“marriage is for how long you can hack it. but divorce? just gets stronger like a piece of oak.” – Louis CK
While I tried for weeks to compose something coherent on the thought-swirls in my mind, I really couldn’t refine the random slur to follow. It is perhaps painfully raw…
My friend watched my last webisode and sent me a text:
You said ‘failed marriage.’ Just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean you failed. You’re not a failure by any means.
Wait, I’m not a failure?
So then I began to think, why am I carrying so much guilt around being divorced? Is it because I was a preacher’s wife? Is it because I look at other married couples and think, if they can do it, why couldn’t we? Is it because I was raised that divorce is for horrible sinful quitting heathens? Is it because I feel like I screwed something up by being unlovable? Undesirable? Un-wifey? Or is it because I feel so good being divorced?
Probably a little of all of it. A big burrito of guilt. Guilt Burrito.
I was raised Catholic. Then I went to a Lutheran school (which was awful for other reasons…we’ll put that story in the parking lot for now…). Then I went to a Christian School and barely survived that one.
One of my first conversations in 6th grade at said school went something like this:
Them: You should date Rocky.
Me: But I don’t wanna date Rocky.
Them: You should tho.
Them: Because you both have brown skin! ((cuutee!!))
The next conversation went like this:
Them: But…are you…SAVED?
Me: From what?
And yet, somehow, my faith in God is what has always kept me together. Rather than blaming God for making idiots, and rebuking God, I clung to God, certain that God is way more loving and forgiving than these strange humans I share space with. I refuse to believe that God made us in God’s own image and gave us the gift of free will, beautiful earthly bodies, gleaming, heavenly souls, a plentiful land to thrive on, and then we go and make rules to abstain from all of it, reside in guilt, blame others that aren’t as miserable as we are, and then ask God to reward us for being cranks. I don’t believe in that God.
((bear with me — I also don’t believe God should be limited by gender-specific pronouns))
So if we eliminate all that good ‘ol Christian/Catholic guilt, who said marriage MUST be forever? Was it God? Or was it people?
Me thinks to meself, good Christian woman that I am, I’ll consult the Bible.
I mean, honestly, the Bible paints a very lovely picture of very lovely marriages when they are very lovely and holy and pure and pleasing in God’s sight. But what human is holy and pure? Right.
If you really want to read everything the Bible says about marriage, go for it here. Truth be told, some of it is really discouraging as a human being — no, as a woman being. The woman is forced into adultery if her husband divorces her. Oh and how about this one from Proverbs:
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
Dude. Really, Bible? Really? Are you serious? What if the man is the whiner? Then do I get a pass?
Over and over and over again, it is the woman that is shamed and humiliated and sinful if a marriage ends. Doesn’t really seem fair, does it?
((flashbacks to Christian Feminism with Dr. Lynn Japinga at Hope College))
So I closed my Bible. It’s not God’s fault the Bible didn’t comfort me.
And then I prayed. I talked to God. We had us a lil one-on-one. And what God placed on my heart was a sense of peace.
Octavia, its OK. Believe it or not, you’re doing everything right. OK, maybe not right right… just not-wrong.
I’m not certain these were God’s exact words. But I know that a gnawing anxiety over my divorce left. My soul was well.
I was watching some late show one night a few years back, just when I started to doubt the foreverness of my marriage. Olivia Wilde was on. She said nearly the exact same thing that night that I pulled from another interview posted online:
“In Olivia Land, relationships can legally only last seven years, without an option to renew. That way it never goes stale,” she explained.
I was like hahaa that’s dumb.
But she was already where I am now. She had recently ended a marriage that began in one place and ended up in another that was just a stone’s throw from Misery, USA.
If marriages had time limits, would we be more hopeful? More patient with each other? Would we enjoy each other more? Would we start looking at our spouses less like cinder blocks pulling us daily one inch closer to the cemetery plot and see them more like mystical fleeting blessings that we must cherish and hold on to for the short time we’re together?
I had to add the next part purely for comic relief…insert laughter below.
As for me? Well, truth be told, I am enjoying my divorce. Yeah, I said it.
