For those who are new to my columns, I feel now is the time to write about that four-letter word that is reconciliation.
I call it the four-letter word because when the topic came up in my divorce support group seemingly another life ago, it wasn’t popular. It met with a lot of four-letter words. Maybe not so much spoken but certainly given a lot of thought.
I attended the DivorceCare program at Ginghamsburg Church in late 2010 and 2011, as I felt if anyone needed support, it was me. (I’ll leave the extended version of the story for you to read in book form if I’m so fortunate. I’ll keep you posted, and hopefully, the news will be sooner as opposed to later.) The program was integral to getting me through. I cringe to think where I may be today without that direction. Some of those options included a box in a back alley and a jungle monastery.
In short, divorce is complicated, and I was unprepared for an entire evening class devoted to that single word, reconciliation. It slides easily enough off the tongue unless you are a divorcee, then it comes out more of a hiss with a lot of spit and teeth. Same went for the majority of my fellow eight or so divorcees who formed an in-group, hanging out after class or on various occasions for several months. My only regret is that we did not get club members only jackets.
The in-group wasn’t into the r-word and journal entries from that time state none of them attended that particular class except yours truly and a slightly in-group gentleman I nicknamed Khakis. Otherwise, I sat with noobs, curious (if a little furious), because that four-letter word hung heavy in my head and heart during the entire time of my split and subsequent dissolution in August 2010. Well-versed experience with divorce had taught me reconciliation was not anywhere in a divorcee’s vocabulary or perhaps playbook is the better word for it.
I remember sitting deep in one of the sofas during that class, as the video that always ran at the start of the evening repeated, in not quite word-for-word terms that if reconciliation was possible, go for it. But I couldn’t — the backlash fear was too great. I did not dare say a peep to anyone. Not a soul. What would people think or worse, say? I kept quiet because rejection by friends and family was not something I was prepared to endure at the time.
The funny thing about it, a mix of silence and undercutting a pending ex-spouse, only made matters worse, especially with friends as I tried to avoid what I truly wanted. Something that was there, presenting itself on numerous occasions. One stand out is sitting beneath the rose-colored walls of the county courthouse before the divorce hearing. The pending ex-spouse tried to talk to me. Yours truly facing away, answering with as few words as possible. The memory makes me laugh (now, of course) as I recall thinking what nerve! while entirely missing the cues sent my way.
We divorced, I went back to school, returned to the newspaper business, and began to piece together a book. I kept a backup plan if things didn’t work out. That previously mentioned remote jungle monastery, once the munchkins were grown, of course. I had it all worked, too. Just me and a half-dozen monkeys as my only social outlet, with toilet paper and People magazine, dropped from a black-smoke belching biplane on its last wing and prayer.
Otherwise, it was to be a box. Newspaper work is a poor person’s work.
The book transformed as time moved forward, the earth continued to spin, as it tends to do insultingly. Until almost two years from the day we separated, reconciliation became a reality. A slow, and at times, agonizing process that had me tossing chapters, rewriting, editing, and more tossing until finally, after all these years, I’m finally ready to share the story in full. Perhaps it will spare others our mistakes, and if the chance presents itself, to consider that four-letter word that is reconciliation.
I know the r-word won’t work for everyone. It’s a lot of work and timing is everything. There are ups and downs and difficult conversations, leaving one to prefer ignorance at times. However, the difference between the two of us in this near last decade compared to our first near-decade is something that takes me by surprise every day. We are an entirely different couple. I don’t recognize anything of our former selves. If not for journals, a steadfast blog with both published and unpublished postings, and now a book, I would argue those previous people never existed.
What I’m trying to say under 900 words is the four-letter r-word that is reconciliation has been worth it, so worth it.
So I wish Michael a slightly belated happy 20th original wedding anniversary. Sorry, it is the easier of the dates to remember. Plus, it’s not the dates that matter so much as the fact we make that four-letter word work for us every day, and we’ve become better people for it.
Just, um, keep that in mind, should a publisher say yes, OK?