Everyone has a different version of the same divorce story. They are each our own, true to our perspectives, filters, shoddy memories and all our emotional baggage. It’s when we’re going through the hardest things that we wish everyone outside of us could be inside. Just for a glimpse.
Divorce, like childbirth, is only slightly the same for each person going through it. For the most part, it’s your very own experience. Each divorce, a snowflake…but less pretty. And maybe still as magical–sad but true. Because we will survive it and it will refine us, and there is so much peace about the decision. We are on our way to a better place, somehow.
Right now we’re just drifting down.
How did we get to the place we were? How did we sit there for so long? To say how it was out loud, as I do to my friends and family, is shocking. I say things that I cannot believe I allowed as the core of my daily existence. But this is what we do. We adapt, we give in, we settle, we slowly erode.
It is so easy to forget we’re on the right path, right now, even though it’s so clear. I find myself scared, here and there, like when I’m packing boxes. What the hell am I doing? Is this really happening? I’m writing his name on boxes with a Sharpie, and my name on others. His will go there. Mine will go there. And then later, when I’m getting ready for bed, I notice his pajama pants where they always sit. Plaid, black and dark blue, and so familiar. I start to cry because I’m going to miss knowing where the pajama pants are. There are these things that side-swipe you even when you are certain.
They warn you about childbirth too, but only a little, because everyone knows you aren’t going to really know until you’re doing it yourself. And who can prepare you? And who can tell you the truth of what you’ll experience anyway, when it will turn you and itself inside out to make it your own?
The reality is that we’ve intentionally separated in our own home for three years. If you do math, which I generally don’t but I can even figure this, it was not long after Elsie came along. But it certainly was not her, or her brothers. We were a clear mis-match from the start, and I hate to say that, but I’m telling the truth. We are on the same page about this. We ask each other now, Why would we get married? WHY? What would possess a person to think, Yeah this relationship is pretty terrible, but I suppose we should get married next…
I don’t know. I was a different person then, and so was he, just like all humans, we’ve evolved into something more grown, despite ourselves. Life just does that. It teaches you to stop fighting yourself, the one that wants to stay a child, scared and stuck.
Maybe we thought it would change. Maybe we just didn’t get it, like we couldn’t have understood childbirth or divorce. Marriage was just an abstract Thing, which sounds ridiculous. And maybe we both settled, not for a bad person, but for a bad relationship, as some sort of punishment to ourselves. We were much more insecure and broken back then. We were not healing or supporting each other in healing. We were bringing out the worst in each other.
One of Ryan’s closest friends visited before we got married. We were walking through the Mall of America after eating dinner and he was next to me. He asked, Does Ryan make you happy? And I remember the feeling of panic, something bordering on terror, because I could not answer him, or myself, honestly. I blathered on about how another person shouldn’t be responsible for my happiness, but blah blah blah, sure, blah blah…
I remember the look on his face, a little confusion mixed with concern. An engaged girl should want to shout YES! to that question, without waxing philosophical about it.
And so it went. I knew, while I tried hard not to know. We got married and we pressed on, we tried hard to make it okay. To make it better. To wait for the miracle. To change. If you’re looking for answers, there’s none to be had, other than that. It sounds so trite, but it is as simple as this: We made a terrible mistake.
Sometimes redemption comes by staying in the mistaken marriage. Sometimes it comes when leaving the mistaken marriage. It is really really hard to know what to do, and when.
We were scared, so we parted within our home. We lived, co-existing and co-parenting, married but not married at all. The documents were the only thing married about us, and we made a decision to live with that for too long, we can see now.
We have each been alone now for so long and yet this breaking away from each other is still terribly painful. Pajama pants are painful. A person should be allowed to curl up for a while and only talk about this, like Divorce Treatment, but there’s no time. Divorce is a whole lot of work. Moving across country is a lot of work. The daily grind with family is hard work. And so I’m here, plugging away at these things. I’m spending quiet hours here and there, alone and separating a life into boxes, allowing the feelings to come. And I have friends who love me so unconditionally and they are so wise and so willing to help. I have a family that supports me and wants us home and will continue to hold us. I have these three kids, who are doing so incredibly well amidst this flux.
In the middle of a birth, there comes the transition, inevitably. That period of time when a woman is entirely certain she will die. She’s wrong, most of the time, but it does hurt that much. The reality is that that much pain means she is so much closer to bringing her baby into the world, birthing that new soul, and her own.