I live in the “divorce house.” You know that house. It’s the one that pre-divorce always appeared loved and cared for. It’s the house that not so long ago could have passed for being on the market—the home a realtor could show with a mere 15 minutes of advance notice and the one where the homeowner would still be ready and waiting with a quick fluff of a pillow. It’s the house that once boasted pretty landscaping, copious flowerpots, and hanging planters filled with cascading petunias to greet visitors at the front and patio doors, the house that welcomed family and friends for barbecues on a freshly stained deck, and the house where children’s voices could be heard squealing with delight as games of tag and catch were played endlessly into a summer’s evening in an inviting backyard equipped with the requisite state-of-the-art suburban swing set. That was our house. That is, before our divorce. The moment we separated, the house began to quickly reek of neglect and became that other house, the house where its owners stopped loving each other and everything they once loved together.
My husband had lost interest in us and I, in turn, lost interest in those other aspects of our life that had once brought me comfort and what I at the time believed was joy and contentment. One of my biggest pastimes and greatest pleasures had been renovating and caring for our house, all with the goal of creating the perfect home to raise our family. From the day we became homeowners, workers continuously rotated in and out of our front door. Our house was a never-ending work in progress. From painters and wallpaper hangers to general contractors and handymen, there was rarely a day when something was not being re-done or serviced, even prophylactically. Yes, I was downright vigilant, even conducting preventative yearly service of our washer and dryer. Call me compulsive, but anyone with three school-age kids knows that when the washer or dryer is on the fritz life can suddenly feel unmanageable.
Little did I know…
Everyone always speaks of the calm before a storm, that period of time when we live blissfully ignorant of the fury about to pummel us. My divorce indisputably ranks as the storm of my life, and that’s after surviving the sudden loss of a parent and its aftermath during my young teens. Yet, as I look back on the years preceding my marriage’s end, I realize now I was not living in a period of calm at all. I was swimming against a fierce current that day by day was gradually pulling me under. That paintbrush I held in my hands to repair paint chips as quickly as they appeared was only a temporary fix for concealing the defects in a marriage that chipped away at me.
When the storm did eventually hit—with my discovery of an adulterous husband followed by his abrupt exit from our marriage—I was lost, lost in a sea of despair, uncertainty, and indifference to the place I once considered my sanctuary. Monstrous and fierce, the storm shook me. The choppy waters that ushered it in paled in comparison to the waves of emotion I rode over the past months as I realized I loved the life I had but not the man with whom I had it. I didn’t know which way to turn first. So I turned everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. Whenever I could, I fled my surroundings—weekends away, vacations, activities, and a multitude of errands that kept me on the go. The result was a sense of vertigo characterized by an inability to concentrate and a resultant indifference and inattention to my surroundings.
What was once our home became… just a house.
Today is the two-and-a-half year anniversary since the last time my ex husband and I lived here together as a married couple. He left, we stayed. Summer has officially begun, my eldest two each on their own fun-filled adventures to different parts of the country and my youngest at sleepaway camp. I, for the first time in many months, am the grateful recipient of some much-needed time to myself. But instead of fleeing this summer as I had originally planned, I will spend my time here, attending to the unattended.
Within hours of the last child’s departure, I started tearing apart the house. Closets, drawers, refrigerators, freezers, pantries, and desks—no space is off-limits. Due to the constraints of my new financial situation, I realistically won’t be able to complete all of the repairs I would like. In the meantime, though, I’m reclaiming my space, clearing out the old, welcoming in the new, and incorporating the history relevant to us now. I even plan on hanging that trinket I bought two vacations ago still sitting in a drawer.
The storm of my divorce is finally subsiding. I have found my sea legs. And for the first time in a long time I’m on a clear course back home.