Growing Pains

You know how, when you were little and you'd approach your mom or dad with some sort of mystery ailment? "Mommy, my legs hurt!" you'd exclaim, offering up your little shins for their inspection.

"Sweetheart...those are growing pains" they sometimes said, giving you a comforting touch or kiss.

I wonder, if I were to go to doctor today with these odd maladies I'm experiencing, what they would say. When I presented them with my symptoms: a twinge in my heart now and then, an odd pulled feeling in my soul...would they, too, offer me the same prognosis?

"Oh, Jenny. No worries. Those are growing pains, my dear."

Because I think I'm growing.

I felt the first symptoms not too long ago. The kids would mention something about their dad, or something about the Secretary or their little half-brother. And instead of snarling or feeling sick or thinking something awful about it, I felt....nothing. Okay, maybe that's exaggerating. I still felt a little bit of the old hurt, the scar from the knife wound in my back would throb just the tiniest bit, but still. It was becoming almost imperceptible. The conversation would come and go and we'd be onto the next dozen subjects before it would occur me: "It doesn't feel so bad anymore."

I started a rage-y and ranting post about the subject of forgiveness, and why I hate that word and all that it implies. How offended I am whenever I am told that it's my job to forgive, how my life will change oh-so-much when I finally, finally forgive my ex-husband for all the wrongs, for all of the grievous injuries he has inflicted upon me and our kids.

I was about a third of the way through that post when it dawned on me:

I have forgiven.

I forgave him, and I didn't even realize it.

Oh how I fought it. Tooth and nail, I did. I looked like a dog being dragged into the veterinarian's office, probably. Claws dug into the floor, neck straining against the pull of the leash.

"Forgive him? Seriously? Look what he's done, look at this mess he's left behind. How am I supposed to forgive him?"

In my mind, forgiving him was akin to presenting him with a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. It was offering him absolution.

Today, just this morning, I finally realized that the card isn't for him.

It's for me.

That anger, that hurt, that grief...it was necessary, I believe. Necessary and natural. Who wouldn't wail and moan after being hurt so deep? It got me through the darkest of days and it fueled me when I ran out of resources to just.keep.going. It motivated me and spurred me along and kept shooting imaginary bullets at my feet just to keep them moving. To keep me dancing this waltz of recovery.

I would read other tales of forgiveness and feel shame because I didn't have that capacity,nor did I have the desire, to forgive. I didn't want to let go of the red blanket of rage that I had snuggled with for so long. Its heat kept me warm. Made me feel safe.

Until I didn't need it anymore. I am marching forward now, taller and stronger than ever before. I know that what I've been through has sucked and at times, almost killed me. But I wouldn't be where I am today without it. For every tear shed, there has been a giggle or a guffaw or a hug or a smile. For every time I cursed the man who left me, there has been a sweet, shadowy memory of the man he once was, the best friend I once had. And for that, I'm grateful. Grateful that the hate and anger didn't wipe out those old images of him, nor did they squelch my ability to love and be loved in return.

I'll never forget what has happened. I don't think I could, even if I wanted to. I still drive past my old street and feel tiny tears spring forth when I catch a glimpse of our old, lost house. I still get mad when I'm dealing with a petulant, angry teenager and I picture my ex-husband looking at his toddler and singing "The Wheels on The Mother-Effing Bus". I still feel all of that, and so much more. But the feelings come, they flit around behind my eyes for just a bit. And then they go.

I don't have any secret recipes for forgiveness, no chants or how-to instructions. Maybe I had to wait until we had our last meeting in court. Maybe it had to grow at its own slow-as-molasses pace.

But I do know this: once you've forgiven, you will know. You will feel it, like a growing pain...in your heart, in your mind, and in your soul.

And only then can you get on with your life.

I'm taking my Get Out of Jail free card now, folks. I'm busting out. And it feels good.


  1. I love it!! We had this private message conversation about a year ago. Isn't it amazing???

    Hugs !!

    1. Yep! I never thought I'd be able to see it this way. Thanks for everything, Tracey.

  2. Hi Jenny,

    My divorce is only 2 1/2 years old, and my ex is living with his mistress/girlfriend(I need a nickname like "Secretary" for her -- "bi**h-mistress-whore" does not roll off the tongue so well).

    I have not yet thought I can forgive him (or her). I am kind of ok with my un-forgiveness and anger -- I am really mad at his decision to cheat and to leave our marriage. I did not want the divorce (though I also know now that I don't want to be married to a man who would choose to cheat!). So my anger and unforgiveness fuels my interactions with him -- anger is definitely easier for me than hurt.

    My question to you, Jenny, is this: where does pity fit in with forgiveness? I am not yet feeling forgiveness to my ex, but in many of our interactions, I feel pity. He really does not seem happy, and when the kids come home from his house, the things they tell me make me sad for them and for him. So, is pity a step to forgiveness? When pity replaces anger, is that a good thing?

    Thanks for giving me something to ponder!

    1. Hey there!

      YES! Pity is totally a precursor to forgiveness. I felt pity for my ex, lots of it. That gave me hope, hope that I wasn't some unfeeling ogre.

      I was a-okay with my own unforgiving nature, and the pure rage and yes, even the hatred I felt for my ex. For a couple of years I think I even thrived on it. For me, that's how I got through the really shitty things: the foreclosure, all of the money stuff...I focused all of that grief and anger on him. And you know what? THAT WAS OKAY.

      There is no concrete set of rules for us in this game. None. There are a lot of people out there who will try to tell you what is best for you, best for your kids, blah blah blah. You listen to them if you want, take whatever portion of it that works for you and tuck it away for when YOU are ready to move on.

