This article was originally published on Ramblings of a Dysfunctional Homeschooler in 2015. Previous pieces from that blog will be uploaded here as I am willing and able to. In the piece below, The Spouse refers to my now ex-husband.
A little over a month ago I tossed an inflatable into the room we’ve lovely dubbed “The Library” and fired the first of what would be a series of shots on both ends that ultimately brought about the moment every couple swears they’ll never experience when they get married. The “we need to divorce” talk. There have been tears, rage, and more tears, because even when you know it’s the right thing to do that doesn’t erase the emotions that went into the relationship. Instead they bubble up, unexpectedly, encompassing you without a moment’s notice. You find yourself standing in a group of people completely in control and then out of nowhere the air leaves your lungs and your balance feels unsteady.
You struggle to regain your composure before anyone notices the haze filling your eyes, it’s painful and frustrating especially when the world doesn’t know the truth. You are at war with your emotions and logic, and even some days your spouse, but to the rest of the world you and your family are as they always have been. That’s the myth of perfect at work. Two weeks ago, The Spouse and I started the uncomfortable process of letting the outside world know where we were headed. His outing involved work. I went with social media because, I figured it would be like pulling off a band-aid. Quick and virtually painless. While it was quick, painless it was not.
Our lives go through filters. This isn’t a new concept brought about by social media, no matter what the newest trending article claims, it’s something we as a human race have done for generations. Always smiling and putting the best image of ourselves, our family, and our relationships forward. Every now and then a bit of the truth slips out, but, for the most part, our lives are heavily edited to produce a show we want people to believe really takes place. Maybe that’s why reality television is so popular, we’re all doing it and reality television reminds us that we’re not the only ones using more than Instagram filters when interacting with the world. Of course when bits and pieces of the filters fall away and people get to actually view the unedited footage there are questions. One question, or a variation of it, that I keep encountering is “You guys looked so happy and perfect, what happened?”
There’s that word, perfect. I won’t lie, we did look pretty damn perfect some days and not all of those conversations or pictures were put through a filter. Plenty of them were, though, and even more were left on the cutting room floor to never be gazed upon by anyone other than myself. Why? Because they didn’t support the myth of perfect. The myth that my marriage and my life were aspirations that others should reach for. I would often cringe when someone would tell me that they longed for a relationship like the one the Spouse and I had. Of course, they only knew the bits I shared and I made sure to never share the ugly bits. Having to share the ugly bits, or at least acknowledge that we had enough of them to terminate our relationship, has been painful. A variety of things seems to happen when you tell people where you truly are in life, you either get support, advice which isn’t always useful or solicited, questions you often don’t have the answers to, or booze and trauma vultures. And because you can’t peel away the veneer that the perfect myth places on life without taking some flesh with it, you get plenty of pain.
The pain is a double edged sword, on one hand it begs you to go back to the safety of the myth. It wants you to bask in the comfort of those rose colored filters where the reality of your life was lived alone and isolated from the prying eyes that would offer their half-baked thoughts and opinions on your situation. Then the pain grabs you and reminds you why it exist. It shakes you and rocks you to your core, preventing you from going anywhere but forward. While the truth hurts, pretending kills. So you stop pretending.
Now that you all know that dysfunctional wasn’t just a cute blog title, but an actual indication of the insanity in which our family has lived, where do we go from here? I know the question portion is coming.
*Engaging announcer font* Will The Bringers of Mayhem still be homeschooled? Was it the military that caused this breakdown of such a lovely family? Did you try hard enough?
The line of questioning folks throw at you boarders on fucking insane, while some are legitimate and ok to ask, others are not. I would say most, actually, are not ok to ask. I have to tell you all before you hit that comment button, think first!
I will go ahead and answer the most asked questions, because I’m nice like that: that’s what we all want to see happen, it’s not completely to blame nor is it totally blameless, and I don’t understand that question. What exactly is enough and who gets to determine when you’ve reached it?
If you ask me I will say yes, if you ask The Spouse he’ll probably say no. We see our relationship and its end through a different set of eyes and experiences even when some of those experiences were shared. That’s the reality of any human relationship. We all see the world through different eyes and different experiences. At some point in time those differences either become the relationship's strength or it becomes their weakness. No matter how many filters we apply or edits we make for the world, we still have to view our relationships with our eyes wide open no matter how much it hurts.
Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes
Lemonade. An album that became a cultural phenomenon and changed the game. I’m not a music blogger, so this won’t be a dissection of an album that dropped three years ago. Instead, it will be a reflection on the way the meaning of songs can change as we move through the various stages of our lives.
