From my professional and personal experience, I have observed four phases to a divorce or the ending of an intimate relationship. Mine started with the:
1. a separation or disintegration
I can't forget that Tuesday night call, even though we spoke every night. I was in Hawaii, working at a six-week Department of Defense contract at Pearl Harbor, when my husband called. "We have to talk," he said, followed by, "I want to separate." He said, "I Love You But I Am Not In Love With You," which I have since learned is known as The Speech. Every man in America in Midlife Crisis who is about to leave his wife, except maybe two or three, parrots these words. Almost every woman who hears them thinks that her husband has a brain tumor, and worse, we wish it were so; at least then we would understand.
He said my name in such a cruel way, with such hatred in his voice, that I vowed to change it.
I recovered long enough to say, "But two days ago you told me that you loved me."
No, he was done, and said he'd be gone by the time I returned home in two weeks. I had believed we'd mated for life, sworn "till death do us part." We had our season, as Mourning Doves do, loyal through courtship, pregnancy, and building our nest. We'd incubated our young, and cared for him until he was ready to fly. It's just that it takes eighteen years to raise a son.
When I asked why, my husband spoke of the Other Woman, assuring me that, "nothing physical has happened." He'd known her for all of two weeks, and was smitten. His voice dropped to an awed whisper, "She's my soul mate. She's the bravest person I ever met; she rides motorcycles all over the world," as if my comforting a screaming child as her fingers were being amputated in a field hospital in Haiti wasn't courageous. I offered to come home, but he said, "No."
No matter the cause, the truth is simple and brutal -- he was my everything, and, unnoticed, I had become his nothing.
The devastation that occurred led to a:
1. an act or instance of breaking down; collapse
2. (Psychiatry) short for nervous breakdown
I was gutted, strung up like a deer on a car bumper, a victim of a hit-and-run. Later, I read in Huffington Post that Susan Pease Gadoua calls this, "the most hurtful, hateful and heinous way to exit your nuptials.... A hundred per cent of the people who come to see me after their spouse has dropped this two ton bomb on them have been nothing short of devastated, bleary eyed and incapacitated -- often for a long time."
And I was. I cried every day for nine months, long enough for a pregnancy.
The me of today was gestated in tears, brined in salt water. I grieved as though he had died, which, in some ways he had. The man I had loved was gone, replaced by one who freely revised our history, and who lied to our friends and family, and to me. I couldn't work, and could barely function. I sunk into a soup of grief, losing so much weight that I became gaunt, a ghost of myself, and a ghost to myself.
It would be easier to be dead.
Thick trees, telephone poles and cement overpasses beckoned, and it took all my will not to crash into them. Dissociated and distant, I feared that I was a menace when I drove, but it was our son, our precious boy, on the cusp of manhood, who had the accident. Driving too fast around a curve on Highway 1, he'd overcorrected, landing the car in a ditch. I can't help but imagine the car soaring over the cliff, cannonballing him into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean. My son was shaken; the bottom of the car torn open and the radiator crushed. He'd dropped out of all his classes, and I was distraught that our marital implosion had derailed him.
My recovery began with a:
1. a significant development or discovery,
When a child trusts his wings and flies away, it is a time of rejoicing. When a husband lies and skulks out, it is not. It is shaming and shameful. I fear he is doomed to remain a chicken -- quailing, frightened, and small. No matter how bad things were, ending our marriage over the phone, with no warning, is not a Midlife Crisis. Call it what it truly is -- Midlife Cowardice.
I realized, no matter what I had or hadn't done, that I didn't deserve this. No one does. The shame is his, not mine.
My insights catapulted me into a:
1. A term coined by the editors of Huffington Post to describe reinvention, a make-over after a break-up. Breakover is what arises after one's life is re-examined and transformed.
I'm Katie now. After a year, I moved to a boat in Sausalito, downsizing from a three-story house to a living space that is ten feet by twenty-three feet, keeping only the things that I loved. My new berth gives me a view of Mt. Tamalpais, Sausalito and Belvedere. I see a skyline of masts. On the boat, I'm gently rocked to sleep each night, cocooned in a blue and turquoise womb. Cormorants and herons visit, and new friends abate my loneliness. I still travel, with myself as my anchor, not him any longer. I try not to think of him. I want to focus on my new life, not his.
I walk every day and have kept off the forty pounds I lost. I finished writing my novel, am painting, and have signed up for a drawing class. Maybe the tears were cleansing, because I feel like a mermaid, swimming in the clearing waters of my psyche, not a pickle as I feared. My life is simple now, and when the fog lifts, the boat is filled with, as John Muir said, "holy, beamless, bodyless, inaudible floods of light." I've found the holy, and am working toward wholeness. And our boy? I know he'll make it, that his sweet spirit will triumph. As will mine.