About a year ago, I started a website called Irretrievably Broken. The first entry described the day I got my divorce papers in the mail; I had written it by hand a month before I finally got around to posting it, on a loose sheet of paper I found next to my bed–or rather, the guest room bed, where I was still sleeping, though my ex-husband had moved out several months before.
“Irretrievably broken” is a legal term: when I saw it typed on our divorce agreement, I cried. It’s a terrible phrase, made worse by the fact that I did, in fact, feel irretrievably broken when my marriage fell apart. I met my ex-husband in college. We were married for fourteen years, together for eighteen. We are both forty-two years old. We moved in together right after graduation, got married, acquired two boys (they’re now fourteen and eight) and a dog (who died right as we were splitting up). We went to graduate school together. We bought houses, accumulated possessions, grew up together. We were, for years and years, quite astonishingly happy–I know I’m not making that part up. And then the whole thing collapsed.
This is not a new story, nor even a particularly fascinating one. (Though the strangest thing to me about the whole divorce was how out of sync with my friends–nearly all of whom were, by now, neatly paired off–I suddenly felt. It’s funny–we who were born in the late ’60’s saw plenty of divorce from the kids’ point of view. But my friends are, overwhelmingly, still married. We are Generation X, but not, it seems, Generation Ex.)
Or perhaps my own marriage is simply ahead of the curve. My friends, for the most part, married later than we did: they were still wiping toddlers’ noses and debating the merits of various preschools when my husband and I began cautiously spreading the news of our impending split. “God, divorce,” one of my oldest friends said. “It’s so–it seems so parental, you know?” He gave me a look I’d never seen on anyone’s face before–horror commingled with curiosity and pure awe. I’ve seen it plenty since.
That was three whole years ago. Like a newly pregnant woman who suddenly sees bulging bellies everywhere she goes, I’ve since ferreted out plenty of fellow travelers. But even a year ago, when I started my website, I couldn’t find many people writing about divorce online. (The topic seems, since then, to have caught on. And lo and behold, even some people who started out married have since split. Bloggers–they’re just like us!) If you are presently writing about divorce online, or know someone who is, I’d love to hear from you. And if you are interested in reading about one person’s divorce, I’ll be writing here and on my old website concurrently.
I’m no one special–just a middle-aged woman in a small suburban town. My ex-husband, with whom I have a reasonably amiable shared custody arrangement, lives three blocks away. He’s a scientist. I do odd jobs, and take care of the children. If you had asked us five years ago whether we thought we’d ever get divorced, we’d have laughed heartily, and poured everyone another round of drinks. Later we’d have been incredulous, wondering together why on earth anyone would even ask such a question. “Divorce is unthinkable, it’s simply unthinkable,” my ex-husband repeated dozens of times at the end, pounding his knee with his fist for emphasis, and even when it was absolutely clear to both of us that divorce was inevitable, I always agreed with him. It was unthinkable. I don’t know why we were so naive, or so presumptuous, but there you have it. The harder they come, the harder they fall, or so I’ve always heard.
Now, of course, the alternative–having stayed together–is unthinkable. I cannot imagine living a single day of my old life over again. Having fallen hard, I am (arguably) broken, and the past is irretrievable, of course. The future? Simply unfathomable. We could go on and on like this, but the important fact is, those dreadfully upsetting words I chose for the title of my blog have lost their power to dismay. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they make me happy, but they certainly don’t make me cry.