At least, that's what I always thought divorce would be--the end of the story. For so long, I was unhappy in my marriage, yet divorce seemed impossible for...well, lots of reasons. I was very good at coming up with reasons to stay. More than any reason, I was simply afraid of the whole idea. I'd already sacrificed so much of myself, was there enough left to start over? I'd already admitted to myself that my marriage was a failure--could I admit it to my child? To the world?
So I just stayed, and somehow I managed to compartmentalize my life enough that I could have a successful work world and a happy friend world and a fulfilling parent world. For a while, I convinced myself that was enough, and maybe all I deserved. But as I poured myself into those other areas, a funny thing happened. I felt valued and loved in those areas. Those became my safe spots where I could bring my full self, where I could feel supported and energized by those around me, and give them my love, support, and energy in return. I'd like to say the marriage compartment of my life got better, too, but it didn't. If anything, Joe and I were more like roommates than husband and wife, and more often than not, we just didn't like being around each other. Eventually, the running conversation in my head shifted from "Why doesn't he love me?" to "I just have to survive" to "I have to find my way out of this."
Then a week at the beach changed everything. Months ago, Fred (my boss) planned a writing retreat for the first week of January, to be held in the Outer Banks. The plan was for several of us to spend the week together in a house on the ocean to begin work on two new books. I gave Fred a hard time about this. "If we're going to the beach, shouldn't we go to one where it's warm?" I asked. I groused. I resisted. But once I arrived, I was there. It was serene and beautiful and I was surrounded by the heart of my work family, by people who love me and care for me. We did amazing work together (these books are going to rock, mark my words). Katrin, my executive partner (aka assistant) is an amazing cook, so every night we all gathered around the table and she fed us and we laughed and laughed. I missed Alex as I always, but I was also thoroughly, utterly comfortable and calm.
Then one night, amid the laughter and stories and work, it hit me. My entire life could be as happy as some parts of it already were. I was the only thing getting in the way of that. Not Joe. Not Alex. Not money. Not this idea that I had to stick with something I knew was never going to work. I had everything else working so well and the love and support of so many people that it suddenly seemed possible to right this other huge part of my life.
Getting to that moment wasn't easy, but once I recognized the arrival of that moment, it was as if a switch had been flipped. Much to my surprise, it didn't feel like the end of the story at all. It felt like a new beginning, and the switch that was flipped was my hope coming back on for the first time in longer than I care to admit.That's not to say that tears weren't shed or that it was easy--it wasn't. But it was right.
When the time came to end it, it went about as smoothly as I could have hoped. It's been over for a long time, we both knew that. It will be awkward, but amicable. There's no fault or blame, just too much time spent trying (and then not trying) to fix something that couldn't be fixed. He'll always be Alex's father, so his well-being will always matter to me. I wish him well. But everything else will fall away, and I'm finally okay with that. Alex was heartbroken when we told him and still has moments of sadness (and will have many more, I'm sure), but he gets it. That's why I realize now that the "staying together for the kids" is such a farce. The kids know. When I said I was queasy the next day, probably from what was going on, Alex told me, "Don't worry, it's going to be a better life." He was already my bright light of joy, but I had no idea what a strong little guy he really is or how much he was going to help me through this in his own way.
Now it comes down to paperwork and agreements and retainers. He put down a deposit on an apartment today and can start moving February 1. We're sorting out the finances and working on a shared custody arrangement and trying to keep everyday life as normal as possible for Alex.
Me? I am just fine. And getting better every day.