Seeing red twice
October 28, 2017
Things I learnt living in Israel
October 28, 2017

Shuffling the guilt of divorce

I returned to Trinidad in 2003 and conducted my marriage in cyberspace. Virtual reality was the only reality for my wilting marriage then. Alas! No technology can save a relationship which had ceased to grow. Such a relationship inevitably dies.

In 2006, divorce devastated me. Although I had initiated the proceedings, throughout, I felt as if someone had beaten me with a bat. My memory took the first blow. During counselling, when asked what I liked to do, I began to stutter. I could not explain that I could not remember! I had been so consumed in my ex-husband’s world, attached to his friends, family, traditions, country – I simply could not remember my own dreams, the passions I held.

My self-esteem took a second blow. I isolated myself. Daily, I played Solitaire and shuffled guilt through that deck of cards. I quailed in the presence of couples. Childless, I fumbled in the presence of children.

My self-image took the worst blow. Somehow, my experience of marriage did not match my best version of myself. I had become someone I no longer recognised. I constantly replayed the most painful marital scenarios and remembered with clarity, his words. Those that made me feel so diminished – so reduced. I died the moment they were uttered.

His words, more than his fists, pummelled a heart so young and fresh, hopeful and expectant. I couldn’t forgive those words; couldn’t stop replaying them. They did not feed into the image I had of myself. They reinforced the sense of inadequacy that was new to me. I withdrew into the shadows.

And it was there – in the shadows – I rediscovered God. He was waiting. No words of “I told-you-so” ever escaped His lips. I began my long crawl to freedom back to Him, on a path I had never imagined.

In the midst of excruciating pain, I learnt that God permits pain – it is His mechanism for reconciliation, His way of healing brokenness, His calling card to greater intimacy.

I thought of Jesus strung up on that cross. “My God, my God, why have you deserted me” (Mt 27:47).  I understood pain. Broken, I yielded up my spirit and the veil of my past, present and future were torn in two, from top to bottom. My earth quaked; my heart split.

Entombed by the scourge of infertility, the sting of abuse and the violence of unforgiveness, I could not immediately experience a resurrection. But, alone, I began to lean on God’s promises to be my strength, to be with me always.

Many nights I lay stretched on my bed, weak. I twirled my rosary beads and listened. I listened as rain toppled from the darkened sky. Raindrops plopped into a puddle at the corner of the house. Plink! Plink! Plink! Fast. Faster. Each cascading droplet tumbled into a small, trembling puddle, creating ripples trimmed in circles of moonlight.

Plop! A solitary droplet seeped from my eye and fell with a soft thud on the pillow. Plop! Another teardrop came, slowly intruding upon my thoughts. Plop! I shifted my head and tiny splashes peppered my face. Battered, I hid all those tears.

Ashamed, I wrapped them in self-pity and locked them away from my father, siblings and friends who witnessed me carry my cross, consumed in my own pain. They saw me gather up the fragments of my shattered dreams and bury my marriage. To return to life, I experienced death.

Death took many forms. The trauma of divorce, compounded by the stigma attached to my new status as ‘the divorcee’ infuriated me. Denied full participation in the Church, I hid in the shelter of God’s presence, far from the wiles of men and God kept me safe within His tent, far from the war of tongues (Ps 31:20).

I remember the self-righteousness, arrogance and scorn with which the tongues of the ‘never-divorced’ uttered the word ‘divorcee’. I resent that word. It reeks of judgment. It smells of failure. It aborts promises and vanquishes vows. It takes no account of pain, the trauma of separation and the compounding of guilt and logistics when children are involved. Divorcees, like separated and widowed Catholics, must begin again – alone, anew.

I did not think that I needed to experience a New Beginning weekend offered by the Ministry for Separated, Divorced and Widowed (SDW) Catholics. I was, by all appearances, ‘handling my stories’. But, compelled to find a new purpose and direction for my life, the New Beginning Weekend allowed me to bond with other men and women like myself who had also suffered the pain of loss and rejection and who knew, like me, the pain of separation from one’s dream, one’s past, one’s family and from one’s self.  NEXT WEEK: CONCLUSION