A Family Vacation With My Ex

12/13/2010 09:51 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nearly ten years ago, while entering into Dante's inferno, I would awake in the mornings wishing my life were over. I could no longer take the pain of the wretched disease known as divorce. Knowing that over half the population had, or is, going through the same thing was of no comfort to me. I was dying, and that's all I knew. Each time I had to deliver our baby girl to her father for a visitation I would go home, curl into the fetal position and cry endlessly until I could wrap my arms around her again.

Variations of those feelings persisted for years. Although, I did eventually stop crying and actually started enjoying the perks of divorce - a free babysitter every other weekend. My feelings towards my Ex have evolved, I no longer wish for a Mac truck to run him over and instead have focused on helping my daughter develop a loving bond with her father. My friends have described me with saintly adjectives because of my civility towards a man who had once betrayed me, us, or did we betray each other? I really can't remember, and quite frankly, I was sick of playing the role of victim. So, I adopted the Buddhist belief that good exists in everyone and I focused on his good.

Every so often, my saintliness has brought the three of us together during the holidays and birthdays. Dependent on how much I despised or tolerated him that given year. From time to time, we plan an outing that our daughter would enjoy. Sometimes we go, and other times, we don't. Trying to meld into a new family existence can be taxing and no clear direction is always readily available. Yes, we are parents to a young daughter, and yes, we will be glued together much longer in divorce than we were in marriage. Ultimately, we both agree that our daughter is the center of our universe. So, we decided to put our differences aside, which was an act of God!

On the suggestion of my Ex we decided to take a pseudo-family vacation to Hawaii. I dubiously agreed and we put a date on the calendar. I also sat down with our daughter to make sure she understood that mommy and daddy were not rekindling a romantic flame. The idea of us traveling together as a unit runs the gamut between nails on a chalkboard and why not?

The three of us got on a plane and flew over the tropical islands of Hawaii landing in Maui where my Ex had reserved a room for us, two queen beds, one bathroom. I agree, I must be nuts. After a few hours on the island I started to feel like I was about to have an anxiety attack. I could see the same panic in my Ex's eyes. What have we done? How could we possibly last eight long days and nights together? We decided to continue behaving as a divorced couple, he would exercise early in the mornings then I would exercise and he would take our daughter to breakfast. We spent the days frolicking on the beach, taking turns swimming with our daughter in the ocean and lying side by side on the sand listening to the world around us. By day four we had already toured the rain forest where my daughter broke out in hives all over her body and we were hours away from any emergency room. Thankfully, our guide had Benadryl and my Ex and I remained calm through the ordeal warring off any fear she might have experienced. We were united, as a family.

Mid-way through the trip I thought about how nice it was to share a meal with another adult and my daughter, the way many families function on a daily basis. I found myself missing the companionship and the concept of family. Maybe we have re-branded the ménage in our generation. Perhaps this could be the new family, one that plays together but doesn't live together. Or, maybe not. We clearly have differences. I still found all his idiosyncrasies bothersome, although not enough to get upset since I knew I would soon be going home to my abode and he to his, separately, just the way I like it. In the end we gave our daughter a great gift for her treasure trove of memories. I was proud of my Ex and I was proud of me. The world is a fast moving train, it's important we don't focus on the road kill. We live, we love, we work and we die. It's that simple. The in-between better be good. Our family vacation was part of my in-between.