Life Doesn't Fit in a File Folder Love Relationships

a broken knee, a broken heart


Back in August, I walked 5 miles on a really uneven surface.

In cowboy boots.

I knew I did something dumb almost immediately since both my knees started making audible popping sounds.

I tried anti-inflammatories and ice and heat. Nothing helped. At one point, it got so bad that I couldn’t walk at all. That’s when I got scared.

I don’t like to run to the doctor too quickly, and it takes me a long time to admit that something is wrong.

In November, when I couldn’t walk without tears, I knew it was time to make an appointment.

After an exam and x-rays, my doctor determined that I have arthritis in my knees and meniscial degeneration. That’s simply a fancy way of saying that my knees are old and plum worn out. He also said that things weren’t so bad that we had to consider surgery.

My right knee healed quickly, but my left knee earned a cortisone shot (holy big fat needle!), and I’ve been wearing a heavy-duty knee brace for the last 8 weeks.

I seriously didn’t think I’d ever walk without pain again, but it’s getting better. It’s just happening slowly.

Apparently, that’s the way healing works. It takes a ridiculously long time so we feel grateful when we finally get thru it.

All my knee stuff got me thinking about pain.

Some of you may know that my husband and I recently separated.

It sucks.

It’s confusing. And it hurts.

Some of the time, I appear to be fine.  Some of the time, I’m lonely. And sometimes, I’m downright afraid.

It’s an invisible wound.

I never appreciated the pain associated with divorce before now. In fact, my ideas about divorce came mostly from movies. I imagined two people screaming and trying to push each other down a staircase.

But my situation is nothing like that.

My husband is a good man.

We’ve just grown apart.

These days my heart actually aches the way knee aches.

My day is punctuated by awkwardnesses.

I still like to receive his texts. I still reach out to touch his knee when we’re seated together because it feels natural, even though I know I shouldn’t do that any more. I want to confide in my husband the way I once did because… well… he’s been my confidante for over 20 years.

How do I ask my parents to take down that painting of me that they’ve got hanging in their living room: the poster-sized me wearing my wedding dress, holding all those purple irises? What do I do when a someone I’ve known for my entire married life decides to ignore me in the grocery store? And how do I stop crying when I hear love songs on the radio?

People keep telling me to be brave, to stay strong.

That the pain will get easier.

Unfortunately, no one can predict how long my heart is going to hurt, and there are no cortisone shots to take the edge off the pain.

Which is worse? A broken body or a broken heart? Any practical advice would be appreciated.

67 thoughts on “a broken knee, a broken heart

  1. I actually didn’t “Like” your story because I feel so sad for you but I wanted you to know that I did read it. So sorry to hear of all your travails. You’ve had a very tough go of it for the last couple of years. I hope you are able to get through all this and come out being stronger and happier. All the best RAS. Stay in touch.

    1. Awww Nelson. Thank you for checking in. You ain’t kidding. The last few years have been rough for me. Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am. Maybe that’s true, but it sure would be nice to be able to stop testing my strength already. Hope you’re feeling well, too.

      1. I understand completely. If this part of our lives is a test, it would be nice if it would end. You deserve to be happy. Sometimes being strong isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Just remember, you’re not alone in this.

  2. I’m so sorry for the pain you are feeling. I’m glad your knee has healed though. The heart? well…. I’m afraid that is going to take a little more time. But I can tell you that God can help the pain. I will pray for comfort and peace for you in the coming days you will heal soon and also that you and your husband can possibly remain friends. It is an invisible wound, but a open wound none the less. Sending love and positive thoughts your way! 🙂

  3. I’m so sorry.

    When my wife and I separated, some days it felt okay and some days it hurt like hell. On the hell days I just let it hurt however bad it wanted to but presented myself to my day as best I could. On the okay days I made myself go into the day with a smile and a good word for everybody. My best was better on the okay days. And that was okay.

