Sunday, 15 December 2013

Going through divorce: A few tips for staying sane

In a recent email, a reader that’s going through a divorce asked for tips on holding on. Holding on to her sanity, basically (my interpretation), given the physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, social (etc.) toll that divorce usually takes. This request for tips reminded me of another reader's comment, in which I was asked for practical steps to take in moving forward when going through a divorce experience. I think I understand her question better now, having received a similar question from someone else. I thought about it and realized that I do have a few tips, off the top of my head, and in no particular order. We’re all wired differently and have different needs, but these are just some things that I personally have found to be critical. I’m sure there are many more and I hope others will feel free to add to this list.

  1. Take life in bite sizes.One day at a time.’ That continues to be my mantra, and I never seem to tire of sharing this. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Focus on today and get through it the best you can. That’s all you have to do. All you have to do is get through today. Thinking about the future can be too overwhelming – and that’s why the future is God’s business. Leave it to Him. All you need right now is your Daily Bread – and that is enough.

  1. Exercise. I hate organized exercise myself, but I have to admit that it’s essential. You don’t have to join a gym, but please purpose in your heart to exercise – even if all you can do is walk in your neighborhood for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. You need this at this time more than I can say. Divorce is not a joke – it’s regarded as one of life’s top 10 most traumatic events. Regular exercise will help you manage your stress levels, and regulate your appetite so that you’re feeling and looking your best. If you have children and they live with you, you’ll need energy to attend to their needs each day, and you need to sleep soundly each night. Exercise will ensure that this happens. This isn’t about being a fitness buff (I’d love to be one, though, personally … if wishes were horses …); it’s about doing what you need to do to get through each day successfully – especially in the first year of this sort of experience, which is the hardest. If exercise is a struggle for you as it is for me, 30 minutes of walking a day (doesn’t even have to be brisk) will do wonders for your mind.

  1. Find time to spend with loved ones/true friends. Divorce has a way of helping you identify your most committed friends, so that should be easy. What is more difficult (with our busy world and busy lives) is creating the time to spend with them.  But it is necessary to schedule that time. Most of my friends live in other countries, but I’m lucky to have good friends (a couple) who live a walking distance away. Once in a while, I walk down there just to hang out, talk, and laugh for 30 minutes to an hour. I come home with my heart full because I’ve been with people who truly care for me and who pray for me regularly. My sisters live elsewhere, too, but I communicate with at least one of them pretty much every day: by email, phone, text, Skype, g-chat – whatever. I reach out just to say hi. Sometimes, I just send out a group email to them to say nothing but ‘goodnight.’ I don’t ‘keep score’ with people whom I know love me. I reach out to them even if they haven’t reached out to me ‘first’ in a while. They do the same with me. We’re all terribly busy and so we excuse each other for being MIA once in a while. Back to the point, though: reaching out to and hearing from my sisters makes my heart full.

  1. Allow yourself a luxury or two. Just close your eyes and do it (within your means, of course). No one knows better than you about that one thing that could make your life a teeny bit more manageable. I think that when you’re a parent, particularly, there’s a tendency to really put yourself last. When you’re a divorced parent (or one in the throes of divorce), you tend to compensate for the guilt you feel by putting yourself even further on the back-burner. Big mistake, though, because you are all you have. You are often all that your children have, too. Without your physical body and your mind, you’re pretty much useless – even to God. So do what you need to make yourself comfortable. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else but you. In my case, for instance, over the last 9 years, I have rarely had fewer than two housekeepers. This doesn’t make sense to many people, and this is understandable: our lives are simply very different. I’ve had some well-meaning people tell me that I don’t need more than one. These have invariably been stay-at-home moms, though. I can see how, from their perspective, having more than one housekeeper may seem excessive. But I live a different life. I’m out of town pretty often and I don’t have a spouse at home to make sure everything’s okay. When one housekeeper needs to run an urgent errand to keep the house going, I need another one at home to be there when the kids get back from school, for instance. When I’m out of town and one child falls ill, I need one person to take my child to the hospital and the other to be at home waiting for the school bus. Etc., etc., etc. When I travel (or when I have to pull an all-nighter at the office), I do so with great peace of mind, knowing that the combination of the people I employ is able to meet the various needs of the children I’ve left behind. Again, decide what kind of ‘luxury’ you need and can afford. No one understands your life better than you.

  1. Revitalize your hobby/hobbies. Divorce is a new beginning as much as it’s an ending. Oftentimes, when we get married, we make the marriage our whole lives and forget who we were before we handed ourselves over completely to a life partner. Who were you before marriage, though? What did you enjoy doing? Is it possible to take up one of those things again? What made you happy before you got hitched?  These are questions that I had to ask myself. When I’m not somebody’s wife, who am I, really? What do I like for me? The answers to these questions lead you to dig up some old stuff that might have been long buried, but that could really add to your present life. For instance, I used to sing ALL THE TIME – to the point that my mother would yell at me to shut up (lol!). When I got married and became a mom, with all my new responsibilities, I sang much less. Right after my separation, I stopped singing completely (I’m talking about private singing, just for the joy of it). I probably didn’t sing again until two or three years later. When I started singing again, I knew I was ‘back.’ I also used to write for pleasure all the time when I was much younger, but this is another hobby that died off eventually. With my divorce, my writing was re-born. Use this time to lend yourself to something you once loved – or to discover a new hobby.

  1. Get smart with your money. Sometime after I got separated, I bought Suze Orman’s book, Women and Money. I highly recommend it, even though a lot of the investment tips she provides are tailored for women based in the U.S. I recommend it because of the way in which she dissects women’s psychology when it comes to money. Many of us interact with money in the same, counterproductive way, and she unpacks this in a way that really makes you think, examine yourself, and figure out how to change for the better. There are many of us that never really thought seriously about our finances and what to do with them because we always assumed we didn’t have to. (After all, that’s what husbands are for, right?) And since no one plans to get divorced, if you find yourself going through divorce, it can be really scary having to stare your finances in the face for the first time all alone. It is scary having to forge a relationship with your finances if you never really had before – but only because it’s unfamiliar. Once it becomes familiar, though, you begin to see all sorts of possibilities that you might not have, had you not been forced to interact seriously with your own money. One way to move forward during a divorce is to start saving. Save more. Start investing as soon as you’ve saved enough – and keep saving. It’s scary, addictive, fun, empowering, etc., all rolled into one. Maybe it never occurred to you that you could buy your own home (for instance) because you always assumed you would do this as a coupled person (same here). Well, this is your chance to do it anyhow. Investing your money wisely takes a fair amount of attention, and your attention needs to be diverted from the divorce during this time.

