It’s always water though.
And I’ve heard every word that you have said
And I know I’ve been driven like the snow
But this is cooling
faster than I can
Today marks three years from the day my husband left me for another woman.
I opened the tabs to link to my last few July 4 posts. I read them, and I read the last couple weeks of our marriage (they occurred over gmail chat since I was on complete vocal rest post-surgery….and I only put it together today that that’s why I’m so much less comfortable with that than I am texting).
This year, I didn’t have any flashbacks. I didn’t even have nightmares. I was going to do a post about how far I’ve come, but, oh, I don’t know, they don’t seem that relevant anymore. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
The long gmail chat (which I have as a private post, because even I’m not that gross) was interesting. On the one hand, it validates why I really didn’t think he’d leave. I asked him directly within an hour of the time he left if he was cheating, and he said no. Then, I asked him if he was cheating in any way that I would consider cheating. Again, no.
On the other hand…how am I supposed to trust and believe when the person I’ve known the most intimately in my life, my partner of 19 years, can tell such huge lies? How am I supposed to convince myself that what feels like intuition is just anxiety and wounds when I have such a record of blurting random fears and accusations that were true, but he convinced me to do everything I could to override my gut feeling?
Especially when I see what an idiot I’ve been, basically being anorexic when it comes to love, living on scraps of affection given to me at a guy’s convenience.
I don’t have any answer to that. I will say that I’m coping with my current condition–being rather burnt out after surviving the last few years, and not as happy as I will be–by moving toward what feels good. I’m not talking about sex, or even the company of men. I’m just, whenever faced with a decision, going with whatever makes me feel good (or, at least, less bad). I’m also giving myself permission to pursue anything that interests me–no matter how cheesy–as long as it’s not expensive. If I want to learn how to do makeup, fine, just don’t do Bobby Brown makeup. If I want to spend my free time reading journal articles on random subjects, join a unitarian church, jog, or even pray to saints in whom I don’t believe while burning palo santo, I’m giving myself permission to do it without questioning its ridiculousness or feeling abashed about it.
I’ve never had any feeling about the 4th, but I took my kid to a free concert in a park (my friends’ symphonic band) with fireworks because she wanted to go, and I remember how incredible fireworks were to me when I was young. It was her first time seeing them. I’m obviously not patriotic at all (I quietly refuse to say the pledge because it’s creepy), but when my daughter wanted to sing along to “God Bless America” because she was proud that she knew the words from school, I joined in. I told her what independence day was, and I told her I’m not really into the meaning, but I like to celebrate, and anything is a good excuse to have color-themed fun.
I also realize I’m not a robot at events when I’m with her, because I’m aware that I’m modeling for her.
The last thing I want is for me to disappoint her or deflate her enthusiasm just because I’m old and “over” things. She needs to get there on her own schedule. Now, she’s a 5 year old child.
I’m learning much more from her than she is from me.
So, this (forced?) independence day, instead of doing a whine-tacular lookback that retells the story of my abandonment for the millionth time, I’m drinking prosecco in Wonder Woman underoos and feeling chuffed at fuck because I know the worst is well behind me, and I do have some faith that this is going somewhere good because I like myself so much more than I did three years ago.
I hope that next 4th of July, I’ll make a toast to making my head independent from my asshole. Today, I’ll accept that my head is up my ass, and I’ll be open to ways to not have my head up my ass, even if they’re things about which I’m jaded.
My daughter “graduated” from pre-k last week. I patted myself on the back for not crying at the ceremony; that night, we watched the picture DVD that the school gave us, and the back-to-back baby picture (from the day we brought her home from the NICU/graduation picture) got me.
I’ve been struggling with anxiety about next fall. It’s not really about “oh, my baby’s getting older *sob*.” It’s just that, apart from moving, this is the biggest life change she’s experienced since my ex left. I’ve tried to make things as stable as possible to balance those out, but she’s going to have a huge schedule and environment change in the fall.
The same woman has been watching her exclusively from the time she was six months old–first as full days, and then she walked her to afternoon pre-k every day this year. She’s like her second mom. She lives in the town where I work (about 25 minutes away), and my daughter is starting kindergarten at a public school next year. She’ll be going to a daycare center from 7 am until the bus comes to take her to the school, and then she’ll be bussed back there when school is over (2:30).
I’ve been picturing her throwing a fit, refusing to get dressed (I take her to the sitter in her pajamas, because she’s not really even awake at 7 am when we leave)…and me getting in trouble because I’m late to work. I’ll have a homeroom next year, so my lateness will be more high-profile.
But I saw something on the last day of school that made me feel that not only will all of this be okay, but that it’ll be okay because I’m doing a good job as a parent.