    1. I read your response a zillion times. Ah Jim. I’m so sorry to learn that you have gone through this stuff too. It’s not for the faint of heart, is it? I do the best I can do, and then there are some days that I can only only cry. The sadness that I feel about losing my entire identity as a wife and mother sometimes overwhelms me. I’m going to have to re-invent my whole life. That said, writing this post today felt really good. I know it isn;t deee, but it’s the first time I’ve written on the subject of being separated, and it just felt good to sit down and type out words and sentences and paragraphs. I’ve been so locked up, I haven’t been able to do that. So I guess that’s an example of having a good thing happen today.

    1. Hi Peggy. Thank you for popping in. My heart is feeling like I have it strapped onto the outside of my body these days. Very vulnerable, very exposed. I’m hoping that I continue to do things that make me happy so I cry less.

    1. Hi BD: My friend offered me a glass of red the other night. I just couldn’t do it. I can’t say this for sure, but I’ll bet I’m not a person who can hold her drink. I’ll bet I’d get all sloppy and do a lot of ugly crying. Soi I’ll just take your virtual hug for now.

  4. Oh, Renee, you poor hon. I haven’t been in touch the way I should, and I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. Our friend Clay Morgan has a great post about his experience, along with some important reassurances that may be of help to you: Also, you may want to reach out to him as someone who has gone through it. (If you do, tell him I said “hi”!).

    Big crush hug for you, sweetie, and let me know if there’s any way I can be of support. I know you can get through this.


    1. KB: This is absolutely the worst. While it killed to go through withdrawal, now it’s just as painful going thru this experience. I have a feeling THIS is what was causing my anxiety in the first place. Some part of me must have known that my marriage wasn’t working for me and here I am now, 8 years later, dealing with what I tried to avoid in he first place. I’ve read Clay’s piece before, but I have a feeling it’s time for a refresher. Thanks Kathy. Hope you (and Concordia) are doing well.

    1. Thanks Cowboy. I hadn’t written a word about it – until now. I’m actually kinda sucky, have a lot of crying jags. I’m terrified. Absolutely terrified of being alone for the rest of my life, but I’m making it through one day at a time. What else can I do, right?

  5. Wish I had an easy fix to tell you about, my sweet friend, but I don’t. In my experience, only time – and sometimes a lot of it – can heal the heart broken by divorce. It’s sorta like the death of a close loved one: you don’t ever get over it; the hurt just gradually diminishes over a period of time.

    One thing I can tell you for sure – if I were one of those people who saw you at the grocery store, I’d run – not walk – over to give you a huge bear hug.

    Love ya, Renee.

  6. Hi Renee, I did not know and I am so sorry to hear this. Just a strong hug of support from someone who has known you more than half your life! (scary thought I know!) xoxo Lisa

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I never know who is reading. Since you have known both of us for many decades, I’m grateful for your comments here. This has truly been the most trying time in my life, and I’m doing my best just to stay positive. Maybe you and the hubby can invite me over to your place for dinner some time. (I’ll bet the pasta never screams in your home. LOL.) <–Weak attempt at humor.

  7. I have mentioned that I lost my first husband to mental illness in 1989. By that, I mean that he had a severe psychotic break and was institutionalized. When he got out, he was not able to be married, as in, he was not psychologically capable of participating in a marital relationship. It wasn’t a choice for him. He could no more be married than I could win a gold medal at gymnastics. Divorce was the only path.

    We fought the idea for months, trying to find ways to stay connected while the requirements of our very survival took us further apart each day. During that time, I blew out my knee for the third time in my life. Only this time, it didn’t getting better.

    A holistic doctor told me that knee issues are flexibility issues. How was I being too rigid? What did I need to release in my life? It didn’t take much soul searching to answer those questions.

    I got the papers, and I wrote them up. My knee immediately began improving. After the 60 days or so that it took to sort things out for the divorce, it was fairly solid. We took the papers down to the courthouse together. It surreally took only half an hour to end what we had spent five years creating. What God has set asunder, let no man try to rejoin.

    My knee never dislocated again.

    Take what you need and leave the rest. Good luck!

