“How are you today?
I don’t care. Never did worry about the mechanics of actually getting divorced. I was lucky to have a wife who just wanted out. If you call that luck.
But I’m sad. I sit staring at nothing. Don’t want any noise to interrupt my pain. I’m long past playing on the computer. Nothing on TV interests me. Can’t read. Sleeping is a great way to escape the pain for a few hours, but even that is sporadic at best. I’m vaguely aware of having sat here for over two hours just listening to my breathing. Has this forced solitude helped at all? I wish I could say it had. Oddly I keep hearing a little girl crying somewhere in the house. I run upstairs to comfort her but she’s nowhere to be found. And Lauren, our six year-old daughter, is always over at her mom’s when this happens.
I still can’t believe it’s over.
But most of all I miss sharing this tragedy with my best friend. She was that too. And when we talked about all the other marriages gone bad, ours was different. Just us talking about those other marriages that had failed insulated ours from a similar ending. It was everyone else who couldn’t last. But now it’s us too. I lost my wife and my best friend. Don’t know which was worse.
Am I wallowing in my loss? (I’m gonna go with a definite “yes” in answer to that ridiculous question.) Sorry I can’t adjust to the request of my friends to just “get over it, to move on,”- and to do so on their timetable.) I’m no fun to be around. I admit that. I wouldn’t want to be around me right now. I try to hide my sadness but I’m not too good at it. Let me see you go through this emotional minefield and disguise your fear of the unknown.
I keep staring.
I quit staring and take a nap.
I can only imagine what my friends are saying about me. They have to be losing their patience with me. After all they’re over it. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised how fast they got over what was us, what had been us for 15 years.
“You doing okay?” Mickey calls and asks me for the umpteenth time.
“Yeh, I’m fine. Just getting used to it all. It’s hard,” I lie and answer.
“I feel so bad for you,” Mickey tries to reassure me. But his sympathy only makes it resurface to the top again.
But at least he calls. Everyone else scattered. Nowhere to be found.
“This happened for a reason. It was supposed to happen,” offered my lady friend, Laura. If she wasn’t so attractive, so seemingly perfect like all my other women, I’d slap her. That’s like telling someone who just got shot, who just lost their dog, whose child just got molested, that it all happened for a reason. “And what pray tell would that reason be?”
Don’t blame this on God. Don’t make me hate God, too.
Even though I would later come to agree with Laura, right now her timing sucks. It’s too early in the grieving process for me to ever imagine this being a good thing.
So Laura, despite the fact that you are friendly, a great listener and gorgeous, for now, shutup.
I want to prove Laura wrong. I want my marriage, and now my divorce, to be different than all the others. I want to pull off one of the most amazing “saves” ever. But life on our planet, especially our relationships, are all too patterned. They repeat the same scenarios over and over again, with the same outcomes. Why we haven’t figured this out yet is sad. At the very least, why we haven’t figured out enough to do something different when we encounter situations like divorce is even sadder. We are not good learners. Or maybe we are just too lazy to be anything other than stubborn in the face of similar events. But damn. If what you’ve done fifteen thousand times before has resulted in the same results, wouldn’t it just be fun to try something different the next time, to mix it up a bit, to get all crazy and not repeat the same mistake for the fifteenth thousandth time. Who knows, maybe the all too familiar ending would be different. But like I said before, we’re lazy.
The kids are gone. They’re over at her place with her and the new man in her life. I want to do something other than just sit and stare but staring somehow works for me just now. I’m putting my body into neutral and just coasting.
Maybe I’ll take a shower, or a nap or eat something.
I want to call my friend Laura, and under the guise of wanting to hear more advice from this wise woman, meet her for coffee or better yet lunch.
I was amazed that in the midst of all my newfound misery that I still had the willpower to flirt. But my flirting was pointless. Like so many others, she was taken.
Tim, this issue of still having the ability to flirt is a good subject for a follow up story.
Laura has a boyfriend. He’s a jerk. What else would I say, ha, ha.
(Three years later I would come to find that it seems like the whole world is “taken.” Did everyone get attached to their significant others in record numbers at exactly the same time I became unattached? It certainly seemed so.)