Among other treasures, she brought home pictures she drew of her family on the first and last days of school.
Here’s the one she drew on the first day:
Her, our cat, me, daddy–I keep forgetting to ask her who the floating green head is.
This is the picture she drew of her family on the last day of school:
Clockwise from bottom: her grandfather, her grandmother, her soon-to-be stepbrother, her favorite blanket (who she says is a girl), her, daddy, our cat, daddy’s fiancee
She’s at the center, surrounded by her extended family.
I think I caught my breath when I saw this, because this is the fantasy that has guided me in figuring out how to divorce: make decisions based on what is best for the kids. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with her just putting me and daddy in the picture at the end of the year, but it’s absolutely wonderful that, when she’s asked about who is her family, she thinks of a crowd. Even better, we’re all mixed up. It’s not daddy’s family on one side and me and the cat on the other. She knows she has two houses, but her two families don’t feel separate.
This is why we do this. This is why a collaborative divorce is possible for us.
I used to read tarot cards. I’m no longer involved with them in any metaphysical sense, but I find them very useful in filling in the gaps when I can’t find the words to talk about people, music, and life situations.
Whatever anybody tells you–even if you believe that periods of good and bad are temporary (that’s Wheel of Fortune, disappointingly)–there are “good” and “bad” tarot cards. Some of the newer oracle decks try to put a serene spin on every card, but, as someone with anxiety, I’ve always find Rider Waite to be the most honest deck.
Two of cups, the The Lovers, is one of the best cards. I don’t think it’s even come up for me in a reading, this calmly happy partnership with good communication. (Everyone tells me “oh you’ll find someone” as if it’s a divine right. I did have it, I don’t anymore, and there’s no reason to assume I’ll find it again).
The World is lovely. The World is what you think the world is when you’re young. The reality is Wheel of Fortune–I found that a source of disillusionment, but I think I’m coming around to a point of comfort about it. (That’s what this post will be about once I stop babbling about tarot cards).
My therapist says I make too many excuses for people I care about who are letting me down, so I’m familiar with The Moon (inability to see things as they are with a “denial” flavor), The Devil (inability to see things as they are because someone is deceiving you…similar to 7 of swords, but 7 of swords tends to refer specifically to a romantic partner), 10 of swords (betrayal), and The Tower. These cards all stink, but, apart from the last one, they tend to just indicate bumps in the road. The Tower is such a frightening card because it represents the kind of upheaval that has to be rebuilt from the bottom up if it can be rebuilt at all. The Tower is what people think Death is. The Death card has a reassurance that this is all going somewhere okay, but the Tower will fuck your shit up in such a way that you can’t see the other side.
The Tower is the top of the Holmes and Rahe stress scale: end of a career, the death of an immediately family member, a divorce.
(I remember sending that to my ex shortly before or after he left after he insisted that divorce was neither expensive nor particularly stressful).
Speaking of lists: I saw a bucket list going around Facebook that had both marriage and divorce as items to check off. What a strange to-do list. I see finding love as a complete game of chance, and I don’t want myself or anyone else to feel like a failure because they just didn’t happen to come across someone who would stay and love them. I imagine that it’s bad enough being alone and it not being your own fault.
And divorce on a bucket list…WTF? I mean, it’s on my to-do list in the sense that cleaning my bathroom and paying my bills is. It’s not exactly “see aurora borealis.”
I have to admit, though: it’s at least on the radar for many of people with whom I’m close.
I had an unexpectedly intense conversation with a mom at Chuck E. Cheese this weekend. Our daughters had been together for both years of preschool, but we’d never talked any deeper than activities, jobs, cars. She opened by asking what I was going to be doing [for Father’s day]. I sort of stumbled, because I figured she didn’t realize I was divorcing, and I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.
She knew, though…I guess this was a friendly way to steer the conversation into bleak territory. She complimented me for how good a job we were doing co-parenting and staying friendly (which made me very happy), and she started to ask me a little bit about our divorce. Then she told me her story.
She wants out, he does not. She had a masters degree and a career; he discouraged her from working. She’s working now, but whenever she takes the initiative to talk divorce, he retaliates financially (failing to make car or preschool payments, canceling her cell phone).
Her family suggested that she just be happy with what she has. I blurted out “NO ONE that I know who’s married with kids is happy. No one is happy.” How could she find happiness at this point with such an obvious imbalance of power? Who would choose to fall in love (or back in love) with someone who’d try to get at you like that?
She’s getting pressure from her family to stay, to just hang in there, at least until ____. Until when? Her children are single-digits. High school graduation? She’s afraid he’ll then flake and not help with college. Marriage? That’s 20 years out. She told me about someone she knows who stayed with it until her children got married, and her children were still angry with her for not just staying.