  1. Find your own therapy: Consider seeing a therapist or a life coach, if you can. Ask around for some good references first, though. And if you feel like you don’t need to see a professional, then find your own therapy. During the first year of my separation, my therapy was talking to whoever would listen. I just needed to talk, and doing so was really my life line. Then after the first year or so, talking grew kind of old (for me and my listeners, I’m sure). I thought about joining some sort of support group, but there didn’t seem to be any available at the time; besides, I could imagine that growing old fast, too, so I turned to writing. Through it all, I read a whole lot, too.  I know of some people that have found seeing a therapist beneficial. I don’t have any personal experience in this area, but I have thought about signing up with a life coach sometime. Maybe someday. Like I said, whatever works.

  1. Decide what kind of divorce you want. I wasn’t sure what to expect from divorce. None of my friends were divorced. None of my peers were divorced. I wasn’t sure if divorce in itself would magically alter all the dynamics of the relationship I had shared with my then spouse for years. We’re both really calm people; I wasn’t sure if we’d suddenly start yelling at each other all the time, for instance, when we never yelled when we were married. I wasn’t sure if there was a standard ‘way’ in which divorce had to be done. I think my ignorance was a good thing, though. I made a lot of unconventional decisions because I just went with how I felt, rather than with some invisible ‘script’ that laid out how to do divorce ‘right.’ I also read two key books as I was going through divorce. If there is one book that anyone whose marriage has ended needs to read, it is Stacy Morrison’s Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey through the Hell of Divorce. This amazing memoir helped me realize that I could decide what kind of divorce I wanted to have. I didn’t have to leave it to chance. I decided that I wanted a divorce that was as ‘positive’ as possible, despite all the negativity surrounding any divorce event. Another good one is Jessica Bram’s Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey. These two books really helped me see some light at the end of the tunnel. It was reassuring to read about the successful journeys of others who had been to this destination before me. By reading these two books, I learned that divorce can present an opportunity to re-negotiate the terms of your relationship with your ex in a way that helps you move forward.

  1. Pray for your ex. Surprise, surprise! J Yep. The time will come when you’ll eventually be able to do this if you aren’t already. I don’t remember exactly when this ceased, but there was a time when I would have this thought flash through my mind to pray for my ex, and then I would poise myself to do so, only to remain absolutely tongue-tied. It would literally take minutes for me to wrap my mind around what to pray for exactly, because I always felt like praying for his good had to mean praying that we would reconcile by some miracle, and this wasn’t a prayer that I could bring myself to pray. And so after battling with a blank mind for some minutes, I would just ask God to bless him, protect his life, health, and relationship with God. I’m now able to pray for him without feeling like the prayer has to have some attachment to me. I pray for him as my children’s father and as a Christian who needs prayer support just like me. I don’t devote ‘lengthy’ prayers to this subject, but I do pray. I believe it is part of the process of moving forward and safely leaving what needs to be left behind, behind.
  2. Reach out to the less fortunate. Not right away, though. It takes a while to recover from the shock of your own divorce and to be strong enough to feel like you have anything to give; so take your time. But as time goes by, you begin to realize that as horrible and devastating as divorce is, you’re surrounded by people much less fortunate than you. All kinds of people: divorced, married, never-married, orphaned, homeless, etc. Everyone’s got problems, and I’m yet to meet someone whom I’d like to exchange problems with. Helping out others is a great way to get your mind off yourself, to remind yourself of just how blessed you really are depite your circumstances, and to come away with a totally fulfilled feeling. Pick and choose carefully because no one has the resources to help out everyone in the world. But there is something that you can contribute to the world. As Mother Theresa said, ‘If you can’t feed 100 people, just feed one.’

This is all I can think of for now. There’s definitely much more to add, so please be liberal with any tips you may have!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Dearly Beloved

I went to a wedding today.

Doing so was a nice addition to the long weekend we’re enjoying over here this week. It was fun getting all dressed up. Wearing things I only rarely wear. Choosing the right shoes for the outfit, the right earrings, and the right shade of lipstick.

At the venue, I sat in one of the rows in the little garden, taking it all in. The wedding color scheme was burnt orange and chocolate brown. It suddenly occurred to me that I should’ve known this already, since the wedding invitation was printed out in the same colors. It just goes to show that I haven’t attended many weddings in the last decade.

I looked around, taking in all the details and wondering how much time it must have taken the couple, their family, and friends, to pull everything together: the bouquets of orange and cream roses; rose petals in the same colors mixed with hay and sprinkled all along the center aisle in anticipation of the bridal party’s grand entrance; the white chairs wrapped up in chocolate brown bows; the Afrocentric twist to the bridesmaids’ gowns and groomsmen’s outfits; the hairstyles of the bride and her bridesmaids (they all had braids); the cuteness of the little flower girls as they walked down the aisle, doing their best to keep permanent smiles on their faces; the earnest photographers and videographers, doing all sorts of acrobatics in a bid to get the best shots.

I was touched by the ceremony.

I paused for a few minutes, trying to put my finger on what it was, exactly, that touched me. I realized it was the refreshing simplicity of the event, and the innocence and purity of the couple. This was a young couple, just starting out in life, with a world of possibilities ahead of them. They pooled together what they had for their special day, and their family and friends were there to witness the beginning of their journey together. It was so precious to sense and watch their excitement and love.

They haven’t hurt each other yet, I thought to myself suddenly. That’s what it is. That’s what makes this moment so beautiful.  

There’s something really beautiful about a couple that hasn’t hurt each other yet (and that hopefully never will in a major way). It was just so touching to see.

And those beautiful words that traditional wedding vows start out with! Like I said, I hadn’t been to a wedding in forever, so I paid heightened attention to this one. The pastor began to speak those words and we all sat back and basked in the familiarity of it all:

Dearly Beloved: We are gathered together here in the sight of God – and in the face of this company – to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all men; and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly – but reverently, discreetly, advisedly and solemnly. Into this holy estate these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together – let them speak now or forever hold their peace.

And then the vows, which both bride and groom committed to unflinchingly:

Do you …… take …… to be your lawfully wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and continually bestow upon her your heart’s deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live?

Then, the couple read out their own, individual vows to one another. Like I said, too, too cute. I was really impressed by their personal vows and that they took the time to write them down and declare them publicly to us all. The personal vows were so moving that I saved as much from them as I could on my cell phone, my thumb moving furiously over the dial pad as I tried to type out everything. I thought it would be great to share some excerpts in a blog post, then I thought about it again and decided not to. I’ve just deleted the draft message I saved of their words. They were their words to one another, meant for each other and those that they invited to their wedding. I will say, though, that their words were heart-felt, poignant, and sometimes humorous. The bride and groom were totally comfortable with one another.

This is a couple that’ll make it, I thought.

When it was time to kiss the bride, the groom comically made a big show of things: rolling up his sleeves, pulling up his socks, and tightening the grip of his belt. It was terribly, terribly cute and we onlookers laughed in delight. He planted a nice, French kiss on his bride's lips for a few seconds too long (for ‘conservative’ audiences, anyway), and we rejoiced with him and his new bride.

