Heartbreak, Marriage, and Divorce–Love Embraces It All

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By: Autumn Elizabeth

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life I would have now, if I were still married. I’ve been thinking about all the things in this life I have now I would have missed, and all the things I would have gained. Life isn’t always as simple as we’d like it to be. There isn’t just married and divorced, now and then. Everything bleeds together, and a little bit of the past always seeps out of a broken heart.

I’ve watched people lose everything when partnerships break, and I’ve seen people gain unbelievable freedom, I’ve seen divorce law work against everyone, and marriage inequality leave people without a legal leg to stand on.  I’ve seen the end of a marriage strip people of dignity and faith, and I’ve seen it restore belief.  I’ve seen all this in the lives of others, and in my own life.

I’ve also thought a lot about what it means to move on, to start over, and if that’s even possible. I think for some people moving on involves taking down pictures, and throwing away old love letters. But my elopement celebration pictures are still buried somewhere on Facebook, beneath almost two years of photos from my new life living abroad, but they’re still there. For me, the past doesn’t go away, life just steps in, putting ever more distance between the now and the used to be.

I haven’t forgotten how the refusal of my church to bless my same-sex union tested my faith in religion, but I also remember how the end of that union brought me closer to understanding the ways divine loves works through us all.  Where there is love, there is God, and my life, before and after my divorce, has been filled with love. Heartbreak just made me look at that love differently. Our hearts may be fragile and easy to break, the love of the universe is far sturdier.

Love flows through broken hearts, and wedding vows, it continues whether we erase our past or relish it, whether governments and churches sanctify or vilify it. Love continues even when we doubt its very existence. Love is there, in the smile of a stranger, and the hug of a friend, in the blessings and the break-ups.  Love lives, today and every day, and even the whole world’s collective heartaches can’t break it.

I’ve seen a lot for my time on this planet. I’ve been engaged to my high school sweetheart, I’ve eloped to Paris with a brave Midwestern woman , I’ve had an un-blessed, illegal marriage, and a lawless divorce,  and I’ve moved across an ocean for a new love. Everything bleeds together, the good and bad, the past and the present, the wedding vows and the divorce papers, it all runs together and somehow love embraces it all.

14 Ways to Begin a New Journey in 2014

Here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets we are all about journeys, especially global spiritual journeys that lead us towards wisdom and love. Here are 14 ways we have come up with to start new journeys in 2014. Enjoy and then tell us all about it!

  1. Try making new art projects… you can use paint like Yvonne, pencils, watercolors, clay or whatever inspires you.
  2. Write spiritual poetry like Brittany’s poem about the end of DOMA, or Seanna’s poem about loss and nature.
  3. Meditate on one theme all year see where it takes you
  4. Save 10$ a month toward a trip or pilgrimage
  5. Photograph things that are holy to you (Then submit them!)
  6. Start a mini-habit, like one push-up, or one page of reading a day
  7. Work your way through a spiritual text in a different language
  8. Take walks in neighborhoods that other than your own and pray for them
  9. Reuse all paper products at least once
  10. Take a different form of transportation one day a week
  11. Try out new prayers at your usual prayer time, like our prayers for last breaths, success and travel.
  12. Ask to join a friend in their type of worship and go with an open mind
  13. Ask a friend to join you in your type of worship and enjoy the wisdom they bring
  14. Tutor someone for free and see what you learn from them

These are just 14 ideas from us here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets…Leave your ideas for new journeys in 2014 below!

Looking Back, Looking Forward, Beginning Again

By: Autumn Elizabeth

When I look back on 2013, I don’t quite know how to sum up a year of so many highs and lows, of so much loss and so much growth. As I look forward, I still have very little idea what 2014 will hold for me, even though I know it will hold a mid-year move to Paris and lots of continued work in graduate school. As I look back and as I look forward, I find more questions that answers, and yet, the new yer has begun, and I must begin again with it.  

I think that perhaps it is a blessing that I cannot distill the past year into a neat and tidy list of the top events, or a quick two-sentence summary worthy of a late Christmas card.  Surely the years in which we grow the most, the years which forever mark our lives, cannot be so easily summed up.  I have felt deep loss this year, losing several family members and friends. I have felt this lost keenly as I begin a new year in which none of these loved ones will share. I am beginning again, but they are not, at least not in the same way I am.

