A year of divorce, that’s what I’m coming up on.
Back in January, when the final divorce papers came in the mail and I slipped open the envelope, I’ll admit it: I didn’t want to be divorced at all. I’m not saying it wasn’t the thing to do. Hell, I filed for it even when I didn’t want to, so that right there must mean that deep down I knew what was up. I wasn’t ready to be married when I got married. I wasn’t ready for divorce when I got divorced.
I’m never ready for any of this stuff, I don’t think.
I kind of like that in a weird way. It all seems so whimsical. My heart, my brain: they’re like two nerds at Comic Con. They never know what the hell is going on. They just float through paradise, looking over at one another every now and then with bemused looks as they move from aisle to aisle, from thrill to disappointment and back to thrill again. Is this really happening? That pretty much sums up my entire love life.
Divorce, in case you haven’t heard, is an invading army. They slip in silent in the middle of the night and they unleash the saddest, harshest, most difficult, and quite possibly the most liberating occupation of your heart and mind that will ever take place.
Well, until you fall in love again that is. Then it all starts over. Because you’re a fool. Or perhaps because you’re anything but a fool. I’m not sure on that one yet.
I do know this, though. I have three kids: Violet turned 6 the same week as the divorce papers arrived; a month later Henry was 4; and a few weeks after that our Charlie hit his first birthday. Their love, resilience, and shining eyes, hearts, and spirits have helped guide me along this year.
By late April their mom and I had tried one last attempt at reviving what we’d seemed to have lost. From separate homes in different towns we tried to “hang out.” It was risky. The kids were so curious, they seemed pretty happy about mom and dad spending more time in one place.
We failed. It went on for two months, and then one morning I could just tell it was over. I was really sad and really mad at myself for trying to do whatever it was I’d been trying to do. I tossed a brand new heartbreak up on my heartbreak heap. What kind of a fool does that? I dunno. Maybe I just really believed in something.
Or maybe, you know … nerd at Comic Con.
Through the summer, even as an officially divorced guy, I had to kind of nurse myself back from that second crash landing. I dabbled a little in meeting new women, and damn I met some pretty cool ones, but even as summer rolled on and I pulled our big garden wagon up the road to the public pool, I knew. I knew I wasn’t really ready for anything else. I wasn’t ready to be with anyone else. I didn’t have much to offer anyone yet, that’s for damn sure.
Then came October mornings, where I’d start cranking up the heat and pour the cereal out and get clothes ready for small bodies to tackle their days, every now and then swinging by my cup of cooled coffee sitting there on the kitchen island like some forgotten dream.
I grew accustomed to this strange, new peace. I came to revel in this just being a dad thing. To fall in love again seemed ridiculous to imagine. To just “get out there and have some fun” seemed far to Tinderish, too cheap in the wake of real heartbreak. A thing I believe is that a lot of people have lost the ability to ride their own blues on their own, as far as they’re meant to. I didn’t want to pretend that wasn’t my life. I didn’t want to hook up with someone. Truth is I wanted to launch myself into outer space. There’s a difference, you know, between the kinds of freshly divorced people looking to hook up with someone else and the ones who wish they could ride a rocket to the moon.
I’d inherited a very complicated world in a lot of ways this year. I’m a very busy single dad every second of every day when the kids are with me. And when they’re at their mom’s, I’m a very busy writer sitting here at a laptop bouncing back and forth between digging the peace and missing them bad.
That has been the hardest part of my first year of divorce. I can handle all the other stuff. I can go without anyone ever cooking me dinner. I can survive the endless nights of watching TV with a 4-year-old. Or with no one at all. I can roll, just barely, but I can roll with getting three little kids ready for the world many many mornings, out the door by 7:20 AM, riding all over the place to get them where they need to go. I can survive the dry spells between making out. I can talk to myself when there’s simply no one else to talk to, which is a lot of the time. I can get by. I can get through almost anything.
But those days when they’re gone from me, I haven’t figured that one out yet. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fair either. I don’t care what anyone says, it isn’t fair. I talk to them sometimes. I talk to the ghosts of my very living, breathing children. I stand there in the kitchen and I look out over the sprawling front rooms in front me, the stuffed animals and building blocks lying everywhere they left them, and right before I clean the whole mess up, I open my trap and I talk out loud.
I tell them I love them so much. Sometimes I tell them I’m sorry. But I don’t even know what that’s about. They’re incredible kids. Their hearts are suns. Their love is galaxies. And for a year now, for this first year of divorce, I’ve been soaring through their big beautiful space; I’ve been wrapped up in their cosmos.
Funny, huh? The hardest year of my life and I ended up launching myself towards the moon after all.
Love is so strange. I thought I lost it. But I was just getting started.More On