It took me over 14 years to get to a class on divorce recovery. Twenty-two year old, newly divorced Jen was alone, pregnant, single-mom to a two-year old, and basically just trying to survive. There was no thought of emotional or mental healing; there was no energy for it, no time.
I found my journals from that year not too long ago – pages and pages of the every day struggle of fighting for my child, attempts at figuring out why my marriage was falling apart, what was wrong with me, meditations on Scripture verses, venting about my parents’ behavior, and then, tucked in amongst all the bad, I stumbled upon a couple of pages of descriptions of toddler Indigo. I didn’t have a camera or video recorder so I just wrote for a little about how smart and cute he was, how happy he was and how much joy he found in small things. I wrote because I didn’t want to forget it. And reading it all this time later, I totally burst into tears, I mean — flat.out.sobbing. — thinking about how much pain I was in at that time and how much my little boy brought me joy and kept me alive.
I am totally crying now, as I write about it, but that Jen (versions 4.0 and 5.0) didn’t cry much. There wasn’t time to feel anything, to surrender to feeling. It wasn’t safe, or productive. And at the time, I was pretty conditioned to believe that all my feelings were wrong: they were what had gotten me into trouble in the first place. So doing was what mattered; those sporadic journal entries where she unloaded her thoughts – that’s all the space for processing emotions she got.
But the current Jen, who I am calling version 8.0, which is post-grad school Jen, has time now. And has intention too.
I don’t know… Jen 7.0 had intention too, I guess. Actually all the Jens did, I think, because if you checked my library borrowing recored you’d find out just how many self-help and parenting books I have consumed, and, I mean, I plowed through grad school, so… I guess it’s not about intentionality really, it’s about…. undistracted resolve?
Maybe that’s what the Jens before me didn’t have. Which is a totally unfair assessment because “undistracted” is a difficult state to come by for a (single)parent. Really, how could I ever have not been distracted since Jen 4.0?* This Jen does have a lot less to focus on, though: no school, not the boss of 20 people… well, really that’s it. But it seems like so much more!
I honestly feel so behind, like I said, it took 14 years to go to a group to talk about my divorce – late to the game much? But the truth is, there is only so much a person can handle at one time, and life isn’t really that considerate when it dumps stuff on us, and we all have to make choices, sometimes split second decisions through vision blurred by pain or hopelessness, about what is more important, and for almost 17 years, I have chosen others. I chose others because my babies couldn’t fend for themselves so of course I had to prioritize them more, right? I yielded my healing process to my mom’s because losing a marriage after 25 years is way more traumatic then losing one after 1.8 years… right? Making sure you can feed your kids and working the job that can do that is more important than therapy, right? Using your mental energy on schooling that can get you a better job just makes more sense than wasting that mental capacity on addressing (wallowing?) in your mistakes and pain… right?
Bits at a time, I guess, I did the work on myself. Fits and false starts, but never committing time to create space to really think about myself and eevvverrryyyythingggg, alllll the pieces. Which means, I have to be thankful for Jen 6.0, the deadest time of my life, second only to Jen 5.0, where I deadened myself on purpose in a misconstrued attempt at shouldering the pain and soldiering on, and a Jen for which I am not thankful at all.
Jen 6.0 was literally the worst. I mean, I want to say the worst version of myself, but really I think she is the saddest. When I look at her now I think 1. I can’t believe I survived her (like, how did I not kill myself? And the answer is: if Jen 3.0 hadn’t gotten knocked up (twice), I would be dead. All the other versions would have been completely different without the choices of 3.0, sure, [time travel is really intense guys] but because that Jen had kids, those babies saved Jen, twice, 12 years apart) 2. for all of our “I’d nevers” and “How could they evers” we truly don’t know what we are capable of until it stares us in the face 3. the idea of equal choice is a joke, and people who get mad and haughty about how “everyone has a choice, the same choices, to do right or wrong” maybe need to be a little more compassionate and, well, even more compassionate still 4. God is the most amazing, loving being and I really never knew that until Jen 6.0 – so, how can I call her the worst version. She seems to be the one who saved me.
If I had to pick, I guess Jen 7.0 has been my favorite, maybe second only to tiny jen who literally had the best life and was super cool, and who I only vaguely remember. Grad school helped me become her again, I think, a reset to the curious, willful, expressive individual birthed in 1982. It’s hard to say if I really felt the most alive in grad school, or if it only felt that way because the two Jens before had been so dark. On one hand, current Jen is pretty awesome, because she is so less stressed and so much more wise (and humble) and totally full of possibility, but she’s also kinda terrifying because powerhouse Jen 7.0, grad-school Jen, is a tough act to follow. I mean, once you’ve wrestle genius to the ground, what do you do next?
But Jen 8.0 has arrived just in time. In time to really see my kids as themselves (or their version 2.0’s on the verge of 3.0’s) and focus on ushering them into adulthood, confidently now, because I am finally an adult myself. In time to exercise the patience I’ve needed for myself, and others, since Jen 2.0 but really didn’t get until version 6.0. In time to not be afraid of yet another evolution, able to watch the future coming with hope instead of dread, because empty-nest Jen, Jen 9.0, is only a stone’s through away, and I mean, who the heck will I be then? Jen 8.0 seems to be the most loving version so far, and most importantly, the version who truly seems to love herself the best.
I never guessed when I started this blog a little over a year ago, calling it “Space to Become,” that I was seeing the future; didn’t know what was going to come of it all, if anything at all; had no clue that Jen really was transforming again — I only knew that there had to be some space set aside to record the process, the living, the be(com)ing. And while all that will continue on irl, this post brings this specific place to a close. For now, a happy ending.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the ride ❤
*Here is my breakdown of the many Jens, for hopefully less confusion:
tiny jen – Jen zero
HS Jen – Jen 1.0
post-boy until F – Jen 2.0
F to Indigo – Jen 3.0
Mom Jen to divorce – Jen 4.0
Divorced, Spiraling Jen -Jen 5.0
rock bottom Jen, age 31-35 – Jen 6.0
Grad school Jen – Jen 7.0
post-grad, current Jen – Jen 8.0