One year anniversary
On April 24th, 2015, after eight years of being married, I was “restored to the status of a single person” according to the state of California. In other words, I became officially divorced.
There is a lot of information out there about divorce. Practical information for people who have kids, for people who want to use a mediator, for people who want to file the paperwork themselves. About budgets and forms and lawyers and custody. There are books about moving on and dating again and getting in touch with your inner goddess.
But these books were not written for people like me. There is no how-to guide for what to do if you marry your first long-term boyfriend at the age of 24 and don’t have kids, but then decide after seven years of being married that no matter how much you care about and maybe even love the person you are married to, you just cannot be married to them any longer. There is no guide for going from living with your parents to living with your husband-to-be to being alone (really alone, alone) for the first time in your life at the age of 32. There aren’t fifteen steps for what to do when you file for divorce and move to a foreign country two days later to start a new job where you have no friends, no family, not even a therapist to talk to.
The books, at least the ones I read, don’t tell you that even if (or maybe especially if) the divorce was your decision, you’ll feel an incredible sense of guilt and shame that never completely goes away. That people will ask why you got divorced and whether infidelity was involved, as if that would explain everything. That the closest you’ll get to an explanation that feels right is to quote Dear Sugar, who says about her first marriage that
“there was in me an awful thing… a tiny clear voice that would not, not matter what I did, stop saying go. Go, even though you love him. Go, even though he’s kind and faithful and dear to you. Go, even though he’s your best friend and you’re his. Go, even though you can’t imagine your life without him. Go, even though he adores you and your leaving will devastate him.”
And even Sugar doesn’t tell you that sometimes you’ll feel fine: free, relieved, even joyful, while other times, you might cry every night for a week like a puppy separated from its litter just because you miss having someone sleeping next to you. That some nights, you’ll lie awake in bed at 4 am wondering if he’s ok and hoping he’s happy and feeling so much tenderness in your heart for him, while other nights you’ll lie awake remembering every shitty thing he ever did and hoping he is miserable and realizes that he never fully appreciated you, god damn it.
The books don’t tell you that you will feel like you lost half of your memories, because the person who was your best friend for 10 years is gone as permanently as if they had died. That you’ll want to turn to him and say, “remember when we were on vacation in Florida and my brother complained about the scratchy sheets?” but you can’t, because he’s not available for you anymore. And that was the choice you made.
I wish someone had told me these things. That’s why I’m writing them down now. I want to tell you (not warn you, just let you know) that even if you choose the separation, and even if it is the best choice, it will also feel shitty. Most likely very shitty. I want to give testimony to how being divorced can be wonderful, yes, but also horrible, and the difference between those states might be just the amount of time it takes to breathe in. And this vacillation between wonderful and horrible feelings will last for a long time before the highs and lows start to even out and fade away into normalcy.
But my experience is mine, and yours is yours, and there truly is no how-to guide. I so wish there were, because I love how-to guides and fifteen step blog posts. All I can tell you is my story, my experience.
April 24th, 2015, wasn’t so bad. I spent it with friends because I didn’t want to be alone, but I wasn’t feeling upset. I told a few people, but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I was relieved and surprised at how ok I felt. Everyone told me I was doing so well, so it must have been true, right?
Then a few months later, I wasn’t doing so well. I was depressed and miserable and missed my ex-husband.
I thought I was ok, but I wasn’t. Not really.
This year was better.
This year, I spent April 24th in Vietnam. I didn’t plan my trip around the divorce anniversary; it just happened. I rode on a motorbike, visited a temple, ate noodle soup, and played Jenga at a hostel. I didn’t even notice that it was my one-year anniversary until I looked at my phone at 1 am and realized that it was already April 25th.
The date had come and gone, and I didn’t even notice.