Divorce is a heavy piano chord that goes plunk. It happens in an instant, and suddenly the room has changed. The air is weighed down by permanent words. Once, you were there - and now, you are here. It is surreal. In the coming days, you remember the note that was played, but you still must remind yourself over and over again. “Did I hear that? Did I truly hear that?”
Your brain knows before your body. Your head carries on, marching forward through forms and discussions and utility transfers. But your body remains behind, somewhere back there, frozen in place. You could be miles away before you realize it hasn’t caught up. You turn around often, doubling-back through the past like a labyrinth, slugging through stacks of memories and circumstances and conversations as you loop your arm around that frozen body and ask it gently to come with you, back to the present.
“We are over here now, we must go on.”
Divorce is a rollercoaster. You are merely a passenger. You did not build the tracks, and you do not know where they lead. In fact, you have no idea, at all, who designed this ride. Is it safe? Others have ridden it. But not you. You are here to witness this hurt, and nothing more. There is no shortcut through it. You move through the turns and dips at an undefined pace.
You cannot force it, or change it, or speed up its duration. You must watch, and allow, and watch, and allow. You are an observer only. The best you can do is strap-in and give permission for the scenery to blur.
Divorce is a pair of red eyes. You cry when you tell new people. It just comes, unbidden. You can feel perfectly fine and then you’ll see someone again for the first time, and you’ll cry. You want to convey that everything’s fine, truly, everything really is fine, your face just hasn’t quite caught up with the rest of you yet.
Divorce is a death, like they say. It doesn’t just dissolve the future, it dissolves the past. It kills the ‘we’, which is an entity that you’d grown accustomed to, slowly perhaps, but with a feeling of certain trust. It’s a goodbye not only to them but to the thing you created together, the bit of yourself you poured into the pot and the bit of themselves they poured into the pot to form a sort of new-fangled multi-person organism. An organism that, for a time, moved and breathed and existed in the world. It dies. And you mourn many things, but the space left behind by that thing feels extra loud.
Divorce is annoying. It is stressful. There are minute and complicated legal tasks and loose ends you had no idea existed. Does the world truly run on such inane, fine systems? How have we kept our sanity? Why do anything legal, if these are the consequences?
A full and complex life is reduced to items and papers. You sign papers. You notarize papers. Papers for this and that. Coffee warmers from a lively Christmas and books with cracked spines read aloud at night are placed in boxes and revert to pure object-dom. Their memories are stripped, and their object-ness lies naked before you. Now, they’re things to be packed. They wait in the garage. Now, they are just shirts, and only shirts, and a dusty trinket from another country, and a certificate or two in a binder that’ll live somewhere in the very, very back of your closet.
You divide the books, you make sure the electricity is transferred to your name, you get your own health insurance. You build the unpacked furniture that’s been sitting in boxes in the living room yourself. You take out the trash. You learn how to use a drill.
Divorce is a surprise visitor. Some days you are fine, and some days you are not.
In the weeks after, you have moved on entirely and forgotten you were ever married, and then you regress to the beginning over and over again. You can spend a great deal of energy replaying what went wrong, and you can spend a great deal of energy on tasks that let the memory slip away from your mind entirely.
Then, the truth of the chord that was played comes unbidden, at odd hours of the day or night, prompted and unprompted. In the morning you wake from sleep and hear it. You wash the dishes and its reverberation rocks through your body. You get distracted, for a moment, and without warning it returns, which sometimes feels like a punishment. Everything was fine, before you reminded me. But the cue is to help you. To accept that time carries on after the resonant note fades. Time does not wait for you to catch up. You must do that yourself. But things deep in your body are moving. Moving, at least.
Divorce is a flashlight directed at the least epic moments of your life. It’s not the big things that come to you as pangs, it’s the small ones. Watching TV, visiting the grocery store, walking the neighborhood at dusk. You realize that these moments are the camouflaged culmination of everything that truly matters. They encompass almost the entirety of a relationship. The big adventures mostly flake away, and in their place, a home-cooked meal, a stroll through an outdoor mall, and a board game take their place in the spotlight.