They sat together afterwards as husband and wife, brimming with palpable excitement as the pastor gave the sermon. Grinning at each other in slight disbelief and whispering to one another. I could imagine everything just being a blur to them both on this exciting day.

They craned their necks to make eye contact with me across the garden, and grinned at me simultaneously. I grinned back.

Here’s to you, young couple. Wishing you all the best.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Little Things

The children have a particular phone that I keep for them – ‘the Nigerian phone,’ we call it. Their Dad bought it in Nigeria (along with a Nigerian SIM card) in order for him to be able to make cheap phone calls to them whenever he wants, or whenever they want to speak to him.

For the first few months after we got it, I just handed it over to them and told them what it was for. That didn’t work very well, though. No one could ever remember where it was. No one ever remembered to charge it, either. And so that would mean no phone calls.

Their Dad expressed frustration about this a few times. So I decided to keep the phone in my room. It’s usually on my bedroom mantel piece, somewhere behind my head when I’m in bed. I also took on the responsibility of keeping it charged this year, and of rushing to hand it over to one of the children when it rings, reminding them to pass it on to their sibling for some talking time, too, when they’re done.

Still, we haven’t gotten it down to a science. He still complains periodically that he’s been calling and can’t get through, and is convinced the phone has been off. I still insist it’s been on and no calls have come in. We conclude that maybe there are some network problems that we aren’t aware of.

Or, the last child that was on the phone forgets to bring it back to my room and it lays somewhere – maybe hidden under a couch cushion, until the battery dies and no one has any idea where it is.

Sometimes, he calls when I’m at work to point out that the phone isn’t on (like today). Again, I say the phone is on, as I charged it and turned it on myself. I point out that although the children are at home today, maybe they’re just not in my room and so can’t hear it ringing. I suggest that he keep trying. Other times, ask why he doesn’t simply call our son on his ‘real’ phone (his Kenyan phone), and ask him to charge or turn on the Nigerian phone so they can chat. Or that he send his son an email or FB message. He doesn’t seem to like these options, as I noticed he never tries them out.

These are some of the teeny incidents that are part of the divorced life when you have kids, and if you’re not opposed to having your ex involved in his children’s lives.

Sounds pretty simple and banal. But there are undercurrents of apprehension – at least in my situation/on my part. I feel like I did a lot of the ‘heavy lifting’ in the relationship when we were married, and this is a pattern that I do not want to repeat, particularly not now that we’re divorced. I know that marriage is ‘work,’ and I understand why this is the case; I mean, any relationship that you want to preserve is ‘work,’ really. But I don’t want my divorce to be characterized by the same kind of labor.

It’s a challenge, though, because my former husband and I, while not being ‘friends,’ are not ‘enemies,’ either. We’re more like casual acquaintances that don’t know each other too well, as a childhood friend of mine observed recently. After having an opportunity to watch us interact for a while, she marveled at this fact. She said something to the effect of: ‘If I were in your situation, I would either still be in love with the person, or really hate them. But you guys are just totally neutral. You’re just like acquaintances. I was looking for some sort of emotion between you guys – anything – and there was absolutely nothing!’

I laughed and remarked that maybe we were both just really good actors.

She was right, though, in sensing that there is neither romantic love between us, nor great anger or hatred. I mean, I do get angry when certain things occur or when certain memories come back to me. I just don’t get angry ‘enough,’ nor often enough for anger to make its mark as a major emotion. Maybe my emotions would be more volatile if we had more contact. We actually have very little interaction.

I’ve just remembered that an older, father-figure person I used to know in my 20s once asked me what the opposite of love was.

‘Hatred?’ I offered.

‘No,’ he replied. ‘The opposite of love is indifference.’

Whoa! I thought.

But I can’t honestly say that what I, personally, feel is indifference. I don’t know what to call it, really. All I know is that there is this underlying sense of apprehension on the rare occasion when we do have to interact; a constant feeling that I need to have my guard up, or watch my back. A feeling that I need to have all my senses in a heightened state and be prepared for anything. An ‘unsafe’ and unrelaxed sort of feeling (I don’t think ‘unrelaxed’ is a word, but …).

There are other minor things that I sometimes contend with. Well, maybe they’re not minor after all. I guess I’m just treating them as minor for now because I’m not sure how to classify them. Like, on the rare occasion when I take pictures of the children, I wonder if I should send their Dad some copies.

The last time I did so was a month before we appeared in divorce court. Our daughter’s school pictures had just come home and, without giving it a second thought, I packed copies for her father since I knew I’d be seeing him. I remember now that he was touched to receive them.

Since then, however, I have always stopped short of doing that again. I think it’s more because the only way to do that right now would be via email, and an email from me would be so unexpected that I fear it might be mistaken for a sign that I want to open up some sort of conversation. Of course, I could be totally wrong, but I’m not ready to take that chance yet.

Same thing goes for report cards. Do I offer to send the children’s report cards to him, or at least tell him about them, when he doesn’t ask? I ask myself that question sometimes, but have always concluded that there’s no point. I have no reason to withhold the information if he asks for it, but I also feel like I have no reason to provide the information if he doesn’t.

What would be the point? Except perhaps to encourage him to be as involved as he can, and to make him feel like they’re still his kids – because they are. But again, this is not a job that I want. I suppose I would feel obligated, though, if he contributed toward their schooling in some way. I mean, it would be really bad of me to overlook sharing this sort of info in that case, whether he asks for the report cards or not.

This internal struggle came up again when one of the children needed to have a procedure done. Fortunately, my children are pretty healthy. My son never seems to get sick. My daughter is really sensitive to weather changes, but never really gets anything more than periodic colds, coughs, and mild fevers, which are easily handled. But there was this one time when she had to have a procedure done. The procedure was investigative – nothing scary; but she had to go under a general anesthetic, and that unnerved me a bit. For some reason, I still wasn’t sure if I should let her father know. I eventually did, a couple of days before the procedure date.

I wasn’t terribly thrilled about the response I got. There was nothing ‘bad’ about it. I do believe he was concerned and that he loves his children. But I felt like there was a tinge (okay, more than a tinge) of smugness, and this made me recoil. A sort of you-see-I-told-you-you-can’t-do-without-me air in what he said initially and how he said it. I wanted to say out loud: ‘This isn’t about you and me right now. This is about our daughter.’

Fortunately, she hasn’t had to go through anything like that again since then.

Today, when he called to find out what was happening with ‘the Nigerian phone,’ he started out by asking how things were going. Specifically, he asked: ‘How is the house?’

I hesitated. “By ‘the house,’ what do you mean exactly?’

‘I mean, how is everything?’

‘Oh … well … everything is fine.’

In my mind, I was thinking: What if everything weren’t fine? What would you do about it?

And then I caught myself and chided myself for over-thinking a simple greeting. It’s not uncommon to ask people how they are in a bid to be polite, without really expecting/wanting to hear exactly how they are. So I decided not to sweat the small stuff in this case.

