Archived Opinion

Away with the rose-colored glasses

Away with the rose-colored glasses

Over the past couple years, this column has been a sounding board for me. I’ve written about everything from coping with my mom’s death to getting a tattoo. But one major life woe I’ve kept mostly to myself is being separated from my husband.

A person never wants to air her dirty laundry in the newspaper, but it’s getting harder and harder to write anything at all when my mind is consumed with a singular topic I’m trying to keep quiet.

For me, writing is part of the healing process. I can go to therapy or drink wine or take Lexapro, but ultimately nothing is as soothing to my soul as putting thoughts to paper.

It’s time to write about the separation.

Today’s column is not a story of he said-she said or who tried harder or who made the most mistakes. He’s a good person and a great dad, and I’m a good person and try to be a great mom.

Sometimes marriages just aren’t meant to last forever, no matter how hard two people try.

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That’s really all I need to say about the separation itself. With both of us being known in the community and humans being innately curious, I’m sure there are rumors and accusations aplenty, but I can’t worry about all that.

As Rumi once observed, “The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore.”

As a young woman with rose-colored glasses and my entire life on the horizon, I never imagined dealing with divorce and the death of my mom in a short 15-month period. You truly don’t know your own strengths until you’re forced to use them.

Above all, I’ve worried about the wellbeing and adjustment of my two little boys. They are 5 and 8 and the loves of my life. I feel my throat grow thick with tears as I sit here and think of them. This is heavy stuff for a person of any age, much less little ones.

Everyone dreams of giving their kids the quintessential childhood with a nice home, two loving parents, beach trips, family hikes, a trip to Disney World, the whole shebang. And for so long, our boys had all of that. In fact, the adults worked overtime and in overdrive trying to give them that fairytale life for as long as possible.

But as with many areas of life, dreams don’t always come true. Or they may come true, but they’re not what you expected. The feelings aligned with the fallout of a marriage are almost indescribable. It’s a mixture of defeat, sadness, frustration, relief and freedom.

And overall, it’s not a good feeling. It’s a dark feeling.

I recently bought a cute little house for myself and the boys when they’re with me. This past weekend was their first experience in this new space. Even though we’ve talked to them throughout this entire process and they’re mostly aware of what “separation” means, I’ve been so anxious about how they would react to having two homes.

But in true childlike fashion, they surprised me with their optimism and resiliency.

All the main components are in the house. A couch, beds, heat, lights, water and food. There are a few décor items and kitchen appliances but not much else at the moment. Despite the uncertainty and a very heavy heart, I conjured an excited, joyful persona for them.

We spent the weekend nesting, watching movies, cooking, playing Monopoly, reading books, doing art projects and just being together. If they missed the other house, they never said it. If they felt uncomfortable, they didn’t act like it. I was watching them like a hawk, searching for any cue they weren’t OK but honestly I didn’t get any.

I know as the months go by, the situation will get better at times and worse at times. There are no easy answers or solutions when it comes to little hearts and minds having to understand a separation.

The feeling of loss is so similar to what I felt when my mom died; it scares me a little. It shows me that grief doesn’t always follow death. But what I also know about experiencing death is that over time, things get easier. There’s always a before and after, but things do get better, a new normal somehow emerges from the ashes.

As always, thank you for listening. I needed to write about this before I could move on and write about anything else. There will be all kinds of emotions as the boys and I navigate the future and adjust to so much change. I’m sure some of those experiences will be woven through the lines of this column.

I’ve always felt grateful to live in Waynesville and Haywood County and this time is no different. One would assume dealing with a separation in a small town would be harder because of misconceptions and rumors, but the advantages of a close-knit community outweigh any trivialities such as those.

This town and the people in it have become a village for the boys and for us adults. People have stepped up to the plate in every way imaginable and for that, we will be forever appreciative.

Life is sticky and messy and sometimes very confusing. But life is also beautiful and mysterious and full of possibility. While I lost those rose-colored glasses long ago, I’ve found a new pair. A solid pair that offers a clearer, less naïve view of the future, so even if my heart is hurting, my eyes are wide open, ready for a new tomorrow.

(Susanna Barbee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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