Yet, this past year has also held some brilliant moments of joy. I enjoyed several publications, I was accepted and began a graduate program, and I flourished in a country that was utterly foreign to me. As deeply as I felt the loss of my loved ones this past year, so have I felt the immense joy of my successes.

This past year has also marked world events of both pain and promise, as I believe many years do. Some causes for which I have prayed and worked have achieved great success, like the end of DOMA, and the return of the Arctic 30, and other causes have seen nothing but sorrow and violence, like the war in Syria.

And what does the future hold? What does it mean to look forward after a year of such uncertainty? As I look forward into 2014, I do see more uncertainty, and yet this does not disquiet me as much as it used to. I could not have predicted many of the events in 2013, and yet the happened and I survived, grieved and rejoiced in them. Looking forward, I expect 2014 will be no different.

I know that loss may come again, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping for joy in the new year.  I still feel the losses from 2013, I am beginning to see how much growth I experienced, and how greatly 2013 will mark me. I am just beginning to comprehend the enormity of last year, of each year and so I begin another year, with all the wisdom, love …and yes even lint, I can muster.

Down the Drain

Today’s post is by Maximilian Reid, a Webster University alumni and entrepreneur. He talks about what happens when we are judged for our creativity. The wisdom Maximilian gained from his loss shows us all that our work is valuable , that our prayers matter, and that we must keep the faith, no matter if that faith is in God, ourselves, or just in the stories we create. 

My greatest regret in life was my decision to destroy my hand-drawn Pokemon Encyclopedia in the 7th grade.

When I was in middle school, I was so enamored with the magical, monster-filled world of Pokemon that I dreamed up new creatures with fabulous powers and fitting names. I had so many ideas that I just had to write them down and draw them out. I acquired a stack of colorful construction paper and a handful of fresh pens. I picked a spot on the floor and I created.

Not a naturally gifted artist, I mustered every ounce of concentration into perfecting the details on each of my imaginary creatures. I drew a dragon-type Pokemon with a body as large as a skyscraper and a mouth as wide as a cave. I wrote a scientific description of a new type of Pikachu. I documented the mesmerizing behaviors of my Ghost types and outlined the weaknesses of my Robot types, and I bound the multi-colored pages together into a book. I knew it was a book because I stapled the papers three times on the left. On the cover, I wrote the title in large, bold words: “Pokemon Encyclopedia by Max Reid”.

As I gazed upon my completed masterpiece, a shiver coursed through my body and made the tiny hairs on my arms stand on end. I had just written my first book. It had a title, it said it was by Max Reid, and it was 30 pages long. Pages. I wrote something with turnable pages.

I felt I had made something wonderful and original, and I had to share my book with my friends. I brought the Pokemon Encyclopedia to school the morning after I finished it.

“Look what I made!” I said to my classmates. “It’s a Pokemon Encyclopedia. It took me weeks to make. Look!”

I handed my book to a classmate, and he swiped through the pages too quickly to read through the powers and origins of each creature.

“What?” he said. “You still think Pokemon is cool? And you made your own? ”

“Your drawings kinda suck.”

“Why would you make Pikachu transform into that?”

I was lonely, and I didn’t want to be the weird kid. So I shrugged and took my book back.

“Yeah, it is kind of crappy. I made this, like, two years ago. I don’t like it either.”

When I got home, I took the Pokemon Encyclopedia out of my backpack and flipped through a few pages. I just wanted one last look. I took the book to the kitchen sink and held my Pokemon Encyclopedia under running water, and I rotated it until the ink swirled into a grey whirlpool down the drain. I tore the soggy paper into fist-sized clumps over the kitchen garbage can, and I tamped down the pulp into a mess of discarded credit card offers and utility bill notices.

I didn’t run hot water over all my writings because I had one bad day. I was an adolescent who didn’t adhere to or pick up on social cues very well, desperate to destroy all the things that made me weird and unlikable.

Years later after that painful purge of creative writing, I’ve slowly learned to take pride in my work, to take great care not to crumple a draft or toss out an idea too quickly. I see the stories I choose to tell as an emotional, psychological history in progress. I preserve all my ideas – good and bad, insightful and tasteless – and I read through them from time to time to remind myself of my intellectual roots. During my later teenage years, I kept a binder filled with sheets of paper on which I jotted poems, states of mind, prayers to God, lists of goals, and story ideas.

