When Divorce is at your door. Part 5.
An ongoing series in my journey of separation
Tonight marks the end of week three. My husband and I have lived apart for three weeks. To many, that seems a nearly meaningless passage of time. To me, I feel as if I have lived lifetimes and felt the bitter anguish of despair as well as the soaring freedoms of hope. It has been unpredictable and slow. So very slow.
Yet, I do see a passage of time. It’s been more like five weeks since I first heard the word divorce spoken, and five weeks ago I reacted in action by doing something new: I signed up for an acting class. I signed up thinking about how I had put my dream off while we chased his dreams. I thought how raising a family had held me back and this was my time. I had nothing left to lose.
I had no idea what I would gain. No, I’m not suddenly ready for the red carpet, and I haven’t become an overnight sensation. I showed up to that first class and was taught about emotions. I learned to let them in, to be present in the moment, and to be still. I remember sitting and doing our first relaxation exercise, and my mind was racing down a hole of darkness, repeating to myself over and over again, He doesn’t want me. He’s leaving everything because of ME. And somewhere, in the midst of that exercise, I forgot those words. I found myself. I could breathe again. The knot in my stomach, the anxiety, the fear — I let it all in and it lost its grip on me. I cried. In front of the class. I was utterly vulnerable in front of a group of strangers, and it was liberating. More than that, it was empowering.
So tonight as I sat in my fifth class, I thought about that beginning. I remember it with painful clarity. And tonight — tonight I was laughing with my classmates. I was sharing jokes. I was in the moment and open, and didn’t need to cry at the drop of a pin. I saw a measurable change in myself. A measurable change of strength. My life hasn’t ended. His absence hasn’t made me less; it’s made me more.
This week was a hopeful one for me. We had our first counseling session since the separation. I spent the days before imagining how great it could be, but when I got in my car, I started shaking; my stomach tied up again, and my mouth dried out. I arrived a few minutes early, and sat in my car, listening and singing along with Bastille’s Poet. I thought about how I have written him down, and was bolstered by the idea of the written word’s immortality.
Inside, we sat a healthy distance apart on the therapist’s couch. No longer would I reach out and rest my hand on his leg as I had the first few sessions. There was a palpable space between us. I don’t remember what was asked first, but I remember him telling us that he had felt true loneliness and happiness since being apart, and that in my presence all his emotions were shut off, and he refused to open them, even for the sake of our session. I feel sadness at this, even now. I am grieved over causing enough damage to turn his heart from me, and grieved that he was made to feel that way; grieved that both of us have lost out on so much time that could have been spent loving, and we instead spent pushing one another away.
It doesn’t sound very hopeful, does it? Let me tell you why it is. He said he was feeling these emotions for the first time in a long time. The hope lies in the fact that he IS feeling. I know it’s not directed at me, but he deserves to find those feelings. I want him to be healed, and that is proof that he is starting to be. He couldn’t fully engage in some of the emotional exercises we went through (mostly discussing past hurts and finding new ways to have dealt with them), but he took notes. He knew he would have trouble remembering the things I said, and I guess that means he wanted to remember — otherwise, why not check out, pretend like you care, and get the heck out of counseling?? He took notes. He’s doing the work. Right now that is hope for our marriage.
The next morning was our “date.” I got up at 4:45 so I could shave my legs before joining him at the gym downtown at 6 a.m. Now, I am not a morning person (I went to bed around 1 a.m. that night), and yet, I was oddly excited that morning. I didn’t feel any bitterness or resentment toward him or that early hour. I surprised myself, and that gave me hope that I am changing.
And then, for the next hour and a half, something amazing happened: I didn’t worry about us. I worried about my form being right, about getting those last reps in, about feeling what my body can do, and it was great. Like, seriously great. I loved watching my husband be strong and determined. I loved the way he breathed out of the side of his mouth when things got particularly tough. I loved seeing the friendship he has with his trainer. And I loved not being awkward. He walked me back to my car after, we shared a quick hug, and that was it. Best. “Date.” Ever.
The next day was a bit of a roller coaster for me. Something about seeing him come home (his day with the kids), while I have to leave, makes me an emotional mess. I cried a while, ran errands with a friend, and then ended the day seeing a movie with some friends. That was when my day got a little funny.
You’d think a movie would be a nice distraction, but not when the movie ends up being about love. Like, all about love. Like the queen who loses her love and makes it illegal for anyone else to love, but because “love conquers all,” the two heroes fall in love, and despite separation and feelings of abandonment, the one lover stays true and wins back his wife. Yeah, nothing subtle about that. And call it a coincidence if you will, but we went out for dessert afterward, and as I walked into the bathroom, I hear blaring through the speakers, “Love takes time.” So yeah, message received. Hope stays alive.
The next day was family day, and we joined his sister who was visiting and her friends at their lake property. Our drive out there began with a speech from him about not wanting to spend the holiday with me because given his new feelings, it is too hard to be around me. I found myself at another crossroads: old Kat would be offended and call him weak names; new Kat found that what he was saying made sense. It’s not easy for me either. Emotions are hard — have your space, dear, and I will be here waiting. The choice was actually easy. Because I actually care about both of us now.
Once we got to the lake, he was amazingly nice. I know he’s said he’s closed off to me, and thinks of me as non-romantic family, so maybe that’s all there is to it, but if I was worried about being hurt by someone, I would probably try to avoid that person a little bit. And he didn’t. I’ll go a little teenage drama on you and relay the fact that when I asked him to help me with putting sunscreen on my back, he continued to help me with my arms, my chest, my stomach…yeah, teenage drama reads into that a lot. You don’t rub lotion on your sister’s stomach; that’s just weird.
I set up my chair away from his, and he brought his closer. He shared his drinks with me. I tried sending him off on the boat with all the kids, but he said they’d want me so I had to come, too. He sat next to me. I mean, I know I sound like I’m relaying the details of my summer camp crush, but I didn’t feel the coldness that day. Maybe he was just drunk (but he’s a nice drunk!). I had a good day. Still feeling the hope.
We didn’t spend the Fourth of July together; I napped away my disappointment and tears after spending the morning at a festival with the kids. Then we did meet up at a restaurant with one of his friends to watch fireworks from a distance. It was kind of a neutral event. I felt a little sadness because he tried extra hard to take a picture of himself with each of the kids, and you know, I was left out. I get it. But it still hurts. There are no photographs of us together during this time. That’s weird.
Tonight we spoke briefly about the kids during trade-off, and that was the end of the third week. I’m glad I’ve written us down. I think so often in the midst of our pain we want to retreat and ignore it. I don’t want to ignore it — ever. Even if we reconcile, I don’t want to forget this time, and the lessons I’m learning daily. And if we split for good, I want to look back and see that I did what I could. I’m acting on the future I want. I think that’s what successful people do. Not one of us can know the future, so why behave as if it’s already here?