On Annulments

It’s been a few weeks now since the Church has found my marriage to be invalid. My initial reaction was jumbled confluence of emotions. Some friends immediately said things like “Congratulations!” complete with confetti, balloons, and heart emojis. But that didn’t feel accurate. Other people have shared nothing but a silence that maybe betrays the personal feelings they have on the Church’s decision. Somehow… also inaccurate. And I’m sure there are many, who simply don’t know what to say or make of it all. Still. (And this, I understand.) The best responses were those that were tentative and unsure, curious ones like “How are you?” and such. This was right. But it’s taken me a while to know “how I am.”  I found myself scratching out some thoughts a couple days after the decision and shared what’s below on social media. Despite being a logical, rational woman in how I think (most of the time), I often  feel—and subsequently write— in fragments of light and shadow, from a mudbank of memories, colors, and awkward analogies. So this was my authentic response as I began to internalize what it all meant:

𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘋𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯 𝘈𝘯𝘶𝘭𝘭𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘍𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘓𝘪𝘬𝘦?⁣⁣
⁣⁣
It feels like intersection between sorrow, relief, and disorientation.⁣⁣
The pumpkin at the end of the ball.⁣⁣
Aloe vera on sunburned skin.⁣⁣
And maybe some confusion about the sun’s existence itself.⁣
And who’s skin this is anyway. ⁣⁣
An annulment feels like Oxegyn.⁣⁣
Water in the desert.⁣⁣
Grief over the work, the blood, and the love that was given away.⁣⁣
And grief over what never was.⁣⁣
Grief over what should have been.⁣
⁣⁣It’s a refund offered on a name.⁣
An annulment feels like a confrontation with the words Attachment, Belonging, Identity.⁣
⁣⁣It feels like a lesson in pride. ⁣
And in humility. ⁣⁣
Detachment.⁣⁣
Displacement.⁣
But also Shelter.⁣
A coming home to myself.⁣
It is both Agony for my children. ⁣⁣
And Hope for my children.⁣⁣
⁣⁣A hot shower.⁣⁣
Bleach that burns.⁣⁣
A prayer petitioning mercy.⁣⁣
A prayer of gratitude.⁣

All said, I expected to feel mixed emotions, but with an emphasis on psychological freedom. Instead, I felt an emphasis on grief. But it’s a disenfranchised grief isn’t it? Grieving something that never existed… perhaps similar to the disenfranchisement an infertile woman feels when she mourns the baby that she has been unable to conceive.

Today, the feelings are still mixed, but ordered rightly. And stronger. I think the tribunal made the right decision— the congruent decision based on my experience as a 19 year old consenting to marriage in the circumstances I did.

But the freedom and peace I feel has a much more surprising origin than I expected. I thought I’d simply be relieved to not be spiritually tied to this man as my husband, for the rest of my life. This is not primarily what I felt. What I experience is a freedom and peace in being affirmed as a sojourner here. This world is not my home. Temperament, number of children, marital tragedies, and awkward analogies notwithstanding— I simply don’t belong here. And this is more than okay; it is right. Demographically, I don’t match up to the norm. And even within the beauty and solace of my Faith Community (that blessed hospital for sinners!), I feel a bit like a black sheep. Thankfully, my Shepherd loves me as much as His lily-white others with cleaner stories and more predictable flaws. He pursues me unceasingly. And I know that I am His. Through the very disorienting process of going through an annulment, I am reminded of the freedom available to me by burrowing deep into the humility of His most Sacred Heart (“…within Thy wounds, hide me.”) And I am grateful.
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