Three years ago, Lemonade filled the recesses of my mind with empowering lyrics I needed to hear. From the raw pain of “Hold Up” to the give no fucks boss bitch anthems of “Sorry” and “6 Inch”, I had words to scream when I failed to find the courage to speak. I cried into bottles of Jack and Captain Morgan while listening to “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles”. Most of all, I found hope in “All Night”.
That was three years ago.
Today, with all the clarity and wounds of the past three years, I see Lemonade differently. It is still a stunning piece of work on the emotional weight that comes with pouring yourself into another human being and being left with nothing in return but heartache. Now, though, the songs seem less like declarations to the source of one’s pain and more like letters to oneself urging the tortured to turn their pain into something glorious.
I no longer see “All Night” with the rose-colored glasses of hope. I no longer blast it crying out for a love that seemed to elude me. This change, though, has nothing to do with my current relationship status. Over the last three years I had to find the courage to love myself wholly in all my brokenness. I had to learn to give up the fantasies I was sold from a young age about love and family. Instead, taking time to carve out what those things meant for me in the remnants of my soul.
I had to find the truth beneath the lies I was told and discover the truest love of all was the love I had for myself. As bitter as they may have been to accept and grow from, I had to learn to see my own scars and kiss my own crimes. I learned to trust myself and not fall victim to the people who wanted to consume me but never fully see me.
True love is a remedy for an aching heart and is absolutely the best weapon against pain. But life has shown me that it’s foolish to seek that remedy in another. We must arm ourselves with an unwavering passion for who we are, the good, bad, and downright ugly; if we ever want to make headway on the road of healing from that which tortures us.
It’s not an easy road to travel. So, remember to offer yourself the sweet love you deserve. Life’s too short to spend it forgetting to love the one person you’re guaranteed to be with forever.
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
Divorce is rarely easy, but it is often necessary. When I announced The Ex and I were splitting it was like the shot heard round the world. Everyone in our respective circles lost their collective minds. We had put up a good front for a long time, a really long time. And in one moment it became clear that not all that glitters is gold. But when you’ve spent your formative years with someone, while simultaneously coming from a religious family and living in a society that puts marriage on a pedestal, there is a tremendous amount of push back. You go from being “figured out” to having an asterisk next to your relationship status. You are now outside the realm of what’s expected and while you’re working through the pain, rage, and lingering love, everyone wants you to go back to the what they understand. You’re inundated with excuses made on your previous spouse's behalf and reminded that marriage is work. And of course, there come the pleas for you to pray on it and trust god. These fall as acid upon your broken godless heart; burning any hopes that your chosen path will be walked with an entourage of loved ones by your side.
I found myself standing on the path to my future but for the first time, there were no light posts. No more destination points. I was fully in charge of how life proceeded and often felt wholly alone. So why continue on the road of darkness and uncertainty? Why not take the easy way out and go back to what everyone expected?
Well, for starters, I’ve never been a fan of doing what others wanted me to do simply so they can be comfortable; especially if it was at the determent of my mental and physical well-being. More importantly, I had to consider my children. Godless parenting is more than raising kids who question religion. It’s about raising children that question the world, the institutions in place, the traditions, and how they wish to interact with the arbitrary societal expectations. The heart of godless parenting is teaching our children how to be designers of their own lives while simultaneously teaching them how to be decent loving human beings.
When it came to my first marriage I realized that The Ex and I had reached a point where the only healthy way forward was separately and the only way to ensure I taught my children how to love and respect themselves was to first and foremost love and respect myself enough to end my toxic marriage.
When I broke away from religion a little more than a decade ago I did so in order to live an authentic life where my children saw that it was OK to not have the answers and that we owe ourselves and others more than “because god did it" or "that's what the bible says" responses. We owe ourselves a doctrine of love and respect and not for a blind authority, but for ourselves and humanity.
Since I reset the narrative of my life I’ve been fortunate to be the person other friends turn to as they love themselves enough to show their children what bravery looks like.
Is divorce easy in a society that still overwhelming expects us to fall to our knees and maintain the status quo? No. Does it mean it’s the worst thing in the world? Absolutely not. Sometimes the most compassionate thing we can do is let people go so that they, as well as we, can find happiness and live our collective truths.
It is imperative to me ,while raising godless heathens, that they see an example of someone living an their authentic truth founded in free thought. This means showing them that sometimes being brave means breaking toxic traditions and setting out in the world on a road where they are the navigator and nothing is written until it’s finished.