I need to get up and do something. But staring ahead is all I know right now. It’s comforting not having to think, not asking myself questions, questions for which I have no answers.
Damn, there’s that little girl crying again. Have ghosts already taken up residence in this house? Do they know something I don’t?
They, whoever they is, say when you’re driving on icy roads and your car starts sliding that the best action to take is to simply let go of the wheel. The car will magically right itself at a time when you can’t. I’ve never tried that and can’t imagine it would work, but I’m kind of doing that with my staring. I’m letting go at a time when I don’t want to focus on anything in particular. Any resistance I could muster would make what seems like the inevitable, even harder to accept. So for now, staring is what I do.
The previous is a nice touch and I can relate to it as will others.
It’s late afternoon and I’ve spent another several hours just staring. So now I’m going to go shave and take a shower. I shave everyday of my life, even when I’m sick. And a shower is a good thing too. I at least want to look good and smell good in my depressed state of mind. Being dirty would only deepen my depression.
It’s good to be clean. I smell good. My face is all smooth and touchable. No one’s around to touch it but if they were they would.
Maybe I’ll go somewhere and share my newly-showered self with the public. One of the good things about all this is how easy it was to lose 25 pounds. A broken heart has a way of doing that to you. So I should go out and test out my new look. Who knows, some unsuspecting woman might just make me smile. It would at least take my mind of things for awhile. It’s much easier to get over someone when you substitute a new person into the mix. That applies to the one trying to exit a relationship as well as the one left behind. Is that asking too much of this new person? Probably. But who cares. Your goal is to get over this as soon as you can.
Above is good. I still can’t listen to love songs of any era, watch TV or movies that deal in relationships. It is not so much about her but about being alone now and with no prospects of ever not being alone. The very act of denying these type of cultural stimulation feeds itself in a negative way and has driven me into a place where I feel like a different species. Try combining what you are describing with a radical prostatectomy (me) and you will understand that some people are eliminated from the species.
I ended up going to the mall to go window shopping in women’s stores. I’m pretty sure they thought I was shopping for a gift for my wife or girlfriend. What other reason would a man have for trying to maneuver through these unfamiliar surroundings? But women’s stores are not unfamiliar to me. My second wife turned me onto a true appreciation of fashion and fine clothes. She always wore the best and I picked up on her tastes. To this day I can go into a clothing store or jewelry store and without trying, pick out the most expensive item in the store. I’m a shopping woman’s dream come true. Besides, I like moving in and out of stores where some of the most beautiful women in the world spend their time.
An elegant brunette, wearing a tight black dress, smiles at me. That felt good. I’ll never see her again, though. I’m not about to chase her. Nor follow her around the mall. Like many people we meet in a lifetime, she is just passing by. Having your heart broken is not grounds for becoming a predator. But her smile was enough to make me feel good and for a moment to forget. And hey, I’m remembering her smile three years later so some memories you can savor forever- and that’s enough.
Before I leave the mall I collect a few more winks and smiles. Thanks God. Your timing is perfect.
On the drive home I force myself to listen to songs that make me sad. Sadness and grief are underrated. Those things that make us sad, also heal us. Either way when it’s time to grieve and miss someone that’s what you have to do. But did sadness ever try and make me drive my car into a wall. Just once. And evidently I changed my mind. I’m glad I did. At the time, if I had taken such an extreme measure to try and stop the pain, my ex would have just been mad because she had to explain my stupidity to our kids and then bury me.
Why do all the good memories of when our relationship was working come to surface at this time? I imagine this helps you make sense of what otherwise seems like a complete collapse of your world. No relationship is all bad. And your sadness over your loss is a way to remember that your time together meant more than it didn’t. But those sad songs do make you cry.
This is a good point that can’t be over emphasized. It is so interesting how one partner can be so devastated in a break up and the other partner so happy with no apparent concern or memory of any good parts of a relationship. This negates the for me the idea that the relationship had its good points. What does that mean. For me it means that if I was the only one with good memories then it was more like I was forcing myself on her which pretty much discounts anything positive to take with me into the future.
