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Simple Survival

Simple Survival

Susan and Tim

Tim and I sat in back awaiting the arrival of the guests. It was a hot August afternoon. Just prior to our nephew’s wedding at St. Margaret Mary’s was not an ideal time to let the family know. In the cool, dark quiet I confided that I had filed for divorce the day before.

My brother Tim could be counted on to keep the secret. We were good that way with each other. I was the fifth of eight children and he was the sixth. When he was sixteen he invited me to his room and promptly declared, “I’m gay.” I was the first in our family for him to trust, and now he was the first for me.

Anniversary dates always get me to thinking of the past and revisiting my memories. I recently came upon my journal that captured that summer of simple survival.


It had been a tightrope walk all year. I wrote in earnest.  

May 30, 1991     Today is an important day—I begin my journal…I have been warned about where it may take me, and I, too, have fears.

Perhaps my greatest fear was that I would have to tell the truth about the state of my marriage.

I cry at the thought of never having/of losing my “fantasy family” complete with father. My logic tells my children would survive. My spirit grieves at thinking of what I’ve always longed for….

By that summer we were on our third couples’ therapist, not including the group we tried.

He restated his desire not to return to seeing our marriage counselor, citing her biases. Why should I go to counseling to listen to you tell lies?” he wanted to know.

We tried talking.                                                                                                                                 

It seems that we just get worn out. And sad—sad about our love and unhappiness.

I kept trying to admit and understand how he saw me.

Self-centered. Insincere. Hypocrite. Wasteful. Inconsiderate.

I questioned whether our marriage could survive.                                                    

June 13, 1991          Sometimes the hope seems obscure. Where is the TRUST…   RESPECT… COMMUNICATION… Will love make any difference if the others are lacking?

In between the arguments and the silence we took our two children sailing, to the movies, to the zoo. The rest of life didn’t stop. Running a law practice. My mother hospitalized. Thinking about divorce seemed overwhelming.

June 24, 1991  1:20 a.m.            I have an incredible week ahead—deadlines on federal pretrial motions and a Nebraska Supreme Court brief plus the custody trial that completes on 7/1. My summer paralegal intern lost her 17 year old son to heart failure. My sister was sexually assaulted last night…Lists-Priorities-One-Day-At-A-Time: If I can just make it to Independence Day.

The weeks passed and I became increasingly self-observant.                                                                   

I am beginning to recognize that I am, most often,…not myself…                                                             What do you call it when you are waiting to make someone angry?                                                    When you worry about how what you say will be perceived?                                                                Where is my life headed?      

Less than a week after our eleventh wedding anniversary, I became clear.

I told him if he did not want to continue with counseling, I thought we should separate… He doesn’t think counseling is going to help us anyway. I’m beginning to think he’s right.

My focus shifted.       

July 18, 1991    I saw June for my second individual session. Afterwards, I feel calm and serious.  I want to end the confusion. That means obtaining clarity and making a decision. Then I prepare.


There is no good time to file for a divorce. Clients often ask, “How will I know if, when?” For me, the decision made itself. My job was to continue to keep telling the truth. About myself. About my marriage. About what I was or was not willing to do. I wrote so I could both see and remember the truth.

A month later, I sat in the back of a church, quietly confiding. I had survived. I had filed for divorce just the day before, but it had been a long time coming.

Coach Koenig