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I never thought I would be divorced at thirty-five. I guess none of us do. No one ever walks down the aisle as a young bride with just an eight year plan. We always think love will last forever, or at least for the rest of our lives. We expect to have the little ups and downs that people always warn us about, but when you're young and in love, you don't truly believe them. Getting a divorce was never an experience I imagined I would have, and when I went through one, it felt surreal to me. Divorce is something that happened to other people, not to me. It's like being in a plane crash or dying of a rare disease: it's something you always hear about, but of course it can't happen to you. Until it does, of course. After my divorce, I went through a long period of mourning, which is only natural. But then there was also the recovery process, and trying to get back to normal, even if normal was something that still felt foreign. How could life ever be normal again, when this bizarre and unwanted thing had taken this place? Still, I had to keep living my life, no matter how depressed I was. But besides being sad, I also felt like a failure. My marriage had failed, and I had let it fail. I felt like damaged goods, incapable of love or being loved by anyone ever again. Who would want me with all of this baggage? I couldn't imagine anything for myself accept becoming a very lonely old lady, buying pounds of cat food at the supermarket. I guess you can say I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. But I had also lost a lot of self-esteem. If my ex didn't want to be married to me, I seriously doubted anyone else would. And I know there are a lot of women out there who feel this way, and who think that they aren't worthy. There is a lot to be said for finding yourself later in life, and trying to start all over without feeling used and wasted and unwanted by anyone.

I watched a documentary recently called Out Late, and it was about people who in their sixties and seventies who had decided to finally come out of the closet. It intrigued me and inspired me to see these brave men and women who had lived their entire lives one way - in this case as heterosexual -  then decide at a later age to go after what would make them feel like authentic human beings. It didn't matter if their youth was over, or if they had a very slim chance left at finding love. They weren't broken by living one life only to throw it all in for something completely the opposite at a very late stage in the game. All they were thinking was that they still had life left to live, and they decided to live it exactly as they wished. They weren't damaged goods because of their divorces or their break-ups with their spouses or with society in general, even. They were poised to live whatever life was left in them to live, and for that, they were all so very noble.

Painting by Pakayla Biehn 

To Thine Own Self Be True

I have been thinking more and more about how we let our relationships define us. It's so easy to get caught up in thinking of yourself as married, or single, or as the girlfriend or the wife. Then there are the complications of being straight or gay, of being a mother, or being childless. They are all labels based solely on our involvements, on different levels, with other people. We define ourselves by our jobs quite often too, but it is our relationships that we as social beings really depend on. When those fail to flourish, or work out differently than we expected them to, we think of ourselves as lesser. My mother got divorced around the age I am now, and with two little girls, became a single parent. She always lamented later to me that she felt like she had let us down. I think, the only way you can let others down is by not being true to yourself. It really doesn't matter so much in the end whether you lived a married life, or a divorced life, or were a single mother or even who you chose to love. The point is to live knowing that you respect your own choices and valued your time alive, because it doesn't last forever. The point is to look at yourself in the mirror and see that you have arrived right where you were meant to be, as a whole package, as undamaged goods.

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Lead Image Courtesy of Lily Atherton

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