While all the life logistics of starting over are excruciating, I’m a stronger individual. I’m a stronger woman. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally and honestly, physically, too. I’m gradually pulling my confidence and self-worth back from wherever I stashed it, and forming it into a pool of bright light that guides me through the darkest of days. I’m letting go of whatever it is I spent a decade convincing myself I should be, and started embracing who I’m really meant to be. I’m a better mother. I’m a better friend. I’m a better daughter.
Well, my friend from above concluded her text saying:
…you both learned what you needed to and therefore it was a success.
Moral of the story: yes, I’m divorced. And my marriage, while not forever, was indeed a success.
Yes, I finally heard from Sir Crickets… the one that left me high and dry after I confessed my readiness to take the next step.
Now in all truth, I didn’t confess like a normal adult. This is my first big step since my divorce and I turned into a Disney princes as soon as I realized we needed to DTR. I pulled away from him and said, “OMIGODILIKEYOUSOMUCHANDICANTDOTHISANYMOREWHATAREWEDOINGGGGGG?” and I literally ran away.
Quite literally. Had I been in glass slippers, I would have left one right in the middle of Chicago Ave.
And I haven’t seen him since.
((please feel free to laugh))
I sent him an email and several texts the next day apologizing for acting like a teenager, and ultimately asked to just talk like normal people.
*Cue the weeks of silence.
I exposed my heart. I made myself emotionally vulnerable. And it backfired. I don’t do it often. And man does it sting when I do…
Here’s the deal with me. I keep most people on the superficial level. I’m fantastic with first impressions. I impress people. And then I sneak away alone at the end of the night. On purpose.
I’m very selective about who gets in. Into the real me. Mostly because I’ve been the token, I’ve been excluded, I’ve been rejected for a significant part of my life.
The majority of my relationship with my father was the recurring empty promise of him visiting for birthdays, concerts, recitals. Never showed.
In fourth grade I had a birthday party at a roller rink. I invited my class. I invited the third graders. And I invited the fifth graders. And I sat there for an hour on my birthday in an empty party room, waiting for everyone to show up. And no one did. Not one. I was in denial until I overheard the event planner tell my mom she could have a full refund. The woman walked over to me and gave me a pathetic poor puppy look and a balloon. I just stared at her.
From that moment, I maintained my outward bubbly personality. I kept face. But on the inside I gave a big EFFYOU to the world. I like being busy. I deliberately spread myself thin. I join as many groups as possible. That way, if there’s a party I don’t get invited to, I’m not hurt. Hey, it’s cool – I didn’t know them like that anyway.
I’m slow to trust. Very slow. But once you’re in, you’re in. And when I love, I love hard. You can’t make me not love you anymore. I’m a beast like that.
In fact, I think it’s incredibly curious that Urban Dictionary has me figured out so well…
Female, sexual appeal that may be difficult for her to embrace, leaving her with an awkward approach. Likes stability and feeling safe. Loyal and committed to the ones she loves. Passive aggressive. Loner at times. Tendency to be a hermit. Loves to be acknowledged. Curious about her purpose. Religious at heart, stubborn. Slow to trust but quick to love.
Octavia will stay with the one she loves even though she questions her choice and trust for him. She is the type to break up or stop a fight before it takes flight. Her insecurities may lead her to come across as awkward because she’s self-conscious
It actually is kinda creepy.
But I digress. Sir Crickets.
He says, “I had stopped considering you would be interested in something serious quite a while ago and my brain doesn’t really move backwards.”
So two months of a pattern that would suggest we were leaning towards something serious turns out to be a complete farce.
“I thought we were just having fun,” he said.
I was so confused, I actually had to write a poem about it. I normally don’t like poetry. Yet somehow, when I’m really aching, poetry just does it for me. Very cathartic. Check it out:
You said I was amazing.
You said I could have a key.
You said you wanted me for my errrrythang.
You said you didn’t want to share me.
You said I felt like heaven.
You said I looked like an angel.
You said it was cute when we randomly matched.
You said I was the only one that orders steak properly.
You said your bed was too big without me.
You said we were kindred spirits.
You said we were the same person.
You said I made your heart grow two sizes bigger.
And when I said I’m ready…
You said nothing.
So then, what is a relationship?
Now, for the rest of this story, I leave Sir Crickets alone. In all honesty, I’m not here to bash him. I’m not now and never have been mad at him. Not my style. I think he’s a marvelous person and would love to see him again some day.