    1. Piper: You are the very first person I met in the Twitterverse. That you so much for showing up here. Today. This moment. I keep beating myself up: I could have done this better, I am a bad person. I’m trying to correct these “voices” (I did the best I could do for as long as I could do it” and “I’m a person who is here on the planet doing the best I can do at all times.”) I absolutely believe that knee problems are about rigidity. And my knee is getting better, slowly as slowly learn to move forward. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  8. I also want to point out that my “like” isn’t an actual “like” of your situation but an indication that I read your story, which truly hit home with me. Having torn my knee wide open once to the extent that I couldn’t imagine I was ever going to be able to walk again I can tell you with some confidence your body will dance again. I also believe it is possible that your heart will eventually catch up. That’s pretty much all I got. Oh, wait here’s my favorite Winston Churchill quote: “If you’re going through Hell, Keep going.”

    1. Thanks Domingo. Your response shows so much compassion. Everyone keeps telling me that my heart will heal, and I keep wondering, “When? When?” I know that it’s only been 10 weeks – too soon to expect that I would have gotten used to a new rhythm – still, I miss my husband and the life I once had. I try to stay busy, but that’s not the way for me. I am finding that writing about my feelings here is helpful. When people respond to my words, I feel understood. So thank you for being one of the folks to respond. I’m grateful.

  9. I didn’t know about you and your husband, Renee.
    I’m so sorry.

    Sending love and hopes for healing, soon.
    Peace to your body and your heart, friend.


    1. Thank you, Julie. I didn’t share anything until right now. I’m realizing how much I need to blog – or write and share my words with others. The fact is, when people read my stuff and respond, I feel understood. I feel supported. And time flies when I’m writing, so there’s that. Anything that makes the time move is a welcome past time. Thanks for showing up, Julie. I guess this is the equivalent of my house burning down, huh?

  10. Renee, I am so sorry. I did not know. The pain in my heart when I realized my marriage was over was an ache, a real ache making it impossible to move, impossible to breathe without exacerbating the pain. That ache stayed with me for a long time. Time passing is the cortisone for your heart. When my former husband asked what I wanted, I responded by saying July. He asked why July. Time, I said, simply the passing of time because I knew healing would only come with time.

    I am sorry you’ve lost your confidante, the comfort of touching your husband’s knee, the hopes and dreams of that young bride holding her irises. You have gone through so much in the past 2-3 years. I remember a comment from your husband as you descended into the depths of your own hell, something like I can no longer help you…and I believe he walked away…because your pain overwhelmed him. I prayed then and there that the two of you would find your paths back to each other. I am sorry that didn’t happen.

    You will get through this pain. It is like the healing of your knee, time, attention, caring for yourself, perhaps working with a counselor will get you there. You will be stronger. You will know yourself better. You will love yourself. You will be whole again. You will know shalom. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    1. D’alta: Thank you for this most beautiful response. I wish my July would come. I’ve asked people how long it takes to get better and the answer is always the same: it’s different for everyone. How much would I like to find my husband again. Or better, find him for the first time and greet him with a kind of passion that I know that I have inside. I appreciate your prayers on our behalf. And thank you for staying with me all this time. You think we can go for a walk sometime?

      1. A walk with you would be wonderful. The winter has been long and hard. As I read back through your posts to IG, all those walks in nature, I was inspired. I am at the point in my life where hunching over, yarn and crochet hook in hand, waiting for winter to pass, is unkind to my body and being. My body was tested during a recent trip to Edinburgh and its seven hills. I barely squeaked through, so I have to go find myself again in the hills, drumlins, and kettles of Mendon Ponds…or I won’t live as long as my genes promise!

  11. Renee, I am David Walker’s sister. I just read your blog. I ache for you. I have been through 2 knee surgeries and 2 divorces. Oh, how much harder the divorces are! Knees heal very slowly …. but the heart heals at a snail’s pace. I so relate to crying all the time … or at odd unexpected times. Thinking of you ….. and thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Barb: Anyone who loves David is a friend of mine. Your brother has been with me during this whole mess, offering words of encouragement and support. I have been humbled by his love. Truly. You come from a special family. Thank you for coming to read my blog. It means the world. And I hope your tears become fewer and father between, for both of us.