      But here's the deal: It is going to happen for you when YOU are ready. Sounds to me like you're beginning to move up the ladder a bit, and that's awesome.

      I once wrote something about how I felt pity for my ex, for the same reasons you mentioned:

      He really does not seem happy, and when the kids come home from his house, the things they tell me make me sad for them and for him.

      That, to me, says that you will be able to forgive him. It might not be this year, maybe not for 2 or 3 years. Or it might be a couple of weeks. But you obviously have a heart, and that's all you really need. Pity is a step in the right direction...and it sure beats anger.

      Take care..and thank you so much for chiming in!


    2. And another follow up question, Jenny. What about Secretary? Do you find forgiveness for her? I have nothing but anger and outrage for my ex's OW. Even more anger fueled by the fact that she herself was divorced from her cheating first husband. So, I am not anywhere near forgivess, or even pity for her. Do you think the need for forgiveness extends beyond the person you thought you built your life with? Thanks again for you and your writing!

    3. You know...I don't know that she is someone that I need to forgive. Big Daddy, yes, because we are connected by four kids. But her? I don't really give two craps about her. She is loathsome. She is beneath my contempt.

      Screwing around with a married guy? It's gross, it's bad news, but I understand how it can happen. She's a young, dumb thing with stars in her eyes...who knows what line of bullshit he's feeding her? Shame on him. But..after she knows the truth? After she's seen his wife and kids in the flesh and she becomes a willing, knowledgeable accomplice in the infidelity? Shame on her.

      So, to answer your question: No. I don't feel forgiveness for her. She's in my "feelings limbo" for now. We'll see what happens as time goes by.

  3. I've been thinking about your post since yesterday. Then this morning I read in a magazine at the doctor's office that "unforgiveness is allowing someone to live rent-free in your head." You are so right that only you can spring yourself from that particular torture!

    There is a huge tendency to fixate on the fact that the ex-husband is The Chief Cause of All Our Suffering. One can stay angry for years nursing that fact.

    I think pity shows a good progression. It is perhaps the first step toward achieving a true detached acceptance, and then moving onward into the light of living life as you always knew it should be ... not a life with no pain, but life without pain being dished out to you by someone who is supposed to love you.

    1. Damn straight, lady. It's taken me a long time to understand how all of this forgiveness stuff works. After getting emotionally eviscerated you tend to see the world and everything in it with a very jaundiced eye. "Forgive him?" You'd just as soon walk up to him,hug him and thank him for screwing you over.

      Truth is, my forgiveness, and the forgiveness of all those other scorned, hurt women, probably doesn't matter to all the Big Daddy's of the world. They don't care. They don't need it in order to move on. They moved on a long time ago. That's the difference between them, and us. And that's why we are the ones struggling with forgiveness.

      Does that make sense? I'm trying to stay awake so I can toss some stuff in the dryer :)

      Thanks for chiming in! Always a pleasure!

  4. You're probably too young to remember, but in the psychobobblehead 80's, all ilk of divorce "recovery" seminars and tapes and books and blah blah blah abounded. Divorce was seen as the answer to almost all your problems, because all your problems were probably due to SOMEONE or SOMETHING else being the cause of your not reaching your "full potential" or becoming your "best self." Google "ILOC" and "ELOC" and prepare to take a hard look at yourself!!! But I digress.

    My first husband read a couple of those books, one was by Wayne Dwyer, and one was by a David Viscott, I believe. When I tried to read my husband's Viscott book, I saw that he had highlighted all the phrases having to do with NOT doing anything that wasn't fun or anything that made you uncomfortable. Phrases that had to do with leaving relationships that hindered YOU, regardless of the effect your leaving that relationship might have on others. One nugget of wisdom I recall was something like, "If you're uncomfortable visiting Auntie G in the nursing home, then don't visit her. Be true to your feelings."

    Along the same lines as that crap was was this: The most popular "cleansing" and "healing" thing you could do as a divorced person in the 80's was to write, to the ex who left you, a letter saying you forgave them. Some said you should actually send the letter.

    Even back then, in my raw, betrayed state after my first husband had an affair and then left to "find himself," the whole writing-a-letter thing baffled me. The ex who leaves really, truly, does not care what you feel, much less whether or not you forgive them. In fact, I suspect most of them don't think they've done anything that needs to be forgiven.

    So it's like a hurricane or a flood. It happened! Now we need to put our energy into the things that will build the life we want. We do NOT need to piss away our energy and emotions down the black hole of someone else's narcissism and selfishness. We DO need to visit Auntie G in the nursing home, and we DO need to, as a pastor once told me could be a 4-word distillation of the entire Bible: Do the loving thing. Not the dysfunctional, codependent, selfish, controlling, scaredy-cat, or feel-good thing. The loving thing.

  5. Sorry, sorry!!! I should not blather like that. A nerve was hit when you said the Big Daddys of the world don't feel a need to be forgiven. THAT IS SO TRUE!!! And it is our cue!!!!!

    1. Blather on, woman! I just wish I had more time during the week to read, think and respond. But the kids have this weird attachment to food and shelter...sigh. Off to work I go.

  6. I think you are right - you can't forgive until you are ready, but when you do, it is freeing. Love your writing - so open and honest...

  7. I can't imagine ever getting that get out of jail card. I'm holding on to it too tightly right now. I do wish I could never ever see my husband again but unfortunately since we have two children together that's not possible. For the kids I will put on a happy cheery face because I would never hurt them as he has but I will always know deep down that he's a pretty pathetic person. Maybe I'll figure out one day that he doesn't deserve my contempt but rather my pity. http://dowehavetotellthekids.blogspot.com/2013/04/how-do-you-know.html


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