Starting over is hard at any time, but people who don’t know how it feels to be her, how it looks inside her house, are suggesting that she sacrifice decades of her life and stay unhappy until she’s old because that’s what makes her family members more comfortable?
It’s not just that–she’s afraid, too. She knows that divorce is The Tower. She can’t picture what her life will be–only that it will be completely different and, for a long time, with very little comfort or stability. (That would be true even if her husband hadn’t already demonstrated that he will make it even more difficult for her).
I told her that it was easy for me because the choice was made for me. I didn’t have to try to push someone out of the house or figure out the time to tell him it was over. He just left. All I had to do was survive, and then cope.
No one is happy–not even those who have everything. There is maybe one married couple I can think of whose Facebook representation I actually believe, and “wedded bliss” isn’t their brand. (They don’t have a brand, obviously, or I wouldn’t believe it). That doesn’t mean there aren’t more…it’s just that they’re the only ones I know well enough to say that the misery that I haven’t seen in them probably does not exist.
I know that I’m one of those people who has everything but is unhappy and/or feels that something is missing. I’ve tried giving myself shit for being an ungrateful brat, but doing so hasn’t made me happier or less of a spoiled brat. I think what I’m going to try is just accepting that I’m not particularly happy. I’m even trying to tell myself that it’s okay to feel that something is missing because I don’t have (romantic) love. That’s okay. It’s not a character deficiency to want to partner up; it’s normal and natural.
Love…not necessarily marriage.
Marriage is #7 on the stress scale.
I remember being shocked to find out that my ex was talking marriage less than a year into his relationship with his girlfriend, before I even knew about it. I couldn’t believe he was dumb enough to still idealize marriage, to want to jump in again. It’s not that I’m anti-marriage…I just don’t understand viewing it as going hand in hand with eternal love.
I don’t mean to turn this isn’t an indictment of marriage. Being married was much better than being single. Marriage is neutral; it’s divorce that’s terrible. But it is true that I don’t know anyone who is really happy in their marriage. They’re either miserable, or have bigger fish to fry than the question of whether or not they are getting what they want out of life.
That bleak realization opened something up in me, though. I don’t feel as alone. I feel much, much less alone when people share things like this with me. It would make me very happy to be of use for someone who’s contemplating or going through divorce. I feel honored that this mom shared this with me.
I had found out some time into our marriage that my ex consciously thought that marriage was going to solve our problems. I couldn’t believe he thought that, but I guess it explains how suddenly he decided to propose after seven years together.
I didn’t go into marriage with that particular delusion, but I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I did think it was going to be okay.
Tomorrow, you will ask me if I do
Know that the sorrow will drop away
Like June, from a flower in bloom
When you say “I do”
When you say “I do”
Tomorrow, you will take me for your bride
And know that the grey skies will blow away
We’re forever and I feel it inside
When you say “I do”
When you say “I do”
When you say “I do”
I know that he was happy with me, that it wasn’t all pretending in order to please me. I read the woman for whom he left me saying that he didn’t know if he’d ever be happy again, that he had been happy, but it was with the wife and child that he was leaving.
When I talk about being “unhappy,” I’m not talking about life disappointing you by failing to provide all of the things to which you feel entitled..I’m talking about finding out just how much the people who you love can let you down.
If I were to revise Erik Eriksen’s theory of personality, I would add acceptance of this at each stage of a adulthood. One of the things that arrested my development was my inability to move through mourning my parents’ imperfection. I think everyone has to do this, because everyone’s childhood ranges from “imperfect” to “traumatic.” Once you do this, it isn’t as much of a struggle to accept how others let you down by minor or major abandonments like silence, breakups, and death. One of the good things to come out of the end of my marriage is that it finally made the upsetting parts of my childhood almost a non-issue in my everyday life. Sometimes the only way to get over one disappointment is to experience a more acutely painful one.
This sounds bleak, but I feel that a little part of me is somehow freeing itself. I feel less alone. I’m still depressed as fuck, but I’m not fighting it. It feels valid. I see that everyone else feels the same way, I don’t have to make any major decisions, and I can just kind of get on with it. In a weird way, I feel hopeful.
I’ve also experienced what I want vicariously.
There are two people in my life who are keeping me afloat in terms of believing that love and happiness might be attainable. One of them had a failed “starter” marriage that led to a disastrous next relationship for her. She then found someone on Match with whom she just seems quietly suited. Their relationship was supposed to end, as he had applied for a promotion in the military that would lead to him moving to God-knows-where for two years, and she had just bought a house here. He ended up leaving the military to stay here with her. I keep thinking about it, how romantic it is, but they also made decisions along the way that demonstrated that they were choosing this because they were healthy and independent.
