Friday, April 13, 2012

Betty Gets Her Brain Back



Anyone who goes through a life event like a divorce will tell you that from the very beginning of the process, your life and brain are taken hostage for months.

You must go on with your life in some manner, but even as you work, pay bills, go shopping, take a shower, all the airspace in your head in consumed with the situation you must face.

It is as though there is a loud TV blaring in the back of your brain. The volume button is stuck on the highest setting and there is only one channel playing the same shows over and over again “Modern Divorce,” “Dancing With Divorce,” “Project Divorce,” “American Divorce,” “Divorce Road Show.”

You get the idea.

Many of the shows feature scenes from your own life—the night he left, the nice dinner you had just before he announced he was leaving, the conversations in the weeks leading up to his announcement that you didn’t pay attention to but now, too late, you do.

Re-runs, over and over again. In living color and at top volume.

And as the unwelcome, unstoppable television screams in the background of your life, questions like, “Can I make a life on my own? “How am I going to do this?” “What will my life be like?” "Will any one ever love me again?” dart all round in your cranium like crazed bats. Nocturnal, they are strongest at night, diving and swooping wildly, getting tangled up in the net of dreams.

You are, to put it nicely, quite the mess.

Scattered, fragmented, I was able to teach only because I had so much experience and because my classes were in one-hour segments with a lot of short exercises. I was able to grade, but only a few papers at a time. Conversations with friends were fine if they corresponded with the blaring TV and were about the divorce. Any other subjects, ones that required sustained thought were out. I just couldn’t focus or concentrate with the background noise in my head.

Reading has always been my refuge, my ticket away from reality and into other worlds. I had a stack of novels by my bedside I desperately wanted to read, but when I tried, the TV blasted out divorce news, reviews, and to-do lists, and I couldn’t concentrate. The only books I could read were about how to make it through a divorce. The authors of those books know their audiences; the chapters are usually about five pages long with bulleted lists and boxes to break up the text.

So, for months, you live with that TV on, with your calendar packed with meetings with lawyers, with accounts that have to be switched, with major decisions that have to be made.
You try to keep up with it all, running from your job to take care of all the details that must be taken care of.

Then one day, one very strange and emotional day, you sign your name on a line on some papers and as your pen reaches the end of that line, the final letter of your name pulls the plug of the blaring television from the socket in your brain.

It all stops. It all ends. There is no more to do. The television is silenced.

When that noise stopped in my own life, of course I was glad, but I was also surprised and stunned to find that it actually left a void in my life. Strange? Yes. But for seven months this process of divorce had hijacked my life. I had been forced into quick and sometimes frenzied action and then, it all stopped.

I was a little like someone getting out of prison. I was happy to be free, but also a little shaky. I was unsure of myself and what I would do with my life. I had hated every single minute of the divorce process and yet it had given me a purpose, things to do, places to be. When it was over, it left a space, it left time that I had to learn to fill. I no longer had the role of wife to fall back into and since my son had left for college, my role as mother had changed. For the first time in my life I lived alone.

I tried to get back to the things I loved like reading, baking, and writing, but it was hard adjusting to my “new old” life. Nothing clicked for me. Some nights I found myself at loose ends, just sort of wandering from room to room in this big house, waiting for bedtime. The bats still flew around my head, disrupting my thoughts when I attempted any activity requiring focus.

About three weeks passed and then one day I was at the bookstore café with a friend. It was a gloomy day outside, but the café was bright and cheery. We each had our warm drinks and were sharing a cookie. He was already engrossed in a book, so I picked one up from the stack on our table and before I knew it I was on page three.

That’s when I realized I was reading again. I was reading! My brain had been fully engaged with the page. It was such a familiar act, one ingrained in me from childhood, but one that I had feared my scattered brain and my shattered soul would never be able to enjoy again. And I was doing it!

I looked across the table and then across the café and saw other people reading too. It was amazing to be normal again. I wanted to jump up and shout, “I’m back! I’ve joined in again! I can read a book again!”

Of course, I didn’t.

Instead, I just smiled an incredibly wide and goofy smile at that friend (a certain very nice man) across the table, put my left hand on the stack of books between us, felt his hand over my hand, and went back to the book on my lap.

I went back to the quiet, solid, dependable, promising lines of print.

At that moment I felt ridiculously happy.


52 comments:

EmptyNester said...

