Oh good lord, it has been so long since I have blogged that it took me two tries to correctly log in.
But I have a good excuse, or a bad one: I have been busy getting divorced.
And, for all of you who’ve heard it sucks, let me just say: It does.
It sucks in so, so many ways—the big and the little, the serious and the silly, the transient and the lasting—that the only earthly reason I can ever imagine anyone doing it is that they honestly believe the alternative would be, on balance, worse.
And that’s what you cling to, then, when it sucks so hard you would give almost anything to make it go away, to just forget it ever happened, to wake up and find it was all a bad dream: You cling to your list, your private list of things that were worse than divorce. Worse than what you’re going through right now, worse than what’s worst of all, which is what your kids are going through (and what you secretly fear they will go through for the rest of their lives, all because you and your mate couldn’t work your collective shit out).
You pull out your list. And if you happen to be going through a divorce, let me clarify: I mean a real list. A “mental list” (which is really just shorthand for “wishful thinking”) will not cut it. You need a real list, preferably handwritten, so you can see how your script changes into an enraged scrawl or blurs from tears, a list that is a tangible reminder of What Would’ve Been Worse. Even better: illustrate it! Pictures! Sketches! Whatever it takes, because The List will be your anchor, the only thing that keeps you from falling backward.
To mix metaphors.
My list is complicated, and my divorce is complicated, by the fact that my ex is a generally superlative guy. And we remain on excellent terms. Every single person who knows us—friends, neighbors, relatives, attorneys, therapists—has applauded us on having a model divorce.
I am deeply, deeply thankful for this. I am thankful directly to my ex, and I try to be thankful every single time I interact with him that he is basically a smash-up human being, a good father, and really, The World’s Best Ex-Husband. (Look for my line of ‘world’s best ex’ merchandise shortly on CafePress.)
But…then why on earth are we getting divorced? Aurgh. I know! Enter The List. But because we are amicable, and the things on The List are very private, and I respect my ex and his privacy and even more so the privacy of my children, I can’t really share The List. I can’t really rant. It’s been very hard to find anything to write over the past months, because every significant thing I have to share—I want to share, in the hopes that sharing might help me and maybe someone else going through this—would violate the privacy of someone I care about.
Don’t get me wrong—as far as divorces go, I have the very, very best a person could hope for. So I’m not complaining. But it is complicated.
It’s complicated for the kids, too. Imagine this: Mom and Dad fight bitterly. The kids witness it—the yelling, the name-calling, the tears and general stress. After months or years of this, Mom and Dad give the kids the bad news: We’re getting divorced. While the initial news may be unpleasant and there’s upheaval, there is also a certain relief that comes with it. As the child of this sort of marriage, I used to literally pray for my parents to get divorced. The day-to-day awfulness is abated, and replaced with something which (ideally, anyway), may be diffcult, but is better than before. The kids were probably not terribly surprised, and didn’t necessarily even need much of an explanation.
Now imagine this: Mom and Dad get along like the most cordial of roommates. They share household responsibilities, communicate clearly with each other, agree on most major decisions, co-parent well, and treat each other with respect.
Then, one day, they tell the kids: We’re getting divorced.
Because here’s the thing: there’s a vast gray area in which the parents can be amicably miserable, and all the kids really see is amicable. And kids will take amicable any day of the week over divorce.
Who can blame them? There are plenty of days when I question my sanity for not making that choice, myself.
But why? The kids wail. Understandably. And Mom and Dad, doing their level best not to hurt each other or burden their children with details they ought really be spared, are left to wring their hands and shrug their shoulders and say, “ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….no reason.”
Of course, what they really say is, “Well, Mom and Dad have some very serious issues they haven’t been able to resolve. And we both love you very much, and will continue to work together to be the very best parents we can be, but we’re going to have to do it from separate houses now.”
But what the kids hear is: No reason. You are destroying everything that matters to me for no reason.
And because you love your kids more than life itself, you make another list: a list of every good thing you hope for your children. You think about the person you must be to achieve these things; you think about what you want to model for your children so that they can achieve their own good things.
Then you go back the The List. You read it. And you realize that everything on that list leaves its imprint. Every action, every inaction, has its consequence. No amount of amicability, no matter how heartfelt, no matter how convincing, can change that.
So you try your very best to trust that your children will be OK. You trust The List. And slowly, falteringly, you begin to trust the person who wrote it.