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Boo hoo ho ho ho

December 24, 2009

There has got to be a simpler way to do this.

It’s Christmas Eve, and I am dreading tonight. My ex-husband finally wrote to ask me what the plan was, and whether I was going to fill his stocking like I did last year, because I shouldn’t go to the trouble. However, if I did decide to get him a stocking, could I let him know? Because he didn’t want the kids to feel as if I had been forgotten–like last year, when I got him a stocking and he didn’t get me one.

Let that slide. The big question, the question that had me choking back sobs at a sympathetic and very kind friend’s kitchen table a few days ago, is this: Why on earth did I invite him to spend Christmas Eve with us? The answer: I thought he’d say no. And then I’d be off the hook, because I would have done the Right Thing by inviting him. Instead he called my bluff and now I’m stuck.

Okay, let that slide, too. Another question: Why do I get so upset when I am confronted with what, to me, is the wrong reason for giving someone a stocking? (As if the kids won’t notice if NEITHER of us has stockings, when that has been our stupid little ritual all along.) As my mother, a former divorce lawyer, has told me time and again, lots of people who are getting divorced SHOOT each other. (Or shoot up each others’ cars, at the very least.) So I have been very very lucky, and he has been more than generous of spirit. I have got to lighten up. The stockings are not important. At least he asked. Can the poor man do nothing right in my eyes?

When you are the guilty party–the one who wrecked the marriage, then walked away from the ruins despite being begged to stay, you are not allowed to feel anger at the person you left. Yet I do–oh, I do. I am filled with fury, horrible feelings I never knew I harbored toward the man with whom I lived, quite calmly, for eighteen years.

You are also not allowed to admit that you miss certain things about being married. And yet I do. I miss the ease and predictability of the relationship itself, the privacy and anonymity of marriage. I miss the no-brainer of the holidays as they once were. But since there’s no going back, I’m wildly eager to go forward. Burn the bridges–burn them all!!! Alas, the children would like us to pretend we are still a family of sorts, which we are, and will always be, or so we’ve told ourselves, or so others have said. It’s only right we spend Christmas together, all of us, opening our presents together, eating a festive meal together, sitting together in the living room, saying the ritual things, making the ritual effort.

The very thought appalls me. I feel like a traitor for saying this, but so what: This year, I don’t want to stage a Pantomime Happy Family Christmas. I want to be with the person I’m actually in love with, and some combination of his children and my children or both, or neither. I want to move on, to be with the right people at the right time. I’m tired of being in one situation while pining for another.

Ah, but that is exactly where I am, and there’s nothing for it–so it’s off to wrap presents and stuff three stockings, to cook and straighten up and put myself in a good mood. The kids are out sledding or shopping with their dad–I have no idea when he’s planning to return with them–and eventually we’ll all trudge across the yard to my beloved friend’s house to join in the chaos there. Later the kids and I will come home, sing carols before bed, and put cookies out for Santa. Tomorrow my ex-husband will appear again to open stockings, have breakfast, and help attack the tree. At some point I’ll just give up and become cheerful–because who can resist? But for now, I’m locked in uneasiness all the way.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2010 8:01 pm

    I was immediately reminded of a fairly visceral poem I came across some years ago when I read this post, and it’s taken me this long to remember what it was: Advice to a Discarded Lover by Fleur Adcock.


    Think, now: if you have found a dead bird,
    not only dead, not only fallen,
    but full of maggots: what do you feel –
    more pity or more revulsion?

    Pity is for the moment of death,
    and the moments after. It changes
    when decay comes, with the creeping stench
    and the wriggling, munching scavengers.

    Returning later, though, you will see
    a shape of clean bone, a few feathers,
    an inoffensive symbol of what
    once lived. Nothing to make you shudder.

    It is clear then. But perhaps you find
    the analogy I have chosen
    for our dead affair rather gruesome –
    too unpleasant a comparison.

    It is not accidental. In you
    I see maggots close to the surface.
    You are eaten up by self-pity,
    crawling with unlovable pathos.

    If I were to touch you I should feel
    against my fingers fat, moist worm-skin.
    Do not ask me for charity now:
    go away until your bones are clean.

    I clearly remember the mingled distaste and pity I felt in the immediate post-emotional-apocalypse, which gradually faded away into exasperation and a nagging feeling that sticky tentacles of responsibility and accountability were still stuck to my back, despite burning every bridge I encountered. And still feeling lonely, of course.

    I don’t think your uneasiness is a surprising reaction, given the state of things; the relationship bones sound… not quite clean.

    Also – your Mum sounds like she might be a source of some rather spicy anecdotes!

  2. January 31, 2010 2:42 pm

    Wow- I was the one who was left, but our holidays this year were remarkably similar- I call it “pretend wife.” I did it for one year, because he only moved out the week before Thanksgiving, but next year will be different.
    PS- my blog is PWP but all the gory details re: my divorce are in a category I call “SERIOUSLY? WTF??”
    PPS- found you via Alexa/Flotsam.

  3. November 21, 2010 7:23 pm

    “I’m tired of being in one situation while pining for another. ”

    Amen, sister!


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