You might have heard the joke. An old man is crying on the beach when someone stops to asks him what’s wrong. He points out the nearby pier that he built entirely by hand that has weathered a thousand storms. “But do they call me Simon The Builder?” he asks. “No, they don’t.” The old man then points out a nearby boat upon which he has fearlessly fished the treacherous seas for decades. “But do they call me Simon the Fisherman?” he asks. “No, they don’t. You see, you fuck one single goat…”
And so it has been with me. And no, no, no, I haven’t literally fucked a goat. But as far as many people are concerned, I *have* fucked my life and the lives of others. You see, I left my husband. But I didn’t just leave my husband, I left my husband for another man. And not just any ‘another man’, but a man who was the husband of another woman in my local community and a friend. And then I stayed in that community.
That was over two years ago. To this day, some people – both in this community and beyond – can’t see past that goat. They’ve forgotten that I was ever an active and caring member of my community, a loving mother and a wife who tried her best. They can’t see past that goat to the preceding years of loneliness in a slowly dissolving marriage. Or see how meeting and falling in love with someone outside of my marriage challenged everything I had ever thought about myself and left me feeling so scared and lost and alone that I can’t even begin to say. These people also can’t see how utterly terrifying the decision to leave my marriage was. Nor how hard the subsequent years have been living in a community that (mostly) doesn’t feel comfortable about my new partner and I living there, but where it’s been best for the kids. And they certainly can’t see how, from a single red couch in an empty rental house, my partner and I have built a full and loving home for ourselves and for our collective five children.
This is not to say that I’m proud of a lot of my behaviour and actions. Nor is this meant to deny or belittle the very real pain of the people who have been hurt by all this – our ex-spouses and their families. Our families. Our friends. Our kids. Ourselves.
But two years on, I want to be able to say this: I am not a bad person. I am a basically good person who has done some bad things. I have also done some good things. Some stupid things and some desperate things. And some noble things, too. And I’ve done all of these things in the name of trying to live this life of mine the best way I can. This crazy, complicated, once-around-only life with all its surprising twists and turns and piers and fishing and goats.
This post was directly inspired by Kerri Sackville’s “coming out” article about her separation last month which beautifully captured the difficulties of separation in this era of social media. I’ve been feeling that I have owed the readers of this once-was-blog a brief note of explanation. However, I am closing comments on this out of respect for everyone involved.