Yesterday for the first time I saw the house that my not-quite-yet Ex is buying. It’s in a different city, about fifteen miles from our “home,” and a great little place; clean and well cared for, with remodeled kitchen and baths, fresh paint throughout, and beautifully refinished hardwood floors. A cozy space that will be perfect for him.
While he was talking with the inspectors and working on paperwork with his realtor, I sat in the bright, sunlit living room, and felt the hollow emptiness that I've come to recognize as the first signs of sadness. I didn’t expect it. I am so happy for him. Happy that he found a place he likes. Happy that they accepted his offer. Happy that his stresses about where he is going to live were finally being put to rest. And happy that for an older tract home, there is not one depressing thing about it—which didn't just make me happy, it thrilled me.
Still, I was—I am—incredibly sad. Again; and of course. It’s another big step in the coming apart process. Not only do we no longer live together, but he will no longer be living in our house. He will have his own house, one that has nothing to do with me… wow… we really are separated. We really are going our separate ways.
I’ve always thought that when a heart broke, it just broke… one time, fell wide open, spilled all the yucky and awful feelings, then began to mend again; either quickly, or not so quickly, depending on how severe the break. I didn’t know that a heart could split apart again and again at the same event. Every step along the way; at the big things—the shattered dream, the breaking of daughters’ hearts, the packing up, the moving—as well as the thousand little everyday things. I didn’t know that the idea of facing the world alone could break it again on a daily basis. Or that how scattered our family has suddenly become could wipe it—me—out on the level that it sometimes does.
I’ve been resistant to writing about being sad. Who wants to read that? Yet in this moment, it’s the truest thing—the only thing—that I know. Ending a life together is gut wrenchingly heart breakingly hard. As is breaking apart a family. Starting a new life equally so. Everything, simply everything is unknown, including the burning question of late: whether I’ll ever feel right again, whether or not I’ll ever truly feel good, whole, and happy again. And that’s the thing about grief—we never know when the next wave will break over us, how completely it will flatten us, how long it will take to get up, dry ourselves off, and continue on. Nor do we know how long we will remain upright before the next one rolls in; and on and on.
Yet we are lucky, he and I. We’ve come through this in a way that astonishes people, closer in many ways than we’ve ever been. And in a weird sort of way, that makes it even harder. Going through it consciously, aware of how much I still loved and cared for him, I understood for the first time, why people do it in anger, in blame, in hatred. Yet I knew that was the last thing I wanted to experience with this man who has been my mate, my friend, my partner, my rock, for over three decades, and who I feel more comfortable with than anyone else in the world. Who has given so much, and taken such good care of us. Somehow I knew that going out that way would be infinitely more heart-smashing. And not just for me, but for all of us.
I have read that a heart can only truly feel once it’s been broken open. What I’d wanted more than anything as he and I walked through the shadow of uncertainty and decision-making, was to stop defending my heart and open to him more completely, more fully than I ever had, no matter what our decision. And I got my wish. After what we’ve been through, the stormy seas, the quiet hours of talking, daily walks where we processed and then processed some more, being with this as brutally honestly and as truly as we knew how, I now love him more and deeper, more unselfishly, and unconditionally than I ever dreamed I could; out of the shattering open of this particular heart has come a truer love for him than I ever knew was possible.
It is an enormous gift, one that I am constantly amazed by and grateful for; a single, bright blossom of joy in the midst of this vast field of challenge and uncertainty. Somehow we each found the courage, and the stamina to hang in when the going got more than just a little difficult. And here's what I really want to say: he is the kindest, fairest person I may ever know. A gentle soul in a world overcrowded with the other kind. Our marriage may have ended, but our love, our trust, our respect for each other have not just remained, but have grown.
As have I. I still have no idea where life will take me, but no matter where, and no matter what, he travels with me, deeply imbedded, like a pearl, snug within the confines of my living, breathing, often times aching heart.
And that is a true gem.
MAUI - MAY, 2007
ON TOP OF THE WORLD AT HALEAKALA CRATER
Until next time...