Now, I just need to keep practicing this. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Wishful Thinking

I still get the odd phone call.

Phone calls of shock and disbelief from people who had heard years ago, but are still coming to terms with it – or who are just struck by the finality of it after bumping into one of us.

I got one such call yesterday and found myself negotiating what has become a familiar, dual role. I’ve had a lot of time to get accustomed to my new reality. In less than three months, it will be a whopping six years since the separation, and two years since the divorce.

Six years is a long time, and for me, this amount of time has been more than adequate for me to make sense of the past and get over it to the extent possible. We were separated for so long that I don’t feel ‘newly-divorced.’ But it’s different for others who haven’t seen either of us in a while.  Still a lot to absorb and try and get over, I mean. And so when I do get those traumatized phone calls, I find myself playing the role of consoler, while trying to avoid getting swallowed up by the trauma myself. I feel obligated to mourn with those who mourn, over something that I’m personally done mourning about. And so I listen politely and make all the right noises, and genuinely feel bad that they’re feeling bad, and feel bad along with them that the marriage had to come to this awful, screeching halt. But I do so as someone who has already mourned. There’s a difference, you know, between someone that ‘just heard’ and someone that heard long ago.

In situations like this, I always tend to use my father’s death as a reference point, but I guess that’s because it’s the one death that has had the greatest impact on me. Even though next month will make it seven years since he died, I still get phone calls from people who have just heard, or who heard long ago but never quite had a chance to reach out – or wanted to, but didn’t quite know how. At such times, I comfort the distraught caller, fully understanding the rush of emotions, having experienced them myself time and again. I honor their grief by giving them time to express their shock and disbelief. It would be easy enough to hurry them along, comforting them with the assurance that all is well and that my mother, siblings, and I are doing well despite the circumstances. But that’s the last thing I want to do. I allow them to pay their respects to that which is honorable. (And marriage is no less honorable.) But as I do this, I’m careful not to transport myself back to where I was seven years ago when I first got the news of my father’s death. I mean, it’s never really over. But it’s over. I will always mourn that horrible incident. But I’m a mourner who has already mourned.

The same thing applies to the marriage I once had. As I comfort those who mourn, I don’t want this practice to take me steps backward. Oftentimes, in people’s well-meaning minds, there is this deep hope for a turn-around in the present state of affairs, and this hope is usually expressed very clearly.  And so, I have to negotiate these conversations very carefully, not wanting to upset the mourner further, but wanting to care for myself, too. I see not dealing with and living in reality as particularly bad for my health.

The analogy between these two important deaths in my life (the death of my father and the death of my marriage) is something that I can go on and on about. There is a major point that sets them apart, though: No one expects my Dad to miraculously rise from the dead. 

Holding Back

Holding back is something that I think I’ve managed to do quite well over the course of my life. I make it sound like if this is some sort of achievement. Well, it is in some ways, and in others, it’s not necessarily.  I had a Skype chat with a good friend of mine about a month ago – one of those good friends that are constantly scheming or threatening to set me up romantically with someone, worried that my current life is too boring. Anyway, the conversation made me quickly go over the list of people I’d dated in the past and think about what those relationships were like. We talked about the two things that stood out for me as a result of conjuring up this list: 1) the list was short, and 2) all the relationships (except for one, which lasted two years) were short. With the one exception, they all lasted no more than a couple of months. It occurred to me that it was all about holding back, even then. Holding back from exploring each relationship further, from waiting to see how things would develop, from giving the relationship time, because it seemed clear (either before the relationship ever began, or a few weeks into it) that it couldn’t possibly last. So, why bother? I would wonder, and that would be the beginning of the end for me. Even in the two-year relationship, there was evidence of holding back (which eventually led to it dying a natural death).

This isn’t an account of regret, though. Merely a new observation. I spent much of my life holding back and holding out. Holding out for what I thought would be the real thing. I never saw the point of investing time and energy in relationships that clearly couldn’t be more than temporary.

This inclination kept me out of a lot of unnecessary trouble (thank goodness!), but it did little to enhance my level of wisdom.  As I’ve alluded to before in many previous blog posts, ‘getting wisdom’ is a whole other process.

There’s a young person in my life who has a slightly different approach to her relationships: some holding back, but without necessarily holding out.  Because why hold out for the unknown (my words, not hers – just my personal analysis of her approach)? In other words, why not enjoy the process of getting to know the person that’s in your life right now, regardless of where it’s meant to lead? Why not take interest in a person simply because they’re a person, whether a relationship with that person will lead you to the altar or not? Sounds quite reasonable, actually, but it’s a completely new thought for me.

Hmmm … I have no personal answers right now; I need to think about this some more. These are just some fresh thoughts for further consideration. In all your ‘getting,’ though, get wisdom – whatever your stance on the issue.  

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

No Words

The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men [women, children] are taken away, and no one understands ... (Isaiah 57:1, NIV)

Friday, 13 September 2013

Why I will be using a pen name

One of the things that the publisher, the editor, and I have had to deliberate over has to do with the name that I will be publishing under. Although the publisher acknowledged that marketing non-fiction can be tricky using a pseudonym, his first instinct was that this particular book should be able to circumvent those problems. The editor, on the other hand, was of the opinion that I had to use my real name – even if it meant resorting to the use of my maiden name instead. In his words: ‘I feel that the author should write the book in her own name. Writing under a pseudonym will make the book difficult to market and does not align with the author’s core message of dealing with divorce in an up-front way.’

We went back and forth over this and I was almost convinced to just go ahead and use my maiden name after all. I would have loved to, actually, but it didn’t feel quite ‘right.’ In the end, Bill (the editor) said it was ultimately my call.

A divorce memoirist whose work I have admired since my own divorce agreed with Bill. As she put it: ‘I never would have considered publishing my book under a pseudonym.  It was extremely important to be fully truthful, and I think readers would have had a difficult time trusting me if I hid behind a fake name.’

We had this conversation several months after I thought I’d settled the name issue for good. Her words made me really question myself, though, which was a good thing, as this is a decision I’ll have to carry with me forever.  In addition to feeling like using a pen name would prevent the book from ‘ringing true,’ she also brought up the point that the use of a pen name seemed like a means of protecting my ex-husband from the consequences of the choices he made – a means of preserving the status quo (which is that, men tend to be unfaithful to their wives and there’s nothing women can do about it, and that’s that).

Interestingly, like Bill, she also advised that I steer away from saying certain things – that I find a way to allude to infidelity, for instance, without directly making any accusations in this regard.  In Bill’s case, he gave the advice that any book editor would: that I couldn’t use the words of identifiable people in the book without getting their written permission.

Well, what’s a girl to do, then?

I resolved these issues in my head on a recent long-haul flight which provided plenty of time to just sit in one spot and think.

