Paradigm shift: “A radical change in underlying beliefs or theory.” I have been saying for the past, oh, I don’t know, four years, that I experienced a mid-life epiphany. I suppose I did sort of, but I’ve come to realize that what I really experienced was a paradigm shift—several, actually. I did have the insights that accompany an epiphany, but with that came something much more permanent: The paradigm shift—change that stuck. I’m not just speaking here about my exodus from Christianity (no pun intended), but there have been a few aspects in my recent life where paradigm shifts have occurred and one such shift took place at the end of my marriage.
I had been married just over 25 years when my divorce became final. There had been some major problems for years, but the three to four years leading up to the divorce had been eviscerating. Going through divorce is usually destructive, painful, scary, and isolating, and ours was all of those things at first. Divorce can also be hopeful, strengthening, freeing, and a relief and that is what ours became and remained.
If someone would have told me back in 2008, that after my divorce, I would not only have a civil relationship with my ex, but we would be good friends, I would have never believed it. We had known a few couples who had divorced over the years and they were nothing less than destructive enemies, causing irreparable damage to each other, their friends, and sadly, their kids. My ex and I are not only civil, but we are friends that can talk over things, even argue over things and still depend upon our friendship to remain. How did this happen? There are many reasons and I want to eventually cover all of them, but today, I want to start at the beginning.
Every morning it was the same. I would wake up and as the fog lifted, I would remember: I have been betrayed. I have been betrayed by the one person I knew I could always trust and now I am alone. My chest would tighten my throat would close and I would end up sobbing. Everyday, I was a walking, breathing empty shell. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t think. The pain was all encompassing. I would desperately seek comfort in the arms of my husband, but for the first time in over twenty years, he couldn’t comfort me. This time he had been the one to cause the pain. I would reach out to him, wanting desperately for him to make it better, to make the pain go away. I was fucked up. He was the strong one, the one in control, the one who held all the keys, the one to make the decisions. Then one morning, that all changed.
It started out like every other morning had, but this time as I laid there licking my wounds, a voice inside my head said, “His loss,” and I listened. Friends had been telling me this, but I couldn’t take it in, not until that morning. I repeated it out loud, “His loss.” Over and over again, I said, “It’s his loss, his loss. He has lost me and it’s his fucking loss!” I got up that morning, took a shower, made breakfast for my kids and life began again for me.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a cake-walk by any means, but it was a bit like I had been crawling naked on shards of glass, and now I could at least stand up and walk, and after crawling, walking felt pretty good. Had my circumstances changed? Had my husband changed? No, neither of those things had changed. What was the difference? What had changed to give me clarity, strength, and hope? Why the only thing that I had the power to change: Me.