I pull in the driveway. Thank God no one is outside. I hate talking to people for any length of time and having to hide what I’m feeling right now. For the first time in weeks I am not really looking forward to returning to my own private wailing wall. I’m hoping I can find things around the house to do so I don’t just sit and stare again. The kids are over at her house and so it’s just me and the dog, an understanding Golden Retriever, named Ella. Maybe I’ll take her for a walk. Maybe I’ll run into the tall blonde five doors down on my walk.
Ella and I start out headed toward the park which is only a block away. We pass by the mailbox where I used to enjoy picking up the mail. But now I could care less about being surprised by anything anyone could send me. I haven’t checked the mail in a week. Just like the time I wasted on the computer and let my wife go to bed without me, some things just aren’t important anymore. I wish I had learned this long before I did.
There she is- the tall blonde, with her two dogs and her perfect body. We head off to the park together. But what will I say? Will I lose yet another friend with my sad story? I decide to let her do all the talking.
Of course, she’s having boyfriend problems. We instantly have a common bond. He doesn’t appreciate her. And he’s jealous. Where have I heard this before? Yet she still welcomes him in her house. We could have fun together. Maybe go to a movie or dinner or the beach. She would make me laugh. But she’s attached. Attached to an idiot, but still attached. And for the next hour or so she will just use me as a sounding board to repeat her situation to herself. And I’ll let her do it.
“Enough about me. How are you doing? Are you okay down there by yourself? If you ever want to come over just do it,” she consoles me.
“Oh I’m doing fine. But I might take you up on a visit or two if you’re up to it,” I accept her offer. Would I really just be satisfied to talk with her and hang out with a beautiful woman or do I want to get her into bed and try and sex my sadness away?
Sleeping with a beautiful woman won’t cure my grief. It might even screw me up more. (No pun intended.) A hug, affection, a kiss or a touch, that would be heaven. But anything more I just couldn’t handle. I really am screwed up.
I remember the first date I had after we broke up. The date itself went well. We got along great and I never once had the inclination to use this person as my counselor. But despite experiencing a good evening with a new woman and leaving it at that, on the way home, I called my ex and told her that I had just gone out on a date and that it was weird. Told her how odd it felt to be with someone else, how she should have been there instead, how I hated dating. I don’t know what I was looking for but I didn’t get the reaction I wanted. She couldn’t identify with my problem and sort of told me that of course dating after 15 years of marriage was going to be an odd feeling at first. At first. I was kind of hoping that I wouldn’t be doing this dating thing on a regular basis- at least not with a stranger. She told me to hang in there and keep trying, that I’d get the hang of it.
When I found out that my ex had turned to an old friend instead of me to talk to for hours on end about all this, I felt the rope I was holding to save myself, to save us, slipping through my fingers. And it burned. She was so accustomed to talking with him daily that she couldn’t stop. She would go into a room and shut the door or would walk back from the pool, while I watched the kids, and call him. When she got home from work the first thing she did was call him and talk for an hour. This was after talking with him all the way home on her cell phone. When I walked to the trash bin, 100 feet from the front door, she would call him. When I woke up she was on the phone with him.
Damn, this was hard. There was no hiding it now. This was happening and I had no influence over the outcome at all. It was too late. Whatever mistakes I had made in the past and my pleas for forgiveness weren’t going to change the outcome of this. The very thing that we used to talk about when it happened to other people was now happening to us. And I had no one to talk to because now she was the other person.
I eventually asked her to leave since I just couldn’t be sane with her in another room laughing and talking with my replacement. I even called him one night and spoke with him. My son prompted me to do this. I wasn’t angry, wasn’t crazy- I just asked him if he would back off, if he would leave our marriage alone for just long enough for me to talk with her. Honestly, I didn’t think this would make any difference.
When she eventually left, leaving me with the kids, and moving out of our home and into her girlfriend’s spare room, she was sad. Not sad enough to change her mind, to give me an umpteenth chance, just sad that she had to finally face this. But after she left, I started to get a little better. It was hard watching her love grow for another person right in front of me. Normally, you’re happy when two people fall in love. But not if it’s at your expense.
