attitudes. I felt a dysthymia that didn’t lift until the relationship ended—until I was congruent—until my truth on the inside (the one that God knew) matched the truth on the outside.
No more perfect girl following all the rules.
Now I’m just a girl.
Living into the fullness of the heart God gave her.