Naked under my clothes.

I can't get anything done. I can't concentrate. I feel vulnerable. I've lost ten pounds (not necessarily a bad thing). I have nothing to say.

I know that I need to keep going, not in spite of the difficulty of doing so, but perhaps because of it. Each little step forward becomes more crucial and necessary. One day at a time. One hour at a time. Today I will grade essays. Today I will pick Eliot up from daycare and cook supper for him and give him a breathing treatment and put him to bed.

Tomorrow I will teach and hold student conferences. I will talk about thesis statements and the way that point of view affects tone, and the development of body paragraphs. I will be thinking about divorce and whether I've chosen the right lawyer and how I still can't bear to hurt this man who has hurt me over and over again. I will suggest strategies to my student writers for giving their readers a sense of closure at the end of an essay, while wondering to myself how I'll ever get closure on this, the only relationship I've ever had or known. How can I end this marriage to the man I've loved literally half my life, since I was a sixteen-year-old kid? Ten years ago I stood in front of nearly two hundred people and promised "for better or worse." What if this just happens to be "worse?"

On Saturday I will watch him drive away with our son, knowing that I can't follow.

After that I won't exist until Sunday evening, when my heartbeat is back inside my ribcage where it belongs.

And then Monday I'll walk the corridors at work, trying not to look at the floor. I will respond, "Good. Good," to colleagues who ask the obligatory "How are you?" as we pass in the halls. I will remind myself that my own personal drama is no weightier than my young, 18-year-old student's imminent overseas deployment with her National Guard unit, no more traumatizing than another student's embarrassed admission that he passed high school English without learning how to correct a sentence fragment, without even understanding what a sentence fragment is. My divorce? Isn't really as tragic as my student's withdrawal from the University because he needs to go home to be nearer his mother, who has just attempted suicide for the third time, or another student's absence, because her grandmother recently died for the fifth time this semester. (Well, okay...maybe not that one...)

I'm not the first woman to have been betrayed by the person she thought loved her most in the world. Hell, 50% of marriages end in divorce, right? It's not as though I'm alone.

Yet I feel stripped, naked, vulnerable, defenseless.

Even as I write that, I feel him inside my head, arguing, "You wouldn't feel that way if you didn't feel the need to tell the world every time you take a crap!" When he reads this post, as I know he will, he will be angry. He doesn't understand that I invite others in because I don't know how to get out. And I don't want to be alone.

Solitude frightens me. Silence is not golden.

And I'll stand here, lifting up my skirt for all to see, because I know that it means someone will come and stand beside me. And say, "Hi. I'm naked under my clothes too, you know."

As a matter of fact,
we all are.



Anonymous said...

It has been many years since I've seen you, since we've really, truly talked. But I adore you nevertheless, and you are in my heart. Way back when, when I kept a personal, wide-open, fairly bare blog, my reasons, I realized at some point, were similar. And I have come oh-so-close to opening myself that way again in the last couple years, in the last few months particularly. People who would come up in my stories would not appreciate it, and frustratingly, there are some things I truly wouldn't be able to write about, lest full-on chaos result, but it's a practice I've often felt the need to return to.

When we are introverted and introspective, and we process our lives and its twists and devastations (and joys, but especially devastations, it seems) through written words, and we can feel ourselves going deep inside and pulling away from the world out there, feeling isolated and alone, this is a way of still connecting, to the world, to each other, and to what's happening inside us. It's a way of holding on -- and letting (and hoping) others hold on to us.

You are smart and witty and beautiful and strong and loving, and this is devastating and horrible and ugly. But you are smart and witty and beautiful and strong and loving, and you will emerge.

The pieces of you will come back together, maybe in a new formation, but they'll come back together.

St. Louis isn't a bad place to be on a Saturday afternoon through a Sunday morning. You decide you need to get away? This weekend or any weekend? You have a place to come to.

Sis said...

You have a lot of places you could go this weekend. You NEVER need to be alone. You know my door is always open to you and so is my heart and so are my ears and my shoulders.
Love you.. TEARS...

Anonymous said...

I have found that when people get mad because you told everyone how you feel, it is generaly because they are embarrassed that everyone knows they made you feel that way. So perhaps they shouldn't be mad at you for speaking your mind, but mad at themselves for whatever it is they did to make you feel the way you do.

chksngr said...

My heart stopped when I read your post…

I divorced the “love of my life” 14 years go. I felt as though perhaps I should just dig a hole, crawl in, and die. I didn’t think I was ever going to stop crying. Tears still surface at the thought of it. Compared to many of the breaks I see today, ours was really rather amicable…but no less painful. It was as if my heart was wrenched from me and left out to spoil.