The other one is my one-person divorce support group. He and his wife separated for a year, tried to get back together, and then finally divorced with at least the peace of knowing that they tried everything to work it out. He’s now in a new relationship, and they’re in love. I love hearing his stories, because we fall in love similarly, and I somehow get hope for myself seeing things work out for him.
I thought about life after divorce, after realizing that there’s no inherent value in checking that “marriage” box, especially once you’ve find yourself on the bad side of statistics and learned that there is no security. I’ll never feel freed by the knowledge that no love is unconditional, but maybe love after divorce is like going back to school. I loved both of my masters degree programs. Yes, undergrad is a little fantasy bubble of maximum freedom and minimal responsibility, but you can’t know that at 18. I appreciated and enjoyed school much more as an adult. The innocence doesn’t come back, you’re paying for it yourself while working, there is no dorm…but you chose it, and you’re studying exactly what you want to study.
If I ever fall in love and move in with someone, it’ll happen independently of any “to do” list. Maybe that’s what my ex’s second marriage is for him. The statistics on marriages that start as affairs are bleak, but surely he’s learned enough to marry for the right reasons…whatever those may be. I’ve never seen “second marriage” on any kind of checklist of things you are supposed to do in adulthood.
Adulthood is a disappointing, lonely trek to disillusionment, but maybe the dreaded Tower card forces open some routes to fulfillment. Those two friends I spoke of both lived through the Tower, seeing their views of the future destroyed and unseeable for months or years. Now, they are in love and full of hope. He’s in the “butterflies in your tummy” stage (but isn’t that wonderful to not have life and lovers beat you down so much that you’re incapable of that?), and she’s cohabiting with her boyfriend and building a life with joy and without drama.
I’d much rather just find myself not wondering why I’m so unhappy, but that doesn’t seem to be an option (for anyone, really). I’m not happy, okay. I’m depressed, okay. That’s okay. I’m going to shift my focus from “wasting energy feeling like I’m an asshole for being depressed despite what an easy life I have” to accepting that I’m depressed. I’m going to let these two little dots of light and hope appear brighter in the darkness allow myself to trust the feeling that this may just lead to better things for me.
I’ll edit this later. I’m afraid if I don’t publish, I’ll never finish it. Thanks for reading, anonymous few.
I am a huge fan of psychodynamic and interpersonal modalities of therapy, which have their roots in psychoanalysis. However, I’m not really big on the idea of the subconscious as an entity with any power. I think subconscious drives are kind of irrelevant, and subconscious thoughts are not much more than things that can be retrieved if we need to retrieve them.
However, I do think that things need to be cleared from the “ready to be retrieved” pile in the brain. I had a lot of dreams last night, and although I don’t have an interpretation of them, I do feel that my brain is dumping things out. Spring cleaning, maybe?
The dream that stood out the most was about a dog.
I was outside in the housing development in which I lived from the age of two until I finished college. I witnessed a dog getting hit by a car and yelping in pain. The car that hit him (or her, I don’t know) sped off, and I started to formulate the plan for getting him to a doctor in case he could be saved.
Then I either don’t remember what happened for a day or more, or it fast-forwarded to another day. I hadn’t taken the dog to the doctor; I think I had decided that he was okay, or maybe he ran away from me and I gave up.
I was talking to a guy, and he was clearly flirting with me. I don’t remember what he said, but he was not flirting in a sexual way, but also not with the kind of witty banter that I eventually tire of because I’m so disinterested in competition. I just knew he liked me, and I was happy about it. Then, as her drove away, he hit the dog. The same thing happened, but he stopped and came to look at the dog.
I wanted to get him to the doctor and then notify the owners. The dog seemed fine, though, and the guy told me that this happens all of the time. The owners just let the dog out, the dog runs around and gets hit by a car, and the owners keep letting him roam. It was just a matter of which time would kill the dog, and there was nothing we could do to prevent that.
I woke up before I either carried out my plan to get the dog checked out or decided to let what was going to happen take its course, but I think I was leaning toward the latter.
You could interpret the dog as symbolic of a number of things, but I’m not sure how much I even believe in dream interpretation. I certainly don’t believe in my ability to accurately interpret a dream (although the top two candidates, in case you’re curious are “acceptance of my divorce” and “I’m too depressed to even think I had a shot at what might make me happy,” both themes I gleaned from the last few weeks of therapy, which hasn’t been particularly productive for me). I do believe there’s a “meaning” to a dream that I remember the next morning into the next night, though.
So happy that Natasha is breaking my heart with harp.