And I know I’ve since done an awful job of taking on a conventional personality, and for that, at least, I’m proud.

 

For more of Maximilian’s work check out Les MiseraBaristas on YouTube.

A Prayer for Last Breaths

By: Autumn Elizabeth

As we transition from Loss to Breath, here is a prayer for the last breaths of this life.  I have found that there are lots of prayers for healing, or grief, but we don’t often consider how we will leave this life. I wrote this prayer as a prayer for a loved one, however, it can easily be converted into a prayer for oneself.  Please feel free to use this and any of our content in services, prayer groups etc., just remember to link it back to us!

Dear God,

I (we) ask that you make the last breath of my (our) loved one peaceful and pure.
Let them be filled with your divine love and wisdom.
Let their final breath be like a river meeting a stream,
as they end this life and are joined with the divine spirit of the universe.
I pray that their last breath resonates in the hearts of those they have loved,
and that no strife or hurt is done unto those loved ones with the final breath.
Above all, let their last breath honor the life they have lived,
and bring acceptance for its end.

Amen

Bluejay

Today’s post is the last  from month of posts on loss.  Seanna Tucker, after opening our theme with her poem Daughter Grief, is back to share another poem .  This poem focuses on loss in nature, its connection to our own losses, and transitions nicely into our next theme of Breath. You can find more of Seanna’s work on her tumblr

Saw a Bluejay
Lying on the ground
Passed death
Wanna pick it up
Touch it’s wings
Feel the beauty in it’s feathers
Say – whisper –
Everything’s gonna be alright

Find it’s nest
That surely it must have fallen from
Or been on it’s way to
Protect it’s children
Not quite blue yet
Searching for their color
The way babies do

Sing a lullaby while I wait
For another parent to arrive
So the vultures or the snakes
Or whatever predator
Cannot attack these defenseless
Flightless
Little ones

All this passes
As I see a vibrant bird
Lying on its back
in the middle of a sidewalk
It’s peaceful

And I think
Surely, if such a heaven exists
This bird is there
And all the other birds
No longer afraid of predators
Flying through
All of their colors
On wavelengths that we cannot yet see

Surely, if such a place exists
This bird might know my father
And I can whisper one small request

“Say Hi for me”

Unwanted Goodbyes

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Sometimes all of us have to say goodbye to people and things we aren’t ready to lose yet.  If you sit in an airport long enough, you will certainly see at least one tear-filled farewell, at least one hug that looks like a desperate attempt to cling to a love one who will soon be somewhere else.  Sometimes people lose jobs they loved, homes they loved, sometimes even a broken cup can be a goodbye we have to say too soon.

Of course the ultimate unwanted goodbye is often death.  Although this is one that I have trouble understanding.  Sure, I get that death is loss, but mostly it is a loss for those of us who remain.  Although I don’t know exactly what death holds, as someone who believes in the ultimate love of the divine, I see death as a step to gain something rather than a loss.  Perhaps this is why I am utterly shaken by my grandmother’s last days.

At 96, my grandmother has been a pillar of faith since I was born.  She is deeply and beautifully Catholic and her relationship with her faith is part of what draws me back to the Catholic Church every now and then.  Yet, even at 96, even as a person who truly believes in heaven, my grandmother struggles with her impending death.  More than struggles in fact, she refuses her impending death.  A she sits in the hospital, all my attempts to say goodbye to a woman who has loved me, taught me and shaped me in more ways than she knows are totally unwelcome.

So this is my unwelcome goodbye. I am forced to face the fact that no one’s faith is perfect, that everyone questions the big picture sometimes, even 96-year-old french Catholics.  So I say goodbye to my picture perfect ideal of my grandmother’s faith, and instead accept that when it comes to faith, we can all learn from each other. Perhaps it is now my turn to teach my grandmother something about faith.

For you see I truly believe that death is part of life, and I hope that when death finally comes, I can greet it like an old friend. Having been forced to face my own mortality at the ripe old age of 14 when a medical injection stopped my heart, I have developed an understanding of death one might expect from a person with a few more years on them. I don’t pretend to know what heaven is, or what death will be like, but I do know that because of God’s love, death is nothing to fear. My faith and my experiences have helped me see death as one of the many beautiful mysteries of faith.