I do not at all feel that using a pen name takes away from the authenticity of what I have to say. I have never felt so. This blog actually started out (and was maintained for quite a long time) without an association with any name at all. I’m convinced that the fact that I was anonymous (and started out thinking that I always would be) actually freed me to delve into some things that I might not have, had I started out using my name. And since I have neither sought nor obtained permission from my children’s father to use his words, not using my real name just makes sense to me. No one’s privacy can be protected 100%, but the pen name gives a certain measure of protection.

I have hung on to using snippets of certain conversations, and certain words of others, including my ex. I’ll just have to take that risk. What would the Running into The Other Woman post be without the ‘classic’ sentence: ‘On behalf of my family, I just want to apologize to her for all the pain that she has suffered as a result of being falsely accused’??? That sentence is probably etched in my memory forever. Unlike it the past, I think of it today without bitterness, but I don’t think I will ever come to remember it without complete amazement. In my mind, that is one sentence that holds much of that particular story together. Without that sentence, I wouldn’t have fallen apart in public. I would have succeeded in holding onto to my usual, cool, calm demeanor throughout that fateful meeting. Without that sentence, I don’t think the reader would have gotten to see just how deep the hurt was, just how far below the belt the blow was.

Well, who cares? So what if I was deeply hurt once? Or twice, or more?

I think women might care. I am not suggesting that this sort of thing happens in every African woman’s relationship, but whether it does or not, I think it’ll make us all sit up and be more proactive about creating the sort of relationships we want, to the extent that it is within our power. 

I think men might care. Because communication is often such a huge problem in relationships, men often have no inkling just what kind of pain that one poor decision can inflict on their partner. I hope that many of the stories will give them a glimpse into just what it is like. A glimpse into just how much havoc a wrong decision made in a split second can cause.

I think the Church might care. These stories are mainly about the demise of a Christian marriage. They represent just one of many Christian marriages hanging by a thread or already destroyed. I hope that in laying it all out, that the Church will be forced to look at the remains of one marriage (mine), and glean something from the autopsy in order to help other struggling marriages. I hope that the Church will gain a sense of how to help out a bit better, of what to do in general, by reading my story. 

Some dear friends of mine (a married couple) also made me pause and think about my motives for moving forward with this book. Not that they were discouraging me from doing so at all; they were just playing devil’s advocate – just to be sure that I was clear about things in my own mind. Having a blog is one thing, they said. But having a book is a whole other ball game. Why are you writing this book?

I’m writing this book because I was meant to write it. Call it denial, but my mind is simply unable to accept the idea that my experiences in marriage and divorce have all been for nothing. There has got to be a reason for the path that I have walked. 

I’m writing this book because when I was struggling in a difficult marriage, and then, navigating the waters of divorce, I desperately wanted to read about the experience of others to help me with mine, and I couldn’t find any books by anyone like me.

I’m writing this book because I have finally found a form of ‘labor’ that I would gladly give myself to even if I weren’t paid for it.

I’m writing this book because the chance to do so essentially fell in my lap. It came to me more than I had to hunt for it. And now that I think about it, the best things in my life have always been those things that weren’t a big struggle to obtain or to make happen.

I’m writing this book because the reactions to the blog made me realize there’s a need for it – not just for the divorced, but for the married and never married. I have written frankly about quite a number of things that I wish someone had been able to tell me in plain English before I got married. I have written about things I wish I had known when I was in a marriage. I have also focused on the realities of divorce – the ‘good,’ the ‘bad,’ and the ‘ugly.’ Few books can actually be for everybody, but I have written a book that I know will be for some people. And that’s enough.

I’m writing this book because I have to keep on keeping on. To keep moving. Although I wouldn’t say I’ve experienced it myself, necessarily, I think divorce can have a pretty stagnating effect. I’m struck by one of the last things that Efuru said in Flora Nwapa’s book by the same title: I have ended where I began   I can see how easily that could turn out to be the case for any divorced person, but I reject this as my personal testimony. There’s a lot to do out there, and so I’m ‘doing.’ I can’t end up where I began. It just not possible – I’ve come too far. I'm writing this book because I sense that the book's ending will open up a new chapter in my own life. 

There’s one more reason why I will be using a pseudonym. It is, in fact, the first reason that came to mind when I decided not to use my real name: My day job involves a staggering amount of a very different kind of writing that is supposed to have little or nothing to do with how I ‘feel.’ When the publisher expressed interest in turning the blog into a book, my first thought centered on the need to keep some distance between the book and the job that I earn a living from. I’m not sure why that was an immediate thought; it’s hard to explain. I suppose it boils down to the fact that, for each type of writing, I want to be judged as objectively as possible (since writers are always judged, no matter what). I don’t want the judgment pronounced over the first type of writing I do, to cloud the reader’s judgment of the second type (if that makes sense).

And so, I will be using a pen name.

p.s. – Excuse the disjointed arguments and any typos. Very sleepy right now. Night …

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Thank you

In the next month or two, I am going to have to take down most of the rmj blog content for the year 2012, and just about three or so posts from 2013. The book publisher had told me that this time would come, but I hadn’t expected it to come so quickly. Where has the year 2013 gone??

I’ve been meaning to blog about the process of turning the blog into a book. I have just had such a crazy past three months or so that it’s been impossible. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it, though! This post is one step in that direction, actually.

In a nutshell, the manuscript has been reviewed by the editor (more about his suggestions for the book later; and YAY, I've finally taken the time to figure out how to insert a hyperlink!) and has recently been passed on to a copy editor who will clean up all my grammatical errors and typos, etc. I allowed the manuscript to be sent to the copy editor, but pointed out that I still hadn’t written an ‘Acknowledgments’ section. With the distraction of work, I didn’t quite have the presence of mind to tackle that, and so planned to do so later. I also wanted to take the time to go back to the comments section of each blog post to draw up a list of all the commenters so far. If there’s anyone I need to acknowledge, surely it would be the readers that I’m able to identify because of their comments. Well, ‘identify’ is not quite the word because out of all those that have commented since March 2012 when this blog was set up (excluding anonymous commenters), I only know 2 of these readers in person. So I can only ‘identify’ people by the names they’ve chosen to use.

I reviewed every single rmj blog comment yesterday in order to make my list. Although I will be taking down most of the blog posts, I will be saving every single comment, given my fetish for words of affirmation. I had to blink back tears as I re-read many of these comments. I guess because of how far I have come, by God’s grace, along this journey – and how people that I have never even met have come along on this journey with me, anyhow.  What an experience this has been. Who would’ve ever thought, when I finally decided to write down my rambling thoughts, that this simple act would begin to take on a life of its own?

There’ve been times that I’ve wanted to hold back the process, frankly – to rein it in so that it didn’t move too fast for me, or so that I could even change my mind before things went too far. There’ve been times that I’ve wanted to chicken out from moving ahead with publishing the book. Why am I doing this? I’ve sometimes asked myself. I didn’t start out even imagining I would write a book. Why is it important?