But what, then, is a serious adult relationship?
A relationship is a thing.
It is a seed.
Aight yall im boutta preach. PRAYCH! (Matthew 13)
This is also partially inspired by the sermon I heard at church Sunday: Whaddup Soul City Chicago!
The soil cannot sow its own seed. The seed must be carefully placed by a loving hand.
The seed is not the attraction, chemistry, passion, likes, dislikes, similarities, experiences, jokes, scars, memories—this is the soil. Two people that can’t keep their hands off each other and can’t stop giggling when in the same room: the soil.
But the seed…The seed is the deliberate decision to turn all those fantastic emotions into something strong, healthy and lasting. You can have good soil with hundreds of people. But that seed. That seed is special. It’s not a feeling. It’s not an emotion. It’s not sex. It’s not a child. It’s a decision.
When do relationships fail? When there is no decision. When two people are just kind of letting things happen. Or when someone stops cultivating it.
I know, I hate those DTR talks just as much as the next dude. But are we really just each other’s’ play things? Is that what all this is? Are we all just toys here for each other’s physical and emotional pleasure? Or is the physical pleasure one of the perks to searching out that one person you want to invest in? What makes someone worth the try?
For me, dating is like an audition. Or a sales call. Or a job interview. It’s not just about having directionless fun with a person over the course of several weeks or months just because you need someone to hook up with.
((To be honest, this is probably why some arranged marriages work; they decide to make them work.))
If you already know you’re not going to plant the seed, move on. Plenty of fish. I can get good soil anywhere. Mmmhmmm dat good dirt, baby.
And if I know I don’t want to make a decision with you, I’ll go find the next soil. Simple.
Now, back to Sir Crickets. Where did we fail? For me, I was slowly advancing him to the last interview, whereas I had lost the job a month or more beforehand and I never got the memo.
I got straight up played yall.
And The Good Pastor? Well, let’s just say we planted the seed…but as it grew, what I thought would be a pumpkin, turned out to be an apple. We were growing two different things. Talk about crushed expectations.
Before this horticultural metaphor gets too out of control, here’s, the moral of the story:
A serious relationship is a decision. Not a feeling. It’s not something you lose. It’s not something that fades. It’s a deliberate decision to give each other a shot at something more.
Yo, check it. New Youtube channel all for us. I’m still trying to figure out how to record and edit video on my iPad, but hey, not bad for my first attempt… Enjoy!
Ok, I didn’t just get dumped. We were never really together. And by together, I mean… “exclusive.” I hate that word. It’s almost as grody as moist or panties ((shudder)) …but we had been texting daily and seeing each other at least once – usually twice – a week for nearly two months. I’ll spare the details. But it went something like this:
Him — kinda hints at being serious
Me — kinda looks like deer in headlights
+several weeks of fantastic dates later+
Me — kinda hints at being serious
Him — ((crickets))
And we never speak again.
The woman thing to do? Let’s look at three common reactions:
Option A: WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME ANYMORE?! WHAT DID I DO?! PLEASE TALK TO ME! ((ugly cries, shovels ice cream in mouth))
(I might have done A)
Option B: Meh. Many fish. Next. ((throws the bird, lights cigarette))
Option C: I’m an artist with an outlet and I’m going to release my pain through my medium! ((sleepless nights, manic episodes, platinum album))
(I’m now doing C)
I’m a writer. A performer. A dreamer. A dancer. A cellist. A thinker. (More about me some other day.)
For years, I’ve had this pressure on my heart to help people. Especially women. Especially women that are constantly shifting themselves to make someone else happy. We are naturally servers — not servANTS — but servers. We love to love on others. We love to make the people we love smile. That’s why we’re moms. We’re good at taking care of everyone else. But sometimes, that comes with a price. We can lose ourselves in shallow, abusive, or controlling relationships and not even notice until our true callings have been all but erased.
My marriage of almost 8 years nearly snuffed my passion (that story is for another day, too), but my inner voice grew stronger and stronger from the moment I moved out. And now, a year later, that voice has a name.
*Cue Road to Relovery Theme Song
So, ex-husband and ex-not-really-boyfriend, thanks for the inspiration.
*Cue Taylor Swift break up face