Three Years Ago When Our Lives Changed

by Cate on April 4, 2012

the very tippiest tip of new jersey
“I think The Husband and I just agreed to separate.”

I had been lying in bed with my laptop on my lap, working on a freelance article, and chatting with Sarah, as we are oft to do.  Since we both do a lot of freelancing and sometimes work late hours, GoogleTalk is that little lifesaver window on the computer screen, making you feel like you have company while you are working.

The (Ex-) Husband came into the bedroom.  We had a three minute conversation.  And it was done.

Just like that.  Life changed.

As I typed those words to Sarah, who was the first to know, I was probably in shock.

That we just changed the dynamic of our family.  Rewrote the children’s history.  Today, exactly three years later, I am sometimes still surprised by the twists and turns we’ve taken.

There was no lingering sense of “How about…”  “What if…”  “Can we…”  In many ways, it was clean.

I think that was a Thursday night.  The next night, the kids and I went down the shore while The (Ex-) Husband collected what he wanted.  We came back late Sunday.  I looked around to see what he took.

His clothes.

Of course.

And a collection of pictures I had on top of the bookshelf in the master bedroom.

Nothing else.

The next week I was just going through the motions.  Processing.  Reliving our last few days together.  A family dinner out together.  Light-hearted and tender e-mails and texts just the day before.

Life is funny like that.  One day you think it’s ok.  Then you blink.

And it’s not.

We were married for one month shy of twelve years.

But what’s weird is that it seems like another lifetime ago.

Mystic and I were talking about that a few weeks ago.

I feel that it’s a lot like childbirth and the related labor and delivery.  Your mind protects you from the pain and trauma of it, so you’ll go back and have another baby perhaps.  Or remarry.

Sure I remember bits and pieces of our marriage and time together.  A lot.  After all, we were together for nearly 15 years.

But likewise, a lot of it has been replaced by knowing what it’s like now.  And your memory fades.

And you know what?

It’s ok.

I would never wish divorce on anyone.

Especially my kids.  It breaks my heart that they have to go through it.  That Madeline won’t know what it’s like to grow up with both her Mom and her Dad in the same house.  And I say go through it (as opposed to the past tense), because it’s a topic that rears its heads many many times during our days, even now, three years later.

Nick asks at least monthly why his Dad isn’t here.

There are many discussions about why he has to go visit him.

Why we didn’t stay married forever like you’re supposed to.

I answer the questions over and over again.

As recently as a week ago.

Some questions, I direct them to their Dad.  Because it’s not my place to speak for him.  I never do.  Especially if the answer is going to be negative.

But now three years later.  Here’s what I know.

It will be ok.

It is ok.

Sure, there are rough spots here and there.

Still now.

We just weren’t meant to be together forever.

It happens.

The kids’ history gets rewritten.  And they are the narrators of a lot of it.

I changed my priorities.  Shifted a lot of things.  Refocused.

Welcomed new friends into my life.  Rewelcomed old ones.

Strengthened bonds with some, and severed them with others.

I have met some amazing people.

We have had incredible experiences over the past three years.  Done things we might never have done before.

I am reminded of two quotes that are very fitting for this sort of life change (and many other ones just as dramatic).

“When bad things happen, you have three choices.  You can either let it define you.  You can let it destroy you.  Or you can let it strengthen you.”

I choose the latter.  Each and every time.

And the other quote?

“Every story has an end.  But in life, every ending is just a new beginning.”

Oh wait, I lied, one more.  I’m a sucker for an appropos quote.

“Everything is ok in the end.  If it’s not ok, then it’s not the end.”

A few weeks ago, one of my freelancing editors wanted an article about divorce.  And the positives of it.  And I had (and still have) such an internal struggle with that.

Were there some positives that came out of getting divorced?


But I always wish those positives could have happened without the divorce happening too.  I don’t ever want my kids to think that I was happy I got divorced.  Split from their dad.  I can’t stand “divorce parties” for the same reason.  Especially when there are kids involved.  It’s not something to celebrate.

What we can take pleasure in, however, is that no matter how we ended up at this particular chapter of our lives, it’s ok.  We (and more specifically, I) am certainly more in charge than ever on how the story goes.  And believe me when I tell you, I do so love a happy ending.