I have definitely had moments of doubt, but reading the comments again reminded me of why it’s important. I’ll be blogging a little bit about this topic this week, come hell or high water (so do stay tuned).

There’s this chilling quote by Elbert Hubbard: ‘To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.’ In developing this book, I realize that I will be opening myself up to a number of things, and criticism is only one of them. But I’m more scared of leaving this earth having done nothing, said nothing, and been nothing. I always have been.

I want to say a warm ‘Thank you’ to you all: those that have visited, those that have lurked (I’m a professional lurker myself), those that have signed up to receive the blog posts via email, blogger, etc., those that have shared the posts with others, those that have linked to the blog (I'm discovering each of you slowly but surely), and those that have commented anonymously. I would particularly like to thank those that have commented out in the open; here are their names/pseudonyms:

Alive in STL
Adaeze Ibechukwu
Rachel Faltus
Engagement Ring Company
Thomas Watson
Affy (where are you, Affy??)
Becky P
Creative Works
Kitchen Butterfly
Laine Harwell
Lucas Boles
Jermaine Gardner
Allan Morais
Albert Gates
Myne Whitman
Chizy K

Many, many thanks.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Home Truths

We had a blast in Nigeria.

All that excitement about going home turned out not to be for nothing (thankfully). It was so special seeing dear friends … and in-laws.

The in-laws are still good people. They reacted to seeing me and the children with multiple emotions. Joy, amazement, guilt, helplessness, gratitude, foreboding. Other feelings, too, I’m sure.

Joy at the sheer sight of us. It had been far too long since they saw my first child. It was their first time of seeing my second child, so that was a real treat, too.

Amazement at how the children have grown. The last time they saw him, my son was a little five- or six-year old. Today, he stands taller than his father. One more inch and he will also finally be taller than me. My daughter promises to be even taller than her brother when she gets to his age. They were shocked to see this full-grown six-year old (who looks like a nine-year old), rather than the baby they’d always imagined. Amazement at how ‘good’ I looked (their words) – which they kept remarking about over and over again. I would laugh heartily in response, asking what they were expecting me to look like.

Guilt. Largely unspoken, but present, nonetheless. Guilt about what they didn’t do, or couldn’t do, or hadn’t done, or wouldn’t do to contribute to the lives of these children who had grown so nicely.

Helplessness informed by their inability to at least get the children’s father contribute in some way.

Gratitude for the efforts made to ensure they saw the children, anyhow.

Foreboding, as it dawned on some (after visiting with them a few times) that these efforts were by no means a round-about way of trying to get back together with my ex. My mother-in-law, confused by how well I looked, pulled me aside and asked suspiciously if I had re-married. She asked twice. I threw my head back and laughed, showing her my ringless finger. There were assumptions in the air (and not by her alone) that my even bothering to take care of myself had to mean I was either in a relationship, or that I was seriously contemplating being in one, with a whole host of imagined suitors to choose from. (I must say, I quite liked these fancy imaginations they had of me J).

Reality dawned. This was actually one of several key outcomes from the trip that made me feel like it was worthwhile: reality dawned for them and for me.

I’ll say it till I’m blue in the face (and I pretty much already have) that I have some of the best in-laws. This hasn’t changed. But it dawned on me that their essential goodness wasn’t what really mattered in my situation; it wasn’t the bottom line. In my situation, I am on my own. All the niceness and good intentions in the world don’t change this fact. I don’t mean it in a ‘bad’ way, either. It’s just a statement of fact, and it’s important for me to be aware of this reality, and not try to imagine that it’s something that it’s not.  

This realization helped guide many of the decisions I made during my visit. It helped temper my strong tendencies toward being an efiko, a ‘goodie-goodie,’ an over-sabi. Toward over-compensating.

This was not nearly as easy as I make it sound. It was excruciatingly painful for me to come to some of those decisions. I had to restrain myself many times from over-compensating. From being ‘overly-nice’ to the  point of forgetting I needed to have some niceness left over for my children and myself. I kept reminding myself that the only person really looking out for us was me, so that I could more accurately weigh my intentions/impulses against my resources (emotional, financial, social).

I suppose I experienced some of those same feelings – joy, amazement, guilt, helplessness, gratitude, foreboding – but for different reasons for the most part.

I came back feeling quite accomplished. I had succeeded in drawing the line and in beginning the process of defining healthy boundaries. I realized that if they had ‘wild’ imaginations about me upon my arrival, I also held my own set of imaginations about them. I imagined them to be my in-laws. I still like that warm, fuzzy imagination, and I still cling to it in a way. But I also learned not to completely lose sight of the fact that, in actual fact, I no longer have in-laws. My children have good paternal relatives. There is a difference, and I need to be careful not to confuse the two. I’m learning.

I said I succeeded in drawing the line. But it just occurred to me that perhaps I had less to do with that than I think. Perhaps the line was already drawn – and not by me, necessarily. Perhaps the trip back home just helped me recognize it. 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

How did you know it was time to stop praying for your marriage?

Comment on the ‘Running into the Other Woman’ post:

I too am facing a similar situation. in my case my husband was a serial adulterer and there was abuse involved. He kicked me out with my kids (after 10 years of marriage)for the current OW a much younger person - she's 28 who claims she's a born again Christian. Long story short, I was relieved at first when he asked me to move out but it has been tough for the kids and I. But I have had peace o! No more wondering how he would hurt me next, being able to be comfortable in my home and feeling uncondemned + the children are safe from his constant criticism.I have to do emotional repair work every time they go to spend time with him. I have prayed for God to touch and change him and restore the marriage (although I often wonder why- my experience as his wife was a nightmare!) for the sake of my kids and because no matter what I've read, I don't think God wants anyone divorced. He has been somewhat involved with the kids and has filed for a divorce - we're still in court. In all this time he hasn't honestly addressed the things he did to me in our marriage even though I have been open about my repentance for my part of the mess. I don't think he has changed, he has been in an open relationship with this OW - living together, parading her as his wife. Its going on 3 years now and I'm wondering, how long more do I have to wait before shutting the door on that marriage? I do not intend to stay celibate for the rest of my life but and still trust that God can and will give me a positive marital experience but..will it be with another man or this one? If with another man, how can I ever trust anyone else again? What will happen to my children? I wonder all the time. Just wanted to see what answers other Christian women in similar situations have and how they reached the point when they stopped praying for the restoration of their marriage. What are some practical steps to take going forward? Answers would be really appreciated.

REPLY (a bit all over the place, but …)

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for writing. I actually printed out your comment so I could read it again on my way home yesterday and think about it some more. There’s a phrase that jumped out at me, and I found myself underlining it: ‘… because no matter what I’ve read, I don’t think God wants anyone divorced.

I read that and thought: That’s a loaded statement.

I could spend a lot of time dissecting that singular statement, but that’s not why you wrote. So, I won’t.

