Bond of Union, by M.C. Escher.

I was a writer even as a young girl, and at the age of 13 the book I most wanted to write, one day, was about divorce. More specifically, I wanted to posit that while most people believed divorce was detrimental to the family, it was actually the way parents and communities handled divorce that caused the most damage.

A weighty topic for a 13 year old, to be sure, but as Mark Twain said “Write what you know”.

I knew a lot about divorce from the inside. I know what it felt like to be the child of divorced parents, and not just any divorce, but a long, drawn out, painful one. Even at that age, I recognized that my parents never intended to bring sustained discord into our home. They were just doing their best to keep the family unit in tact — to do what they thought was right for the kids.

Only, contrary to what they were taught in church and by their families and by culture, it wasn’t.

In an ideal world, two people are bound by destiny. They meet, they marry, and they start a family. Problems occur, and they face challenges, but they face them together. They grow together. Because they share enough to enable that.

But in the real world, I would write in my future book, that isn’t always the case. Some people are destined to be together for a period of time. There is a purpose and a reason. But as seasons pass they grow in different ways. They begin to seek opposite things, and they begin to learn that what they want is incompatible with the other. It’s not that they didn’t try — its just that they weren’t meant to grow together, and they refused to lie. And that is ok too.

In fact, that should be celebrated in its own way.

There was no celebration in my house. Before the divorce, there was constant fighting. And after the divorce, for a long time, there was constant fighting. The kids each responded in their own, often unhealthy, ways. Yet sure enough, the divorce was cited as the problem by our family, our church, our community.

I knew better than the adults, ironically. I knew it wasn’t the divorce that damaged our family — it was the acrimony. Acrimony is the insidious root, not borne by people alone, but rather by people trying to live up to an unrealistic cultural expectation.

Many years later, in la-la-land, 2 celebrities got divorced in an entirely new way. They were ridiculed in the media, and were called “elitist” and “full of themselves”. Their crime? They decided to re-coin the word “divorce” as “conscious uncoupling”. An esoteric term, to be sure, but the way they handled the situation caught my attention. They still brought the kids to school together in the morning. They still had family dinners at times. They still celebrated birthdays and holidays together. Mom and Dad still loved each other, only now as friends. They complimented each other, they showed up to important work events to support each other, and they even spent time with the new significant others.

In the throes of divorce, what I most craved as a young girl was not that my parents would re-unite. I knew they weren’t right for each other anymore. Instead, I so badly just wanted them to “consciously uncouple”. I desperately wanted them to support each other.

At 31 years old, I nearly died. I was placed in the ICU, attended to by top medical experts, and hooked up to state-of-the-art machines. They said there was a chance I wouldn’t survive, my condition was extreme, and my family rushed to get to the hospital. While lying in bed, I recall one of the most joyful moments of my life — to pass away the time, we pulled out a Scrabble game. As I laid there in a hospital bed, my future unsure, I played scrabble with my Mom and Dad. We laughed and talked, all together, and I felt overwhelmed with serenity. It was all I’d ever wanted as a 13 year old girl, and now at last it had arrived.

Acrimony is the enemy; not divorce.

The truth about my parents’ divorce is that it gave me a set of skills and strengths that have led to my biggest accomplishments. The divorce meant my Mom had to go back to work, and start from scratch. It was tough but she single-handedly built a thriving career in marketing. She became an executive, she traveled the country, and she bought a beautiful home. It was constantly filled with friends and neighbors, and she was happy. As a result of the divorce, my mom showed me what it meant to be a strong, confident woman.

The divorce meant my Dad had to come back from financial ruin, so he moved into an old, run-down farmhouse. There was no central heating, and there was a rat infestation, yet it was one of the happiest times of my childhood. We lived on 30 acres with a pond where we played together with such joy, perhaps making up for all those years of heartbreak. We canoed, we swam, we walked, and we talked. Late into the night, I remember sitting with my Dad and sharing feelings and ideas and dreams. Eventually he found love again with someone whom he’d be able to grow with, someone who balanced him as my Mom had done, yet wanted much of the same things in life. As a result of the divorce, my Dad taught me how little money matters and how much true connectedness does.

Looking back, what I wish for that 13 year old girl and her siblings is not an “in tact” family. Instead, I wish our culture had a wider acceptance of marriage — one that supports reality. I wish we celebrated the decision to pursue happiness whether that means together, or apart. I wish we encouraged “conscious uncoupling”, whether that’s what we call it or not. I wish we recognized that it’s acrimony, not divorce, that is the problem.

And most of all, I wish I could take away all of the pain and hurt and guilt my parents felt over those years; their quest to stay together despite the lack of a relationship; their fear that by not staying together, they would pull us apart.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

For love remains, always.