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An uncharacteristically glum update

November 15, 2010

Having passed the one-year anniversary of my divorce, and having realized that this year I am happier than last year, and that last year I was happier than the year before, and so forth (see this post, which dates from roughly a year ago), I do not mean to whine.  I am lucky, very lucky, and there is much in my life that is so much simpler and happier than I could have imagined.  I should be grateful–I am, in fact, grateful.  And yet.

I am weary of the old thoughts, of the old chin-up pep talks I give myself when I feel low.  There are days I feel hopelessly over-extended, and days I feel terribly lonely and bereft.  I know this is not divorce, per se–it is just life, it is like this for everyone, it was like this for me when I was married, too.  But I wish I did not have to tell myself again and again that this is a difficult stage that I will pass through.  I know it gets better–I have seen things get better myself. Will it ever get all the way better, though? That’s what I need to know. Is it foolish even to expect that, to keep waiting for that?

“I don’t know why divorce makes you so crazy,” someone I met the other weekend at some friends’ house said to me, a bit ruefully.  “But it does.  I mean, it did me.  But, when you think about it, what’s the big deal?  I mean, it’s just a break-up, for crying out loud.”

I’ve broken up with people and I’ve been broken up with before.  I’ve had all manner of relationships–the kind where I loved him more, the kind where he loved me more, the kind where the sex is great but all you do is fight, the kind where you live together, the kind where you travel together, the kind where he’s like your brother and you keep him around because you adore him, but no sparks fly.  I’m no stranger to domestic discord.  I like change, and I like people who are in the middle of change, and I like my kids, and god I like my friends, and I like my new life.

But I’m still broken, somehow, on the wheel of this fucking divorce.  I want things to get better before I forget what better is like.

Why isn’t it just a break-up, damn it?

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2010 3:32 pm

    It’s not just a damn break-up (and believe me, I’ve had plenty, too) because on some level, it feels like a personal failure, even if you don’t think that it is, intellectually-speaking. At least this is my experience. Everyone is different, but I really started to shake the brokenness during the second year. Now, it’s been four years, and I can honestly say that I feel more whole than I ever have before. It will get better!

  2. November 15, 2010 4:28 pm

    if you have kids then it’s way more than a break of of a girl and a guy. It’s a complete trashing of family as you’ve known it. All the support of that disappears. Now its team mum and team dad and never the twain shall meet. Its a huge blow to the psyche, the ego and the confidence. It takes a few years to recover from all that.

  3. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    November 15, 2010 4:46 pm

    kel-I’ve thought that too, but my friend who said his divorce made him crazy didn’t have any kids w/ his ex-wife. Paradoxically, this made me feel somewhat better–that I wasn’t just some wimp who couldn’t stand to lie in the bed she’d not only made, but built from hand with trees she’d chopped herself, woven the linens for, etc. I mean, if even the childless find divorce crazy-making…well. It legitimizes things, in a way, n’est ce pas?

  4. nancy permalink
    November 15, 2010 6:01 pm

    are you in my head????? I can’t believe you missed your one year anniversary, because every day I am striving for it. They say it gets better after a year. Man I will be so disappointed if on April 6, 2011 things don’t radically improve. AND I WANTED MY DIVORCE TOO.

  5. Celeste permalink
    November 15, 2010 7:02 pm

    Two things:

    1. A break-up doesn’t require you to go to draft legal documents and/or go to court. It doesn’t require your friends to take sides and it damn sure doesn’t trash your finances over a shared property because most dating couples never get as deeply enmeshed financially as married people do. It also doesn’t make you undo any family bonds. It does however really shit all over your history as well as the future you thought you were going to have.

    2. What does “better” mean to you? Wealthier? With an all-new residence with no vestiges of the old life? In a better romance? Remarried? Finding some other way to be with a person than legally married? Traveling? The eternal sunshine of the spotless mind? Changing into a completely different person on the outside? Or on the inside? Or does your idea of “better” just change from one setback/annoyance/sorrow/low point to the next?

    I wonder if you were able to define “better”, if you might be able to work backwards to it.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      November 15, 2010 9:04 pm

      Those are damned good questions. What I want? Well, it’s not money, for sure. Not remarriage. Not even living together, though living nearer might be nice. Travel will come, and I’m freer now with my days than I have been in decades. I don’t want to change into anything or anyone (possibly unwise, but there you have it.) I want–well, I suppose I want a clearer vision of what I want, which is a conundrum. I want not to miss my kids when they’re with their father. I want their father not to bug the living shit out of me on a regular basis. I do want to move, but that’s out of my hands, more or less. I want contentment instead of these violent swings from glee to misery. I want a bit of my life to be rote, and not to feel always that I am barely getting by.

      I want, I suppose, to accept what I have now with the grace and gratefulness my situation deserves. I want to slide quietly out of view and into calm acceptance. I want to sit down, as it were, and take a load off. To stop worrying, and stop fighting the worry.

