Last year on the 4th of July I bought myself a pair of squeaky clean white roller skates with pink wheels – exactly the kind I would have wanted to dance around the roller rink in when I was 12 years old – planning to wear them to be able to keep up with my boys on their bikes at a block party we were heading to.
When I got home the “hope” stone, which I had placed by my front door shortly after separating from my now ex-husband, caught my eye, and I took a picture of the two together and posted them on Facebook as my cover photo for my divorce mediation practice page with the caption “Happy Independence Day!” I was surprised by how confusing this picture was to so many of my friends and family, who sent me messages asking things like: “What do the roller skates have to do with hope?”, “Why is this for the 4th?”, “What do either have to do with divorce or mediation?”, and “Huh?”
At the time I just shrugged and replaced the photo with my logo, but almost a year to the day later, my own divorce final and having worked with many other to finalize their own, I think of this image often and feel more certain that it was and is entirely apropos.
Nobody enters a marriage with the hope of one day getting divorced. We all want the happily ever after, and we all want to believe that within our marriage we will only find ourselves growing stronger, remaining independent while joining with that partner with whom we will build our better and more complete selves. For some, that truly does happen, and when it does it is beautiful. For those of us who unfortunately find that within our marriage we actually lose touch with our better selves and realize that the only way forward is to separate, divorce and rebuild on our own, independence and wholeness can feel out of reach and hopelessness can easily set in.
I am not an advocate for divorce for divorce’s sake. My own parents have been married for 46 years and I have seen the reality of their ups and downs and watched them love each other deeply and passionately all along the way. That said, I strongly reject the notion, however unconscious, that we still have of divorce as a failure. If a marriage is unhealthy and the people within it are suffering along, it is a triumph of will and self-reflection to own the need to move on. Divorce does not need to be the angry battle it becomes for so many. If we can be honest with ourselves, our spouse, and our children, as strange as it sounds, it can be an expression of love: I love myself enough to know this is not a healthy relationship for me to live inside of. I love you enough to want you to be nurtured and happy, and I cannot do that for you. I love our children enough to want them to grow up in a home without the constant battle of a cold war of silence and separate bedrooms or the heated anger of shouts, and I love our children enough to want them to see us love them as cooperative parents leading separate, fulfilling lives.
So on Independence Day, I will make it my annual tradition to lace up my skates and remember that I still have it in me to be as hopeful and free as a 12-year old, with gratitude for the learned wisdom of knowing that we live in a world where there are ways to do what we need to do, hard as it may be, with grace, conscious choice and the power to keep moving forward with love.