Trying to pick up the pieces of all I once "knew"

Sent in by DifferentNow

On January 15, 2007, I told my husband I wanted a divorce.

It was a cold day in New York City. My second time there. We were on a company retreat with our business, the graphic design company we both owned. I woke up at 6 a.m. unable to sleep and went down to the hotel lobby so I could email the man I had fallen in love with and tell him I was antsy... really antsy. I couldn't put on a front any longer. It wasn't in my nature to hide things, and I couldn't keep it up for long.

I had barely slept in two weeks. Two weeks since our first date. Two weeks of listening religiously to the wisdom of Johnny Cash while painting our studio space black. As black as my mood. Pouring myself into the old, worn down building that I convinced my husband to let us rent with dreams creating a theatre space and pursuing the never ending quest for fun, always fun... A pursuit that left him exhausted and asking me often, "why can't you just slow down?" His inquiry always met with my resolution to stay home more, try harder, be a better wife.

My husband followed me downstairs, before I even got time to log in to my laptop. I looked up in surprise, like a frightened teenager caught in the liquor cabinet. I scolded myself for not getting up quieter from the hotel room that all five of us were sharing. I hated myself at that moment. I wanted to hide. I wondered if he could see it. I wondered what he knew.

He sat down, a concerned and sad expression in his clear, innocent blue eyes. "This is our first time in New York City together, and you will barely look at me," he said quietly, his voice trailing off as he tried to make sense of my strange behavior. He often told me I acted like a squirrel that dashes in the street, looks around in a frenzy, dashes back, unable to make up her mind which way to go. I felt like I was crossing the road for the last time.

He sipped his coffee, always black, patiently waiting for my response.

The trendy hotel lobby was quiet this time of morning. Large abstract paintings depicting colorful taxi scenes hung in front of red and black leather couches. A waitress was setting up for breakfast. A few businessmen walked by in a hurry, briefcases in hand. I wondered if they were going to a trade show, the one we were supposed to be at later that day.

"I know. I know. I'm sorry. I'm just not feeling myself these days. I'm sorry."

I had been saying "I'm sorry" for a long time. I said it so much in grade school that my teachers and friends' moms would call my parents and ask what was wrong with me. What did I have to be so sorry about? I was still trying to figure that out.

I was fidgety, sleep deprived, restless. Unable to look him in they eyes. Like I was someone else living in another body, the body of a girl gone mad. I felt 'foggy', like I had described my feelings that last week to our home group that met Sunday mornings at our house, an intimate way of 'being the church' without a building and a budget. People loving people. I loved that concept.

"Should I be afraid?" he asked.

Those simple words. I mentally flashed to a quote he had cut out and taped to his computer screen at home, the neat san-serif font reading "What would I do if I was not afraid?" I had often wondered what he was afraid of, many times viewing him with disdain for what I saw as his black and white mentality, the simple and clean cut ways he thought of the world, God, love, humanity.

I remember a conversation we had had a month earlier, while I was mentoring a teenage girl in our church. She was a beautiful spirit with lots of questions and hunger for life.

One day he asked me, "Is Jenna a Christian?" I was so mad at him for asking me that, for trivializing our depth of friendship so it hung on one, stupid word... a word to him that held the depth of the universe. I felt ashamed for being angered by this, ashamed that I did not care about the answer and that I hated him for asking it. "How am I supposed to know." I answered, always defensive. "We just go shopping together. She likes white cafe mocha and blond boys and dangly earrings. That is all I know." My heart was racing and I felt shallow and wrong. I wondered why I despised him so much.

Sometimes, when he would play the guitar in Bible study, or lovingly listen to people's problems at church, I would force myself to smile and muster a look of tenderness in my eyes like I had seen the other wives doing, just in case our friends were watching me out of the corner of their eyes, thinking, 'isn't she blessed to have a man like him'. I wanted my face to say, 'yes, yes I am grateful. God has been good to me. What a wonderful, sweet, God-loving man.' After all, isn't that why I married him?

I hadn't planned on telling him yet. In fact, I had hoped my feelings would go away. My parents always told me I couldn't rely on my emotions. I was to rely on God alone. And God hates divorce. Divorce. Divorce. The word hung in my head like a dirty rag. Just like me.

I kept telling myself, just get through New York. Get your head clear. You are with three of your employees who look up to you. You run a business together, you can't do this. You will loose everything. What will people think?

"Should I be afraid?"

'Yes, yes, yes, you should be afraid,' my mind was screaming. 'I want a divorce. I want a divorce. Dirty rag. Divorce. Divorce. I don't want to hurt you but "I want a divorce."

Oh my God did I really say that out loud?

