Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The dreadful intimacy of divorce

I am reminded often of how foreign the feelings which accompany divorce are to those who have not experienced it. Actually, I realize now and again that there are folks for whom those feelings are foreign in spite of the fact that they themselves have been through a divorce.

So a relatively new acquaintance learns that I don't have my children with me today, and the conversation very naturally, though very uncomfortably for me, veers to the fact that they are each with their respective Other Parent. And my family is evinced as blended, and my heart as broken, though I'm never quite sure if the person with whom I'm talking understands the depth of the wound.

Or someone who has known and been close with both me and my ex, either in the past or currently, admits curiosity about our circumstance. And the conversation ends up in the vein of asking about our time-sharing agreement, and what the person perceives as the pros and cons of it, or asking me what pros and cons I experience.

It's not offensive to me to talk about--it's my life and it's dreadfully intimate, but it's bound to come up. I carry it with me everywhere I go, whether by the conspicuous absence of my children, or by the fact that my daughter addresses me by my first name, and my son addresses my husband as Baba. But it hurts. My, how it hurts. And no, I don't consider my children's Other Parents to be built in baby-sitters. It's not a newlywed perk that my husband and I are without our kids every other weekend.

And it will never be over. This is reality not just for the foreseeable future, but forever. My children will always have two homes, and I will always be obliged to split their time with folks who are, at least at this point, relative strangers, and worse yet, people who hurt me, and whom I hurt, by the very fact of our respective existential realities.

I heard someone recently say that if they had to choose between the death of a parent and that parent walking out on their other parent, they would choose the walking out. That statement provoked profound ambivalence in me. Ten years ago, I might've said the same, but now it strikes me as short-sited. Granted, the person who said it had lost a parent--one he loved and missed dearly. I honestly don't know which I'd prefer. Death is final. Divorce is an ongoing wound, with ongoing perpetrators. Death is closure, and leaves room to grieve for the person we knewso well, for good or ill. Divorce leaves us wondering who they are, whether the years we spent with them were really a lie, and whether there was something we could have done differently--or better. Divorce is never truly over, and given my demonstrable need for closure, I tend to think I'd prefer to deal with something cut and dry, something honest that Time might could help to heal.

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George MacDonald

"Home is ever so far away in the palm of your hand, and how to get there it is of no use to tell you. But you will get there; you must get there; you have to get there. Everybody who is not at home, has to go home."

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