Most people say there are two sides to every story. I don't agree. I once heard someone say that the truth is like a coin. There's one side - heads - and the other side, tails - and then there's the edge around the coin, the third "side." That third side is the truth. Here, you'll find my side with what I hope is a reasonable allowance for the edge of the coin.
A dear friend last month encouraged her blog readers to keep telling their stories. That message from her reached me when I was feeling particularly sensitive to the fact that I have not felt very free to tell my own story - the one about my marriage. Becoming the former spouse of a pastor has been a little weird to navigate, and there's been a lot of internal and external pressure to keep things neat and tidy.
It occurred to me at some point in November that I have more or less allowed myself to be put in a box (or maybe I put myself there?) as far as what I do and don't say about Brian and how things got to where they did. At first, I (mostly) felt the need to restrain myself from going on a "smear campaign" against him. I was hurting, and I didn't want to become that angry woman who flames her ex everywhere. In a (mostly successful) effort not to say too much, I think I basically stopped saying anything.
As was my habit in our marriage, I became complicit in a cover-up, in an unspoken acknowledgement that the illusion of "good"ness is more important than the truth of broken-ness. The general audience of our lives was shocked when we split, because we'd both done a decent enough job of pretending that things were good between us and we let the banner of "pastor and wife and new baby" fill in the gaps.
There are certainly things I would do differently, if now-Ashley could talk to then-Ashley. I would approach counseling with more honesty. I would keep my mouth shut a little more, assume a little less. I would make the desperate phone calls to wise friends before it was too late. There are a thousand other things.
I still struggle emotionally with my choice to leave Denver, though I know it was the best thing I could do for Gabriel given the options of "bad, terrible, and even worse." But it's been hard, selfishly. I know it has been all too easy for people to "come to their own conclusions" about what happened between us, and I'm not foolish enough to think that those conclusions would favor me. It's taken some real work to embrace the fact that I cannot control what goes on in the "ether" (and any attempts to do so would be unbecoming of me). I was the one who suddenly moved away with the baby, you know, and he's the one who's an ordained minister of word and sacrament. Pastors don't divorce their wives and leave their brand new babies. But the truth is, sometimes they do. Sometimes people are so full of pain, fear, and insecurity that they make terrible decisions. You aren't exempt, I'm not exempt, and pastors aren't exempt. We are all broken.
So this is my story. A month before my first baby was born, my husband and I separated; a year later, we were divorced. It wasn't my idea and it wasn't what I wanted. Ultimately, however, I didn't have a choice. I moved back to where our families live, knowing I would need the support and wanting an alternative to job-hunting and daycare. And now we are a broken family of sad statistics, preparing for lifetimes of consequences and finding ever-increasing pockets of joy.