The last few days have been particularly educational for me. I've felt like a jerk no fewer than three separate times, for things I'm so ashamed about that I will not publish them on the internets.
No matter where I go, the Shame Monster lurks.
I've been exceptionally lucky thus far in this life, or at least I think that's what Oprah would say, as would 99% of the population of Earth. The pain I've experienced has been almost entirely self-inflicted, perhaps because I've had it so easy and would otherwise be bored, or possibly because I have some sort of internal defect or flaw, or indeed because I've got a bad case of self-directed sociopathic tendencies.
I love Martha Beck. She says that when you're on the right path, the Universe conspires to assist you, and when you're not… well, it keeps sending reminders. Like my GPS, Shirley T, who never says, "WRONG! WRONG!" she just says, "Recalculating."
On Friday I went to Divorce Court with my husband. We sat next to one another while the other couples sat across the aisles, spewing silent hate-balls and shooting eye-daggers. We thought we were attending something personal where a judge would give us dirty looks and ask us with puppy dog eyes, "why couldn't you just make it work?" I was prepared for the judge to ask me if I was pregnant, and when I said no, ask me again if I was sure. But I wasn't ready for what actually happened.
Two things broke my spirit on Friday. One, the unfortunate man whose job was to interpret an exceptionally boring flow chart for the masses did his darndest to keep us entertained as he essentially told us five minutes worth of information in two hours. He did this using a narrative style, which I appreciate from the days of working in college admission. Keeping an audience when the subject matter is bleak isn't easy, but his narrative was horrendous. Humbling. Humiliating.
We were a mixed crowd, the 20 other couples and I. Some had children, others did not. As such, our flow charts contained different information. In order to describe the importance of a childcare agreement, Mr. Not Judge described the process of having and raising a child in excruciating detail. "You loved each other, so you decided to have a baby. You wanted the best for your baby and talked about what you would feed it, where it would go to school, how you would teach it values, whether or not it would participate in a religion..."
And there I was, my head pounding. The wailing banshee inside screaming WE DID THAT PART. WE DID ALL OF IT. WE HAD EVERYTHING IN PLACE. AND WE HAVE NO BABY. My eyes started to water, then pour as all of the dreams and goals and plans that I had made washed back into the sea. The reality of the tide receding as I close this chapter was as shocking as Shirley T telling me to take a left turn into a lake.
And so sitting there, in the face of all the never-will-be, in a sea of animosity, my husband took my hand. He said nothing, and he didn't have to, because he knows me better than anyone else. Sure, I've spent months slowly chipping away at the frozen or calcified grief in my belly, but any progress I've made has quickly patched over to preserve or survive. What possibly remains of spirit once the grief begins to thaw? I think it sets itself on fire, transmuting its energy by self-immolation. Grief, I suppose, cannot thaw itself.
It strikes me, haunts me, that in the moment we were supposed to be the farthest, we were the closest.
My wedding video shows my relative insanity as I try to look the blushing bride. Among the things I blame (and thank) my mother for is my lack of Barbie doll preparation for a world that has still quite a few Barbie-esque expectations. There was no deep spiritual transition as I committed myself to a partnership, just a hare-brained attempt to look pretty and keep smiling.
But divorce? That's where the magic happened. The moment I realized that the most loving thing another human could do was to see, to acknowledge, and to hold my hand in the swampy thickness of thawed grief.
We each go our separate ways shortly… him to the East and I to the… well, East, but different easts.
No Shirley this time, just me.