"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Reorganizing your dreams through a divorce

I've been quiet here, because for the past six months I've been in the throes of divorce. I think I knew even in the months leading up to the decision what I would eventually do, so for a long time beforehand I was afraid to say anything because everyone who knows me knows I wear my heart on my sleeve and everything I write.

There has been a lot of hard in this process, and it's far from done. But I think one of the worst parts has been to reorganize my dreams; for myself, for my family unit, for my boys. I've done such expansive and heedless things as write a piece on how I don't plan for divorce with my finances (I still stand behind that post); I've written extensively about what some people call "radical domesticity" and been one of the subjects of a book about it. I know I've said a dozen or a thousand times that I've chosen in the past several years to let my husband take the primary breadwinner role -- his work was intense, too, serving in the Army in Kuwait for three years -- and lead a life that's low on luxuries so I could spend time with the kids, at home, with my writing. (Really, the ultimate luxury.) I've loved how much I could shape the environment for my kids, especially my oldest, who I've unschooled for much of the past three years to help find him a place he can truly belong.

Now I have to find a way to navigate the life I want with a distinctly different set of resources.

For my oldest, things are the worst; his need for belonging is ripped in two (or three); he's brought all his favorite things to his dad's apartment and has a cocoon-like space there that he rarely wants to leave. I've spent so much time, sometimes every day all day, with this kid for the past 11 years and now I feel sometimes I'm losing all hold on him. He is so much like me and yet growing more and more like his dad. I'm having to recast what my dreams are for him; he wants to create his perfect space and the new life doesn't have resources for duplicates. His perfect space is not in my world any more. How can I reorganize that dream to make it work for both of us?

I'm getting a panic attack just writing this. (I've started having panic attacks. That's another thing that's been keeping me quiet.) There is also the financial part; having to figure out how to be a radical homemaker without that guaranteed social construct/financial support I'd come to rely on over our 10 years of marriage plus more of committed partnership. I'd spent the first 20 years of my adult life (eight years with a partner-like boyfriend) never without that automatic structure.

I'm figuring it out, with a lot of help from the people I love. That's another story. But I think what took me the longest was the letting go of my picture of what a perfect family life was. My sense of construing the borders around a "good" family life. My fidelity to a social institution.

It turns out that I wasn't achieving any of my true deep-down goals in my marriage. I am into creating community and spending all my time building and as little time as possible critiquing. I am into putting art before housework. Putting connection before appearances. Putting the needs and even just desires of the children above what-I-think-society-need. I'm not into homework; I am into digging in the dirt.

So when I reorganize all my dreams I am really just reorganizing the space in which I pursue them, the titles of people I pursue them with. In fact I'm closer than ever. I'm happy. I'm anxious as all hell and I keep looking for new ways to write about how my heart feels when the panic comes but ye gods am I happy.

I'll be writing more here now, trying to forge spaces for community-building and connecting and sharing stories and experiences of the real gorgeous life of families, messy and tortuous and full of shame pitfalls and really all we're here for.


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Aw, I have missed your writing. I think about you whenever I am in your area, and I usually remember to send you some positive vibes. Hope everything settles into a new normal, with everybody as happy as they can be, soon. xo

I wondered what had happened to you and yours. I'm so sorry you've been having such a rough ride. You are due some good times. Thank you for making this space, and for being here.

I have been wondering and worrying about you. I'm sorry to hear about the divorce though not shocked from you've written before. I have found parenthood to be a continual process of redefining my dreams. I wish you all the best.

What a beautiful essay! Thank you for sharing!

Thank you for sharing this. I'm at a crossroads in my own marriage; it helps to know how others are handling it.

Just sending some love, mama. . . . .

You used to be an investment banker in past life, right? I know you don't want to work long hours or work at all outside of the house, but maybe when the anxiety comes, just tell yourself you have the education and the experience to fall back on, if you choose.

thank for this post. it is incredibly necessary for divorce to change it's cultural definition and to become just what you speak of. It is a change, and a restructuring of life but it doesn't have to be encapsulated in the negativity that our culture depicts it as being. i think this is very brave of you, and though I am not going through a divorce, recently it has become a possibility and I am trying to build an understanding of what that would and can mean, especially with kids and especially with one kids who also does not fit into the public school (or, we've found) the private school system. I am glad you are finding community and support and I wish the best for you and your family in this time.

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