When she first left, the kids missed her. But like me, they got used to our family being a family of three now. They didn’t talk about it too much. In fact, they liked it when they had the chance to visit their mom and stay over. They were transitioning to our split family much faster than I was.
But whenever they went to their mom’s I would hear that little girl crying somewhere in the house. I even think the dog heard her.
Coming back to an empty house would take some getting used to. It would be foretelling of some lonely years ahead. When adjusting to being alone you go through several stages.
First, you fight it with anything you can- TV, music, working on the computer, going out for a drive, calling people or working longer hours. When even those activities end up being lonely, then you are left with trying to find some value in being by yourself.
Then you enter stage two- you just let it happen and become fond of being alone. You like it a little too much. For me, being alone or even lonely at times was far better than hearing that little girl crying. I believe in ghosts, both good ones and bad ones. I believe they come in and out of our lives for a reason. But I still didn’t like hearing that little girl crying. That was eerie as well as very sad.
Then there’s stage three of loneliness- the dangerous side of solitude. This is when you let your mind not just wander, but fill your head with ideas and possibilities that will never come to exist. Lonely people have a way of creating fantasy worlds that can harm you. A vacant mind, self-absorbed in lonely behavior, can easily slip over into actually believing that your fantasies are reality.
I called Mickey. He was good about hearing me out. Everyone else gave me advice I didn’t want. Then they got mad with me when I wouldn’t take their advice. But their advice was more for their benefit than mine. So of course, I didn’t take their advice.
But Mickey just listened, and listened and listened. He did what he did for me then out of pure love, the love of a friend. He defined friendship for me at time when I had no one else to turn to. I wasted so much of his time going on and on about my problem- a problem which had only one outcome. And this problem of mine was over before I ever knew about it. While all my other friends and relatives got impatient with me and scattered, Mickey just kept listening. Those kinds of people are rare and all we really need in our lives is one person like that. One friend like that can last us a lifetime.
So to stop the little girl from crying, I called Mickey. As soon as I was on the phone with him though, I wanted to be off the phone so I could be alone again, maybe to get back to my staring. Did I think I was going to find the answer to my grief somewhere imprinted on the wall? And did calling Mickey all those times really help?
When I look back at what I did to get through a broken heart, a broken marriage, a broken family, it all made sense and none of it made sense.
It feels bad when you want something that you come to realize is unattainable. It’s horribly worse when you once had the very thing you now have lost.
No amount of crying, analyzing nor even praying can get you what you want. You can’t believe that you might actually not get what you so desire. In the past, your pleading, your negotiating skills and even your creativity have gotten you what you wanted. But now, none of that is working. It’s too late. Your mind knows before your heart does that you have lost what you now so desperately want back. Your heart is the problem. It refuses to accept the reality of the circumstances that brought you to this point. But your mind will wait on your heart. And it’s this struggle between your mind and your heart that makes you crazy and later makes you well.
I’m at a fork in the road now. Do I close by giving you words of wisdom to help you go through your divorce? Do I tell you how I’m doing now and how I got through it all? Do I suggest ways to avoid this ever happening to you? While all of those options are commendable, I’m simply not that smart. If, God forbid, you have to go through this, then go through it and have as your goal to get to the other side in one piece. That’s all I can offer as advice. Every marriage is as unique as the two people who enter into it. I only know myself and how I reacted. It’s almost insulting for me to try and tell you how to get through it. So I won’t.
Losing my marriage and feeling the pain of a broken heart was the single most memorable experience of my life. I can’t imagine anything coming close to it in the years I have left. It was worse than death. And death is something none of know too much about. It seems like a pretty big event, to not be conscious, to not be alive, but it is still the unknown. It could be good, it could be bad, we just don’t know. But losing something that I had, something that meant a lot to me at one time, but something I neglected and let slip away, was very real and very known. It was like being close to death, but having your captors keep you alive just to torture you more. I hope I’ve learned something from this experience. I would very much like to avoid having to ever try and cross this minefield again. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was scared. Nothing had prepared me for this. And the constant battle between my mind and my heart made me crazy at times.
But I don’t hear that little girl crying anymore. And that’s got to be good for both of us.