Spring Always Comes

July 24th, 2013

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”

– Louis L’Amour

Last year, I wrote about the difficult times in my life and hope for future, but never really explained why. I have written little since, because there is little I can write without a bit of explanation. It is partly because of the complexity of the task of telling my story without telling too much of others’ stories.

But it is important I tell this story. So often on the Internet, we hear only the brave face, the positive things that happen. This story involves tears and difficulty. And also we often see only anger and bitterness. This story involves joy and celebration.

One afternoon last year, I was working as usual (I work from home) when two sheriff deputies arrived on my doorstep. They gave me paperwork showing that my now ex-wife had filed for divorce, had asked them to serve me the paperwork, and that she had been given temporary possession of the house. I had 2 hours to gather up clothes and a little computer equipment (there was a list) and leave the house.

Thus began the most difficult time in my life. I went from reading a bedtime story and singing a bedtime song to my young boys every night to seeing them only a little, from living in the house my grandparents and dad had lived in to having no particular plan for where I’d sleep that night, from thinking I had a good idea of what the future held to not knowing when, if ever, I’d ever be back home. I worried about how the boys would fare (they have done well so far). And it was incomprehensible; I couldn’t find answers to “why?”.

In the time since, the divorce became final, I did return home, the boys spend more time with me, and a new normal emerged.

At the time, it seemed like a sudden, deep winter blizzard. I couldn’t see very far down the road, spring seemed far off, and I couldn’t see very well either forward or backward.

But I was determined to find positives in the situation. It started almost immediately; I had never been a person to talk about pain, but just a few hours after the divorce was filed, I knew I needed to talk to someone about it, and did. A week later, I shared about it in church. Amazing friends, locally and all over the world, provided support and encouragement. I had less total time with the boys than before the divorce, but more time with just the three of us, and we used it to play together at home, spend days in town, and even take a train trip to Santa Fe, where none of us had ever been before.

I realized how much I could forgive, and that my ex-wife probably did the best she could with the persistent legacy of difficult life events that happened to her long before she met me. I understood this, and was never angry, just sad, for everyone. I have always known nobody is perfect, myself included, but can be hard on myself when I’m less than perfect. I forgave myself, too, realizing that I did my best to help in the most unfamiliar of waters, and although I sometimes didn’t get it right, my conscience is clear because my heart was in the right place and I tried, very hard.

Most incredibly, I became a person with a deep sense of inner peace. I always tried to work hard to set life on a good path; I got good grades in school, am a good employee, and have a strong set of values. But where courts are involved, there’s a strong sense of powerlessness. At times, there was nothing I could do to make life better for my boys or for me. I finally had to let go of taking on responsibility for all that on my own shoulders. I simply knew that things would be OK, and in fact were OK, and that there is nothing in life that really deserves worries. That doesn’t mean worries are never present, but that mostly they are subdued, like a radio quietly playing in another room. When they aren’t, I can sit down at the piano, play my penny whistle, sing, walk to my creek, talk to friends, or any of so many things that let them melt away. I stopped searching for happiness and peace, and let those things find me.

In religious terms, my faith became not just an intellectual one, but also a spiritual one. An atheist friend asked me, “Just what does religion mean to you anyway?” My answer: “The certainty that spring always comes, for everyone that understands this.”

“People speak of misfortunes and sufferings,” remarked Pierre, “but if at this moment I were asked: ‘Would you rather be what you were before you were taken prisoner, or go through all this again?’ then for heaven’s sake let me again have captivity and horseflesh! We imagine that when we are thrown out of our usual ruts all is lost, but it is only then that what is new and good begins. While there is life there is happiness. There is much, much before us.”

– Tolstoy, War and Peace

By Thanksgiving, I had much to be thankful for. Some of it under my nose waiting to be rediscovered after years of distraction, such as the glorious Kansas sunrises. Some things were new, such as roasting a turkey all by myself (or, rather, with Jacob and Oliver) for the first time, and having it come out absolutely perfectly. And some were just the things of everyday life: that I lived in my own house again, that I could walk out to the creek at the edge of my property whenever I wanted, that I could play piano, that the sounds of laughter and little running feet again could often be heard on my wood floors.

That’s not to say everything was easy; the courts sometimes made decisions sometimes I didn’t think were in the boys’ best interests, legal things dragged on and on, but in the end, peace endured. Happiness endured. I found myself thinking at Thanksgiving that it was the best Thanksgiving ever. Not much later, I considered myself happier than I’ve ever been. I was focusing on the daily gifts of life, marveling at the sunrises, looking forward to life’s next adventure, confident that it would be far better than the last.

And then, to my complete surprise, I found myself in a relationship again. On top of all the wonderful things happening in my life, I met Laura. I never could have imagined a friend so wonderful, a relationship so loving and joyful, something to treasure so deeply. I can look back at events and shake my head in amazement and wonder, that I found myself happier than I’d ever been, and then this wonderful relationship on top of that. I have been blessed to have the life I do, and feel almost embarrassingly lucky.

I share this story because friends that had been through divorce years ago shared their stories. They gave me hope. And if I didn’t share this story in this public way, I would be squandering an opportunity to find more positives from what happened. I hope that this helps, somehow, someone that is in pain know that there is beauty in the valley, and spring always comes, every single year.