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
“Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.”– Nicole Sobon
Six months ago I did something I swore I would never do again, much to my and my close friends surprise. I signed on the dotted line and became someone's wife once again. And while everyone gushed and fawned over us, I found their joy failed to penetrate the recesses of my heart which left me sad, angry, and confused. There are a barrage of personal questions after a marriage, “are you changing your name”, “are you going to have a baby together?”, “how does your husband feel about x, y, and/or z”, and with every “no”, “what does his feelings have to do with it”, or eye roll I dished out I found myself wanting to scream and run away.
Adjusting to a person in your personal space all the time is hard enough without the intrusion of society and their opinions and desires. I’ve found the transition from singledom to holy matrimony to be far more emotionally tumultuous the second time around. I know what marriage entails and I knew how I felt after my first go around, so I figured I could totally handle this. I was wrong. Generally speaking, I can and am handling marriage. It’s work, as it always has been and always will be, but a second marriage opens a Pandora's box of emotions I wasn’t ready for. And frankly, six months in I don’t believe I’ve even scratched the surface of them.
We all go into the phases and stages of our lives with varying degrees of expectations, these expectations are rarely based in reality because we form them from a place of hope and childlike fantasy. I knew going in that marriage is work, always and forever. What I didn’t expect was how much of that work would be processing my own feelings of grief and anger over having to start over again with someone who hasn’t had 15 years to craft a Rayven strategy guide nor the cynical bitterness of a failed marriage under their belt.
I didn’t experience a honeymoon phase this time around. I went from nervous laughter and smiles in wedding photos to sitting in a ball on my couch at two in the morning wondering if I should cry or scream. I have a good mate this time around and he genuinely wants us to work together to build a legacy that will last long after we've both parted this life. Whenever we discuss our future life together, in my head I see my two paths in the woods. On one sits the life I built during and after my first marriage. On the second road sits the foundation for this marriage. The grief and anger seep in when I remember that I have to tear down those old buildings so I can collect what’s salvageable and then begin on the new building. Brick by brick, I have to start over again.
I hate starting over. I’ll admit it, it’s not something I’m a fan of. Why? Because not only do we have to give up parts of our life we enjoyed but to some degree when we start over we must also own up to our failures. A number of my close friends and family will climb upon their soapboxes and proclaim that I didn’t fail in my first marriage. It wasn’t my fault. I, on the other hand, prefer to use the soapbox for kindling and pray that the fire manages to burn the what ifs and could have, would have, should haves from my mind because we all play our parts in the success and failure of our interpersonal relationships.
I failed at marriage. Then I spent the years that followed relying on myself to survive and when I was really lucky to thrive as well. While I had always depended on myself, during my singledom I also learned to love myself despite years of self hate and a closet full of horrible coping mechanisms. I had failed and started again, on my own terms, with all the bitterness necessary to ensure I never had to fail again. And then with a few simple words spoken in a friend’s backyard I put myself back in the firing range of failure.
I learned, as I spent the first month navigating a new marriage, society, and my own emotional baggage, that I’m not alone in my remarriage grief and anger. These feelings permeate across race, religion, orientation, and possibly gender (though to be honest I’ve yet to ask any men). These feelings cut right to the heart of our humanity, desperate to be loved and to belong yet shackled by our own fears, desires, and shortcomings. The grief and anger crawl into our hearts and challenge us to jump towards our tomorrows even if we aren’t sure the parachute will open.
While I’ve attempted to write this piece in my head for the past few months I’ve also struggled with the direction to take my public writing. There are a number of pieces that I’ve written over the past few years that have never made it on this blog for one reason or another. Usually, because I wasn’t emotionally ready to share it. While I haven’t reached a state of equilibrium, and I probably never will, I do want to share more. When I started blogging nine years ago it was a way to share my little slice of the world and the ramblings that rolled around in my head. Over the years, I polished the image of the homeschooling military family doing their best to bloom where they were planted into my own sweet delusion. I did such a fantastic job that everyone was shocked when that image blew up and that “perfect” family turned out to be another dysfunctional statistic.
There won’t be a perfect family this time around. Some days there won’t even be an OK family. So far in life I’ve learned the only guarantee I can make is that things will change and that it’s far better to be transparent than to live in denial. Life has changed. I’m no longer doing it all on my own, and that carries with it its own set of pros and cons. Sometimes I’ll share them. If you relate to them, great! If not, well I’m not cheesecake, I can’t make everyone happy.
