birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I made a vow in July of 1984 that I would love and cherish in sickness and in health until death did us part and I broke those vows in January of 1994. I didn’t cheat on my husband or choose someone else. I decided at my husbands request that my vows were no longer valid. We had been so angry and hostile to each other for several years and the example that I was seting for my children became unacceptable. I had begun talking to GOD constantly about giving me a sign about what I should do. I attended support groups and got counseling. I had a friend tell me that I would probably pick another damaging relationship if I didn’t get some help soon. I felt terribly inadequate. Then one day someone asked me who handled all the bills and the household and the children when my husband travelled 5 days a week. And I had that ah hah moment when I thought- maybe I can do this. So when he asked me for a divorce in the middle of the night, I said yes very quickly. It also helped that his girlfriend called me a month later to tell me that she had been having an affair with my husband. 

My teenage daughter used to tell me that I couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to have divorced parents and even though we were told by counselors about the reptile brain of adolescents- it stung because she was right. My parents never divorced. They gave each other the silent treatment but they were never not on the same page. They backed each other up mostly. And there was always respect. My parents were respectful. My father had a tenderness for my mother even in the midst of her alcoholism and dementia and I suspect that he was aware of her failings in her own vows but until the day, my mother died- my father was devoted to her. I could not say that of my relationship with my childrens father. I cannot say that I was devoted to him- I don’t’ think I ever was.

But I did not ever share this with my children. I did uphold that promise. I did not badmouth their dad. Three months after we decided to separate and I had moved with primary custody of my kids to another home, I began attending a divorce support group. And I began learning the rules of being a divorcee. A title I never expected or wanted to earn. A role that I had always read as being a little risqué and loose. I did not think that this was a fair description of me. 

But I listened with intent and full attention to the things about being divorced and I became willing to be accountable for my own failure in the marriage. It takes two to destroy a relationship even if just by neglect and I learned how to own my 50%. I even began wishing him well in order to change my head about the situation. 

I did not become friends with my ex -husband. That would be too far- fetched- we really were not compatible. But I can defer the criticism to think that he was doing his best at the time and that I was doing my best. Perhaps vows are like fences in the Robert Frost poem Mending fences. Sometimes fences make good neighbors and sometimes there is something that doesn’t love a wall. Some promises cannot and should not be kept. And I can learn to forgive myself.

Because I promised