“When you can tell the story and it doesn’t bring up any pain, you know it is healed!” –Lyanla Vanzant.
This is something I learned firsthand, but the lesson was a long time in coming. I divorced my husband of seven years back in 1981. When friends in Tokyo asked me how I came to be there, I would tell them that I married a Japanese, that we had lived in Osaka, and that we had divorced, and I was now on my own in Tokyo. I never was able to get through the whole story without sobbing. Five years after the divorce, I moved back to the U.S.A. and lived in Oregon for a time. I noticed then that I could get almost to the end of the story before dissolving into tears. It was progress of a sort, but it never felt like progress.
I moved back to the Midwest and got my master’s degree at the University of Minnesota. It got easier and easier to tell the story, in part because the story began to get shorter and less detailed. I was surprised, and rather proud of myself, the first time I was able to tell someone about my divorce without shedding any tears. By this time, a whole decade had passed. But I don’t think I was really healed… yet. The reason is that the next thing I felt was anger at myself for having allowed my ex to treat me the way he did. I didn’t verbalize this much to others, but every once in a while, I would play back in my head something that had happened during my marriage and revise the memory in a way that allowed me to express my anger.
I thought I was finally healed from all that twenty years down the road, but when my ex called me out of the blue one day, I was scared. My fears were almost unreasonable, but I was frightened that this man might come into my life again and ruin it. I immediately changed my phone number, and got it “unlisted” so he couldn’t look me up again. When I got online, I used an Internet handle instead of my real name for a long, long time. It took years for that fear to begin to subside.
It’s been over thirty years, now, and I’ve moved from self-pity and grief, through anger and fear. If you ask me about my divorce today, I won’t spend much time telling you any details, because they don’t really matter to me anymore. But I’m not convinced that I’ve healed yet, and the reason is this: I still occasionally allow myself to feel the way my ex made me feel: basically unlovable. This is probably why I’ve been single all these years. It’s been a struggle for me to learn to love myself. And because I haven’t loved myself, I haven’t allowed anybody else to love me. That’s my challenge, now. I’m still working on it… 🙂