Exactly five years ago this weekend my life imploded with a cosmic *SMACK*. Life as I knew it was over [for the whole gory story go here LifeQuake ]. LSS - marriage ended on Friday, Mom died on Sunday.
It would be easy to say that I grieved, did the emotional and psychological work, and moved onto a wonderful new life in record time and with minimal disruption. It would also be a lie. The combined losses of my marriage and my mother, in that order in that many days flattened me.
For the first while, I went into autopilot. I knew what I was supposed to do and what the 'right' responses were and I kept to the script. Honestly, the 'role' of responsible, directed woman planning both her mother's funeral and her husband's move from the matrimonial home at the same time came easy. It felt like I was in a 'Lifetime' movie. . . perhaps being played by Valerie Bertinelli (before she lost the weight -- we want authenticity here).
I wrote the obituary and the euology. I sat with my siblings to select a casket and plan the order of service. I scurried around the music store to locate a copy of the sheet music to Amazing Grace (I still shake my head in wonder that it doesn't appear in the hymnal of the Church I attended as a child).
I gave Renfrew the time and space to move from our home to a nearby friend's house with the plan that the Pumpkin and I would move to the City once we found a place. But for the time being, she and I would stay in the house.
Three weeks after my LifeQuake, I went back to work. My siblings and I had cleaned out most of Mom's apartment -- shredding 30 years of bank statements and old cheques, receipts for everything from utilities to her Readers' Digest subscription. Furniture that could be used by family members was re-homed and that for which there was no current purpose was donated to the nearby thrift store. Everyone who wanted a memento was allowed to take something that reminded them of Mom.
It was time for things to get back to "NORMAL"... Normal, I now know is simply a setting on the washing machine. That December was unquestionably the lowest my life has ever been. Slowly, and I do mean S L O W L Y, I started to find a new way to be in the world. During the course of my journey I learned some pretty amazing truths:
Failing at marriage did not mean I was a failure. My marriage was, truthfully, everything to me. I had made that commitment with the view that it was irrevocable. Divorce was NEVER in my playbook. But I had to recognize that marriage was making Renfrew miserable and he did not believe that it could be fixed. I had no choice to let go. It was a slow and sticky process and I am the first to admit I did not handle it gracefully at first. I cried buckets of tears. But as the 'process' moved along, I began to realize that the ending of marriage did not nullify the years we had shared -- most of them pretty happy.
Don't get me wrong, there is still a small part of me that mourns not having a life partner to whom I can say "remember . . . ." and have him smile. The shared history still exists, but it is no longer accessible. I just read in a book about marriage end (a memoir by a woman who lost her husband not to your average mid-life crisis, but to his gender change to a woman) that one of the hardest losses in a divorce is the loss of the collective memory of a family.
Slowly I cried less and smiled more. I would heal and the edges would soften around the wound. Then something would pull the back the scab and I would bleed tears again. At some point, the tears more or less stopped. My focus moved away from what was lost to what remained. . . a beautiful child and a friendship with her other parent.
My kid is both smarter and stronger than I ever imagined. Shortly after we separated, we (I) dragged the Pumpkin to a clinical social worker. I figured she'd been handed a couple of biggies, just like I had been and as a good parent it was important to give her someone to help her debrief. Her assessment of our separation: "If living together makes you unhappy, why would you live together?" Wisdom from the mouth of a 9 year old. In the intervening time, she has continued to grow -- and WOW. She is self-possessed with a confidence and sense of humour about life that will take her far.
Forgiveness is truly the path to Peace and Happiness. Along my way I discovered A Course In Miracles . It is not a religion (and I remain as irreverent as ever), but a spiritual mind training program, the goal of which is to FORGIVE everyone for everything as a way to PEACE.
Trust me, I did not WANT to forgive Renfrew for pulling the plug on our marriage. I was hurt and, for a time, I was pretty good at trying to reach out and hurt him too. It wasn't until I was given the 'miracle' of seeing things a different way, that I forgave. It was a conscious choice I made initially for two people: my child and myself. I knew carrying anger and resentment toward her father would spill over onto her. I also got really tired of trying to move forward with that stone around my neck. I set it down . . . at first for only seconds at a time, but eventually I left it in the distance.
I have gotten SO MUCH out of that one choice. In addition to a child who sees her parents behaving like adults, when Renfrew married my Wife-in-Law (or WiL as I'll call her) three years ago, I got a friend and another co-parent for her. Seriously, Renfrew always had great taste in women (with a few exceptions that occurred during his post-marriage break up craziness), so why would I not like his choice in a partner? And if I did, what on earth would it say about me?
Now, I am substantially healed. I am not the person I would have been if neither of those losses had happened. I am stronger. I am more cynical. I am more patient. I am less trusting. I am more at peace. There have been losses and gains. It was a weekend . . . and I sincerely hope I never have another one like it.