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A marriage is the unification of two people to make one life, but not to make one person. When that life ends in divorce, it feels as though a big piece of you has been cut away, leaving behind a jagged edged wound on what remains. A whole chapter of your life has been deleted, and what’s left in its place is the person you are outside of that life. You have always been there, though at times you may have disappeared, or felt invisible. Now, you can find yourself again. You may discover that even if you’re wounded, you are still whole. You move on, and just as an author masters her story, so can you. From this moment, you are writing a new chapter in your life. 

When I was thirty-four and just starting the chapter in my life that scared me the most, I wish I had written myself a letter. If I could only have told myself the advice I needed then, I would have seen the writing on the wall more clearly. I would have understood that I wasn’t just a remnant of my old life, but a whole person who shouldn’t be defined by words that don’t matter much in the end.  I wasn’t an ex-wife, a divorcee, a lesbian, a single thirty-something without a plan. Those were all just scary terms that served only to hold me back. If I could have taken away those petty little words and replaced them with the truth, I would have written myself a letter of guidance. This is how I think it would have read:

The Letter I Wish I Had Written

Your life is not ending, but a section of it has come to a close. It doesn’t matter that you are standing outside of the door that closed upon the story of you when you were married. What matters is that you are still standing. Your situation has changed, but you are not less, or half of a person because of it.  You are still you, whether you are single, separated, divorced or married.  Accepting yourself and your sexuality was a big step, but don’t make it the focus of your life. In hindsight, your marriage didn’t fail because of what gender you prefer to love, but because you grew apart from the person you loved. Worrying about the future and fretting over the past is a waste of time, and time really does change everything. A year from now, it won’t matter if you call yourself gay or straight or bisexual. It won’t matter what the lady down the street said about you behind your back, or the time you got drunk and sobbed hysterically over the phone to your ex. You’re a human being and you make mistakes. So please stop blaming yourself for everything you’ve done wrong, but don’t stop writing your story. 

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Turning the Page to a New Chapter

The day my husband told me he wanted a divorce, I blamed myself for everything that had gone wrong. I hated myself for my affair, and despised my newfound sexuality that came along with it. I said and did some very unkind things to myself for a long time. It was bad enough that everyone around me had an opinion and a judgment of me, but I added to my own misery in self-hatred. Even though I knew that the man I married was the only man for me, I recognized that after the divorce, I would only be interested in dating women. And I resented myself for it, and I fought myself daily. Why is it that we are the hardest on ourselves when we need ourselves the most? Seeing that I would be entering a phase of depression and confusion that is natural in the aftermath of separation coupled with coming out, I should have held my own hand, instead of biting it. I should have turned the page of the story of my life to see that I had a future, instead of trying to re-write history. I couldn’t take back the things I had said, or done, or even thought. I just had to keep turning the pages of time.

There were days when I couldn’t muster the strength to face people. Overwhelmed by what was happening to me all at once, I passed many hours in tearful self-effacement. I didn’t want to live with this new version of me, alone and different from everyone I knew. Sometimes, in my darkest thoughts, I considered how the world might be a better place without me in it. I thought only of the closed chapter of my life, and how I couldn’t finish it.

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To Look Life in the Face

One Saturday I happened to be leafing through the pages of a Virginia Woolf novel to find a quote for an article I was writing. I came across these words:“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it last, to love it for what it is, and then to put it away.”

Her wisdom made me realize that I was spending the hours I had to live my life doing just the opposite. We all have to ask ourselves who we are, and why, and it’s okay to take a moment to look at your own life and see it for what it is. But then, we have to accept it and move on. And what if your marriage is over? What if you do have to face this world alone for a while? You might be coming out of the closet or out of the tangled brush of your own mind. So, look at your life in the face, and love it for what it is. Embrace your story, and embrace yourself. Write yourself a letter and tell her to keep turning the pages, because what remains from here is the rest of your story, and the rest of your life.

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