  12. Oh my friend, I did not know! I am so sorry to hear this. I don’t know what to say, because I believe if you have never gone through it, you never fully understand it. Something I have learned over the years. I wish I had some magical words to help you through this, but I can only stand by you and listen if you need to talk. I will Inbox you my cell so you can call or text me! Love and hugs to you! You are not alone! Love you <3

  13. I see Glucosamine in your future. It’s in my present.

    Sorry to hear about the break up. These things happen. Take care, hugs and kisses.


  14. Dear Renée, my heart ached for you as I read this. You have shared so much of your heart and mind with the world on your blog. There is so much love and support coming your way, I hope you let it in. You have been through an incredibly tough journey these past few years, I hope peace and happiness begin to replace the pain … in your heart and your knees. Sending a gentle hug. <3

    1. Patricia: I have thought carefully about my sharing. I really needed to get it out because that’s when I find out that soooo many other people have been through their own difficult experiences. All the comments provide me with strength and hope. Thank you for being here for me.

  15. After reading about your knees, I was all set to tell you how you should be expecting a call from the knee brace marketing people because you clearly rock that brace. Obviously, the broken heart aspect of your post made that comment inappropriate. Your feelings about your husband and the history you share show how sensitive and caring you are. You will always likely have a relationship with him, albeit not the one you had once imagined. Just keep being the complex, beautiful person you are. Your scars will fade but help define you in the future.

    1. 1point: Ugh. I am complex aren’t I. I wish I were a simple girl, but I’m not that girl. I have bruises and invisible wounds. I am loving and kind and brave and afraid all at the same time. I’m a bundle of contradictions. Thank you for reminding me about the beauty behind scars.

  16. As a now wiser survivor of two divorces — more separations mixed in there too — and plenty of injuries from soccer and inline hockey, it truly does get easier Renee with each passing day, believe me. And I’d wager some $10k in a heartbeat that you WILL NOT be single the remainder of your life! You have way too much to give, offer, let alone what wisdom you will gain through all of this! Lady, quote me on all this, in 2, 5, 10 years from now you will tell me at that time, “You know Professor, you were SO right that Tuesday, April 28th, 2015! You are SO smart and a pillar of genius!” 😀 😉

    1. I have absolutely no idea how you got through TWO divorces. It is the most emotionally exhausting experience I’ve ever had in my life. It would be easy if my husband were a dirty, low down rat. He’s not. He’s a loving man. I truly want to believe you about all the wisdom that I’m supposed to gain. I think I’d rather stay dumb forever than continue to feel the pain of being separated.

  17. I’m so glad to see you posting. Long before I knew about your paintings, I was a loyal reader for your writing style. You never hesitated to go to the messy places, which made for great pieces, and I am guessing was also cathartic for you– a way to smooth the rough edges in your mind. I know that you shouldn’t post all of it here for a myriad of reasons . I do hope that you are writing all about it someplace for yourself, though, giving yourself that chance to work it out from the angel of the pen. I hope that when you are ready and comfortable to share that we will see more posts. It was a joy to see you in my reader this morning!

    1. It’s weird when people talk about my writing style because, to me, it’s such a simple style. Some people use a much more fancy vocabulary. They describe things more eloquently. I suppose I write in the raw, but in truth, I’d like to be able to write from a place of joy. I will share with you that I went to a daffodil park today with a friend and her dog, and I felt happiness. It was nice to walk in the sunshine and be with someone I like. I hope to feel more moments like that. I’m glad you were pleased to see a post from me in your reader. I don’t know how much I’ll be writing these days, but it’s nice to know there are some loyal readers out there. I was sure no one would respond to this post when I put int out there. What a wonderful surprise. Stay well, Suzanne.

  18. Oh Renee, I am so sorry you’re going through this. I think a broken heart is so much more complicated than any broken body part. Everyone’s heart heals differently, and there’s no prescription for it. I am sending you much love. I don’t have any useful advice, really, except time is apparently the only prescription for emotional pain. Love you. Much.

    1. Thanks Rivki. It actually helps to know that I have cyber love from my blogging friends. You have been with thru thick and thin. And I have been following your moving adventures from the sidelines. I’m thinking of you too and following you on your journey.