He turned beat red. The blood started in his neck and went all the way to his close cropped dirty blond hair. His fair complexion held no secrets. A bulging vein crept up the left side of his head. His eyes welled up with tears. He told me that if we weren't in a hotel lobby he would have thrown his hot coffee at me.

I didn't doubt it. In fact, I deserved it.

I wanted to crawl under the table and cry and cry and cry. I felt so sorry for him. He demanded 'who, who, who is it?'

"No one you know. A filmmaker. I didn't plan for this to happen. I wanted to tell you right away. I couldn't see myself having kids with you. I don't know why. No, we haven't slept together yet. It was only a kiss, a few dates. There is a bigger problem. I meant to tell you before. I tried to say something, you just didn't see. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." My words fell out of my mouth and like in slow motion clattered on the tile floor like bone thin china teacups.

Then I was still. So calm. I barely moved. I thought for a moment that maybe I was possessed by Satan. Later he told me that I was. I wondered if this was true. It was like the time I went to see Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." I knew I needed to see it, to come a little closer to understanding what our Savior went thorough, but the suffering of others makes me so upset. I can't even listen to cruelty on the news without it obsessing my mind. So I went into the theater and became numb. I did not let out a single tear for fear that even one would unleash an ocean of emotions.

They say that right before death a flood of memories will overtake your mind, one after the other. As I looked into his anguished expression full of shock and despair, I saw the sweet, kind man I once knew in what seemed another life, walking in the city as homeless people bypass every other soul on the street and come straight to him. As if they can feel his big heart and know he will care. He would always buy them food... he would go with them to the restaurant. Talk with them, ask them questions. Find out who they are and why they were there. He really did care. A good, kind, loving Christian man.

I knew whose side God was on. And I hung my head in shame.

Now, after almost a year of searching, and then stumbling upon this site, I decided that the God who was his God, could not be mine too. So I left the Christian faith and am trying to pick up the pieces of all I knew once to be true.

16 comments:

Stephen B said...

Thank you for telling your story here. Now that you're back in integrity, the rest will likely be an awesome journey. And all you have to do is to walk it! God's peace.

whateverlolawants said...

Different now,

I'm so sorry about what happened. Your story was really well-written; I really don't have much to say of comfort, except that I know that all of that must have been awful for you. Welcome to this site, and I hope it is as good for you as it has been for me!

resonate11 said...

Fabulous writing, DifferentNow. I hope you are able to use your writing talent throughout your life.

I hope your love with the filmmaker has endured and developed.

I have faith that your life free of god myth is, or will be, better whatever better means for you. Truth is vital. Mendacity is crippling.

gimmeadrinkawater said...

Dear Different Now,

You have moved me, and it is clear how you've suffered, and how ready you are to move on. And how clear you seem to be to yourself. Can someone tell me if it's possible to get private emails from anyone on this site? I'm in NYC and maybe we can get together just to talk.

Naomi

Anonymous said...

Well written.

Plato said...

Thank you for being so frank and honest and, yes, you write so well! Loss is never easy to accept and the feelings that often follow loss need to be dealt with. You are on the right road now - I too have suffered a smiliar (not same) loss experience and with it also thankfully lost God along the way! In fact he / she / it was never really there except in my dependent imagination! Kubler Ross has written an excellent book on loss and grieving! Reality is when the leather hits the road - welcome to our Club!! Plato

R. Black said...

If you feel up to it, please tell more of your story. I found what I have read so far, interesting, and I am eager to learn more.

Anonymous said...

yes, please share more of your heartbreaking story! did you ever think of becoming a writer? i thought i was reading a professional memoir copied from somewhere for a minute!

DifferentNow said...

Thank you all for your kind words. It humbles me that complete strangers are willing to offer such encouragement and kindness.

stephen b: God's peace to you, too, however and whomever you choose him/her to be. There is such freedom in that. Take care.

whateverlolawants: I hope lola gets! haha, I love your screen name. Yes, this site has been great for me, I think I have read every single post for the last 8 months! It has really helped me not feel alone, especially since my family are all still Christians. I unsucessfully tried once to bring up my newfound freedom away from Christianity, when my mom abruptly ended the conversation all upset, saying, "No matter how you feel, you cannot loose your salvation!" I groaned inside, uneasy with the newfound contempt I felt towards her for being so simple-minded, when I knew full well that just a year ago we enjoyed long discussions about our Bible study groups and the lessons we were learning from "The Purpose Driven Life". It's like there is a deep divide between us now, one that I've created, but somehow feel the right be be angry at her about...
Anyway... I went on a tangent there, but there is just so much to this deconversion thing I can't think about it enough. Maybe that is my problem. Thanks for posting and I wish you the best.

resonate11: Thank you for your encouragement. You are right - Truth is vital. Mendacity (i had to look that one up :) is crippling. PS - my love for the filmmaker has happily grown and continues to develop daily. Despite struggles with depression, I know I am on a sturdier path now and I am just grateful to be alive!

