Me: “So we’re doing this.”
Him: “Yeah. It’s time.”
Me: “Ok. It sucks.”
Him: “I know. A lot.”
Me: “I love you.”
Him: “I love you too.”
When my former husband and I realized our marriage was over, we tried to go through the process as quickly as possible. Before our friends and family could blink, we filed the papers, divided up our stuff, and headed our separate ways. We ripped it off like a Band-Aid. And it stung so bad. But I clenched my jaw and stubbornly pretended it didn’t.
“Pssssssh, I’m great!!!!” I replied a little too cheerily to all the inquiries about how I was doing.
“Life is WONDERFUL!!!!” I responded with big, blank eyes and a pasted-on smile to concerned friends.
I was numb. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to have fun. I didn’t want to feel. I proceeded to punish myself by working long hours and working out too hard. I didn’t let myself confide in anyone. I didn’t let myself cry.
Because if I cried, that would be admitting that it hurt… And if it hurt, that meant I had made the wrong choice…
A year after the divorce was final, I mentally said goodbye to my ex-husband for good when he moved to a different city. As I sat on my couch in dazed silence that day, my wise-beyond-his-years younger brother came over.
“How’re you doing?” he asked.
“Fine! Thanks for asking!!!” I chirped.
“Alright.” He sat in silence with me. He’s good at that.
Finally, I burst out, “This is fucking weird.”
“What is?” he asked.
“I think I’m sad but I don’t even know why. We split up a year ago. He’s gone. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for me. It’s fine. I shouldn’t be sad. This is stupid.”
“Just because you’re both better off now doesn’t mean something wasn’t lost,” he said. “It’s ok to grieve. In fact, you probably need to.”
Yes, we were both better off. His life and my life were finally free to go the separate directions they needed to. But something had been lost. And it needed to be acknowledged. I missed my husband – my best friend for seven years. The person who had survived my twenties with me and at the time knew me better than anyone else. I missed the time we used to spend together and the silly things we laughed about. I missed our circle of friends and the life we had built together. There was so much to miss. And, an entire year later, I had only just realized that it was ok to miss it.
So I began the grieving process. Better late than never. I wrote. I cried. I laughed. I talked. I admitted. I ran. I yoga-ed. I thought. I meditated. I played the hell out of my piano.
And it didn’t all feel good. Cleaning a wound HURTS, you see. Going into our hearts with tweezers to remove emotional shrapnel is really freaking unpleasant at times. But a wound that isn’t cleaned out properly can’t heal properly.
Denying the pain doesn’t make it leave. It just cleverly disguises itself as other things: insecurity, shallowness, impatience, anger, and anxiety. It also robs us of all the good emotions: joy, excitement, hope, freedom.
I’ve been divorced for four years already. Being this far removed, it’s easy to see how right we were to go through with it. I don’t see the marriage as a failure. It was a wonderful experience that had an expiration date. And, for goodness’ sake, I’m glad I finally decided to face and embrace the dark times that followed.
Some of us would rather stay in a stagnant purgatory of not-feeling-our-feelings. I can’t do that anymore, and I don’t recommend it to anyone else. Allow the tears. Allow the fear. Allow the embarrassment. Allow the OhshitwhathaveIdone? moments.
Because, isn’t it better when your smile is genuine?
FYI, the crying comes easier these days. Sometimes I cry when I hear a good song. Sometimes I cry because I love my dog so much I can’t stand it. Pretty sure I cried once doing a bunch of wall balls. But I no longer associate tears with weakness or regret. They are cleansing, healing, liquefied emotions. And they need to get out. So let ’em.