Healing Process {small steps}

Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy's staying in an unhappy marriage.
Teaching your child the wrong things about love.
~Jennifer Weiner. Fly Away Home

The phone rang this weekend, an inquiry for wedding photography. Despite the blatant, message on my website stating I'm not accepting any more clients at this time, I still get the calls. Don't get me wrong, I am proud that people like my work and want it. I'm sad that I simply cannot muster the heart to continue doing wedding work at this time. The first factor that helped me with my decision was there just isn't enough money in it any longer. The oversaturated market and readily available technology for photography doesn't make it feasible as anything more than side work or a hobby job that provides a secondary income.

Career-wise it was time to take a break from photography and have weekends to spend with my son, focus on my other business, and get my life in order. It was the right time to step away. I had already done it once before, the first time being after the film industry went south. Even with all the advancements of camera and computer  technology of today, the salaries of the professional photographer still plummets. The six figure photographer is a rare thing these days- I miss when it wasn't, and that was the film era for me. I also miss getting lost in the darkroom where it was just my thoughts, pitch-black, and my images...not the chemicals however. I am surprised my kiddo wasn't born with 13 fingers and two heads from all the chemicals my body has been exposed to when I worked with film. I digress...

I could make this post about the photography industry, but, really, that's not what I am writing about. I am sure there will be future posts where I discuss it at length, and yes, while you can still bring in okay money, rarely are you going to find the income healthy and substantial enough for a family without a second job or a spouse who is also earning his or her keep. That's the truth. Salary factor aside
, I did enjoy it! The work was fun, it was excitingly chaotic. I loved getting immersed in the moment and feeling all that love in the air.

Sadly, it was a different story at home in my studio.
 While post-processing those images of "happily ever-afters" my own reality would sink in. There in front of me, the passionate images of blissful "I Do's", there behind me, my own hectic empty marriage creeping in to remind me of my reality. Sometimes I would breakdown in the still of the night as I worked on clients' wedding photos. Wishing I knew what it was like to be in that moment myself and not simply someone just capturing it with a camera. Knots of envy grew in my stomach. I couldn't shoot weddings anymore.


It was magical. It was special. To capture memories and cherished moments
of others, was an amazing experience. I am glad I had the opportunity. Maybe
one day, I'll go back to it, but as a hobby profession only.
 
When your marriage is unbalanced and one person is hurting, how much is enough? How many pieces are supposed to break and how damaged can we allow ourselves to get before we throw these things out the window and accept that this type of love isn’t healthy? Before we accept that this type of love, is no longer love? 
 
The lie is, we convince ourselves that only one person is hurting. When its ourself we believe it is only ourselves and in a relationship there is no single person. When one person hurts, everyone who is a piece of that relationship hurts. The hurt gets passed around, children act out, spouses ridicule and play mind games with each other and from there the hurt continues to grow exponentially. It's a cruel game of dominoes. 

I remember the day I broke. When I just couldn't deal with it anymore. I began documenting my struggle with my camera
a visual journey. I kept these images locked away, for the most part, I took them to help me deal with my emotions and the torment of my circumstances.
 
When it's over, when it's finally broke beyond repair, when it reaches that point, and deep down, we knew it would, what do we do?  How do we do what is best for ourselves without damaging the heart and mind of someone else in the process? There is no simple answer, especially when there are children involved and people will get hurt to varying degrees. It is our job to ensure that everyone survives the ordeal, and is able to deal with the pain. If properly nurtured, hurt does heals. 

Sometimes, we have to have a measure of selfishness, especially when we are hurting. We have to do what's best for ourselves, because sometimes, doing so, will help everyone.  When we've reached that brink, when enough is enough, when, after trying to fake it to make it doesn't work, when that feigned smile becomes transparent, when we realize the damage we are doing to our own self is making us sick and is affecting those around us, it needs to stop.

When I broke, I did nothing to fix the situation. I was afraid. I didn't want to disappoint
my parents. I was too weak to make my own choices and live for me. So, I did what
I was told. It was what I was told, "was the right thing". My world continued to spiral
out of control. Cloaked in doubt, negativity, frustration, contempt, anger. I spent years
living in denial. I still did not change. I convinced myself I could live like this.

Set aside, the biblical notion that marriages are sacred and meant to last a lifetime. That's unfair and bear in mind, I view religion as a man-made construct, nothing more, nothing less. I think marriage is important and the goal should always be for LOVE. Not everyone knows what love is. Not everyone entering into marriage is mature enough or ready enough, and that's a travesty. We have a kind and forgiving God, he wouldn't bestow his blessings on a marriage that is stifling someone or destroying someone. No, he wouldn't, nor would he want us to just throw our marriages out the door. But, when efforts are exhausted and the struggle to make it work isn't working- we need to know when to let go. We can lose ourselves if we don't. No one deserves to live a life like that.

When a relationship becomes toxic, it has the power to eat you alive and destroy your health. I have see it first hand and I, myself, have been living it firsthand. There is a huge epidemic in this world. Divorce is stigmatized and still seen as this horrible outcome. There is research to back it up, of course it's all studied in the realm of social science (pseudo science at best) and much of it still backs a biblical view. A marriage is a promise for life, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. 

