Today is my 4th divorciversary.
The first year, I was undone on this day. And also, a little drunk. I was still grieving the idea of my marriage. I was lamenting the life I’d thought I was living until it all fell to pieces.
The second year, I watched the date approach dispassionately. My life was overwhelming. I was unwell. I was trying to take care of the people under my roof when I couldn’t even begin to take care of myself. I was also probably a little drunk.
Last year, I wrote a piece about it. I knew the date was coming. It was in the back of my mind. I was sober, though. I was ready to let myself actually feel it. I was a little wistful, which took me by surprise. I let myself acknowledge that my marriage was more than just the dark, humiliating way that it ended. That’s harder. It’s harder to admit it was ever good. There’s more to mourn that way.
This year the date only registered with me when the piece I wrote last year came up in my Memories on Facebook.
Four years ago yesterday, on a rainy day outside Seattle, I thought my marriage was over. I met my ex at a Starbucks, and signed the papers. He wanted to hug afterward, but I fled into a nearby bathroom and sobbed instead. We had a snafu at the courthouse, the papers didn’t get filed, and I got a call from my lawyer’s office later in the day that we would have to do the whole thing over the next day.
I was beside myself. I was angry and sad and frustrated. It took me forever to fall asleep in my depressing little post-dream house rental. It felt like Groundhog’s Day in hell.
I woke up the next morning feeling oddly calm. I had the realization that nothing had changed, really. And not just from the day before. It was just paperwork at this point. Signatures and dates.
So, another rainy day. I met my ex again. Signed again. Not a single tear that day, though. I think we may even have laughed a bit.
I don’t know when my marriage died, but it wasn’t either of those gloomy days in October, four years ago. Those divorce papers were not a death sentence, they were a death certificate.
Things in my life couldn’t be more different now. Then, I’d been out of the workforce for thirteen years and had no idea what I was going to do for work. Today, I’m a professional writer and I run Say It, Survivor - a non-profit I co-founded with my cousin. I have found my life’s purpose. Then, I thought I would never love again. Today, I know that’s not true. Then, my drinking had spiraled into alcoholism. Today, I have been sober for 16 months.
Then, I couldn’t even look at my ex-husband. I veered back and forth between rage and grief. Today, though our contact is limited, we have good conversations about our kids. We’re cordial to one another. Kind, even.
Then, I painted the whole of our history with a broad, dark brush. I couldn’t see my part in anything. Now, I know it’s complicated. That the demise of a marriage is never just one person’s doing. That while I will likely never know exactly what the truth of my marriage was in the big picture, I can look back on moments of truth and beauty.
Nothing, and no one, is all one thing.
The feeling that came over me this drizzly morning was peace and relief. Not giddy relief, like- “Thank God I escaped!” Not an occasion for celebration, exactly- though I know it is that for many women, and I get that.
For me it feels more like an exhale. Serenity, even.
It was what it was, and that’s okay. Finally.