      These are all abstractions, and will come with time. Having wrenched myself out of a rut, I’m bouncing along the surface. I’m terrified of becoming re-(or newly) entrenched, so for now I skitter nervously here and there, a bit rudderless, I suppose.

      I want that old feeling of rightness, of seeing the future stretching ahead of me, happy and full.

  6. November 15, 2010 9:38 pm

    Somehow in marriage, even a bad marriage, the bonds are stronger. It’s like taking two boards and gluing them together. You’re not going to separate those boards without damaging them both.

  7. hydrogeek permalink
    November 16, 2010 10:26 am

    I didn’t have kids with my ex, and it was still a LOT bigger deal than a break-up. I think the biggest thing for me was that I had to mourn the future I thought I was going to have. You know, the perfect one? With the perfect man I had married and the perfect kids and the perfect white picket fence we were going to have? When things weren’t perfect I felt like I had failed at my whole life. I *picked* this, and it wasn’t right. I’m thankful there were no kids, I think that allowed me to move on quicker than otherwise. It still took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted my new future to look like, though. Good luck.

  8. November 16, 2010 9:28 pm

    I think hydrogeek has the right word – mourn. Breakup is to dating as death is to marriage. And mourning is just awful, even when the dead element (the marriage) was a terrible one when it was alive. Maybe you need a new rut. Not one that controls you in a bad way. Just a set of new, focused habits that can act as scaffolding on which to frame your new, free, better life. Are you still doing yoga? That seems like a good new rut. Or take up vegetarian cooking. Or horseback riding.

  9. November 17, 2010 4:31 am

    Just a quick question – how is your 14 year old son learning latin? is he at a gited school? (this is not a normal subject to be learning from were I come from)
    Also I know you live in what seems like a really small town, and you live in a really big house – i know for myself that during winter and during periods were my house has been full and then is suddenly more empty my depression levels and unhappiness it huge!!! this is normal i think and does tie in with the grief some comenters have spoken about.
    there was somthing else i wanted to ask and now cant think what it was…silly me.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      November 17, 2010 8:11 am

      My older son goes to a ruinously expensive private school–a Quaker school, to be precise, which he loves. They have been extremely generous with financial aid. If I get a job teaching there, which has been in the back of my mind for some time now, both kids can go for free.

      Small town plus big house plus people leaving (ie my friend and her son who went back to France) plus winter does equal depression. I’m still trying to figure out a plausible cure…

      • Celeste permalink
        November 17, 2010 8:37 pm

        Get started learning French and plan a trip to France.

  10. November 17, 2010 11:29 am

    just a breakup? the hell it is. when you get married, you stand up publicly–if not before 300 people, then at least in front of a few official types who you know are present for the purposes of making this FOR REAL–and promise that you are in this forever, no matter what. very, very few people make that vow with the idea that “if this doesn’t work out, we’ll just get divorced.” when you say it, you mean it, and you arrange your entire life around it. and besides that, not too many kids daydream about the series of people they’ll one day enter into unpredictable, noncommitted relationships with. you imagine yourself as a grownup married, probably with kids, and that image becomes a big part of your vision for life. the idea of marriage is a huge part of our culture, our society, and our psyches. if it weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many people trying so hard to keep a whole segment of the population out of it.

    it is indeed a loss on the same par as death. what you thought you could count on, what you thought would see you to the end of your days, is no more. add to that the guilt that goes with disrupting your kids’ lives? huge. you don’t get that with a breakup.

  11. Flo permalink
    November 18, 2010 12:08 am

    I read a quotation once, it was from a short story in the New Yorker, years and years ago, it stuck with me even before I needed it: “marriage is a conversation that lasts a lifetime.” Even as I was going through the fierce years of a divorce [no children], that line echoed in the back of my mind. Now that I’ve remarried and am 15 years on the other side of that divorce, I finally get that it’s a mental conversation as much as an actual one. Beyond rationality, I awaken each day thinking as much about the past as I do about the present, my present is brand new, my past is that marriage that is going to be with me for the same lifetime that my present is. It is our past, we put our life into it, we put our love into it, and if the quotation is true that we must be conversant with those past years for the rest of our life, we might as well get the terms set down and get talking.

  12. MEP permalink
    November 18, 2010 12:38 pm

    I think someone that has been married and divorced more than once, like your mom, would have an interesting take on whether ALL divorces are more devastating than a breakup. I have a friend whose second divorce was MUCH harder for her than her first divorce, despite the fact that she went through a terrible custody battle with her first ex-husband, and her second ex-husband fought her on nothing, and then disappeared from her life. I think the relationship between the two people itself is a big factor in whether the dissolution of it is devastating.

    I also agree that a lot of times when I am moodily reflecting on my divorce, it’s not about the divorce at all but about the weather, or bad news, or other unrelated events, but it’s an easy scapegoat to return to when I feel less than great.

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