“I’m divorced. It’s hard to say it aloud. How did I get here?
My last two decades have held a lifetime, and I have no regrets. One of my foundational beliefs is that everything that happens, does have a purpose. Even the things I thought would kill me.
Motherhood, Marriage, And Divorce
After undergrad, I spent my 20s traveling the world as a crew member on large vessels. We hit 30+ countries and 6 continents in 7 years. I’ve crossed the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean; transited the Panama Canal, and crossed the equator, all by boat. When I returned to land in 2011, I opened my first of three yoga studios, which is where I’d spend many years: on the mat and in the community. In those two decades, I lived for extended periods of time in 4 countries, and 6 states. I went from miscarriage to motherhood, marriage to divorce, and dealt with debt, death, and bouts of depression that could have taken my life.
In 2018 I became a mother while simultaneously being tossed into the public sphere. My husband announced his first political race against a long-standing incumbent for the United States Congress. After a grueling 18-month campaign with a newborn baby in tow, on the evening of the election, the Associated Press only gave us a 9% chance of winning. A few hours later, the race was called. We won, and the whirlwind that followed turned my world upside down.
I could write forever on the above but for the sake of word count, I want to remain focused on what matters.
Becoming a mother was not easy for me. I struggled with my body image and identity shift during pregnancy and suffered a near-death post-birth complication. Breastfeeding was painful. My baby never slept, and my husband was in D.C. more than he was home. I had PPD that was amplified by utter depletion and sleep deprivation. At the same time, I was selling my yoga studios and changing careers. The public had an eye on my family due to the sensitivity of my husband’s win (the first democrat in 40 years to take the seat) and this felt like slow suffocation. Social media opened us up to brutal public scrutiny and internet trolls, both with a constant flow of negative, hurtful opinions.
It was a perfect storm.
As much as I tried not to let marriage and motherhood consume me, they did. With each immeasurable compromise, parts of me were lost. It happened slowly, over time, and I didn’t catch this until it was too late. Until I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize who I was. I began to cling to the girl I used to be. The wild and free wanderlust soul that I identified with. But it doesn’t work that way. We can’t look back at who we were to figure out who we are. The life lived between that girl and this woman cannot be unlived. In the depth of my rock bottom, I finally sought help.
For me, this is a combination of talk therapy, yoga, journaling, self-help books, and antidepressants. In the throes of my separation, I became dedicated to unpacking the depths of who I am and knew I needed to learn to love myself. To value me. I needed to regain my voice to regain my freedom. To update the definition of who I was, and who I wanted to be. Doing this work is not easy. It asks you to uncover traumas and heartache and to confront the ways in which they’ve patterned your life. I do believe this process births the best, healthiest versions of us, and I’d beg everyone, in any scenario, to love yourself enough to find your combination.
It took me nearly 4 years to dig myself from the darkness, to get to the other side of divorce. This side is beautiful. Just different. In my reemergence, I knew that everything I did or said had to stay aligned with who I know myself to be. We, especially women, must stop making others comfortable at the expense of our own. We can’t dim our lights to let others shine, or play small to let others play big, because this very act is us walking away from ourselves. We must authentically live our truth, otherwise, who are we?
When my now ex-husband’s opponent, in our state’s gubernatorial race, asked for my endorsement, and a local publication asked me to become a guest columnist, I was at a crossroads. I spent days contemplating both. The safe, easy choice was to stay quiet. Why stir the pot or put myself out there? But the true choice was to support the candidate that aligned with my values and write a column I’ve always wanted to write. I believe if we only ever move within our zones of comfort, we give up an invitation to expand. Both for ourselves, and for our community.
After I said yes to both I was asked, ‘What will you tell your son when he’s old enough to understand?’ While the question was posed as a threat, it holds a sentiment this chapter taught me.
My journey and divorce made clear that our silence, not only in the face of injustice but in the face of our values, is our complicity. When we learn to love ourselves, find comfort in our truth, and make a commitment to stay aligned with our values, we become our best versions. While I believed every compromise I made along the way was in our best interest, it wasn’t. Because each one took me further away from my authentic self. We are better parents, partners, and friends when we share our truth with the world. I’m hopeful the more we share, the more connected we become.
For those grieving, separating, transitioning, or those on a journey to find your soul, I commend you for going through, rather than around. You are not alone. Loving yourself will give you the strength you need to make it to the other side.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda B. Cunningham from Charleston, SC. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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