I haven’t been able to write much lately. This moment has felt too consuming for that. But tonight. Tonight there are things weighing heavily on my mind and I needed a space to put them. So I have come here to rest some of those thoughts, to share that weight with anyone who is willing to carry some of it along with me. I can’t offer you inspiration tonight or some way to make your way through all the madness or ideas on how to make any of this eLearning or eTeaching or eSurviving more manageable. What I can offer you are my thoughts. So here they are in all their mess.
So there are things that exist in this world that are unjust. That are terrible creations of oppressive systems and I believe that we, especially those of us who have benefitted from those systems, have an urgent responsibility to fight to change those things. Those are things we should never accept.
And then there are other things. Things that happen to us. Things that are awful. Things that might be caused by other people’s bad decisions and actions, but that we cannot do much about. Those are things that I am thinking of tonight. The awful things that happen to us.
And here is what I have learned about those things: We, humans, we are capable of adjusting to awful things and sometimes even finding small bits of light in them.
Almost exactly one year ago to the day, my wife cheated on me and left me. I don’t bring this up to ask for pity or to stir up drama or to show myself as some sort of pillar of strength. None of those things are helpful. I say that because one year ago, almost to the day, I was changed. And I learned some things. And not by choice. It came on suddenly. It was not the result of years of an unhappy marriage. It did not happen after months of endless fighting. To me, it came out of nowhere and I was left unprepared.
In the days and weeks and months after she left, I found myself in a puddle of tears more often than not. I had the most incredible people around me, carrying me through, but none of it felt like it was ever going to be okay. I was wrecked. I was betrayed. I was hurt and I was left shattered and in pieces. When I go back now and read the words that I wrote then, I remember the reality that existed for me. This complete and utter disbelief that I was ever going to be okay.
And then, something started to happen. Things did not get less awful, but I started to adjust to them. I wrapped myself and my love, around my kid and we started to adjust to this new life that we did not choose. We drew strength from each other, we drew strength from the amazing people that surrounded us, we drew strength from within ourselves that we did not know existed. And we kept moving forward. Because we had no choice. And slowly, over many months, we started to adjust.
And I want to be clear. Things were still awful. And in so many ways they still are. But we started to adjust to the awful. We started to mold ourselves around it. We found new ways of being, we found new ways of living, we found new ways of loving each other that allowed us to get up each morning and make it through the day.
And then. Then something else started to occur. After my former-wife first left, I reached out to a friend (such a wise friend) who had gone through a similar situation with her former wife and she told me something that has guided me forward every since. She said that she could now see her the gifts in the betrayal of her former wife. Her ex-wife’s betrayal had been a gift. When she first spoke those words to me, I thought that perhaps they were nice for her, perhaps they were even true for her, but they could not be true for me.
But in this past year, and through a whole lot of therapy and a whole lot of painful self-reflection, I have reached a point where I, too, can see the gifts in my former wife’s betrayal. Because now I can look back on our relationship, from a distance, and see it for what it really was. How it was about me giving up who I was in order to meet someone else’s needs. How it was about a toxic kind of love where I was expected to make myself small in order for someone else to feel big. How it became necessary for me to distance myself from the people who had been supports to me in my life so that someone else could feel more important. These were truths that I did not see. These were sacrifices that I had made for a decade that, in the end, cost me a big piece of who I was, or who I could have been, in order to try to appease someone who ended up leaving me in the end anyway.
And when she did leave. I was free from all of that. In the first weeks and months and parts of a year after she left, I could not have seen it. But her departure allowed me to find myself again. Or to start to, anyway. In her betrayal, there lay so many gifts.
This past week when I texted a friend (a friend who knows this road well, a friend who was brought into my life because of the shared experience of being left, a friend whose presence is yet one more gift in all of this) and I told her that I was pretty sure that day was the one year anniversary of when my former wife began her new relationship, she told me to celebrate the day. She told me to celebrate myself. She told me to look at the day as the day that I started to reclaim who I was. The day when I was set free.
And that. That is the bit of light. I am not saying that there is a silver lining. I am not saying that things happen for a reason. Because so much of that feels dismissive and does not honor the very real and very heavy pain that also exits. But I am saying, that I have learned to adjust to the awful. I have managed to find these bits of light. I still have nights where I drink glasses of wine by myself on my couch and cry myself to sleep. But I also have so many moments when I truly feel like I am okay. And I am grateful for the life that I now have and the me that I can see myself becoming. I have adjusted to this new life. I have accepted the truth within it. I keep moving forward and I can see the bits of light.
And all of that, right now, in this moment that the world is experiencing, all of that feels really important. Because things now are awful. The world is in a terrifying space. As educators we are struggling. Our students are struggling. Our families are struggling. It is all just so awful. And it does not appear as if things are going to get less awful any time soon. In fact, it appears as if it might just get worse.
But here is what I know and here is what I have come here to share: We, humans, we are capable of adjusting to awful things and sometimes even finding small bits of light within them.
So here we are in this moment. We all seem to be searching for a way to make things less awful, but I think that might be the wrong approach. I think that maybe, instead, we accept that this is awful and we allow ourselves time to adjust. We allow ourselves time to recalibrate. We allow ourselves time to find a path forward. We are kind to each other, we are kind to ourselves, and we allow ourselves time and space to breathe and trust that we are going to adjust to the awful around us. We remember what we know about children. We remember what we know about ourselves. We remember what we know about teaching and learning and we use that to guide us through this all.
And who knows, maybe we will be able to find the small bits of light in this moment as well. Knowing that this moment is terrifying and that lives are at stake and that our unjust systems have been highlighted in a myriad of ways, maybe there will also be some small bits of light in all of this. And those are what we will cling too and what we hold on to and those will be what will move us forward.
So, hang in there, everyone. We have all been asked to do an impossible thing. It is awful and terrible and we are all feeling the affects of it in an indescribable way. But I believe we will adjust. I believe that we will find our way through it all. And I believe that maybe, just maybe, we will be able to find those small bits of light in all of this darkness.