Your main reason for writing, if I understood your comment correctly, was to hear from other Christian women in similar situations about practical steps for moving forward – i.e., for getting out of the rut of praying for the restoration of a marriage that you’re no longer sure is healthy for you and your children. I would like to invite others to share their own opinions and experiences.

First, though, I wanted to say that I can relate to the relief you felt initially when your separation began. It seems contradictory, but when a marriage that you value has also been a source of immense tension, relief is a natural emotion to have. Peace is such a priceless thing. I occasionally think about the fact that, before Jesus’ departure, of all the things He could’ve left with the disciples, He chose to leave them peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14: 27, NIV).

Plus, as you know, the Bible advises us to be anxious for nothing, but to let God know what our requests are instead … and then, once we’ve done that, we aren’t promised anything in that verse as a result of our prayers – except for an unfathomable peace (Philippians 4: 6-7).

And that short ‘sermon’ for the day is just my way of emphasizing that if, as you say, you’re living a more peaceful life right now, then you’re in a great place despite the other circumstances.

Your main question:

Just wanted to see what answers other Christian women in similar situations have and how they reached the point when they stopped praying for the restoration of their marriage. What are some practical steps to take going forward?

My initial thought is that there probably aren’t any clear-cut steps. The earlier posts on this blog (mainly from 2012) document how I, personally, came to a place where I felt like the restoration of my marriage was ‘out’ – not because I didn’t believe in miracles, but because I decided that this was not a miracle that I wanted anymore. I’ve talked repeatedly about how this was a gradual process, though – I definitely didn’t start out jaded. For years, I was hopeful, and had there been some miraculous turn of events years ago, then that would’ve been great at the time. Later on, however, my desires began to change.  Again, several years elapsed and several events occurred before this change began to happen.

I guess what I’m saying is that, from my experience, this is something that happens organically; it can’t be forced or nicely-organized into seven neat steps, for instance. And so, I’m giving you a boring answer: let the passage of time do the work and take you where it will. I don’t think there are ‘7 steps,’ after which you suddenly miraculously no longer feel like praying for restoration. I think you just pray and live until you don’t feel like restoration is what you want anymore – if it ever comes to that (and who knows? It may not. Your husband could turn around by some miracle; it has happened before). I sense from your comment that you’re still a bit conflicted about it all – glad you have some peace but also still sort of invested in the marriage and in the life of your estranged husband: what he’s doing with the OW, what she’s doing with him, etc. And that’s understandable. You should take as much time as you need to resolve those feelings. If you do eventually decide to move on, then you will one day come to a point where you’ll only be mildly interested (if at all) in what is going on with him.

In your case, though, it also depends on how things play out with your husband. You’ve indicated that he’s filed for divorce. I have to ask you a blunt question (pardon me): Once the divorce comes through, would you be devastated if he married the OW? If not, then there’s a possibility that you would no longer feel obligated to pray for restoration at that point. But if you would feel bad about it, then it goes back to the issue of continuing to live, one day at a time, until you wake up one day and are surprised by what the passage of time has done.

Your questions around the possibility of re-marriage – trust, your children, fear of the unknown – are very important ones and anyone in your position would ask them (I’ve asked similar questions myself here: They are important questions, but from your comment, I sense that they are not the most important ones for you to answer right now. Let tomorrow take care of itself; let the One who holds it worry about it. In the meantime, you’ve been given today. What are you going to do with it?

I hear you about the ‘lifelong’ celibacy issue ( ) and I do not doubt that you will eventually have a positive marital experience, if that’s what you want. In the meantime, the important question isn’t whether that experience will be with your estranged husband or not. The key question, in my mind, is: Who are you going to be when that time comes? Will you be the sort of woman who chooses a man that’s incapable of honoring her all over again? I am convinced that we can get what we want in life, and I will repeat that I believe a positive marital experience is something you can surely have. But remember, you will still be the one doing the choosing – whether it means choosing your current husband again or choosing someone else. And so, you have to be ready …

Now, I’m asking myself how a woman can know she’s ready. My answer is that a woman is probably ready to make a wise decision in regard to a life partner when she’s in a place where she really values her own company and her own individual life – when she can think a bit wistfully of several things she would have to give up if she allowed someone else into her life. I’m no expert, but to me, this is an indication that she has something going on for herself and isn’t seeing a relationship as the solution to all of her problems in life. This is the sort of woman that needs some serious convincing by a man that he’s worth her time in the first place and he has to put in some work to actually woo her away from her own individual life into a shared life with him. And rather than rush to leave her life behind, she should have to spend a least a little bit of time weighing what she would be losing by doing so, against what she would be gaining.

I’m sorry I haven’t offered any really practical steps, but I’m glad your message wasn’t just to me; it was to any Christian woman who’s been through something similar and has something to share. I’m hoping that any woman in this category that reads this post (or any woman that feels led) will share her thoughts and experiences, too.

In the meantime, I’m wishing you well, Anonymous. You and the children will be all right because you are not alone. There is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Peace be with you. 


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bigger than divorce

I once mentioned that I was probably not going to be spending any vacation time in Nigeria with my children this year (

Well, I changed my mind. I’ve booked the flights, too, so there’s no going back. And I’m quite pleased with this plan. It’ll be a nice change for us all.

The length of the trip will be just right: not too long and not too short. But short enough for me to have to alert my in-laws to the fact that we will be arriving so we can schedule visiting dates. The news has been met with much excitement on their part. Even though I shouldn’t have been, I was still a bit surprised by the elation our impending visit has caused. Every single phone call I have made to announce our plans has gone the same way: First, they want to know if I’m actually coming with the children. I say yes. Then, they ask if I mean I’m coming with my son and my daughter (whom they haven’t met yet, and who is named after my mother-in-law). Each time, I’m very amused and I remind them that I have two children – a son and a daughter – and confirm that I will be coming with both of them. Then, rejoicing, they either tell me in advance what they’ll prepare for us (a goat, for instance), or ask what I want them to prepare for us (soup, for instance).

The truth is, I hadn’t planned to pay a visit to my ex-husband’s village. I plan to be in a central enough location where my in-laws can easily get to (one of them actually lives in the same city) so that those that would like to can see the children and spend time with them. Apart from the fact that I’m no longer married and don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression, I would rather not have my children making any long-distance road trips at this time. So I planned to just stay in one spot.

Of course, my in-laws are putting immense pressure on me (in the nicest way) to make that trip to the village, and their eagerness to see the children warms my heart. My mother-in-law is getting older, and it would be great for her to see her grandchildren.

I mentioned to my son this evening that it looks like we’ll be spending a night or two in his village. He immediately replied: ‘I’m not going.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Just tell them I said I’m not coming. You guys can go ahead, though,’ he said flatly.

‘Why would you say that? Where’s this coming from?’

He said something about how, with his father’s sparse involvement in his life, he didn’t see why this particular visit to the village was necessary.

I paused.