And I share it because happiness like this can’t be repressed for long. Tolstoy was right. While there is life, there is happiness.

I’ll end with a story from last Thanksgiving. It was 6:10AM that weekend. I was still asleep, and heard this:

Jacob, yelling from his room: “Dad? Dad!”

Me, groggy: “Yes, Jacob?”

Jacob: “Can I go down and look at the Christmas tree?”

Me: “Sure, and you can turn it on too.”

Jacob: “Great!”

At that point, I could have gone back to sleep. I was really short on sleep that morning, and Jacob would have been fine. But I gave him a couple of minutes, then I went downstairs too. He was curled up on the piano bench, looking at the tree. I quietly turned up the downstairs thermostat, got a chair, put it next to the piano bench, and sat down by the tree too. Jacob crawled over onto my lap and snuggled up for awhile. Neither of us said anything. Then:

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“This is the best Thanksgiving ever.” And he gave me a big hug.

And he was right. Yes, he was RIGHT!

“That will be the beginning.” Spring comes!

Categories: Family

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Comments Feed11 Comments

  1. jgoerzen

    The winter and spring of the last year of my life – “Spring Always Comes” – http://t.co/gCt8wJdwgL

    Reply

  2. planetdebian

    John Goerzen: Spring Always Comes: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will… http://t.co/gEZd9XmkIT

    Reply

  3. eliobastias

    RT @planetdebian: John Goerzen: Spring Always Comes: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will… http://…

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    I realize that this may be one of the things that you consider someone else’s story and not yours to tell. However, I still have to ask.

    There are few reasons in this world that could justify divorcing someone without even showing your face to them, and sending the police to their house to kick them out. All of the reasons I can think of involve either violence or abuse, which knowing you I can’t possibly believe to be the case here, infidelity, which seems very nearly as unlikely at least on your part, or some form of mental problem.

    In short, while divorces happen, sometimes even amicably, *this* kind of divorce seems like the kind of thing that I can’t even begin to understand.

    Is there anything you can say to suggest why such a thing is possible? Because while it sounds like you’re doing better now, the morning you describe seems like the stuff of nightmares.

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    I understand the question, because I couldn’t figure out “why” myself. You are quite insightful, and have figured it out well enough; you’re right that I was never violent, abusive, unfaithful, or mentally ill.

    In another first, I went to a therapist myself for a little while after this happened (a very good choice on my part), and as part of that process learned some about “why”, but the therapist also helped me see that a full answer to that question is not likely to ever be found. It’s something I made peace with.

    While I’ve shared with close friends about such things, I have no desire to see anyone made uncomfortable, and I’m still learning about how to talk about this on a blog. So I’ll be erring on the side of caution, and you all may have to live with an inadequate “why” as well.

    Reply

    kevix Reply:

    As that person, said, what happened seems unusual to say that least. Being mennonite is not as popular or known as other denomination, and thus I assume that community is close, tight-knit and most of the things that that person suggested would not be tolerated. So it leads to something only the two of you kept close-to-the-vest or was known by a few very close people in that community. But if it was that dangerous to your wife or kids, then this would have happened much sooner. That you found another person one year later, suggests that you are coping well enough. I wish all involved a similar fate. I have a possible answer that only you can confirm but I’ll leave that to my own speculation.

    Reply

  5. Mark

    Hi John,

    I’ve always enjoyed your family posts, and am amazed at the way you are able to capture the wonder of small children.

    I’m saddened to hear some limited details of your personal struggles (I had actually deduced wrongly that your wife had passed away). I greatly respect your decision not to share all of the details of your divorce. In this modern facebook world most people are too willing to share every sordid detail about their lives.

    I much prefer your restraint, and your ability to focus on hope instead of bitterness, It is good to hear of your faith and peace in horrible circumstances.

    Reply

    jgoerzen Reply:

    Thanks, Mark. I appreciate it.

    Reply

  6. Andy Cater

    I got married on June 28th this year – to the girl I met on day 1 at university 32 years ago now. We’d broken up bitterly – 27 years on we’re back together and happy. I couldn’t have imagined that: not least because it took us 25 years apart to realise independently that we still loved each other.

    Spring always comes – there may be misery, darkness, never ending winter – but spring always comes.

    I’m really pleased that you are happy, that the boys are happy and that maybe your ex-wife may be happy in the end. I’m lucky in that my ex freely admits that we both benefitted from being married to each other – we have a beautiful daughter – but that we’ve actually ended up happier with other people rather than making each other upset over years. Life has a habit of getting better when it’s at its worst.

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    That’s an incredible story. I’ve heard of so many people where that quote I started out with was true, where things did get amazingly better after they were at their most dark. Thank you for sharing yours.

    Reply

  7. Johan

    You don’t know me, but I feel like I’ve in some small way come to know you through your blog, which I always enjoy reading when it shows up on Planet Debian. You manage to convey the simple pleasures of life in a very captivating way.

    Going through a divorce like that must be hell. Thank you for having the courage to share, and I am happy to hear that things are better.

    Reply

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