Well, not to worry. I'm jumping up and screaming it for you! And then I'm still intrigued by the certain very nice man. Very intrigued. And excited! I can't believe how quickly this whole thing went. Though it must have seemed like a lifetime for you personally. Very glad your mental health is intact...no, even better than before! Hugs!

Laura said...

I'm so happy for you. It must feel good to be able to read again...which leads to so many other possibilities when you get you life back!

Teresa Evangeline said...

I know this feeling, sweet-pea, and I couldn't be happier for you.

Lin said...

Mediocrity is underrated, isn't it? There is something wonderful about the mundane, routine, and downright dull and boring. I'm glad you are there, Betty.

Leah J. Utas said...

I'm so glad for you, Betty.

Shelly said...

Really, so very happy for you, Betty!

Linda said...

I've said it before...you have a gift for expressing in written word the emotions that so many others can identify with but find it difficult to express. This was very well written. And you've got us all curious about ACVNM (a certain very nice man).

john said...

Damn girl, you can write...

Olga said...

So well said. Welcome back to the world of reading...to life.

Old Kitty said...

Awwww lovely BB!!!! I want to shout out Hallelujah!! Your light at your very long and dark tunnel grows brighter each time!! Yay for you (and your very nice man! Ahem!)! Take care
x

Momma Fargo said...

Betty, you are coming back! I was there, too, if you remember about a year ago. I know exactly how you feel. So glad you are feeling the ground again. Hugs.

Brian Miller said...

smiles...this made me abundantly happy for you...

middle child said...

I am glad you got to that point. For me, signing the finally papers...well, I felt this great weight lifted off my shoulder's. A weight Ihadn't even realized was there.

Brian said...

Reading that makes my weekend brighter, thanks for the Friday smile!

Madi and Mom said...

BB what an incredible post!! My friend you have a ton of words in your now very active brain just waiting to find their way to your fingers as you write your book!!

I cannot think of anyone more deserving of a quiet day, with ACVNM, aka certain very nice man,enjoying a cup of coffee and a cookie...BB he must be very nice for you to share your cookie with him. LOL FYI Ridiculously happy is
a wonderful feeling.
Hugs Madi and Mom
PS mom does not sleep with the flashy beast, Dad's rules no electronics allowed. Once she had a recorder in her bed side table so she could 'prove' to him that he snored but he heard it when she clicked it on.

Marg said...

Yay, for BB. You made it. Now things are going to get so much better. Get busy reading all those novels and have a great Friday too. Take care.

Hilary said...

I think Linda said what I'm thinking better than I could express. You have such a gift. And I'm so happy for you.

I'm hoping that we'll hear more about this certain very nice man.. soon. :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Betty, I read somewhere that divorce is especially traumatic because spouses share memories. When you lose a spouse, you lose the memories he had that you'd forgotten. So the void is compounded.

I'm so happy you're getting on the other side. It sounds like a horror. When your with someone for so long, it must take forever to peel the layers and find just you. I wish you the best as you move forward.

Jenny said...

Gosh, when you're walking up that steep slope it's sometimes hard to notice when you get to level.

I'm glad you're finding both closure and joy again.

Even if you want the change, sometimes it becomes difficult.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good for you, Betty! Welcome back to life.

Pat Tillett said...

Congrats my friend!
Now your life resumes...

LittleSilkDress said...

Awesome! So happy for you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty - how wonderful to be sharing a coffee, a few books and a big smile with a great friend .. that's just fantastic and will make your heart sing and life so much easier .. friends are there for you .. they think of you and nurture you .. just what you need now.

Cheers and am so happy your yellow sunshine is shining through into your life again .. and shining on that page in your book ... happy reading - Hilary

jenny_o said...

How joyful to rediscover your ability to concentrate and read - like the blue sky and fresh breezes that follow a storm. Enjoy, enjoy!

Unknown Mami said...

Oh, you are so so lovable it is ridiculous. I fall in love with you through your words all the time. I'm ridiculously happy for you right now too. And ridiculously proud.

Ms. A said...

While adjustment to change is difficult in itself, adjustment to the dissolution of a 30 year marriage is even more so. I admire your courage in the process, even if you felt like your brain was missing. We all know it wasn't, it was just too full of emotion to allow you to think straight. Glad to see you finding happiness!

Sarah said...

Since healing isn't a straight line, don't be surprised to feel down every now and then. Just remember it's totally normal, and refrain from running out and buying 30 cats. Read on my dear.

karen said...

