A few weeks ago, I was up in the house when I got a phone call. It was my soon-to-be husband asking me if I wanted to come down to the bottom of the yard to watch him light a fire. You have to understand, we live up on a hill and our yard slopes away beneath us an acre between the house and the property line where we have an erstwhile stream. Down in the beneath is the fire pile.
As we sat there, we had a discussion about life, and how things had turned for us. He said something that enlightened and loosened me at the same time: "I'm learning how to be happy again." I nodded. I knew what he meant.
Less than two years earlier, we had both watched our families disintegrate. After 13 years, he had told his ex-wife that it was over. It was over, it'd been over for a while but had lingered on in a state of habit until his father died (by his own hand) and he could no longer try and please the acerbic discontentment that was spread his way. The ex and their daughter now live 35 miles away which doesn't seem far until you're trying to manage a retail store and a 140 mile round-trip to pick up your child. Sometimes she'll bring her over, but it's usually only once a month. What are we to do? Fuss? Fight? No, we regulate ourselves to the short time we have with his little girl and make the best of it.
Nothing made sense until I read this on Pinterest: To the lobsters in the kitchen on the Titanic, it was a miracle. I was a lobster on the Titanic--I just didn't know it. I, like the passengers on that fair ship, hadn't a clue what was in store for them. (Can lobsters survive in that part of the North Atlantic? I doubt it, but it's a great saying all the same).
I suppose I should have known I was in trouble a long, long time ago and I had a hard hard time forgiving myself for not knowing so and lacking the judgement to have known he wasn't good for me or my children--in the end.
It was the dream job, it was a farce. It was standing in a three room apartment bereft of my home and most of my things asking for money for groceries and being told there wasn't any. It was the end.
And for nearly two and a half years--even as I approached my marriage with the love of my life (who had carried the torch for me for two and a half decades)--I was a crumbling sordid mess on the inside. I would jump at the slightest provocation--I could *not* relax. The smallest things about my life ceased to function, most notably my confidence and my sense of peace. They were gone. Obliterated. What hurt the most was my inability to believe in myself again, and my seeming lack of ability to support myself. When you get divorced and you find you were Really Really Wrong about a person, it does something to your inner faith that you do know best. And so many things are dead.
Your old life.
Your joint holdings.
Your idea of yourself.
Your trust in your judgement.
My mother-in-law couldn't believe that his ex--to whom his family has tried and tried to stay close to no avail--wanted to go and hear her divorce decree, to hear it in court. "Your marriage," she told her, "was over two years ago. This is just a formality." I disagreed. I felt that no one--not a single one of us or anyone else--should tell her how to grieve complete or dissipate her marriage. I knew this because no one could tell me. My grief was hidden, not mine to display or subjugate other's feelings to. Keeping it to myself was the healthiest thing for my new family and what we were trying to achieve: moving on.
This great, gasping hole that the wind was constantly whistling through, unabated, was for time to fill. And sometimes it takes time to realize that yeah, you were in trouble. Some guy with a white hat was moving over to your tank thinking it was your time to get a'boilin'. And then, pow, howdy, your friend Fred starts screaming, "SWIM, FRANK, SWIM!" cause you happened to be a lobster named Frank. And you did.
When I could not hear my ex ask me a question without flinching in anticipation, when I felt my son deserved to have a life where his mother didn't have to be in fear coming home from the grocery store, when I asked my ex to leave the packing to me because I just couldn't take the ten thousand questions about my judgement, when he sold my things without my knowledge, when he lost mortage payments in the gambling houses of North Mississippi, when he got caught for fraud on eBay, when my fifteen-year-old had to explain to me that no, daddy wasn't a good man, he was watching porn downstairs on the big monitor in the den.
Well. Someone was blind. And no matter how much I enjoyed his company, I somehow missed that we were yelling at each other so loud that my son could hear it through the floor.
Now I have approached a situation that will put me in benefits and a permanent employ for quite possibly, the rest of my life. I am lifted out my own personal hell of Not Knowing What to Do with my new life, and the two years of painful underemployment I experienced are over. And I see not the loss, nor hear the whistling in the wind of this great loss--our family--I see something great, and moreover I feel it.
My husband is warm at night. His family is warm all the time. My son gets fatherly parenting he never experienced before. His stepdad is a considerate and thoughtful man and although he is not perfect, gives a lot of thought to presents, approaches to discipline and the structure of our family life. He is a family man if ever there was one, spending a good deal of his time at home and only occasionally going on nature hikes. This past week he presented my son with a fishing rod and tackle box. As he is way into his games, I figured Aslan would hate this present, like getting clothes for Christmas. Instead, he was awed. He wanted to go fishing with his stepdad and stepsister. Things in his life now--where the weren't before--are readily and steadfastly defined, and his stepfather does not passively allow him to pass through this life without engaging in nature.
So hold out through this mind-boggingly bad pain: it will abate. You'll see, somewhat painstakingly, that you made the right decision by moving on, no matter how painful it is, no matter how much you loved that marriage or that time together, you will find your way because even if you don't feel strong now you had the strength to leave. Insanity is part of the grief. Accept it. Know that someday it will pass. You're not going to be going to the supermart and suddenly feel that it's all passed and now you can have your shit together. It doesn't work that way.
Be traumatized if you must. Cry in private if you can, and don't try to move forward--you'll do that naturally in time. SWIM FRED SWIM and get the hell out of the kitchen. It was going down, anyway.