During my conversation with my sister J yesterday she said, with forlorn frustration, that I’d changed, that it felt like the AJ she knew was gone, and that she’d lost her best friend in the last few years. That I was rewriting the past.
I know that the person she knew back then was extremely divided, compartmentalized, and repressed, and believed that God expected her to set aside happiness and follow His will, and that God taught through suffering. She had known a person that was deeply indoctrinated.
I did have a good life back then. I was still happy before marriage and motherhood. I’d finally found friends, a community, and hobbies I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt at home and was thriving. But it was temporary, and if asked to choose between that life and God, I must (and did) choose God.
The happy AJ she knew back then was killed by marriage and motherhood.
I’m not rewriting the past. She thinks because she observed that I was happy and full of zest for life while dating my husband that this must have meant I was romantically and sexually attracted to him. I know what I felt inside back then. We were great friends. We had sex. I felt warm and friendly towards him. I didn’t feel for him what I’d felt for other people before him.
A says that one of the first posts she remembers seeing from me years ago, after I joined a homeschooling group she and J were already part of, was one where I talked about how I wasn’t in love with my husband, but that it was fine, and how God was using marriage to smooth the sharp edges of my personality.
Apparently she had messaged J and basically said ‘uh, is your sister okay?’
It’s good to have confirmation that my memories are correct.
J didn’t know what marriage and motherhood were doing to me. She had too much going on in her own life, several states away, to observe what life was like for me or discuss it with me. Her own marriage went horribly south. Her ex turned out to be a terrible, selfish person that put her through hell. They only had two kids before the divorce. J had wanted more.
She’d wanted my life, or at least what my life seemed to be. A stable marriage, being a stay-at-home mom, four or more kids.
Sometimes, if people can’t picture how they’d feel in someone else’s shoes, they’re confounded by the choices they make.
J would like to believe that the explanation for my depression, anxiety and stress is anything other than that marriage and motherhood left me profoundly unhappy. She’d rather believe an explanation like that I’m bipolar, or have a genetic mutation that impacts my folate absorption.
Something that can be treated without a need for divorce.
I have changed. I’ve changed in the sense that the compartmentalization and the division are coming to an end. The parts of me that should have been whole are now connecting, finally. I’m becoming more me, not less me. The me I could have been without a childhood of religious indoctrination and isolation and gendered social expectations.
The sharp edges of my personality. I must have been talking about the edges that didn’t want to be quietly compliant, that didn’t want to submit to my husband’s will, that resented God for making me a woman as smart or smarter than most men I knew, while expecting me to spend my life as their inferior.
The unhappy edges that couldn’t fit in the life I’d been told I was made to inhabit, that had wanted a different kind of life. That resented having to give up so much of what had once made me happy.
I understand, in part, where J is coming from. Her divorce put her and her kids through hell. When my parents divorced when we were teens, we were plunged into hell. J was so deeply depressed as a teenager that she experienced suicidal ideation and clumsily tried, once, to cut her wrists, only to discover our knives were too dull.
I know children aren’t the only people that matter in a divorce, though. I have an idea of what my dad went through, living as a gay man in a straight marriage, even voluntarily submitting to conversion therapy in the hopes that it could cure him. (My mom hadn’t even wanted him to try conversion therapy because she believed psychology was of the devil.)
I’m glad he and my mom divorced. Yes, life was hellish for me for a few years after that, but it wasn’t hellish because my dad was finally able to be the person he’d been born to be. It’s not a sacrifice I chose voluntarily at the time, but if I had the chance, it’s a sacrifice I would choose voluntarily now. I wouldn’t undo my parents’ divorce if I could.
My dad got to spend twenty years of his life with a wonderful man that the entire family loved. A man we lost the beginning of this year, and for whom my sister J is still grieving.
I don’t think she was in the right headspace to think about what it would have meant if our parents hadn’t divorced and we’d simply continued the trajectory we were on back then. I think if she were thinking clearly when we were talking that she’d have realized she wouldn’t go back and undo our parents’ divorce, either – that she knows both of our parents eventually ended up happier after they parted ways.
Later last night J sent me another message:
“Just wanted to say I know what it feels like to be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I love you and want nothing more than for you to get to a good place of health and happiness.”
I thanked her and told her I loved her, too.