I do not wish to say goodbye to my grandmother just yet, and I wish we still had many years of church services to attend together. We do not and I have to learn to accept that. But I do have hope that in the few days we have left together I can give her a bit of my hard-won wisdom on death, if only through my willingness to give her unwanted goodbyes.

Faith, Hope and Loss

Today we have another post on the loss of faith. This time the post is from Josiah Taylor of Phoenix, AZ. He writes about losing faith and hope, and maybe regaining them too. 

I was asked to write about loss. I completely blew it off from the start, thinking ‘The hell do I know about loss?’ I’ve not had anyone I’ve been close to die. I’ve no story about a friend or family member with a terminal illness or their sudden departure. I don’t live in some sort of war-zone, where death and disease are the norm. I’ve lived a very simple, comfortable, middle-class life well enough.

After some thought, several things came to mind. The first was of the people I know personally who have experienced a traumatic loss of someone they held dear and what that means to them. The second, one great loss I’ve had was in the destruction of a particular friendship. That story, however, is for another time and subject. The last thought was oddly so late in coming considering how recent and prevalent it has been: the most destructive loss of my life thus far (and, I hope, ever) – the loss of my faith.

I’m sure it varies from person to person, but for myself, my faith was my life. I got through most of my childhood and early teens purely on faith. It wasn’t even a blind faith. Over the years, I had seen, heard, and experienced personally more than enough to make what I believed feel like fact. It was a faith I would have died for. Rather, it was the One in whom I had faith that I would have died for.

In the last year, that all went away. My spirit became so utterly broken. It’s a strange time for me. I heard lies recognized them as such, and chose to believe them regardless of how destructive I knew they were. Stranger still is when I began to think about Hell and concluded that I really wouldn’t mind going there. The strangest part is that I can’t even tell you how it got to be that way. I think I just kept believing those destructive lies and claiming them for myself as though they were true.  All the while knowing exactly what I was doing.

What was once my willingness to die for my faith became my desire to die without it. As I mentioned, my faith was my life. Without that, everything became meaningless.  I was, however, not empty and emotionless without my faith. I was filled to the brim with anger, hatred, bitterness, pain, and despair. Someone simplified it for me one day: I couldn’t even hope for hope.

What got me out? Oh yeah, I got out. Thank God, I got out. It was a choice. It sounds so simple, but it was not so easy. I’ve found that I always always always have a choice. I chose to finally accept what I knew was true even, if I didn’t believe it at all. I chose to love God again. My brokenness stretched over a full year, but my choice to believe again and change could have been made far earlier than it was. A choice isn’t something you feel, it’s something you do.

My identity had been tied closely to my faith. When I lost my faith, I lost who I was. The beginning stages of recovering that faith only began a few months ago and I have quite a ways to go still to being whole. Yet, my loss was not permanent, even though I thought it was. The ability to regain what I thought I had lost forever feels like something bigger than a miracle.  I found that hope exists even when you can’t hope for it, even when you can’t feel it.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Today’s post on loss comes from Jessica Nichole, MA PLPC, who is a Pediatric and Adolescent counselor in the St. Louis area.  She writes about the kind of losses that are part of daily life, and how accepting them might be the wisest thing any of us can do.

When we speak of loss, often the first thing that comes to mind is the death of a loved one. However, we experience loss on a daily basis. With each choice you make, you face the loss of the possibilities that another choice offered you. Sometimes the consequences of choices are more apparent than others.  Sometimes, the only way is to lose.

Winter is always a challenge for me, and this year was no different. I lost an important person to me, lost an important job, and lost myself for a while.

In working to finish my masters degree in counseling, I found an internship site that was a blessing. It was a challenge, it was long hours and hard work, and I loved every minute of it. I was given an opportunity to be a part of people’s lives, and introduced to a team that I was honored to be included in. But, all good things must come to an end, and my internship finished this past winter. It should have been a happy moment. I was graduating with my masters’ degree in counseling. Isn’t that an accomplishment? But it all felt so…unfinished. Empty.

I tried begging, pleading, anything short of bribery to be allowed to stay on the team, but alas there were no open positions. I had to leave the first team that felt like home. I found myself working more hours at my other job, but lacking in any kind of satisfaction.  On top of that, my partner and I were struggling, and I had no insight into why. I kept asking myself and everyone around me the same question: “Where do I go from here?”

