Friday, May 18, 2012

The lonely high road

A dear friend of mine is the child of divorced parents, and ever since I met her in college, I've heard stories of that particular divorce.  The image of her father rolling up his car window and driving away with her in the backseat, as her mother yelled, "FUCK YOU!", is emblazoned on my mind, as if I'd been sitting next to her.  I know that I don't want that for Katherine, and I know that it's all too easy to get to that place.  I'm looking for role models, because I really want to do this as well as is humanly possible.

In an effort to avoid repeating the divorce mistakes made by so many, I'm looking for role models.

The Good Divorce

One of the first books I found on the subject of divorce was The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart by Constance Ahrons, Ph.D.  It was an auspicious start to my divorce research.  In the book, Ahrons outlines an ideology for approaching divorce in a child-centric manner.  I read it twice before I asked for a divorce, hiding it in my bedroom (we were already sleeping in different rooms a lot of the time, his choice not mine) until I was ready to commit to divorce.  If I was to sum up the whole book, it would be, "Take the high road."  The high road means being compassionate, it means controlling one's temper, it means placing the child's needs first and foremost.  This seems like a sound strategy for me, and reading the book actually solidified my decision to divorce; it was the first strategy I'd seen that looked like something I could live with.  (Make no mistake, the book doesn't advocate divorce, and it doesn't paint a rosy picture, but it doesn't paint a picture of parents screaming at each other through a car window, either.)

With the book under my belt, I thought that it would be relatively easy to find lots of people just like me, lots of blogs about women (or men) going through divorce just the way the book had defined.

I have taken to scouring the web to find just about every divorce blog there is. This is such strange territory for me: none of my close friends are divorced, my parents and my grandparents aren't divorced, and I don't have many footsteps to follow in.  Surely there are people out there doing it the way I hope to?

There are plenty of angry, vitriolic blogs about divorce.  Some of them are funny and entertaining, but when I read them I get a little chill to think of living in that kind of bitterness.  I don't want to live like that, and I really don't want my daughter to live surrounded by that.

I don't know about you, but she doesn't look very happy to me.

I keep remembering, "Anger is a poison you drink to kill your enemy."  I don't want to die like that.  Sure, I'm mad - don't get me started - but I want to be HAPPY.

So far, I have found only a few blogs where the parents are both able to put their kids front and center, and have reached a place where they are living lives that aren't a testimony to anger and pain.  Here's my list, in case there are others out there, like myself, who are looking for a little inspiration in the divorce department. 

The first one, which is also the first one I found, is Molly Monet's Postcards from a  Peaceful Divorce.  Molly and her ex meet for dinners with their kids, she speaks kindly of him, she reflects on the marriage positively even though she is glad she is no longer in that marriage.  I have grown very fond of Molly - a woman I've never met, or conversed with, and who likely has no clue who I am - and I've been rather in awe of her.  Hers is the standard to which I have held myself, and mostly, I have felt like a miserable failure as a result.  Overall, she comes across as a hip, happy, successful, well rounded woman who not only raises her kids with love and patience and joy, but manages to have a successful career, a commitment to yoga (and all of its health and social benefits), AND a dating life.  I have spent hours trying to figure out how to be more like Molly, and how to achieve her brand of divorce.  I hate to admit it, but recently when she admitted to some struggles that she's been going through, I felt a tiny bit of relief, because she's actually human, and her revealed humanity helped me to be gentler with myself.  (And I hate that I would revel even a tiny bit in someone else's suffering - really, am I that small?!  But I am incredibly grateful to Molly for putting it all out there, for me to look up to, and I'm also grateful to her for revealing that everything isn't perfect, because that gives me permission to be imperfect as well.)

Another blog, which I discovered more recently, is Cuckoo Mama's This Cuckoo's Nest.  (Like me, Cuckoo Mama is blogging anonymously.)  Cuckoo Mama isn't all Zen like Molly: actually, she gets pretty pissed off and blows off steam on her blog about her "beer monkey" ex and his shenanigans.  But still, she puts her kids' needs front and center, even where the ex is involved.  The kids stay in the house, and she and the ex take turns "birdnesting" in that house, so that the parents have to move in and out, but the kids stay there.  This is an act of selfless love that only someone who has resorted to divorce could possibly understand: deciding that the marriage is too broken to continue, but sharing a physical space with that person, takes the patience of Job.  Cuckoo Mama writes funny rants about dirty dishes left in the sink, and she threatens with her purse brick, but she puts it front and center that she's glad to do this for her kids, and that it works because her ex is a decent guy.  I may aspire to be just like Molly, all peaceful compassion, but I relate to Cuckoo Mama, because she is angry but she does the right thing for her kids anyway.

Big Little Wolf's Daily Plate of Crazy is a blog about many things, including divorce.  Big Little Wolf is wise, compassionate, and contemplative, and whatever she's writing about, I tend to love it.  (Although I don't share her passion for Mad Men, but don't tell her, because she's a cool kid and I want her to like me, and she's crazy for Mad Men.)  Recently I commented on a post of hers about where truth lies in divorce, and she gently told me that it is much easier to see truth a few years out from divorce, rather than right in the middle, as I am.  Maybe this is why she seems to be so at ease with her divorce: she's no longer living it, she's moved past it, and it no longer defines her.  I need to go back and read her archives (they go back to 2009), because I'd like to get to where she is now, but she's right, that's going to take me a few years.  In the meantime, maybe I can read about how she got there....

