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January 11, 2010

During the last few months we lived together, my ex-husband and I slept in separate bedrooms. I moved into the guest room, and he stayed in our old room, one floor above. There was a brief period of unpleasantness when he announced he would not move out of the house (his point: if you want the separation so badly, you move the fuck out.) But since I would not move without the children, the youngest of whom was five years old at the time, and he refused to let me move with them, there we were. Eventually, thanks to a magical intervention from the calmest psychiatrist in the entire world, he agreed to a temporary solution that involved inhabiting a two-bedroom apartment in tandem, on our nights “off” from the children.

It was a pain in the ass. It didn’t last. It’s also not really the topic I feel like discussing right now, so let’s move on.

Before I moved downstairs, both children also slept on the third floor. Within a few weeks, they’d migrated to the second floor with me. My ex-husband thus inherited the entire third floor–my favorite part of the house, the part with the best light and the loveliest floors and the prettiest windows and the most interesting views. He lurked up there for only a few months before moving out, but it has taken me almost two full years to move my bedroom back on high.

I missed the third floor. I thought about it a lot, and every time I went up the narrow stairs (which happened less and less often) I’d think what an idiot I was for letting the very best part of the house lie fallow. My old office is up there, but of course I stopped holing up in it once the third floor became my ex-husbands de facto lair. (And our wireless router meant I never had to work on the desktop any more, anyway.) But I always meant to reclaim our old bedroom as my own. Finally, this past weekend, I corralled my boyfriend to help me move things back upstairs, and we spent Saturday night in a new bed (my ex took the marital bed, thank god) placed in the same spot the marital bed occupied for years.

The third floor bedroom has been painted a different color since my ex-husband moved out. It has hosted several slumber parties (one imagines that groups of hormonal middle-school-aged boys can exorcise anything); however, even if they can’t, it’s just a fucking ROOM, for crying out loud. But when I automatically climbed in on my old side and snuggled under the duvet beside my beloved, my very cells seemed to revolt. I could not sleep. When I did drift off, I’d jerk awake, startled by the familiar patterns of light and shadow on the walls, confused at first, then upset, then angry at myself for being upset. I moved a lot growing up, and, as I lay there wondering why on earth I was so undone by a simple mattress and headboard placed beneath a certain window, it occurred to me that I have–had–spent many, many more nights in the marital bed, in that particular spot, than I have in any other place I’ve slept anywhere in my whole life.

My younger son was conceived in that bed, under that window. I lay there pregnant, happy as a clam, feeling him swim and pummel me from inside. Two days before he was due, I woke at three in the morning with a funny feeling in my lower back; eight hours later, I was back in bed with a brand new person in my arms, receiving visitors like the Queen of England in a nursing bra. Because he was not what the baby books call a Good Sleeper, I wager I spent almost as much time awake in the marital bed (which, for a while, became the Please, Please, For The Love of God, I Won’t Even SAY The Word “Crib” if You’ll Just Give Me Two Hours bed) as asleep. The older son often clambered up beside me in the wee small hours of the morning (it was, after all, a king-sized bed) and our beloved dog slept a few feet away. (She became too decrepit to navigate the stairs right around the time I moved into the guest room, and joined the mass exodus to the second floor.)

And, if we’ll skip ahead a few years for the sake of brevity, the end of the marriage was transacted, rather hideously, under that very window, in the marital bed, night after weepy, furious night, until I refused to sleep there any more.

If you’re wondering why I don’t just move the new bed somewhere else, I must explain that the room is long and narrow (though beautifully lit–even in my middle-of-the-night swivets, I did appreciate how pleasantly the moonlight sifted onto the floor through the wavy-glassed old windows.) There’s really no other place to put a bed, provided you don’t want a clanging radiator directly against your cheek, or a view of a blank wall instead of the sunrise. I will do what I can with plants, and pictures, and different configurations of minor pieces of furniture. The bureau does not have to stay where it is; I put it there purely out of habit. It can go nearer the bed, thereby vanquishing the Ghost of Bookcase Past. I’ll start pasting up postcards as I am wont to do; I’ll fill the place with books, that always helps. I’d burn a bunch of sage and stomp counterclockwise around the bed, chanting polysyllabic nonsense, if someone assured me it would clear the air of old miseries and regrets. (Would it? Should I look on line for something pagan and shamanistic? Nothing ventured, nothing gained….)

But now I’ve got to go sleep up there, and I’m determined to make the best of it. I had not realized how much I’d been avoiding by sleeping downstairs. Brave people don’t evacuate their favorite part of the house, just because it reminds them of wonderful and horrible times. Brave people march up there with a library book, and lie there reading and reading till they finally, happily, slip into a peaceful, calm sleep.

Which is exactly what I am about to do.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. caro permalink
    January 13, 2010 5:03 pm

    Hi there…..sounds like a lovely lovely room. I would smudge that room. Buy some smudge sticks or use some incense that you really like…close the door to the room but open all the windows, wide. Light your sticks and go around all the door frames and window frames with the smoke and say a prayer or recite things about the room that you love. I do a Buddhist prayer althought this is mixing up the traditions…but thats ok, its for creating peace and removing negative energy…

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      January 14, 2010 8:58 am

      What if there isn’t really any incense I like–what if, theoretically, I really DON’T like the way incense smells? What would you recommend instead?

      Also, post the Buddhist prayer, if you don’t mind. Peace is good, negative energy is bad, Buddhism is good. Just ask the badger–I’ve linked to his website….

      • caro permalink
        January 14, 2010 5:53 pm

        yeah incense can be overwhelming….i use sage but if you dont like that than just light a candle and I say The Four Immeasurable Thoughts:
        May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness
        May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering
        May all sentient beings never be separated from lasting happiness
        May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and anger, which hold some close and others distant.

        and I linked FROM the badger to you!!! that badger is awesome.
        I hope this helps in some small way

  2. January 14, 2010 2:28 pm

    “When I did drift off, I’d jerk awake, startled by the familiar patterns of light and shadow on the walls, confused at first, then upset, then angry at myself for being upset.”

    This made me cry. Along with images of clamoring children, who are now…um, in double digits.

    I’m still in my marital home. But this post, this one…has made it okay for me to move…because I’m losing the home…and I have resisted it…

    But this ONE post…it helped so much. Thank you. I’ve highlighted your blog on MY blog today. It’s the only *divorce* blog I really read.


  3. Ms. Smyth permalink
    January 16, 2010 2:51 pm

    She’s not calm, she is beatific.

  4. January 19, 2010 4:21 pm

    I recently got humiliated in my bedroom, and not in a delicious Susie Bright kind of way. I’ve had trouble sleeping there but love to read and even made a point of finding the exact right book to go to bed with that first night after and have been reading longer and longer or waking up in the middle of the night and just reading rather than going over the embarrassment another time. I felt stupid for not just going to sleep.

    After reading this I don’t feel stupid. I feel…in good company, perhaps. Thank you.


  1. Dividing possesions after divorce | Divorced with Kids
  2. Splitting up the stuff | Divorced With Kids with DWK

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