Naomi: I would love to talk sometime. My email is differentnow2007@gmail.com. Please contact me anytime. Best wishes to you and thanks for posting.

plato: I'm going to do some reading on that book by Kubler Ross. Thanks for mentioning it. Although it is not a physical death I am dealing with (for which I am grateful), the loss of a husband-- on top of the loss of all Christian friends; a church family (which I see now was nothing more than a social support system); once meaningful 'godly relationships' (as with my mother); a reason for being; and an (albeit deluded) hope for eternity-- has all really taken a toll on my psyche, and I need all the help I can get! :) thank you again.

r. black: i would be happy to share more. I started a blog (with only this post so far) at http://divorcinggod.blogspot.com/
This is the first I have ever written about my story, and yesterday it felt like it was "time". So I sat down at the computer and it was like therapy. I probably won't have a chance to write more for a few days, but feel free to comment anytime and if you want to hear about any portion of my story in particular, let me know.

AtheistToothFairy said...

DifferentNow wrote:
"I unsucessfully tried once to bring up my newfound freedom away from Christianity, when my mom abruptly ended the conversation all upset, saying, "No matter how you feel, you cannot loose your salvation!""
---
Hi DifferentNow,

Firstly, let me add to the many complements here by saying I wholeheartedly agree, you are an excellent writer. I swear (oops) that I felt like I was reading an article from a major magazine.

Secondly, we hear all the time about how any 'true' xtian can never lose their salvation.
I see two reasons xtians hold onto this unfounded belief.

1. They fear if they ever get doubtful about their faith and then die at that very same moment, that they would not want to believe those doubts would send them into Hell.

2. In the case of someone close, like your Mom, I'm sure it's a more personal thing for her, in that she can't bear the thought that she would be in heaven, while her daughter is roasting in some hell fire; perhaps within "eyesight" of her abode in heaven.
Therefore, she cherishes the opinion that you were once 'saved' and thus will always be, no matter how many doubts you have currently.
I'm also sure she truly believes your faith will return one day, as this episode in your life is only some rebel 'phase' you are going through.
----
Many xtians come through here tooting this same horn to us ex-xtians.

Perhaps if these adults saw it in the same light, as them suddenly re-believing in Santa's xmas sleigh journey to deliver presents world-wise, along with his great abode at the North Pole, they might comprehend why it's impossible for most of us to ever reconsider believing in something that is clearly just another human fable.

I do find it interesting how xtians eventually gave up their childhood non-god mythical hero's, yet they hold steadfast to the god myth, as if there were any more evidence for this xtian god than there is for Santa.

Really, I actually think the xtain world at xmas time, is filled with far more 'evidence' of Santa to convince one of his existence, than we have in total for any existence of any god being.
At least one can THINK they touched a real Santa, heard him speak, saw the presents he brought that we asked him for, and we even see him right on our TV's.
Thus, he surely is more real than any god, who we never can touch, never hear speak (except in whispers in some minds), and who never leaves any presents for us to open and who never ever makes a single appearance on any national TV network.


ATF (who just heard god speak to him, but oddly enough, he said "HO HO HO")

SpaceMonk said...

DifferentNow, thanks for your story.
Regarding your ex, and family, they don't have more 'God' on their side than you do. ;)
Don't let yourself feel lesser than them.
We're all human.

notabarbie said...

Your story was so heartfelt and honest. It resonated with me for so many reasons. Thank you for writing and sharing your journey and welcome to this site. It was a life saver for me. The future is bright.

pukon said...

Different now,

That story almost choked me up. I’ve been an atheist all my life and always looked at Christians with a kind of amused contempt and fascination, but last year I fouled up a relationship that meant a lot to me, largely because of my failure to understand what my partner was going through as she dealt with a very similar situation to yours.

I never understood quite how severe her loss was, or the depths of guilt involved. I never realised quite how unaccustomed she was to the uncertainty and loneliness of atheism or the isolation from the community; I have never know any different so I failed to empathise as I should have done. This site has been an eye opener to the wounds involved in a loss of faith.

Anonymous said...

Your pretentious writing sickens me.

buffettphan said...

DifferentNow,

Your story was written so eloquently. You give strength to those who read it.

To the Anonymous who said "Your pretentious writing sickens me." How dare you! (Note this is not a question--rhetorical or otherwise!) -- Hiding behind your anonymous mask, spewing your hatred disgusts anyone with a "heart" (i.e. brain). The inability to feel empathy for one's fellow humans seems to be a dead giveaway of a "truly religious person". Are you perhaps one of those very special True Christians (tm)?

boomSLANG said...

Your pretentious writing sickens me.

Then grab a barf-bag, or 'CLICK' OFF!

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