An unusual - and therefore refreshing - blog is When The Flames Go Up, by ex-spouses LOD and AskMoxie.  They take turns blogging their perspectives on divorce, and they are thoughtful and considerate of one another.  This proves that it CAN be done, and I cling to their blog for that particular piece of hope.  They don't want to be married any more, but they are still kind to one another, and that makes them great co-parents.  Beautiful, don't you think?

There are lots of angry divorcee' blogs, to go along with the ones I've listed here.  In William Quincy Belle's post The War of the Divorcees, he mentions the possibility that maybe, as a man, he should wear a cup when he reads some women's divorce blogs.  I don't deny that there are reasons to be angry: when I read The Bitter Divorcee's description of how her son needed stitches after her son's drunken father hurt him, and how he doesn't even pay pittance child support, I don't blame her for being bitter (and I admire the grace with which she handles herself, given the circumstances; I enjoy her blog, too, even though it's not the model of divorce I'm hoping for, because she's wise and thoughtful even in her circumstances.)

But what I've learned in searching out blogs about "good divorces" is that really, decent divorces are few and far between.  When I read The Huffington Post's Divorce section, it seems that the world has gone mad, and it's mostly about adults behaving like over-tired toddlers, screaming for the sake of screaming.  The type of divorce I'm still envisioning isn't easy to come by, and most of the time, when I tell people my vision, they look at me as if I'm deluded.

I want to act like that too.  But don't you think I'm too old?!
Then again, those are the same people who told me that NO WAY could Bryan and I live in the same house with Katherine together for a year after deciding to get divorced.  They told me that it was impossible.  They told me that I'd never make it.

It has been lonely, it has been isolating, it has been frustrating, it has been exhausting....but it's been a year.  The high road is lonely, but I'm glad that I've got a few havens on the internet to show me that I'm not truly alone in my approach, and that maybe, just maybe, I can make this work for everyone.

Do you read other divorce blogs?  Which ones?  What inspires you?  What makes you laugh?  Where do you find intelligent discussions about divorce?  Do you have a divorce blog?  Please, let me know....especially if you've found others who are taking the high road.  I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Pollyanna, Thank you for the kind words about my gathering spot - and me. (I don't mind that you don't watch Mad Men, but shhhhh... don't let that get around.)

    As for divorce and single parenting and attitude, I'm not sure I'm wise so much as I'm tired, but I'll take "wise" as a result of living a lot of life, observing and listening, and realizing that there are few absolutes and people can surprise with their best, their worst, and everything in between. And we can - and do - surprise ourselves with the strength we need to parent our kids well and honorably.

    I'm not certain I've moved past divorce; depending upon the situation, one is constantly moving through the latest dust storm kicked up by the fact of it, or by the consequences of it.

    I will say that acting from a place of integrity allows you to live with yourself - regardless of how your ex behaves, and certainly, a good attitude helps, as it does with everything in life.

    I stand by the fact that time - years - allows us to see our part in what plays out (it takes two people to make a marriage and two people to make a divorce, though one person can certainly make marriage hellish for the other). And with years, we have a greater ability to rebuild - ourselves, our lives.

    Where positive attitude helps, I might say pragmatism is also essential. I was naive during and after my divorce. I took the word of attorneys at face value (bad call), I took what was written on a divorce agreement and child support agreement at face value (worse call), and I allowed the emotion of the marital ending to block out the need for me to inform myself - constantly - and listen to my gut (which was giving warning signs).

    I say these things only to make this point: a good attitude is extremely useful (very helpful with our kids), but attitude and pragmatism are not mutually exclusive. Understanding that many of us are at our worst during and after divorce, we can prepare for that if necessary. We can also use that knowledge to understand that it's a painful process, with many tentacles, but pain often comes before healing - even if healing takes considerable time.

    I wish you wisdom (and pragmatism) on your journey.

  2. I'm over from BigLittleWolf's, who I agree is wise.

    You might like Mandy who blogs at She is about a year into divorce, and certainly is taking the high road. She also writes fiction and loves her kitchen and garden.

  3. BLW, thank you for coming by, and for keeping the conversation going. I stand by my statement that you are wise, and perhaps you are wise because of the way you are reflective on your life; that brings a sort of wisdom not found in books.

    Your comments about the tentacles of pain are inspiring a whole new post for me - thank you. I think that at its best, attitude towards pain inspires pragmatism, and that is what I aim for. More to follow on that.

    I gratefully accept your wishes, your blessing, for wisdom and pragmatism. I need both, perhaps in higher quantities than I own.

    If only I could gather the wisdom of years to come in advance! I know that I will come through this a changed person, and I know where I am lacking wisdom, and some days I feel powerless to find it. I wish too deeply that I could learn from others' mistakes, instead of making my own, but that is so rarely the case in life. Still, a girl can hope! (And read. And discuss. And try to learn.)

  4. Kate, thank you for coming by. I will check out Mandy's blog, and yours, too. Come back any time! :-)

  5. Thanks for bringing this piece to my attention and for your sweet admiration. It is wonderful to hear your kind words for me. And yes, it is always a struggle and work in progress, even thought I do eventually find a way to feel good my decisions.

    I also loved hearing about the other blogs. Most of them I already read, and yes, I feel like I know them personally. Several have become my Facebook friends, furthering the connection.

    You would also like Co-parenting 101 Deesha and Mike are amazing: kind, compassionate and funny.

    Keep up the good fight!

  6. Thank you for visiting me here, Molly. Like you, I know I eventually find a way to feel good about my decisions, but ohhhhh the journey. It helps to have traveling companions to get through the rough spots.

    I took a gander at Co-parenting 101 - thank you for that suggestion. It's great!

    The good fight - yes, it is, isn't it? I will - you too!