March 3, 2018
Dear Cherished Heart,
I am just catching up to the fact that almost everything changed with the separation.
Slow to the race. It’s been two years.
“Are you ready to order?” asked the server.
“Yes. I’ll have the teriyaki chicken.”
“Do you want the baked, mashed, or stuffed potato with that?
“Do you want sour cream, bacon, butter, and chives?”
“Butter, bacon and chives.”
“Do you want a tossed or caesar salad?”
“Do you want ranch, thousand island, or house dressing?”
“What’s the house dressing?”
“It’s a balsamic vinegar with dijon mustard and a hint of anchovy paste.”
“Oh . . . what were the other choices again?”
There is a shifting palette of go-withs for many aspects of our lives.
A twenty-one year relationship has a smorgasbord of go-withs. During the time of our marriage we had begun to take these trappings for granted, hardly noticing what or who went with what—or who. In fact we so often picked and chose things off each other’s plates that I could no longer differentiate between what he brought and what I could claim as my own.
I did not just let go of a partner in human form, I lost all of the things he added to the plate of my life. If we needed to construct something, he added the tools and the know-how; when we were going to buy, build, or renovate, he added the finesse of a carpenter and the precision of an architect; when someone was sick, he provided the answers; his hard work and dedication came with financial security; and in times of crisis we came together like brick and mortar. Of course some of the go-withs were like lemon juice in cream, otherwise we’d still be together.
Letting go of the power tools, the physical strength, and the sounding board was only as hard as it was inconvenient. I have to do more for myself and feign confidence until I feel it, but it’s not especially upsetting.
There have been times however that I’ve felt a depth of pain I can honestly say I’ve never felt before.
Family. Each time they gather and I am not with them I feel a searing pain through my heart that I am certain has left an indelible brand. I cannot fathom that they are still getting together without me. (Logically, I get it.)
Deep pain is difficult to describe . . .
She sat with her back to the front window; her long blonde curls cascaded down her back. In front of her, her three-year-old daughter jumped and danced to an audience of aunts, uncles, and cousins, while my father-in-law sat in the pillowy rocker taking it all in. She turned and looked out the window as my daughter Laurèn got out of the car and scrambled up the steps setting off the motion light. She waved. I dropped my head and backed out of the driveway as if tip-toeing away from a conversation I had been eavesdropping on. It was my third time picking up or dropping the kids off at their dad’s, in as many days. With both of his brothers in town for a short week, the whole family gathered at his house for meals and games and who-knows-what. I would join them in a few days to celebrate Laurèn’s birthday, but until then I looked through my front window with naked longing.
In my lengthy contemplation about separation, it never dawned on me to take specific note of the people that he had brought into my life and who would follow him when he left. Honestly, given the pain and stress under which I felt myself living toward the end of our marriage, I thought mostly about what would be best for me, and how to mitigate the pain and change to our kid’s lives.
The whole menu has changed—though I can still order the teriyaki chicken, the go-withs are not the same. When I removed myself from my husband’s life, I let go of the privilege to enjoy the baked potato, sour cream and so forth in the same way. If you have not been through a separation or divorce you might say, “But you can maintain all of these relationships . . . You just have to work at it.” It is true that with well-placed intention and willingness on both parts, a relationship can continue, however it will not be the same in quality or depth.
I did not expect such intense pain around the family losses. I had felt like such an essential component.
Recently, I walked and talked with a good friend to process these thoughts and emotions. She told me of a friend who had divorced some years ago. He told her, “I knew I was separating from the person, I didn’t know I was separating from the life.” That is it. I didn’t anticipate that the life we shared would change as much as it has.
hold on to yourself
for this is gonna hurt like hell.”
Sarah McLachlan, Hold On