When I was in the midst of my divorce, going to court, sitting on the bench outside the courtroom with my lawyer, Elliot, and my two friends, Cathy and Barbara (who accompanied me to almost every court date), glancing occasionally at my ex, or writing checks to my lawyer, or reading depositions, or waking up in the middle of the night in a panic, I would never have believed that someday -- about three years later -- I would say: These are some of the best years of my life.
I remember one day my lawyer said, "It's weird. Neither of you are really bitter."
It's true, we both wanted the divorce -- I essentially provoked it, he pulled the plug -- but when we actually separated, it felt like a death and I was in real mourning for the first time in my life. It didn't help that my mother died at exactly that same time and then a year later, one of my beloved dogs died, and that the divorce was excruciating.
Maybe we weren't bitter exactly, but we weren't kind either. I couldn't believe that a man I'd spent a major chunk of my life with (24 years) became a selfish, cold human being who wanted revenge and that I was angry, slightly hysterical, and vindictive. We never even cheated on each other, we never did anything truly horrible. Still, we were both deeply hurt. And I think we both knew, despite the rancor, that we needed to release each other and move on. It just wasn't easy.
It took some time, really quite a long time, but I eventually let go of the anger and kept moving forward. I started to write about that time in my life when I lost so much and slowly, gradually, I began to heal myself in the sharing of my story. And not just in writing about it, but talking about it -- in therapy, in a grief group, with friends.
There were so many years I felt depressed and lonely in the marriage and then one day, I realized I was no longer depressed. I was sad, and the tears seem to never end, but I wasn't depressed. There's a difference. I started to see how alive I felt, even with the tears. And even the sadness about how my marriage ended began to dissipate and I accepted what was. What is.
And I felt happy and peaceful more often than not. My life was beginning to fill up with activities and work and people that nourished me and I wasn't so totally focused on everyone else (my ex, my daughter, my mother). I learned how to be alone again and happy. Peaceful.
I dated, but some -- most -- of the dates were duds. Like the guy who coughed the entire time we were together at a restaurant and everyone around us moved away or left. He said was recovering from the flu -- a charming way to meet someone.
Or the guy who called me on the phone and talked about himself for 15 solid minutes and when I stopped responding and just sat in silence, waiting to see if he would ask me something, anything, he said nothing, so for two and a half solid minutes we didn't exchange a word. Finally, he said, "Are you all right?" "Yes, thanks, and I have to go now. 'Bye."
Ask some questions, guys. I know you're nervous, but so are we.
And then there was the guy who stalked me on the phone and kept leaving nasty messages, until he finally reached me and told me I was "an old bitch." Lovely. Couldn't imagine why he wasn't in a great relationship.
I started to think that internet dating is a perfect place for some people to unleash their anger. After all, it's cheaper than therapy and a free pass for not dealing with your own sh#t.
One guy, early on, told me I was "one of the walking wounded." I was insulted at the time, but he was absolutely right. In the beginning, at least the first year or so, most of us want to talk about our separation, our pain and our divorce and then eventually (hopefully) it's the last thing we want to talk about. At least that's been my experience.
Now my life is changing in so many good ways. My career is moving in directions I have only dreamt about. One or two nights a week I go dancing, a pleasure I have always loved and never made time for. And really, all I wish for my ex is a great and long life, filled with love and friends and music and inner peace. No drugs were involved in the writing of that sentence.
I hope that someday we will be friends again -- not yet, but someday. I truly wish that, especially for our daughter's sake.
I know that there is someone out there for me, who will love me as I am and who I will love in return. I believe that. (Again, no drugs.) I have to say that Woody Allen line, "marriage is the death of hope" is sometimes really true. Not all the time, but sometimes and it's always a learning experience.
Recently I read this quote by Eckhart Tolle that resonated for me: "There have been many people for whom limitations, failure, loss, or pain in whatever form turned out to be their greatest teacher. It taught them to let go of false self-images and superficial ego-dictated goals and desires. It gave them depth, humility and compassion. It made them more real."
I feel more real. More raw. More alive. There is life after divorce, I promise you. And there is, believe it or not, joy.