You stick together no matter what! She can blow through your savings on her emotional driven spending frenzies, he can't beat you senseless during a drinking spell, but you stick it through because that's what you've been told and conditioned to do! 
 
When I realized what I had done, I felt it was all too late to fix. I convinced myself I had to settle and just live with my
circumstances. I let each dream I had fall away, like birds, each one, paper birds, falling away; pieces of me that once
mattered the way breathing did. I released them like tears. I regretted everything. Anger built.
 

Maybe you find yourself pregnant and under the scrutiny of your fundamental parents, who insist you get married or you'll be removed from the trust and disowned, because they don't want their reputation as the perfect Christian family being tarnished in their upper middle class town (I'm speaking from experience). You marry and fake it to make it! Maybe you fall head over heels for someone, immaturely and without guidance jump into marriage before you're ready and a few years down the road you both matured into two very different people, only now, you have kids. So, you suck it up and pretend you're a happy family; only in the quiet hell of your own home, you don't eat together, you don't sleep together and you only parent together at the kids' sporting events and other family outings. People outside the house think you have the perfect marriage. Your marriage counselor gleams at the idea, "he/she saved your marriage" but did they really? Your kids grow up with the understanding that this is "love". Many repeat the cycle of unhappy, empty, and unfulfilling relationships. 

Meanwhile most of the research and studies are conducted on divorced families because the other families are too busy playing pretend to acknowledge anything is wrong. The ones that would be a true indicator for this type of research won't come forward! They don't want people to see the truth. There isn't enough to be said for the anguish that children endure in the households of empty broken marriages where two parents are faking it to make it, this I know! I suffered two generations of it- my mother's parents, and then my parents, and then my own marriage- it's a cycle that repeats because that was the perception of normal growing up. Until you realize it's not...

No, it's not... Some cycles need to be broken. Sometimes doing nothing and settling is more harmful to the people we love than actually having the balls to move on and break the repetitious patterns. Some have the power and courage to break the cycles. Some don't. They settle and age with the "if only" regret. 

Statistics for divorced families focus on negative aspects because that's where the attention is drawn. We look at people who commit crimes or do horrible things and we say, "oh look, he or she is from a divorced family!" We don't look at the larger picture and the other factors: drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, socio-economics, mental health, and so-on-and-so-forth. Thing is, if you look at those statistics and then look at criminals or people who have done horrible things and are not from divorced families you begin to see the pattern truly has little to do with the actual divorce itself.

Sure, divorce is hard but in some situations it is necessary. I have friends who grew up just fine with step moms and step dads, they are successful and happily married now themselves. However, these situations can be seen as unique, because the parents both identified what was wrong with their marriage, they tried to fix it, when it wasn't fixable, they co-parented their kids through this rough patch with as little harm as possible. Their parents cared enough about their kids to set aside their own issues to co-parent and help their kids transition. They kept their kids present through the struggle without "hiding" the truth. They took time to explain to their kids why it wasn't working and how unhealthy it was for them to continue down the road as a married couple. They didn't shelter their kids and their parents went on to extremely successful second marriages. 

You know what? These kids grew up to enter their own marriages with a better understanding of what love should be and what to look for. Learning from their parents as active role models. A divorce can and often is, full of anger, bitterness, resentment and fighting. Often times parents work hard to pit their children against the other parent and it becomes a whole selfish ugly battle. Kudos for the parents who can avoid this for the sake of their kids!

One day, I decided I had enough. No more pity party, no more looking back in regret. I had to fix me. To some, it would  seem to be a selfish pursuit, but to me, it felt like life or death, do or die. Today, I am at that point in my life where I need to move on and do what's right, for me- because I need to be happy again. I need to have peace in my life and faith restored.

Love and relationships require work and responsibility, even where divorced parenting is concerned. We have to learn when to stretch and when to break, when to give and when to take.

For those of you who have been blessed to find a romantic love that is equally shared, I truly admire you and you have my deepest admiration. You have inspired me to want that for myself. I want my son to know what a happy healthy relationship looks like. I want to break that maddening cycle!  I think it all starts with being aware, open, and ready.

Divorce is never a good thing but in some cases it is necessary and it's okay. Trust The direction you're going. Believe in yourself. Don't judge the situations other people are in. You don't know what it's like and you don't have the authority to toss the first stone! Remember that!

When I found a way to heal, I took to my art again, painting with emotion and color. A picture didn't have to  make sense, it had to provide me a release from my anguish. It was how I cried, how I yelled, how I laughed, how I danced. It was how I learned to survive.

This was hard for me to write. I spent four days on it. Not sure if I wanted to post this. But I felt it necessary, because, this encompasses a very large part of why I am seeking change and wanting so badly to transition out of painful ways and find happiness again. As I begin to explore my healing processes and share my personal journey with you, I hope you can read without judgment and with compassion and understanding. Some may related some may not, we each have a path to take in this life, I am currently stumbling through the difficult areas of my life towards the sunlight at the end of this tunnel.

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