I debated about writing about this topic tonight.  Those that know me “in real life” know that I don’t dwell on the divorce, or being divorced.  At all.  It’s a piece of who I am.  Not all of who I am.  I hate that it happened, but we move on.  That being said, it’s one of a handful of dates that stick out in my mind.  Which says a lot because I am terrible with dates and names.  April 4th will always be the day I became a single mom.  Instead of dwelling on the divorce, this is more of a lessons learned type piece.  Divorce happens.  What I know for sure?  It’s how we handle it from there that continues to make the difference.  To shape things for our children.  To show them how to process and get through a negative situation.  Whether it be a divorce, job loss, death in the family, what have you.

That the actual act doesn’t define us.  But how we handle it does.

And now, have YOU commented on the Live Better for Less Challenge?  Why not?  I do hope you’ll join in with us… I have one gorgeous BUILT NY lunch tote that could end up in your very hands.

Tomorrow?  We catch up.  On photos.  Big time.

Friday?  March goals revisited and April goals shared.

*the photo at the top has zero to do with the post. but couldn’t find the “perfect” one, so went with random beauty.

**and Sarah actually still has the GoogleTalk text from our conversation that night. And would you believe I had the date wrong? I was two days off.  Damn.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah April 4, 2012 at 9:34 pm

When I read those words on the screen that night, I gasped out loud. Then I said “OH MY GOD” so loudly that Shawn asked me from another room what was wrong. It was like ice was running through my veins when I told him. You were the last person I ever expected to get a divorce. But what struck me that night and in the coming days was that even as it all sucked, you handled it with such grace and dignity. And your primary concern all along was for Nick and Madeline. You’re amazing and you’ve come past this whole ordeal as a stronger woman who inspires me daily.


Joanne April 5, 2012 at 6:22 am

This was such a beautifully and gracefully written post, Cate. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to handle such a thing with such dignity and poise. And I love those quotes. Good mantras for anyone, no matter the situation.


paula April 5, 2012 at 8:07 am

Great post. I have been fortunate to probably have experienced one of the least emotionally traumatic divorces (for myself and my boys, can’t speak for the ex). My Nick actually lit up when I told him. He was excited about the new place to live near friends, even though it was only a few blocks away. Somehow it’s all cool to him (so far, knock on wood). Between the split custody, our proximity and our attitudes things go very smoothly. I had to make that choice though that I’m surprised many people don’t make, the choice to have a good attitude post divorce. I mean, divorce happens for a reason, because you can’t be happy together. I refuse to stay unhappy apart or what was the point of going through the process, which was still stressful and painful even though it turned out well. I suppose that’s a bit easier for the person who wanted the divorce but staying bitter doesn’t help anyone, especially the kids.


Cate April 5, 2012 at 8:52 am

Paula – exactly. It’s all about the attitude. Don’t get me wrong. The kids are absolutely fine. It’s more the questions. I guess I’m just surprised that three years later, Nick still asks some of the same questions. Madeline is a completely different case, because she was so young when it happened, she doesn’t remember him living with us, so *this* is all she really knows. Which, in a roundabout way, might be a good thing.


Ramona April 5, 2012 at 9:57 am

divorce does stink.

you are right, it is okay

those kids have a great mom


christy April 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

I am sure that was a tough post. My parents went through divorce when I was 19, starting my first year of college. My mom came, took her stuff and left with another man (now my step dad). At the time it was shocking, hurtful, sad, and so many other emotions. I cried for 2 weeks straight and one day I woke up and decided that i wasnt going to let it define who i am or who i was going to become. I needed to take it as a lesson that not all things work out and that things will be ok. It still chokes me up to think about it, but i think with time all things change and it becomes easier to think about and discuss.


Laura April 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Beautiful Cate

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost


C April 5, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I don’t know that if I were in the same situation that I’d ever be able to write about it this way. With grace & not a smidge of anger. It speaks volumes about your character and heart.


Robyn April 8, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I was the Nick. My parents separated when I was 5 years old. I don’t think I truly understood it until my 20s. I now know that they are each better people because they are not together. And I am blessed to have my step-mom (for 26 years) and step-dad (for 13 years) in my life. He and Madeline will come to understand and be thankful that the divorce gave them different experiences than they would have had if you stayed together.


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