San Andreas. Rattle. Crash of glass. Groan of twisting metal. Shrieking of car alarms and frightened residents. Massive fissures ripped into the earth, collapsing bridges and roofs. The landscape following the bone-shaking scene resembles a sandbox of toy homes and cars scattered by a toddler who delights in the mayhem and destruction.
Many Californians have become accustomed, as accustomed as one can be, to the occasional inevitability of being startled awake by the earth’s restlessness. Just as other areas are known for devastating hurricanes, volcanoes, tornadoes, or other angry outbursts of nature; the US West Coast, in particular the San Andreas Fault, is known as “earthquake country.”
Surprisingly, another large fault with similar destructive potential lies dormant in the sleepy Midwest, relatively close to where I live. The New Madrid Fault straddles the borders of Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas. It’s as though a hibernating giant rests undetected by unsuspecting inhabitants who have no idea they should fear the wrath that could erupt at any time!
The all-encompassing destruction and the ambush-like tactics of an earthquake remind me of divorce.
We may be going about the business of our everyday lives, somewhat oblivious to the violent power right underfoot. Things seem quiet and normal, certainly nothing to be concerned with; then, all of the sudden, everything in our lives is turned upside down into an unrecognizable heap of smoldering debris and ruin!
As frightening and disorienting as a divorce is, one distinct and memorable feature is the gaping wound created at the site of the event. What was once one is now ripped into two distinct sides- your side, their side- and the depth of the chasm is now so immense that there’s no mending the tear to rejoin the two sides.
Not only are there now two new domains belonging to each former spouse, but two sides of the fault, two stories, two versions of blame…
What was rumbling beneath the surface that caused the fracture of the marriage?
Was it mutual neglect and wrongdoing or the actions of just one that tore the earth in two?
Were there any signs or warnings vying for our attention before the final disaster?
How do we pick up the pieces of our crumbled life when the aftershocks have calmed?
In the midst of my divorce, I wanted nothing more than the widest gap between my ex and I. I wanted as much distance between me and his insults, aggression, lies, and the pain of our severed relationship. I welcomed watching the split between us grow deeper and wider so that my life could become increasingly more my own, and I could have less and less to do with him.
In the beginning, the two sides of our divorce story on each side of the fault line bothered me greatly. It angered, frustrated, and saddened me when he would cast me as the villain in our tale and played the part of the poor victim. I suffered the loss of many significant relationships because of his dishonesty, and I seethed at the damage he caused to my life. I felt like a smoldering volcano building in heat and tension, about to blow at the next suggestion that I was to blame for everything that went wrong!
I recently came to the conclusion, almost seven years since our disaster, that my divorce fire has been extinguished. My life was shaken to the core. I lost everything. What used to bother me so much, I can now shrug off! I don’t care what any of “his people” think anymore! I don’t wonder anymore what he’s thinking or what he’s doing because I am whole without him!
The ruins I found myself in became the fertile ground for my rebirth. The debris of things (and people) that were no longer good for me, fell away from my feet, leaving me on the solid ground of what I know I can trust and depend on. The frivolous façade of my former life crumbled away to expose the authentic, raw core of my existence. I am now better able to see myself and others for who they really are. The loss of disaster realigned my perspective so that I can focus on what, and who, really matter.
New Madrid was an ugly beast that bashed through the chains that held me back from peace and happiness. I hated her, but have come to appreciate how she wielded devastation as a tool to reshape my life and return its power to me!
I no longer care about the fault line!
Say what you will. Blame. Taunt. Curl into a ball and seek pity as the poor victim!
Years ago I would have recoiled in horror at the thought of what he says to others to influence their opinion of me. Now, I laugh in the face of lies and blame and exclaim “say what you want! I know the truth, you know the truth, and the fact remains that you can’t control or hurt me anymore!”
I also know that the truth eventually finds its way to the surface, so those who initially fall under his spell of dishonesty will come to see who he is, and he’s not my problem anymore! Those who matter and who really care will stand by my side
New Madrid broke me, and the site of every little insult and injury became fortified to the point where I am now unbreakable!
It took time, it took many tears, and it required the building of my confidence and resolve to the point where I can now stand my own ground, unshaken and unflustered in the face of what’s on the other side of the fault.
He bears blame, I bear blame, and in the end our two kingdoms were never meant to be joined. The fault line can only remain dormant for so long before mismatched pairings are shaken apart and set free from each other.
Having my entire life jolted so that my world fell in shambles was an unwelcome occurrence, but it was also just what I needed! I needed the wake-up call of a total life body slam. I needed to de-clutter my existence from mistrust, neglect, disrespect, and to be free to claim my life for myself. It was horrifying and nothing but a disaster when it happened; but, I soon discovered that it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and that freedom was disguised as fear!