At first, sitting alone at church bites. Especially when you’re used to that whole row of “check us out” happiness. Once a week it was true. Before the divorce, we could sit there at church and look like there was nothing wrong. After a divorce, the eyes that you had felt rest upon you with admiration, turn to pity. People who once emulated you have taken to asking you detailed questions to figure out what went wrong so they can feel safe in their attempted perfection again. I wish my answers could have provided that for them.
The kids and I had moved out, but not far enough away to escape the sadness that others were catching up to. I’ll admit I was initially disappointed at how slow the gossip took to get the word out. I would say, “Please tell others so I won’t have to!” I hated realizing that the person I was speaking to at the grocery store had no clue that my life had just changed significantly. By the time we got to the, “So, how are you, Leah?”, it seemed just unnatural to say it. “I’m really good. I’m getting a divorce.”
My close friends all knew what I was enduring and responded in about the same way, “Good. Can we help you pack?” But there were some friends that no matter where we were when they saw me–suffered the darkest moments of my loss right there in the grocery store with me. Though I appreciated their empathy and care, it was a bit of a roller coaster. All I needed was milk and eggs. It seemed flippant to respond with a smile and say, “I’m feeling so great– so free!”, but that was the truth! I would get the great hugs, which were sincere and appreciated–only to head down the next aisle and see someone else. Smile, and get it over with.
Some people who had found out, were reaction ready for when they next saw me. There was this sweet old man from church who found us at one night at Wendy’s. He walked up to me and my kids and said, (louder than I had expected), “I heard it all started with the PORNO! HOW could he! If it was me that had that problem, I would have looked at all these beautiful children and got out a knife and chopped my hands off to stop myself from…” I interjected, “Kids have some more french fries!” and I put my arm around this dear brother and walked him to a safe conversation distance. I bought recovery frosty’s and sat back down with my kids.
I felt like I was trying to be happy in the land of sadness and pity. More good dates didn’t help. More bad dates probably made it worse. After about 6 months had passed, I woke up one morning without my happiness. I was exhausted and didn’t have the hope to move. I called home, and jumped on the next flight with the kids. I spent about a month sleeping, crying, and waiting for my faith in myself to return. I was so glad that my parents were willing to keep my kids busy. Then one day, I woke up. I knew why I didn’t want to just lay there anymore. I was 32, not 22. I had 5 kids and I needed to make a great life for us- even if I didn’t have a husband. I packed up and went home.
I began to wonder what kind of life I could provide as a single parent. We were living in a neighborhood that felt like a retirement home. There was a beautiful pool and the town house that I could barely provide felt like a motel. I was sewing draperies and staging homes for realtors. I spent my days thinking too much about my future honeymoon and what workout equipment would best shape my thighs to impress a man. I could do better for myself and I needed to do better for my kids.
We flew back home and I was 2 000 miles away from my family support again. I wondered about getting a job. I had 5 kids under the age of 11. My baby had just turned one. No job I could find would cover daycare and food enough to make it worth staying away from them from 8-5. I needed and craved more education. One of my former teachers from BYU-Idaho tracked me down and talked to me about my options to return to school. I felt a glimmer of hope and filled out my application.
I took a deep breath and I stayed out of bed as much as I could. I tried to make the best of visitation, but he still barely took any of it and things were getting worse. I told him of my option to return to school out west and we figured out how he could make it work for visitation until he could move closer to his family. Freedom sometimes comes in impossible situations. I thought we would have more time to make a decision, but the time to move became urgent and that’s when we had to make a decision as a family. I was the head of this family now, I gathered them together and told them of the options we had and the decisions we had to make. I reminded them about family decisions and how we had learned in the scriptures of families that had to go the distance but weren’t all on board and how miserable that could end up.
I didn’t want to move without their support. This move would include selling most of our stuff and a 5 day drive across 7 states. I couldn’t bear too much murmuring. It was potentially too much for me to explain to them. But, I knew one thing. I knew that they could feel the same witness and peace I had received in my prayer. I explained that I would pray, and if they could think about this decision, and ask to know if it was right, that they should give me a thumbs up if they were willing to go, or a thumbs down if they didn’t want to go or had more questions.
Part 2. . . read it here
There’s not always a happy ending, but happy moments are always within reach! –Leah