The Fall season is upon us, and October, in particular, can be quite beautiful. Perhaps not as much in Los Angeles, where I live. My neighbors and I are not always as fortunate to see all the fall foliage beauty. All the same, the scorching hot summer is behind us, and the trees are shedding their leaves, creating a new array of colors in the landscape (at least in many parts of the country), and letting us know that our seasons always change. October is also associated with fear. Halloween is the holiday where we celebrate scary things, adorning our walls with skeletons and ghosts and the like, even dressing up in monster costumes and having fun with all the things that can be frightening and go bump in the night. There is also the fear of the unknown and handling what’s next in life, and that is why going through a divorce can itself be scary. This is the type of fear that can be real.
The entertainingly macabre holiday of Halloween actually has many roots in ancient Celtic culture. Halloween’s origins lie in the pagan festival of Samhain (pronounced Sow-win). That festival, meaning “summer’s end,” ushered in the Celtic new year and welcomed a time of death and rebirth. It signaled the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the cold and dark winter months that would present many challenges and tribulations for the people living in the ancient world. During the festival of Samhain, to appease the various deities during this time, sacrifices (most often of animals and crops) were burned in large bonfires, not only to appease the gods worshiped at the time but also to ward off other visiting or more mischievous spirits that could come haunting. Though theatrical in ceremony, people knew it was time for the past to die and time to survive the bitter winter ahead.
Be they in ancient times or today, if dark emotions are about us in our personal lives, if a divorce is making one shiver from both the cold and the fear, then the decision is ours to either cower before all the scares or celebrate the death of the old and rebirth of the new.
Fear can and often will be an obstacle. It is also a teacher.
If a divorce is upon us, what is it that we fear? All of the emotions are certainly there. It’s getting colder outside, yet often, it is no different within ourselves, and burning crops on a bonfire will not change that. This particular type of fear takes many forms when experiencing divorce. There is the fear of loneliness as well as the fear of failure or at the very least, the perception of failure. It is difficult to know how this life change will affect one financially, and, indeed, personally. A person could easily fear how business colleagues and family alike could judge or perceive them. In a prior post, I spoke about the nuances of losing friends during and after a divorce, falling out of touch with former in-laws, and the daily interactions we were so accustomed to; all of it is part of the fear that anyone going through a divorce can feel.
The magnitude of the life change that comes with divorce can be overwhelming and can create intense anxiety, which may lead to poor health, depression, anger, or feelings of hopelessness and despair. It can go on and on. That is quite a horror show. Ultimately, it is the change itself, and the unknown that is scary.
Fear is an appropriate feeling to have at this time; we are only human, after all. A question we must ask ourselves is: could we learn from fear? Divorce and the fear that comes along with it are not something we can really anticipate or be taught as a trade or skill. However, I believe we can still learn from our experience. The key to escaping our fears is not being afraid to learn how to move on or, at the very least, accept that we can.
We choose when to wear our masks and when not to.
Even if one goes through it for the first time, divorce is not really a stranger. We have all seen it with our loved ones, casual acquaintances, and coworkers, as well as celebrities played out for the public to see. Witnessing a divorce unfold is, in some ways, like watching a horror movie. That genre of film is more apt than we give it credit for. Divorce is often horrible. Even the best divorce possible is a big change, maybe a welcome change, yet still scary, as it is the unknown.
Think of the monster mask on Halloween: scary, perhaps, yet it is a mask and only that. Even beyond October, we are often all wearing masks. What was your mask? Was the marriage itself the cover? Is the divorce a mask? It could go either way. Some people need the cover and can’t lose the mask. Ultimately, the new mask, or lack thereof, is the unknown. That is why we are afraid. Yet the fears themselves can be controlled. After all, the masks were masks to begin with.
What is the reason for all these fears? Are thoughts about ending a marriage really that dangerous? If so, to whom? Whom may you harm by not going through with this change? The fear, or your boogeyman, needs a healthy dose of reality. At the very least, we should not give as much respect and time as we tend to give it. Otherwise, the fear will win, and you will not. Sometimes (most often times), it’s better to let the fear run its course, to become something in our past and not in our present.
Whatever leads a person to the point of divorce, there is a real reason (or reasons) for it, and the truth requires no mask. Those reasons are real. Beyond the fear, we may suffer for what we may have hoped for in a marriage; eventually this will pass. If we hide the truth, more suffering may result. Fears tend to run on a timeline and will one day end. We might reach that point more swiftly if we have made peace with the truth.
Beyond fear comes restoration.
We are more than our scars. Life is not a movie, yet the horror show will end. If the unknown is so frightening, then perhaps we can harken to a saying not so ancient as Samhain, yet no less relevant. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” If we accept the times, if we can accept the change and realize that a marriage can come to the point where it is no longer sustainable, then it has reached its end, and we have moved on. We are still here, and the fear that seemingly paralyzed us did not kill us. If you are going through a horror show, keep going. It goes away if we allow it to go away. There is no perfect person or marriage. The past has been burned away, and the cold weather will come upon everyone, yet after the cold winter comes the reborn Spring.