It’s a good lesson to learn.
Divorce is a flower plucked from the center of your chest. The petals fall sporadically, one by one. It’s hard to know how many petals there are, but you always notice when one falls. Maybe one petal is a memory of a nice vacation, and the other is a memory of a bad one. One petal might be a phrase they said, or a thing they bought, or a secret you shared. You sweep the wilting husks off the floor. You must clean them up, there is no choice but to clean them up.
The plucked place in your chest hurts. A small ball forms around this place, and you carry it around for an indiscernible amount of time. At first, it was unbearable, but gradually, it receded. When you think it’s gone, it ebbs and throbs in small or large ways to remind you of its presence. It is a sting for what you’ve done and what has been done to you. It just exists, somewhere beyond your grasp. You cannot reach in and pull it out at your leisure. So you simply wait.
Sometimes you feels scared, really scared. Of the newfound silence. Of the warmness that left the other side of the bed. Of guilt, of resentment, of unheard words. Sometimes it feels like a robbery, like something integral was taken.
Sometimes it feels like a gift. Like a world of new possibilities await. The chance for a new root to take hold. A gift of re-discovery and freshness and an untangling of things you’d thought you were. Maybe you are those things. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re something else entirely.
Time to find out.
Divorce is a relief. It is an act of release and of change. It is a forceful ejection into new and unwalled territory. After the shock dampens, you feel a tiny corner of your spirit come alight, reminding you that this was always meant to happen. A pact made in a place long ago, finally closing its contract.
It is sleeping sideways on the bed. It is the prayer that the other person will get what they need. It is the prayer that you will get what you need. It is the reminder that you can be happy alone. That you did it for so long, it’s like putting on an old shoe, your favorite kind of shoe, even. The one you liked just so.
It’s remembering who you were, and reacquainting yourself with who you’ve become in the meantime. Did you know you like this now? Would you ever let that happen again? You are different now than you were before.
It’s singing loudly without worrying about being off-key. It’s painting the bedroom. It’s waiting an extra day to do the dishes.
You check your emotional innards for a lost belief in long-term love, or a scar that won't fade, or a wound that won't close. You sigh with joy when you see none of those things. Not all is lost, not even close.
Divorce is a fluffy mattress and a reminder of love. A reminder of the rallying and the kindness of friends and family, and even strangers. They were there for you when you fell, they pulled the soft pad below your feet. You toppled right into the bed they made with such care. They sat there with you, propped up on elbows and pillows. They wrapped a knit blanket around your stomach. They sent you letters. They made everything warm, and whole, and spacious. They spoke to you of the past, of the present, and the future. They cooked you large pots of pasta. They watered your plants.
They all come, and they take shifts. You are not alone. You find that people understand the depth of it, the very specific type of loss. The hairdresser tells you that soon, very soon it’ll feel different. The woman at the concert hugs you tightly when you tell her you’ve come alone. She invites you out, when you’re ready. You hear from unexpected people, all unimaginably kind. It’s almost tribal, the holding.
You find your thoughts shift gradually towards gratitude, and away from all the notions that came before it.
Divorce is a mantra, if you ask it to be one. The option is available to you, as it always is, if you’d like to rest in that, in-between the bouts of sadness and frustration and paperwork.
You can take long walks, and listen to the sound of your feet hitting the ground with each step. You can read for hours, gooey and soft books that loosen your place in time. You can cook yourself a too sweet or too salty meal. You can lie in bed all day, if you feel like it.
You can say, I am here to witness this pain, for I know I cannot touch or change it.
You can say, I am here to grow and to learn, to see how I can change, and to re-evaluate what I can allow.
You can say, I will continue on, as I was always meant to continue on.
You can say, I am okay, and I am whole.