Ah, so happy for you. I remember that feeling well. I remember yearning for the everyday, the mundane routines we all take for granted. And now that you've pushed through the hardest part, you can establish that routine - it's yours to establish! And maybe with that "certain very nice man." I'm on the edge of my seat with anticipation of much happiness for you!

Kittie Howard said...

Oh, so very happy for you. When one can read without being distracted, there's peace. Big applause for you!

Maria said...

Yay! I'm glad you are coming out of the tunnel...

Munir said...

Welcome back. I am so glad that you are reading.
My stomach has been hurting ever since I became a coach for my husband' stress test. He has a clean bill of health ( after a bypass three years ago). However I am now recovering from the stress of being his coach. go figure.
Any thing I can do?

Ann said...

I'm cheering big for you :) I'm also intrigued by yet another mention of a certain very nice man

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You are a very incredible woman. I've only had a few instances in my life when I couldn't read. I can't imagine the horror of not reading for months.

Powdered Toast Man said...

I haven't read your blog in forever and that was a hell of a post to come back too. Usually I would leave a snarky comment but not this time. Glad to see you writing.

Retired English Teacher said...

I get this. It is so great to know you have come out from under that cloudy and you don't have that foggy brain thing going on.

I also sometimes find myself being so happy to be back in the world that seems so normal to others. I have lived in my head over many issues for the past few months.

SueAnn Lommler said...

I am grinning from ear to ear...for you!!!! Woot! Woo!!!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Catherine said...

It sounds like the pieces are falling nicely back into place. I love it!

The sun will come out tomorrow... it always does doesn't it? ;)

Extra big hugs for Betty today!
xo Catherine

Nancy Claeys said...

♪♫♬ Betty's got a boyfriend...♪♫♬

I'm such an immature dufus. :)

Talli Roland said...

Watch out world, Betty's back! :) Not that there was ever any doubt...

Out on the prairie said...

lots of paper to dissolve a relationship is tough

Daisy said...

I'm so glad you're back, Betty. I think I went through a period very similar to this when I was worrying about care for first my Dad and then my Mom when they aged and became ill and were no longer able to take care of themselves. I was consumed with worrying about it and dealing with it and was unable to focus on anything else. You've been through a very tough time, but I'm so happy for you that you have come to the other side of it.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I so identify. When my husband left for a chippie, I went on "auto-pilot," including trying my cases (amazing that my clients did not notice! Good thing I've done it so many years!). I stopped reading, too. I stopped listening to NPR talk in the car. It is like I had to concentrate inwardly just to make it through. But I"m through. It comes. I'm there. Divorced about one month now and can truly say I am happy. Please continue to do well-for all of us out here. Others need to see that there is life after...C

Elizabeth Grimes said...

I love this post! You wrote in a way that I can identify with, even though I've never experienced it personally. Well done, and I'm so happy for you. :)

Alison said...

Of course someone will love you again. You are eminently lovable.

I can imagine the fright you must have had, thinking you might never be able to lose yourself in reading again. It's such an essential, unthinking part of me that my life would be completely different without it. It was one of the first things that made me think Miss Chef and I were compatible--we can both happily spend entire days engrossed in a book.

Happy reading, and welcome back to normal!

That Janie Girl said...

YAY! The road back to emotional health…and you will get there!

Ami said...

Sometimes I come here and read your post and I don't know what to say or what I can add that hasn't already been said (usually better than I would say it). This is one of those times.

But I am so pleased for you. I know I'm just a stranger on the internet, but it amazes me still how much I care about the lives of people I have 'met' online and am not likely to ever meet in person.

So your post made me smile and made tears well up in my eyes and I'm just so very happy that you're recovering.

(((Hugs))

faye said...

did you buy the book ??

Green Monkey said...

this was a wonderful read Betty. and I totally get it. I also couldn't listen music or television - it all sounded like noise to me. The only thing I could do was peruse the cancer blogs and websites. I am working my way back slowly. Yesterday I posted a short story. I haven't been able to focus long enough to write more than a paragraph or two. It took me four days to write it but I did it.

ds said...

Yes, that loss of reading ability is terrifying. I'm so happy you've gotten it (and a lot more) back!

SUGAR MOON said...

I'm so glad for you!!!

The Empress said...

Oh, Betty: you make us all love you so much.

xo

hello said...

It was one of the first things that made me think Miss Chef and I were compatible--we can both happily spend entire days engrossed in a book search for medications.