So I separated from my husband over eight years ago. We have been divorced for almost seven. It was an amiable split by any standards. But there were hard feelings, anger, resentment, pain, loss, grief and hostility. And I am talking about me. I have no idea what his experience was like in our divorce but I can imagine his feelings were similar.
We both worked hard to co-parent. To hold our personal feelings about our mutual failure at our marriage off to the side, while making decisions together to raise our kids. I was in California and he in Texas. It hasn’t been easy and we have not always seen eye to eye...I mean, thus the divorce.
But we have persevered.
I have swallowed my pride a good many times and had to apologize for things I did or said that were unkind or thoughtless. I waited a lot of times for him to say, “me too.” Sometimes he did, not nearly as often as I felt he should. I did my best to keep that to myself.
All in all, we have remained cordial. We have been civil and we can be in the same room together. I often leave my home so that he can stay there with our children. I want the kids to be in their most comfortable space without me there so that they do not feel pulled and divided between parents. Because I don’t care how great your divorce, your kids are forever divided in loyalty to the two people they love most. I want to show them that despite all the varied feelings I have, I prioritize theirs above my own. Maybe they see it, maybe they don’t. I see it.
I do this also for him. A kind of living amends to him for all the ways I failed him, us, them. And to give him a break. To allow him to spend time with the kids that I have raised here in California with his input but great distance. I want him to be in a home, not a hotel. I want him to spend his money on fun activities for him and the kids. I want them all to feel happy, content and to enjoy the time together in the beautiful home he helped me create once upon a time.
Let’s be honest, I too, have done it for me. I have done it to hold myself in high regard. To rise above my own stubbornness and pettiness. I have also done it to get a break. To leave the house, the kids, the pets and retreat to somewhere I can not be “on”. To forget, if just a moment, who I am and to reconnect to who I was before I became this mother thing.
As most of you know, my son left for Houston today. And in his wake, as is his usual habit, he left garbage, metaphysical and actual garbage. His room seems to always resemble what I would imagine is at the bottom of Oscar the Grouch’s trash can. Except I am pretty sure, Oscar keeps a better house, because he seemed to always be able to find what he was looking for...unlike my son.
Before the awfulness of Wednesday, he had promised he would not do that to me again. Leave a collection of drug paraphernalia, empty fast food containers, actual food that is rotting away in the comfort of bedding and towels and dirty laundry. Well, as is with most of his promises, he left the same way he always does, entitled, spoiled, filthy and disgusting. Caring not at all that SOMEONE has to clean it up. He is content living in squalor, why should we mind cleaning it up?
I received this photo from my ex-husband this morning...
It doesn’t do it justice, trust me. Photos cannot bring to life the smell, and you are welcome for that! But it was in its usual state of wretchedness.
I told him I was not surprised and thought, for a moment, about inviting him to clean it up, since most of time it is me, or my former nanny, Maria who cleaned it. But I didn’t. Because I didn’t want him and my daughter spending time doing that. I wanted them to have a good time doing other things. So I told him I hoped they had a good time. And I let it go.
A few hours later, I received this photo...
And I cried. For him, for us. For our children. For all we have been through that our marriage could not survive. I cried out all those times I bit my tongue and for the few times I was not able to do that. I cried for his similar moments. I was overwhelmed by his kindness and his generosity. I was humbled one more time on this narrow and sometimes unflinching path of divorce and its aftermath.
And then I sat back and reflected, it was all worth it. He is going to be married to someone who seems quite lovely though I haven’t met her. I wish them both immense happiness, joy and love. I am working on finding out who the fuck I am. I am parenting one less child and I am going to give her all I have got now that my energies and resources are not depleted in the constant, never ending power struggle with her brother.
And I tilted my head back in the sun and I thanked whatever exists beyond all our human frailties and messiness. I am grateful I married him. I regret my inability to love him better. I am forever in his debt for these kids. And I am content in my own skin, not every moment of every day. But I reside here now. I only traipse over to the land of insecurity and neurotic fear every once in awhile (some days are worse than others). I am dealing with my co-dependency issues in new ways and on new levels. And I see, with stark, clarifying relief, that it wasn’t all him. I have always KNOWN that, but now I FEEL it.
And so that million mile journey from my head to my heart is completed once more.
Working it out, holding back what you just have to say, taking the lonely, hard and often grueling high road leads to vistas such as today where a man I left, and was less than kind to at times, cleaned up after our despot son, so I would not have to.
I thank everyone who supported me in getting here to include him, my former spouse. If you want to know how to do this, call me, I will share my experience, strength and hope with you any time.