For the last seven months I have been hiding something from you, my readers, and while I of course have had legitimate reasons for keeping this from you, I feel the time has come to reveal the truth.
Seven months ago my husband of 16 years ago ended our marriage (I will not get into the details of why or how, as it is irrelevant at this point). Of course it was an extremely difficult time for me, but to add to the loss, we decided to keep quiet about it and not let the boys or family and friends know. For four months we continued living together, sleeping together and pretending to “be” together for the boys and many of our friends and family. When he received his Army orders with his assignment and duty station in another state, we knew that at that time we would be able to move on. The weekend before he left I helped him pack whatever he could take with him and the day of, we said goodby with a brief hug, he gave me a kiss on my shoulder and as he got in the car, without looking back, I closed the door and knew that that was the end. While those four months living together were emotionally torturous, I remained committed to continue working together as parents for our children. They have and always will be our number one priority.
Sometime in April I remember watching Eva Longoria speak about her divorce on the Piers Morgan Tonight Show and feeling so connected to her in that moment. As she sat there talking about her divorce I felt a tinge of envy in her ability to be able to speak about it openly while I had to remain silent almost as though I was festering away in this lie that was leaving me anxious and sleepless and on edge (I still wonder how I managed to teach that semester and give my students the 100% they deserved from me and that I required from them). I sympathized and understood when Eva briefly touched on the the loss of her identity as “Mrs. Parker” the wife and facing the question of “who am I”, a question that I myself have asked having identified myself as the wife of an infantry combat soldier/painter alongside my own identities as a teacher and writer. This was a poignant revelation coming from a professional career woman and philanthropist who is quite obviously very independent and self reliant. But the moment that touched me the most and at which point I acquired a new sense of admiration for this Latina who has transcended many boundaries and limitations is when she said, “I would never speak ill about him or the time we had together, I really, really valued it….He’s not a bad person, he just wanted something else and I don’t hate him for it.” She ended the conversation about her divorce with a piece of advice a friend had given her: “Hold on to the love, not the loss” and I was inspired, not only by her strength and her honesty, but with her drive to rediscover herself outside of someone else and continue with her work, her projects and her philanthropy.
Approximately 6 weeks ago I sat down with my boys and told them the truth about their father and I. They seemed indifferent about the news; it didn’t appear to surprise them, and yet they weren’t devastated. They said they understood that people grow out love and it’s better they go their separate ways instead of being miserable. If you follow my stories, this probably doesn’t surprise you. My guys are something else…far beyond their years mentally, but still I can’t forget that they are only young men. I dug a little deeper for more reaction to the situation and they admitted that it was sad, but as long as nothing changed between the way we as parents treated them and continued loving them, then the separation wouldn’t affect them, especially since their dad was already gone on orders and they were already prepared to be separated from him for a while.
Nevertheless, I offered therapy and although that was shot down right away by both of them with furious shakes of the head I did manage to get them in with my therapist for a half hour session in lieu of sitting in the lounge waiting for me. It actually went really well and they even admitted that they would be willing to go again.
In the meantime, I have been undergoing a period of transition into this new life as a single mother. I’ve always had tremendous admiration for many of my friends who are single moms and manage to juggle careers and social lives while remaining incredible mothers. And while being a single mom is not new to me, what with all the deployments my ex had when he was in the military and I was left alone for up to a year at a time raising our boys, this is different on many levels, primarily on the level that there exists finality as opposed to “I just have to hang in there for “X” amount of months.” And unlike some of my single mom friends, there is no shared custody or every other weekend visits; I am completely on my own, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
So how will my stories change as a result of this? Honestly, I’m not sure. Obviously my parenting strategies and philosophy will not change and as long as the ex and I can remain civil with each other and co-parent effectively, always putting their needs before our own (which, due to first hand experience, we promised to do), and so perhaps the stories won’t change. On the other hand, some may begin to analyze the boys’ behavior as a consequence of the separation. I can’t predict the future, but at the end of the day, it is important to me that you, the reader, know and understand the context from which I am now writing these stories about raising teenage boys and it’s important to me because as a writer, I don’t like feeling as though I’m lying to you, the reader. Through this revelation, I am now liberated and free to write my stories from the true and real context of which I am living, uninhibited by a secret, as I continue my stumbles through parenthood.
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