Of all the thesaurus offers me for separation, I like this one the best: A parting of the ways. When my husband and I first stepped out of the ring, I considered it the end. I mourned for weeks. I didn’t know how I would survive. I kept undergoing huge waves of grief I thought would kill me. And then I lived.
These days we circle one another on friendly terms, free in our new skin. I admit it’s evening us. I am reborn.
“Sometimes in a marriage, we compromise with ourselves. It’s better to negotiate with the other person,” said a wise friend who is also my mom. There were all these ways I had settled without even getting points. Battles I decided I wouldn’t fight. Things I wouldn’t challenge. At the end of the day, I don’t know what the new terms will be, but I’m getting less and less scared for us. And more and more thankful for the chance. There are so many ways to grow.
“It’s awfully bright in here,” says the disembodied voice from the couch. I switch off the kitchen light, but my laptop glows anyway. I glow anyway. Sorry, bub. Some things I don’t compromise about. This is one of them. I didn’t start this entire separation thingy: You are the one who began sleeping on the couch. My desktop computer needs help; it’s slowing down. Here I feel light as a feather and the words that type themselves into meaning are my lifeline. They have been here for me when you have not.
I am done folding in on myself. I take the space necessary.
Yesterday in dance Erica asked me whether Steve and my dissolution looks to be heading for divorce or reconciliation. I shrugged.
“No idea,” I said.
Her eyes widened. If I could sum up her look it would say: Wow, that’s hard for me to be with and I am so barely involved.
“Steve started flirting with me last week,” I said. “I told him he would probably have to ask me out. We’d need to start at the beginning. We aren’t just going to slide back into anything.”
“I have a friend whose husband drove around the subdivision with a loudspeaker announcing ‘I am an asshole’ to win his wife back. It worked. They got back together,” Erica said.
I think this sounds extreme.
“This situation does have so much potential for romance,” my friend Ilene pipes in. I ponder that. For Steve to actually truly embrace romance and court me with full longing would be as different, as much of a change for him, as driving around with a loudspeaker might be for someone else. I shrug again. I have little cause for optimism. And yet, and yet. I think I don’t go back for less.
My fear isn’t so much of sharing my heart as of announcing something as healing or good or better. This is too fluid and uncertain to dub. I am hopeful, but what if I call success and the next day our marriage pours down the mountain in an avalanche of cold gelatinous ooze? Part of what’s so pure and… dare I say… enlivening about this time is not knowing.
I’m sad, of course. I deserve a love I can trust. And yet I feel thankful every day for the way I’ve been freed from a cage like a locked girdle. On a spiritual level I thank Steve for freeing me. My heart breaks a little each time we talk and he hasn’t ‘come to Jesus,’ though. When will someone wake up and realize something matters?
His recent knee surgery feels like a setback. Instead of awakening a little every day he lies dormant and frustrated. When he is even the slightest bit grumpy I rage and then try to quiet it. He pulls within himself. And yet I have respect for this life as the perfect scenario for learning grace. Even when, and sometimes maybe especially when, it seems like a disaster.
I do not know, day to day, what will happen. I love not knowing. It’s not easy—it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in forever—but there is great growth and tenderness within and I wrestle with it and smooch.
Last night Steve spiked a fever. My adrenaline rose as I hastened for the thermometer. Five days post surgery: Infection? I called the on-call physician ready to do anything to help. Under everything is a deep love I cannot shake and it both threatens and sustains us. In my poker negotiation for love and power, I cannot pretend I do not care. I care like the very river of lava that runs under the Earth’s surface of my skin. Fuck him. He doesn’t deserve this. But I can’t help it either.
I remind myself to breathe. Take it peaceful-slow. Ride the river and allow the light to form a bubble around you. Ease in. Allow. That’s it, now you’ve got this tiger-life to pussycat meow. I keep seeing and believing, even when the truth feels so fluffy and white I’m not sure it’s truth at all.
The writing seams the universe back to holy now. That’s all there is after everything else is banished: One thing. One more.