Rayven Holmes Copyright(c)2018
“You have three kids?!” The question falls out of the mouth of an acquaintance and rings out across the table of a crowded bar. “How do you have time to hang out?!” It’s a question I’m not unfamiliar with. Even when I was “happily” married, people often inquired about how I managed to do anything with three kids. Since my divorce came with sole custody of my children, the question comes more frequently.
I respond now, as I did pre-divorce, with a simple shrug and a joke or two about never sleeping. The reality is that I don’t do it all. My life happens, just as it always had, because I prioritize what’s important to me versus what I or my family wants or needs. How do I have time to run? How do I have time to see friends? Teach my kids? Work? Brush my teeth? Sleep? Get laid? I prioritize what I can do, accept that which I can’t do, and buy stock in Energizer.
Truth be told, we can’t do it all. None of us. “Doing it all” is a lie sold to us to keep us too busy to enjoy this one little life we have. We’re inundated with planners, Pinterest organization ideas, and books about creating a 25th hour in our day. While some of it can be useful, and I utilize a number of tips and tricks to make the most of my time, at the end of my day I still only had 24 hours to use. Those 24 hours are precious. They are little lives inside our minuscule existence. So, what do I do with my 24 hours to give the illusion of “doing it all”?
I trade doing the dishes for a pizza and beer with friends. Sure, I could put having an immaculate house over my friends but, when I’m on my deathbed those dishes won’t mean shit to me. The relationships I have and maintain will, though. Why should I put dishes before connecting with friends in person?
I swap teaching time for meetings and arrange meetings around appointments. School can happen at any time of the day, it’s one of the perks of homeschooling, most businesses operate during traditional business hours. I acknowledge that and adjust our schedule accordingly when needed.
My grass hasn’t been cut in two weeks. It’s not a priority and eventually the autumn leaves will overtake my yard and after the boys and I have shared a fun day of rolling in the piles I’ll care because who the hell wants to bag all that shit up?
I plan weekly runs and refuse to do anything else during that time that isn’t crucial to the health and well-being of my family because my health and well-being are important too.
I delegate chores to my children. I can’t afford to have someone come in and clean my home, cut my grass, or run my errands. But I have three healthy kids who can pick up after themselves, make meals, scrub a toilet, and put the groceries away when I get home from the store. It builds character, plus my pee goes in the toilet bowl so why should I scrub that crude on the bottom?
I’m constantly negotiating with Me, Myself, and I. We’re always having discussions about what’s important and why. There are plenty of people who would, and do, tell me I don’t prioritize properly. In their opinion, the clothes should be folded, my car should be clean, and every single deadline I have should be met ahead of schedule before I plop my ass on the couch and binge watch Netflix while plowing through my kids’ Halloween candy. I wager there are plenty of people in your life who will have something to say about the way you prioritize your 24 hours.
To those people, I say Fuck You!
Yes, a big giant fuck you. Why? Because our 24 hours belong to us and we are free to make of them what we wish. Ask yourself, are my kids fed and cared for to the best of my ability? Are my bills paid? Do I still have a job? If the answer is yes, who the hell cares if you put the dishes off one more night? No, your house won’t be picture perfect, you won’t always get to say yes to that night out with friends, or that second bedtime story but, you’ll be sane and connected to yourself and those who matter most which is far more fucking important than a spotless kitchen.
As someone who has danced with the depression devil her whole life, I’m far more interested in doing what I need to feel human over “doing it all” to appear superhuman to people whose opinions don’t matter in the long run. “All” is an unrealistic goal that no one human can reach on their own. And who of us has the funds for the team of people needed to do it all and do it well? No damn body I know. So say fuck it, prioritize your life based on what you and your family need and in the immortal words of Elsa when it comes to everything else “Let it go”.
Let that shit go.
It all started with a halfhearted promise. “I’ll make things better,” he said while kneeling in the muddy field. He loved me I told myself. He got a ring, he promised things would be better once we were married, so surely he loved me. Over the next eight months I inquired about wedding details, “I don’t care about that stuff” he would mumble before rushing off the phone. On my 18th birthday, I moved in with him. This was the beginning of the rest of my life I told myself. A life full of fantastic adventures with my best friend, or so I believed.
Our first attempt to get married a few days later was deterred by the incorrect birth certificate on my part, because there is a big difference in a certificate of live birth and a birth certificate, apparently. I slunk home depressed in my pretty floral spring dress. He looked relieved and eager to get out of the khakis I had requested he wear because “It’s our wedding day we should look nice”. “It's a waste of time”, the words lingered in the knots of my hair I had spent an hour fighting with. He thought it looked a mess. But, I knew he loved me, so I simply needed to try harder next time.