‘Come here,’ I said. ‘Close the door, let’s talk.’

And I told him about all the phone conversations I’ve had in the last week and how his uncles and aunties were all beside themselves with joy at the prospect of seeing him and his sister. About how, when I said I was coming with ‘the children,’ they all wanted to be sure I meant I was coming with both my son and my daughter. (He was as amused by this as I was).  I told my son that his family is much bigger than just me and his maternal relatives. I told him how much he is adored on both sides of the family. I told him that his father’s people are his people, and that they are good people. He comes from a large family of good people. I told him that if I had to choose in-laws again, I would choose the ones I originally chose.

I told him about my traditional wedding: about how, when my soon-to-be in-laws paid a visit to introduce themselves to my people, and later on, on the day of the bridewealth payment (a misnomer in my case, as my father didn’t believe in receiving bridewealth for himself), his father didn’t utter a word. It was ‘his’ wedding, but he barely featured in it because it wasn’t about him, really. It was about two families of good people coming together – and he (my son) was a part of this big, new family. I told him about his paternal grandmother, great-uncle, and uncles, who did all the talking that day on his father’s behalf.  My in-laws came along with their in-laws, too, that day – men who had married their daughters. My father was very impressed by this and would later remark that they put together ‘a powerful delegation.’ I have always been pleased with my parents’ impression of my in-laws. They are truly people who know how to ‘do’ family.

I told my son that where we come from – where he comes from – a marriage is not just about two people. About what a good thing that can be because it means that he is protected and will always ‘belong’ somewhere. He will always have an intact identity, no matter what. I told him that in his culture, it doesn’t matter that his parents are divorced; this means little when it comes to him as a child. His parents’ divorce has not changed his location in his father’s village because his family is much, much bigger than just me and his dad. And this is why they were all busy twisting themselves into a pretzel trying to figure out how to welcome him.

I said a lot of other things that I can’t remember now. What I will not forget is the fluctuating expression in my son’s eyes, which went from defiance, to surprise, to pride, and finally, to respect.

‘Okay,’ he said, soberly. ‘I’ll go.’

So, Nigeria: here we come.

Monday, 24 June 2013

A man named Bill

The book editor turned out to be nothing like what I expected. Not that I’d ever really given it much thought. But when he turned out to be: 1) a ‘he’, 2) White, 3) American, and 4) Roman Catholic, I suddenly realized that this wasn’t what I had in mind (subconsciously) at all.  

But what do I know? I’m a novice who hadn’t planned to start a blog in the first place, much less a book, and who really didn’t know what exactly the role of a book editor was, anyway. All this is one big adventure to me.

The publisher sent me the editor’s profile to review. His name really is Bill. His credentials were terribly impressive – so much so that I sent a quick thank you email to the publisher for choosing him with such care. I was still really apprehensive, though, about some of the remarks made by authors Bill had worked with in the past. I noted one in particular who talked about his book having to be re-written ‘with 75% new content, just as [Bill] had predicted.’ This author sounded really happy. I balked at the thought of having to re-write stuff. Where on earth would I find the time? I read some more of Bill’s profile and found that this author’s book ended up doing really well. No wonder he sounded so happy.

I sent the profile to my sister along with the first couple of emails from Bill so we could compare notes. I thought he was absolutely hilarious. He ends almost every email with a joke that cracks me up.

‘Doesn’t he sound like fun?’ I asked my sister.

‘He sounds absolutely delightful!’ she replied.

Perhaps it was na├»ve of us, but my sister and I still couldn’t get over the fact that he was actually a ‘he.’  It was also interesting to us that he wasn’t African and wasn’t of the same Christian ‘flavor’ as I am. But the not-being-a-woman part was something that really gave us pause. No disrespect at all to the male readers of this blog (nor to men in general), but I did wonder how possible it would be for him to really ‘get it’ – to deeply understand where I, as a woman, was coming from with the very personal thoughts and perspectives that make up the blog. I mentioned this to him when I received his first set of comments. I mentioned it out of relief, really, as I discovered that I need not have bothered. I also mentioned how much I hate reviews (well, I hate having my own work reviewed, anyway, even though I love the benefits in the end). I spend a considerable amount of time at work getting peer-reviewed and providing peer reviews, and if this is what a book editor did, then I was going to dread this process.

Fortunately (very, very fortunately), it turned out that I had nothing to worry about. I found that I thoroughly enjoyed responding to Bill’s comments, and it has been a pleasure stealing time on my weekends to do so.

When I pitched the idea of blogging about the process of turning the rmj blog into a book, he enthusiastically replied: ‘Feel free about mentioning that your editor is a guy from Texas!’

So I’ve conveyed his message (J). More to come. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

On my honor

I am not my divorce.

And yet … I am.

The divorce is an important part of my life, without a doubt. It’s just that it’s not the whole thing.

I am so many other things apart from divorced that I can hardly keep up with me.

Granted, I often see life through the lens of divorce – just like I once used to see life through the lens of what-seemed-to-be-a-really-promising, and then what-turned-out-to-be-a-failing, marriage. I suppose this is only natural. But after my initial ‘divorce stare’ at an issue, I make a concerted effort to subject the same issue to other perspectives, too. There is no point in letting marital status kick one out of balance.

I want to try and dwell on the positive ways in which divorce has shaped me, is shaping me.

I am no longer using my relationship with a marriage partner as an excuse not to dare to to have a life of my own.

I am no longer afraid of the idea of being alone,like I was prior to marriage.

There is a crack in everything, as this blog post reminds us: That’s how the light gets in.

The ‘crack’ in my life that my divorce represents has let in light, no doubt. That light gives me the energy to strive and hope for good things now and in the future. And because I believe life is essentially good, I pledge the following:

I pledge not to lose my smile. To smile with my eyes and not just with my lips. To continue to smile often.

I pledge not to make my life all about me; to continue to take an interest in others. To be compassionate toward others.

I pledge to deliberately reach out to others – to not get so absorbed with my own set of circumstances that I forget just how much I still have to give to others.

I pledge to use my voice – but to try and remember to do so in a way that is gracious and edifying for others, rather than just plain hurtful.

I pledge to use my gifts, talents, abilities, and experiences to bless others. I already know that I won’t always feel like it. I also know that whether I feel like it or not at the time, in the end, it’s always worth it, and I end up feeling more blessed than those I was meant to bless.

I pledge to sincerely root for the troubled marriages that come my way to make it, the way others once rooted for mine. With a very different style, I suppose, but I’ll root for them nonetheless.

I pledge to give people a fair chance: to not judge anyone by my past experiences, but to give people time to show me who they are – and then (only then) make a decision as to where they belong in my life.

I pledge to stay grateful; to see my glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

I pledge to step out more, to try new things (not too many new things, but at least some!), to not stop trying at life in general.  

I pledge to never drift too far away from joy. To find my way back when I do drift.

I make this pledge to myself.