“I want a divorce.”
I was standing in the kitchen when he said it. I wasn’t shocked, but I was surprised with the bluntness, the force of his voice.
“But you’ll be ok,” he added quickly. “It won’t be long before you get picked up.”
Picked up. The words echoed in my head, and reminded me of a fraction of a movie I saw when I was a teenager while flipping through the channels on a lazy afternoon. I don’t remember much of it, only that it was set in the late 19th century, and some selfish bastard was abandoning his pregnant girlfriend to shack up with a woman of better social standing. “But it won’t be long until you get picked up,” the man had said. “Picked up? Whores get picked up,” the woman had replied as she burned the clothing he had left in her country cottage.
I would not be burning his clothes. But I did for a moment wonder if he was calling me a whore. No, I decided. That’s not what he meant by picked up. He was trying to be kind, in his way, but it still stung. Still stings. The casual way any of my future relationships was addressed. Picked up. And then I internally chastised myself for even using the word “whore.” As a sex positive blogger and author, it’s not a word I really allow in my vocabulary, and have been known to stop conversations when someone else uses it. But I couldn’t get it out of my brain, over and over, “Whores get picked up.” It was the feeling of reduction of my person, like I was something that could be returned to the shop and bought again at a discount.
I had felt the rumblings coming, that strange awkwardness that accompanies the death of relationships. It was compounded by his feelings toward me varying by day. I wanted to save it, to save us, and tried to give him both the space he needed to decide how he felt about me while simultaneously trying to show that my love for him was still there. A fine line to walk. How do you give someone closeness and space at the same time?
In the end, our marriage was not salvageable, and he met me in the kitchen late in the afternoon to tell me he wanted a divorce. I looked into the eyes of the man I had loved so deeply, and simply nodded. Maybe I muttered, “OK.” There was a sadness, a finality to it. It was time to stop pretending it was all going to work out. Time to stop hoping. Just time to stop.
But there was a certain relief to it, too. I could lay down my arms. I could stop trying to prove my love, my affection, my loyalty, all of which had been recently called into question. I could relax. I no longer had anything to prove. I could finally be done. I shifted my focus to how to tell our children and how to best support them.
And then it came. The Waiting Place. That terrible, in-between space that the late, great Dr. S had called “a most useless place,” where everyone is waiting for something to happen. My Waiting Place is colder, darker. I’m not just waiting for something in particular to happen, I’m waiting for something to happen and I don’t even know what it is. My entire life is changing. For so long, so long, “wife” was as much a part of my identity as my name. It’s what I was. It’s part of how I defined myself. And now I get to the part where I figure out who I am without it.
But in the meantime, I sit on a bench in the Waiting Place. I’m here because I’m still job hunting, and have been for months, so I don’t know what kind of work schedule I’ll have. We haven’t gotten to the meetings where we work out all of the nitty gritty of trying to divide the past twelve years into tangible and/or financial chunks, so I have no idea what the rest of my finances will look like, where I’ll be living, or what custody arrangements will be. It’s all up in the air, all confusing, seeing the future through a haze of uncertainty and concern. And that is my Waiting Place. And it is a special kind of hell.
What no one tells you about being in the Waiting Place is that it has a lot of side effects. Warning: sudden change in life circumstances and prolonged exposure to the Waiting Place may cause sleep disturbances, nightmares, exhaustion, crying, loneliness, and erectile dysfunction. May also cause alarming change in behavior in others. I am both getting a lot of emotional support and a lot of vitriol. Some people that I would have considered close a few short weeks ago have shut me out in anger and feelings of betrayal. Which, I mean… that’s confusing. A few have asked me if the rumors they heard about me and the circumstances surrounding the end of my marriage were true (they weren’t, by the way). Others have circled the wagons and offered their love and kind words.
So that’s where I’ve been. I’ve been in the Waiting Place. And every day is one day closer until I get out, look at the sun, and take a step into the new normal.