Divorce. No one wants to say it. People find out that you’re having problems and they talk around the issue so they don’t have to use the word. I talked around it, too. I said “splitting up,” “if things don’t work out…,” etc. Then when someone finally says it they whisper it, like that scene in St. Elmo’s fire where the mother kept whispering about cancer.
Then finally you realize that you have to speak the word. You have to try it out. You have to see how it tastes in your mouth, how it feels on your tongue. It has a hell of an aftertaste, I can tell you that.
The first time I spoke it was on a Saturday afternoon at a parade. My daughter was still in her leotard from her dance class. She was busy playing with someone she knew so she wasn’t paying attention to me. I told the other kid’s mom and then I fell apart, right there on the curb as people walked past me with their lawnchairs. I hardly knew the woman but I knew that she’d been divorced because we’d discussed it at the community pool the summer before. But I had to tell someone. I had to make it real. I had to put it out there in the universe. I had to call it what it was — not “we’re splitting up,” not “separating,” not “having problems.”
That was weeks ago. On that day, I was sure that there was no way back. I was so sure that I decided to tell a person who wasn’t in my family or who hadn’t already met me for coffee and watched me cry publicly or who hadn’t fielded long and gut wrenching emails from me. Just a person. Because I was sure.
But then I wasn’t. Because I wanted to find a way to not do it. Because the pain of splitting up your family is so bad it’s actually like sticking a knife into your own belly, grabbing your intestines, ripping them out and then jumping up and down on them while they’re still connected to your body. Then multiply that feeling by a million. Or, as one divorced friend says, “It’s hard as fuck.”
So we took a step back from the edge of the cliff. We said maybe not. But then there came a point when we both realized that what was broken wasn’t going to be fixed. And if we did manage to adhere all those pieces back together, it was pretty likely to be some warped, cracked version of what it was.
Then you have to tell everyone. That is when you wish you had some sort of celebrity publicist to do the dirty work for you. And these days, you practically have to write a press release anyway because of facebook. So I did the dirty work. Then, before I posted the Notice of Our Official Demise, I got a babysitter and sat in Panera and emailed back and forth a hundred times with the person who I guess I now have to refer to as “the ex.” There were no more last-minute “let’s not do this” emails. Instead, it was “Let’s stay a family, even though things are going to look different. Let’s cheer each other on. Let’s be kind and cooperative. Let’s stay friends,” all the while thinking, “Do all divorced people do this? Are we kidding ourselves?” but hoping to God that we can pull it off. Yes, there is hurt and disappointment and some anger, but we could work well together when we wanted to in the past. Maybe we can do it now.
So it was time to tell the world. Or our world anyway, via the ever-present gossipsphere of social networking. But first there was lots of staring out the window and thinking, “Really? There’s really no other way out of this? Really?” And then saying, “No. There’s not. It’s hard and it’s sad but how many times can we circle the same block before we decide to turn?” So I posted it. And somehow that made it feel official. And we again emailed each other about how sick we felt after seeing the post. And we commiserated over the announcement of our divorce from each other.
This is going to sound nuts, but in a way it was kind of beautiful. There are many things that we do not see eye-to-eye on. We are very different people. We’ve hurt each other and we’ve made each other mad. But at the end of it all, perhaps we are able to set each other free in a peaceful way, with the recognition that we’re both hurting right now. Perhaps we can find a new way to love each other — as friends and as co-parents. We both have to reconfigure our lives. We both have to start over in many respects but we also have to find a way to continue on with the next phase of our family life. I do not know what shape the future will take but I have hope for us.
And now let me tell you that the napkins in Panera are not absorbent enough to mop up tears. If you’re planning on going there to cry, bring some tissues.
And I also want to say that this has been a tough few months. There have been lots of people who have come out of the woodwork to support both of us and I just want to say thanks again. Thanks doesn’t seem like enough considering the heavy emotional burden that many of you have tried to help us carry. I know that many of you have lost many hours of sleep over us because sometimes it’s almost harder to see the people you love in pain than to be in actual pain yourself. So a very humble thanks. Your friendship and love and support have been overwhelming . While a lot of you have said that you didn’t know what to say or that you wished there was more that you could do, let me tell you that you did a lot just by being present and walking through it with us.