  19. Renee, I am so very sorry. I wish there was a magic solution, there isn’t. I am coming up on the one year anniversary of the day I walked out of the court house with wet ink on my divorce papers, it still hurts sometimes. We don’t stop loving someone just because we stop living with them, being married to them or being in love with them enough to move forward in life with them. Circumstances change and sometimes the choice we make is to find a different way to live, it doesn’t change our heart or some of our habits.

    The reality is though our hearts learn new pathways, small steps we open new doors to walk through and we get to happy. We learn to love ourselves, we learn to love our new lives, our new circumstances; mostly because we find things to love about it. We make new friends, because those who turn away from us aren’t worth keeping. We find new ways to interact with the world, because we have new options.

    I won’t tell you it is easy, it isn’t. I will tell you it is worth it. If you ever want to just talk, reach out to me. I will offer you a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or what I did to get through it.

    1. Hi Val. Well, it’s a bummer, that’s for sure. It’s also one of the most confusing experiences I’ve ever gone through. How is this happening to us? I always believed in ‘forever.’ I would love to hear what you are doing to get thru this difficult time. I feel like I’m just trying to fill my hours with activities, so I stay busy. It isn’t a solution, but that’s what I’m doing. Friends help, too. I’ll send you an email and maybe we can talk at some point, eh? Thanks for reaching out, Val.

  20. A broken heart is worse. Years ago, when I left my ex, a dear friend told me that there would come a day when I didn’t think about him anymore. At the time, I found that hard to believe, but she was right. It does happen. Slowly. Very slowly. I learned that my broken time was a time I needed to heal, to regroup and figure out who the “new me” needed to be. It’ll come, Renee – just not right now. One day at a time, even one minute at a time if that’s what needs to be. 🙂

  21. Oh Renee, I didn’t know where things had landed with your husband. I think what you’ve described (the lack of screaming and anger–like the movie image) sounds so hard. I’m so sorry you’re going through both the broken heart and the knee problems. (Though to answer your question, I suspect the heart is more painful.) I wish I had advice. I don’t. But I am part of your cyber-team thinking of you and cheering you on as you slowly take steps towards health and happiness in all areas– heart and otherwise.

  22. Renee – I am late for the response. I have seen your facebook posts and wondered and prayed for you. I know the last couple of years have been very difficult – mind and body. But, you are resilient and will heal – it may be slow, but the how He works through us. Trust and faith – keep painting and writing and give substitute teaching a whirl. Do it well and you will be in demand by the folks who make lessons that engage the kids and are easy to carry out. Above all, stay well – one step at a time, because that’s how it works. Peace.

    1. Thanks Clay. I guess it all boils down to that “one day at a time” thing, right? I’m doing the best I can do, trying not to hurt people, trying to be true to myself. It’s not always easy. For example, today is a holiday: I now understand what people mean when they say “holidays are difficult”. I feel pretty alone. No one has intentionally excluded me, but I don’t have anywhere to go. I’d hoped to take Tech Support to the place we’ve gone each year, but he has too much homework to complete. Sooooooo I am scrambling to find something to do. Sounds kinda pathetic, I know – but I’m sure that something will come up. Thanks for checking in on me. I hope you’re enjoying your day off from work.

  23. Oh, Renee. I am so sorry. The only nugget I can offer you, is the thought of community. Do you know Erin? Erin Best? Do you know Jenny Kanevsky? Jenny writes of divorce, and the process, the lingering disappointment and hope with pain. Maybe you could greet via email? I know, things feel better when someone says “me too.” xoxoxo

    1. Hi Alex. Yes, I know Jenny. We’re in contact with each other, and she’s fabulous. I adore Erin, and we’re also in contact. In fact, she came up as my SOUL MATE in a Facebook quiz. I have a bunch of people saying “me too” these days, and it does help. Right now, life is all about building confidence. I feel so scared so much of the time, but it’s getting easier. I’m starting to remember that I am able to figure things out for myself. I’m starting to reconnect with the right people, the people who love me and support me. I know it’ll be all right. Eventually. Thanks for being the fabulous connector that you are.

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