When two become one and then become two again, the separate parts are left “without” something, with voids that must be filled and parts that must be re-grown or for which we must compensate. It’s a little weird to navigate, uncomfortable, odd, and kind of jerky with lots of stops and starts. Its like trying to take the eggs out of a cake batter…they just aren’t going to come out the same as they went in.

The realization that my ex and I wouldn’t have made it anyway settled into my soul some time ago. We are both much better people now than we were. It has been clear for some time that we would not have grown in precisely the way we have if that divorce had never happened. But honestly, we worked at it. We didn’t come out better by chance.

After I spent about a year trying to work it out, crying myself to sleep and trying in vain to feel whole, I made a choice. My choice was not so much to make it through unscathed, as to really learn from the experience. I started to look at it as a gift and not a mistake, as an opportunity to be the “me” that God intended and not as a failure. If not for new spouses, I think my ex and I could still talk and find ways to get along as friends.

It took some time and some space, and for me a lot of prayer and some counseling to get there, but we have gotten there. I personally had to talk it out with somebody who wasn’t in my circle of friends, to get some perspective from somebody who had no emotional involvement in the situation. Best of all, we have reached a place where the life we spent together brings up happy memories instead of painful ones. Still…it takes time and thought and caring. It takes being willing to use kind words and to set firm boundaries and to keep to the high road.

I’ll be honest – the divorce was not ok with me…it still isn’t. I didn’t believe in it then and I don’t believe in it now. BUT…but…it takes two people to make it work. Both people have to believe that their spouse is a precious gift from God and that the weaknesses of one person are there to maximize the strengths of the other. Both people have to be (as you say) unwilling to purposefully inflict pain on the other. I commend you for being unwilling, for taking into consideration the heart of your spouse, even while you find a way to navigate separating your life from his. Both people have to be willing to let the other grow and learn and change and express themselves. And when that kind of purpose isn’t present, “making it” is nearly impossible.

I’m so sorry for your pain and your loss. I’m so sorry you have to navigate this kind of thing. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It hurts and it sucks and its ugly and horrible...there is just no getting around the fact that feels like somebody has ripped your arm off. You WILL make it to the other side and you can be better off for the experience. I know it’s little comfort from where you are standing now. (I used to hate it when people said, "You'll be fine." I never beleived them!)

Your transparency is amazing…we cannot know just how many people there are out there to help and to lend a shoulder unless we are willing to be open about what we are going through. Secrets separate us…we tend to believe the lie that there is no one who could possibly understand.

You are NOT alone in this journey…there are a lot of us out here who have been (or currently are) “naked” too. We get it and we are rooting for you, cheering you on and wishing the very very best for you!!!

Hang on, girlie!

Anonymous said...

We are but a phone call or short drive away.

nancy said...

Hi. I'm naked under my clothes, too. I'm standing next to you.


Terri said...

I'm thinking of you today.

Adriane said...

Remember Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

This is just the valley. The valley is not permanent, it is just a place we pass through to get to the mountaintop. You will get there. You will not be in this painful spot in your life forever, but rather you will learn, grow, and become a better person from it. Thank God for the lesson He will teach you from all this, and bless Him through the pain. He will be carrying you every step of the way, the footprints in the sand are His, not yours.

I love you, I am praying for you, and I am crying with you. Call me anytime you need to talk.

stephanie H said...

awww....Rach!!! Please know that you have some awesome friends and family who want to see you happy!! It may seem like a long way off but keep it in your sights and push on. Even when it seems to be unbearable.....put your left foot infront of our right and repeat........you will find yourself moving along with Eliot at your side with his wonderful questions.........and beautiful smile.

Believe me when i tell you that you are a strong person and you can take that to the bank!!!!

Sending you much love!!! Call me when you are ready to talk....or when you want to meet at Friday's!!!! Love ya,


Gary said...

Rachel I too understand the hurt you are going through, no its absolutely not easy to be in your shoes. I would never wish it on anyone, you are a very strong person, and with the Love of my awesome little nephew and the Love of your family and friends you will never be alone! I am always available if you need to talk, cry, scream or just be there to vent to. Take care Love you

Amy said...

Hi Rachel,
I'm thinking of you and sending a hug :-)

Rachel said...

This blog has been such a constant source of comfort and solace to me, and now of connection and hope.
You are all wonderful. What would I do without you?
<3 <3 <3

ajbwinters said...

I love you, Rachel.

Cathy said...

My tears fall in silence as my heart breaks for lost love. Nothing more painful. Know how much you're loved by so many. You will come through the fire an even more beautiful being than you already are. XOXO

Fun Mama - Deanna said...

I'm so sorry you're going through this. My thoughts are with you.

Courtney said...

You are never alone. There are dozens of us here for you whenever you need us. Call any time. Hugs, Courtney