When the proper certificate arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later I was thrilled, he was annoyed. “When do you want to go get married”, the words danced from my heart and oozed through my lips. “I don’t know”, he replied. I shook off his indifference. Another couple of weeks passed before we had a discussion about expectations. I had no desire to shack up for an undisclosed period of time and needed to know if he really wanted the same thing I did. Blame my Catholic conservative Christian upbringing. Blame personal standards. But after a month, you’re either buying the cow or getting your milk elsewhere because I refuse to play house. After some grumbling, he lamented that he did want to get married and we agreed on a Friday afternoon. He didn’t want to wear anything nice or take pictures. I granted his wish with the hope that we’d have a nice wedding one day. I spent that Friday on edge. My heart and stomach jumped, jived, and wailed with each tick of the clock. I had to remind myself to breath as the hours turned into minutes and those minutes into the moments that would define the rest of my life.
The judge who married us was buried in a sea of child support filings and petty crimes when we walked in. The defeat of his day shone on his face as I slid the marriage certificate onto his desk. Immediately, he became animated and leaped from his seat with the joy that only the creation of marriage and new life can illicit in humanity. He retrieved his crisp black robes from the nearby closet and announced our impending nuptials to the collection of depressed bodies that were waiting their turn to plead their various cases. Then the judge reached for his phone and attempted to contact a buddy of his who worked at the local paper. He had no luck. My groom squirmed in his seat at the thought of having someone from the newspaper present at our nuptials. Even a small wedding announcement had been out of the question. After hanging up the phone the judge asked if he could read a bible passage during our ceremony. Still being some version of Christian I had no problem with this but, I turned to my groom to ensure it was ok. He nodded in that dismissive way only someone who is indifferent can and the judge smiled as he opened his bible. Clearing his throat he asked us to rise, I jumped from my seat attempting to catch my heart as it leaped with excitement and turned to my groom. He was still seated.
My mind always slows this moment down. I’m sure it was less than a minute, but in my mind, it becomes an eternity. An eternity of chances to run. An eternity to dance through the reel of what actually became a 12-year marriage plagued with abuse, infidelity, and loneliness. An eternity to live again.
An eternity to see every player clearly. The judge with his confused and apprehensive glare. The groom’s parents exchange of knowing looks for they kept his secrets better than he did. The groom’s disdain as he willed himself from the seat and my wide-eyed naiveté. As the reel plays in my mind, I always freeze this moment and stare at the child giving away her youth to someone who didn’t want to stand next to her. I look through the eyes of a woman at the life of a girl who simply wanted to know she was loved, and I know she never was. The woman knows that which the girl can not. She knows of the lonely nights ahead of the girl, whose tears will stain every pillow she would ever own. She knows the pain of her husband’s hands pressing against her pregnant belly. She knows the way his words will hang heavy in her heart for a lifetime. She knows the way laughter sounds when she’s in pain. The woman can never save the girl.
No matter how many times I play this reel over in my mind, no matter how many times I reach for that young girl, no matter how many empty bottles I attempt to watch it through; I can never save the girl. She always stands there eagerly awaiting her groom. She always takes his hand. She always says her vows with sincerity and passion as her brown eyes bore into his hollow blue eyes seeking confirmation that his heart beats as fiercely for her and her’s does for him. She always signs her name. She always stays after he pushes in her stomach and gleefully declares that hopefully he killed their unborn child. She always runs interference and handles everything as to not upset him. She always fixes the holes and stops asking about the stories that don’t mesh up. She always makes sure the children believe they're loved by their father. She always makes excuses for his noninvolvement, for her tears, for the sadness that hides behind her brown eyes. She always stays. Until she becomes the woman who doesn’t. The woman with the movie reel in her mind and scars upon her heart.
Divorce is easy. You pay someone to file paperwork and fight with your spouse’s paid henchman/woman on your behalf. You sign some papers. Then a judge, worn and weary from a life dedicated to law, declares you free from the shackles wrapped tightly around your left finger.
Healing. Now, that’s the hard part. Accepting your part in the chapter that was your marriage is hard. Acknowledging your ex-partner for who they were and always will be is hard. Stitching the holes in your heart with the rusty needle you find in the pile of your belongings is hard. Getting up each day and putting one foot in front of the other is hard. Smiling when you want to cry is hard. Living in spite of the pain is hard. Fighting your demons by yourself and realizing there are far worse things than being alone is excruciatingly fucking painful. The healing is hard and the tunnel to the light is long. But, there is beauty in the struggle. Even if we can’t always see it right away.
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