It is quite an experience to have your life cut in half like a block of cheese. (Try as I might I can’t come up with a better simile though I am sure there are many.)
That is exactly what it felt like on that fateful August night two years ago this week when my husband said he was leaving.
I begged him to stay.
Yet, his actions were swift and complete. There would be no discussion, no mere separation. It was going straight to divorce and there was nothing I could say to change his mind.
You see, even though he was less than truthful about why he was leaving, he was very clear on the fact that he was divorcing me.
I begged him to go to counseling with me.
I pleaded with him to reconsider. “Just leave a sliver of hope alive for us,” I said.
Now, two years later, I see that this amputation, this blade he brought down on our marriage was, in some ways, the kindest cut of all.
(Did I just write that? Did I? Oh dear readers, I think did.)
You see, as painful as it was, had he given me any sort of hope, I would have contorted myself into someone I did not know.
I was ready to sell my soul to avoid getting divorced.
Yes, to some extent I was fighting to save my children’s intact family, but they were grown and off to college.
No, it was less noble that that.
I loved my husband, but I see now, it was in a rote, long-married way. It was mere habit by the time Year 30 rolled around. What I was really clinging to was not him, but to the institution of marriage. At that time, I needed it to give me an identity and to make sense of my life.
Two things. One: I am a creature of habit and someone who thrives on familiarity. I had both in my marriage. I knew marriage (or thought I did) and my role in it.
Two: The stigma of divorce remains strong in our culture and affects women much more than men. I had bought into the notion that being divorced meant I had failed as a woman, that I had failed my family. I was also absolutely, positively freaked out to think of myself as divorced. It was OK for other people but not for me. I didn’t even allow that possibility for myself. Furthermore, I would not let it happen to me.
Life flicked me right off that little pedestal, didn’t it?
I wish we had had the wherewithal as a couple to go to counseling, not to save our marriage, but to help us both disengage from our relationship that was not working. It would have been a tough job for a therapist to pry my fingers from my preconceived notion of what my life was supposed to be like. I would have come to the awareness eventually and it still would have been painful, but I would not have been left with the shock and trauma of the sudden amputation. It still leaves me breathless to think about it.
Ah, but things happen the way they happen, don’t they? I have to trust that there was a reason for it all, so I don’t fixate on that anymore. My current life is so much better than I ever thought it would be. I have improved physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am not as judgmental as I used to be. I am more empathetic. I am healthy, have good relationships with my sons, a career I love, the world’s greatest dog, some wonderful friends and am in a new relationship where I can be totally myself and be totally loved.
You can be sure, the lessons from my first marriage do not go unused both in my current relationship and in life in general.
Yes, I signed on for a lifetime of commitment with my marriage, but I see now that sometimes people are only with us for a season of our lives and that’s OK too. Through most of our marriage, it was good. We laughed. We danced. We were good for each other until we weren’t anymore. Best of all, we produced two noble, sensitive, intelligent, loving human beings from our union.
I have hundreds of pictures of us as a family. Up until a few months ago, I couldn’t even look at them.
Then I heard an interview with a man who studies memories. He gave an example of a man who complained that he was happily listening to a symphony on his record player, feeling the music elevate his soul, but right at the end, the needle skidded off, making a hideous screeching sound. The man complained, saying, “It ruined the whole experience for me!”
However, the researcher pointed out that while the man was listening to the music, he was enjoying himself completely. The way the song ended didn’t change the actual experience while it was happening.
Ah! That example resonated with me completely.
I can look at those pictures now and smile because while it played, the music was sweet and it was real. Yes, the needle slid off at the end, calling a screeching halt to the song, marking the end of a life that I knew, but that does not lessen the value of that time together.
So many of the songs in our lives may end before we think they should. Some will end with a screeching sound, leaving us aching and shocked. Others just made fade away, leaving us straining to hear another note, wondering where it went and why it went away. Our outrage or bewilderment is natural, but useless in the end.
Other harmonies await. There is more music to be heard and celebrated.
Let us endeavor to enjoy every single note.
Let us endeavor to enjoy every single note.