I just existed for a time. A cycle of despair, sadness, and denial; struggling to exist in the old roles I used to play. My relationship with my partner continued to decline, one of my close friends was no longer a part of my life in the way that I was used to them being there, and I was stuck at my dead end job doing the same thing I’ve been doing for years. So, what’s a girl to do?

I took a shower. A long hot shower in the dark.  This is where I have always done my best thinking, and it’s my go-to coping skill (counselor in training, remember?) when I struggle.  And boy, was I struggling.  I stood there, thinking about the same question that I had been asking everyone else, “where do I go from here?” and clarity came.

I need to let go.

I needed to let go of the future I imagined at my internship site. It was gone, I had already lost it, I just refused to acknowledge it. I needed to let go to the future path of my friendship that I had envisioned, the nature of the relationship had changed; holding onto it was only harming myself. I needed to let go of the relationship that I expected to have with my partner; having unrealistic expectations was doing nothing but poisoning my mind.

Letting go isn’t about being helpless, its about asking for help. It’s giving life over to the path that you may not be able to see. Faith, in a manner of speaking, that what’s in store for you is greater than what you’re desperately trying to cling to. I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason, and letting go was creating the freedom to things to take the path that was in store for me.

The more I attempted to cling to my imagined control over these situations, the more immobilized I felt. Making the conscious decision to let go, I began searching for new jobs and setting up interviews. I reached out to my friend and was honest about what I was feeling and how I was looking forward to the new directions our friendship could take. I was more honest with my partner than I had been in years, and it resulted in a stronger bond than ever before. Acknowledging my losses allowed me to gain new insight and new directions.  My internship site called me. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as I let go, a position opened up that they needed me to fill ASAP.

A Loss of Faith

By: Jenni Taylor

I’ve never had an easy time staying away from extremes, or the a + b = c method. If killing living things is evil, and ants are alive, then isn’t killing ants evil? If Christians believe the bible, and the bible says sell all your possessions, then aren’t you lying if you say you are a Christian and you’re rich? If God is love, and we are loved by God, why the hell is there pain and agony in the world?

Common questions,  at least, I hope I’m not the only one that ever questioned the morality of destroying an anthill. I was taught to ignore these questions, or look for answers later, when I was older. But how can you ignore what is right in front of you?

I’m a daddy’s girl, and my dad is the best man on earth. If you’ve met him, you know what I mean. Once upon a time my dad was a pastor, the best. But then all of a sudden he wasn’t, and then he was a truck driver, and sometimes a roofer with broken red hands, and then he was sad for eight years.

Every day he would pace and pray in our basement. The rest of the family would go about our day, still sneaking down to do laundry in the corner, or grab something from the freezer, trying our best not to interrupt. The more I saw him pray, the angrier I became.

If God wasn’t listening to my dad’s prayers, he sure as hell wasn’t going to listen to mine. I was taught all my life to love God. Not anymore. Not when it was pretty clear that he doesn’t actually love us back.

So I stopped loving God.

But not really.

Because if I really had stopped, it wouldn’t have hurt so much. I wouldn’t have felt so betrayed. I would have gotten over it.

But I didn’t get over it, and it was ripping me up. I couldn’t stop crying, because after all this time it still hurt like hell to know that everything I believed wholeheartedly was a lie. God left, closed up shop, went home. He wasn’t listening.

I had lost something, and it hurt in places I never knew could hurt before. It took leaving everything and moving to the middle of the jungle for me to even begin to work through my anger.

Sometimes it feels silly to even talk about this loss of faith when so many people experienced real loss- the loss of family, of love, of a parent, of a child.  Standing up for a round two in the fight to win back my  faith was  so hard, and brought up so much pain. Why didn’t I just quit? Was it even really that important?

Yeah. To me it was.

Looking at it now, it’s not a loss anymore. I thought my dad had lost something, but he hadn’t. It took a long time, but his life is finally exploding in incredible ways. He never doubted the faithfulness of God, and now it’s my turn to give that type of faith a shot. Instead being lost, my faith has a whole new beginning now. I can really say it was worth it.  My boxing match with the universe now feels more like holding hands and keeping my eyes open wide enough to listen and learn.

Combining the loss, the anger, the betrayal, the search, and the peace slowly creeping into my soul I’ve gained a weird sort of patience. I might be so bold as to call it gaining a little wisdom.