I’ve been having a running dialogue with a recently divorced friend, wherein I tell them that it is of utmost importance that they put all of the past behind them as quickly as possible. I know that this is a difficult, yet necessary part of the healing process, because I have also undergone a divorce within the recent past. For the most part, I have done a good job of letting go of what used to be my life. I know that, in order to fully grasp my new life, I cannot be clinging to my old one.
Since my divorce was both protracted and hotly contested, I had a period of about two years to begin to adapt to a new way of thinking. My ex-husband is no longer my husband – he is my “EX” husband. I began practicing this by calling him my “soon to be ex” while the divorce was still pending, so by the time that the ink was etched onto the final papers, I had it firmly in my mind that we were no longer husband and wife. I have had to call my former residence, which was my home for over a decade, my “OLD” house. I have found myself often prefacing sentences with, “I USED TO OWN …” such and such gadget, dish, or appliance. One day my friend chastised me for this, saying that I needed to focus on what I have now, and what I am going to have in the future. I knew, the moment that I heard the words, that they were right, and decided to try to cease to vocalize about the things I no longer owned as a result of the dissolution of my long term marriage.
Though I have been officially and formally divorced for over six months now, I am still unpacking and organizing things at my new residence. Today I dove into the box that held a chaotic mix of items. It was such a tangled wreck due to the fact that I had to move out unexpectedly, hurriedly, and during the holidays when I was sick. When I got to the bottom of said box, I found a spiral bound five subject notebook, filled to the brim with my own handwriting. Every single page was filled with the ponderings of a mind trying desperately to grasp why I was having to say “I Don’t” to the man I once said “I Do” to on our wedding day twenty-six years ago. This book had been my prayer journal during one of the worst years of my entire life, during the last twelve months of the divorce process. I slowly flipped through some pages, and the moments when I penned the words on any particular page came flooding back with instant clarity.
How vividly I recalled crying myself to sleep on several nights. How clearly I knew the details of quite a few gentlemen who expressed interest in dating me, and also my insistence that I wait until my divorce was final prior to beginning dating. This page shows where I promised to remain faithful to my dead marriage until everything was legal regarding the divorce. That page shows where I finally, out of curiosity about what my new life might hold, I signed up for an online dating site. A few pages mentioned men I communicated with from that site, and my dismay over where on earth at my age, I would find someone with whom I would actually be interested in going on a date. How well I remembered my excitement after several months of being separated at meeting a potential suitor, and how often I prayed that God would allow our two divorces to be over quickly in order that we could go on an official “date.”
Oh, the agony I felt when I wrote a couple of entries that expressed my anger at God! The overwhelming sadness I experienced when I was wondering why on earth He was allowing me to undergo those trials for such an extended time. I remember the hope I would feel when I wrote about how friends called me out of the blue when I was feeling my lowest, and also the joy that overcame me a few times when I began to see a light at the end of that lonely, dark tunnel. As I scanned the entries, my eyes glanced at one where I prayed in thanksgiving that I could share my own trials and comfort others that were going through similar things. I saw once again the wounds that I bore, before they had a chance to become scars on my soul.
I debated what to do with this journal. Should I hide it away so that my kids could peruse it one day and realize just exactly what I had sacrificed for their education? Should I use it as the basis of a book that others have been encouraging me to write? Should I keep it as a souvenir – “Been there, done that, have the t-shirt to prove it?” Suddenly, like a ton of proverbial bricks falling about my head, the thought occurred that I needed to take my own advice – I needed to PUT THE PAST BEHIND ME, and that meant ALL of the past. There was no sense in keeping it – or anything else – that had outlived its usefulness to me.
The notebook and its writings had served their purpose for me well last year. They provided me with an outlet which helped me to preserve my sanity. But now, in the midst of my new and improved life, they had no purpose except to remind me of pain. There was no reason to cling to anything that would only cause me more hurt. I had been hurt enough.
I looked over at the shredder I’d brought with me from my “OLD” house, and decided to plug it in. Hungrily, it devoured page after page of the journal. Though it was capable of handling multiple pages all at one time, I intentionally fed it one page at a time, until the receiving bucket was overflowing. I dumped the paper shreds into the now empty moving box, then began shredding more and more pages. I knew I could just throw the journal into the trash can and be done with it, but the sound of the shredder grinding up my angst ridden musings was so very cathartic that I did not want to miss the opportunity to ceremoniously exorcize those demons once and for all. I emptied the bucket filled with shredded paper again, and yet again. Finally, as if gasping for breath after nearly an hour of shredding, the shredder could take no more, and right in the middle of eating one of my handwritten pages, it quit. That’s right, it just stopped shredding. The machine was not very old, and in my opinion had been used far too little to be breaking down. I unplugged it, then stuck my letter opened into the teeth to make sure that there was not anything clogging the opening. There was nothing doing so, but the shredder felt very hot. I had worked it so hard that the motor was overheated! So I tore the remaining pages into tiny pieces by hand, then went to the garage to toss them into a bag which I placed in the refuse can.
None too pleased at the thought of having to buy a new shredder, I nonetheless resigned myself to throw the shredder out, as well. But when I climbed the steps up to my loft to go get the shredder so that I could throw it away, I decided to give it one more try. VOILA’! It worked!! The motor had cooled down, & the shredder was not dead after all, so I did not have to throw it away! I am glad that I destroyed the evidence of my sleepless nights and hurt feelings. They have no place in my new beginning, and only detracted from it. But the shredded will be useful to me for destroying sensitive documents associated with my personal privacy and my job.
I then made a vow to take a deep, introspective look at myself and to try to uncover anything that I need to let go of that has outlived its usefulness. I immediately saw a recent hurt that I had experienced, and realized that, though I had pretended to myself that I had let go of it, I was still clinging to it, although I am unsure as to why I was doing so. Sometimes it is easier to hang on to our junk than it is to shred it.
But I know now that there is a great peace that comes once one has gone through the process of sorting through what needs to stay and what needs to go, and when one has had the courage to actually get rid of the hurt contained in the things and people who have no longer got any purpose in our lives. It is a most freeing catharsis, and I pray that whomever might stumble upon these words will have the wisdom to recognize what they need to put into their figurative shredder, and the fortitude to actually carry through with doing so. The task may be long and taxing, but it will be worth it! And I pray that the recent hurt that I buried in the middle of the shredded pages of my past will stay there, right where it belongs – in the past.