Thursday, September 25, 2014
Six Word Epitaphs
I love to write. There is a popular literary challenge embraced by Ernest Hemingway that encourages writers to create a compelling plot using only six words. This one rule constrains the writer to be efficient, and it results in some truly stunning wordplay. I read one that simply stated "For sale: Baby shoes, never worn" and another that said "Car accident: twin becomes only child". Many six-word stories are tragic. Some are strange. Then, the other day, I saw one that is true for so many people:
"Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers."
Read it a few times and think about it. Let it sink in... seriously.
I found this posted on a website and many people were commenting about the tragic demise of their marriage. They'd say things like "I'm going through a divorce right now... this is my life." A handful of others chimed in about the parallel of their divorce in this story, but no one in a functioning relationship said a word. Well, the fact is that this six word story is the epitaph for so many marriages that are technically still whole, but they are shattered secretly inside. They are the walking dead. Divorce is not the only way for a relationship to die. Sometimes the expiration of a relationship takes a much more subtle form.
There was a particular moment when I realized that, after my affair, our marriage could falter in two ways -- overtly and covertly. In an overt sense, we could eventually get divorced. After all, Hannah is more than justified in leaving me. But the less obvious, and perhaps more likely possibility is that of a covert death. Hannah can remain physically present in our home even though our marriage's flame can still be quenched. This is the battle I fight, not against the shadow of divorce, but against the very real potential for an emotionally hollow marriage.
In all honesty, when I read that particular six-word story, it brought tears to my eyes, because I know that it can become true for anyone. Any relationship can become the empty husk of its former self over time, only appearing to be alive, and I desperately want to save my marriage from taking that path to destruction. My actions and my affair have made our success so much more difficult. I cannot assume the success or good health of our relationship.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating -- even if things seem to be going well in the recovery process, success cannot be assumed. It must be fought for. If you've made the same mistakes I have, then the day you rest on your progress will be the moment you begin to slip backwards. There's more to do -- more shadows to chase off and baggage to unpack. I don't want our progress to transform into complacency. Hannah's been so strong through this journey, and I want to honor her efforts by trying my hardest even when the tears aren't flowing and the tempers are not flaring.
"Strangers. Friends. Best friends. Lovers. Strangers." Is this the story of your home? Has distance come between you and your spouse, despite the fact that you're technically still married? There's still hope. There's still a chance to change your narrative. Don't let this become the brief descriptor on your marriage's tombstone. Re-connect with your spouse, and start at square one -- friendship.
We're praying for you, because recovering from a tragic event is so difficult but it is possible. Feel free to email us or comment below with your thoughts. Thanks for reading.