Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why I Write About My Divorce

Some months back during a phone conference between Mr. Ex and me and our attorneys, Mr. Ex threatened me with a "disparagement clause." He claimed I was disparaging him, the Little Missus, and their Kiddo. "My blog is for me," I told him. "It's my path through my grief." I don't remember what else I told him because I was wailing after he accused me of being a baby disparager, and that was pretty much the end of the phone conference for me.

Today there's an excellent article on grief and writing in the New York Times. The piece is an interview with Joyce Carol Oates and Meghan O'Rourke who have both written books about their grief--Oates after the unexpected death of her husband, and O'Rourke after the death of her 53-year-old mother.

Like O'Rouke, writing is the way I make sense of the world. I don't always think fast on my feet and frequently come way from crucial encounters wishing I'd said something that I couldn't quite articulate at the time. Reflection and writing help me put my thoughts and my feelings in order. I write down my experiences much the way O'Rouke describes. I began this blog in September of 2008 about  a year after Mr. Ex left me. This is my three-hundred-and-twenty-ninth post. In the year prior to starting the blog, I wrote nearly 70,000 words. Words that I can still hardly bear to re-read. Without those words on the page, I doubt that I would have survived.

I continue to blog more about divorce than I do about writing because it continues to help me get through this period when the negotiations over the division of joint assets have devolved into the absurd. Many people would choose to not write about such trying times. There was a woman in the memoir workshop I taught the other night who seemed to be bursting with emotion. She preferred to write fiction, she said, because writing the truth was like re-opening the wound. She had tears in her eyes and slashed the air with her hand as if it was a knife. I have the utmost respect for her position, but I found working on my novel/MFA thesis excruciating because all I could think about was my divorce. Grief is hard to talk about in our society. People just want us to stop grieving. O'Rouke postulates that there are so many movies and books about loss because we need a public space where we can talk safely about grief.

I recently had the privilege of hearing Joyce Carol Oates read from her memoir and found that her writing about her grief over unexpectedly losing her husband  was a comfort to me--even now. It seems I'm over the whole thing...until I'm not. Just last week I sat in the kitchen of the man who loves me keening about how tired I was of the whole thing, and why didn't Mr. Ex just tell me he was smitten with someone else instead of sneaking around and plotting and lying and stringing me along. So while I keep getting over this mess and then backsliding so that I have to get over it again and again, writing is the thing that seems to help me most. I'm in good company.


Elizabeth said...

Oh, yes. I totally agree. I've been trying to write a post about grief -- about personal grief and collective grief. About the weird disparity between the two -- how collectively we get to mourn and re-live trauma (through holidays, memorials, etc. ten years, fifty years, one hundred years of them), yet personal grief is "supposed" to be over and quiet and private. Why is this?

Keep writing. Because while your grief is personal, the writing, your expression of the personal is profoundly universal.

Anonymous said...

Writing is how I get stuff out of my head, otherwise it keeps circling the drain and never actually leaves. I have an eighteen year old daughter who is handicapped, I can't tell you how many years I grieved over the loss of my "dream child" but it was a long time. Now I can just accept her as she is and have stopped wishing for her to be "normal". She is normal for her.

Allegra Smith said...

When I was a little girl I had a wonderful nanny, she was wise and loving and one of the angels that walk among us. When I was a young woman a good friend of my Mother's found out apparently that her husband was having an affair. Good Catholic lady she was and so divorce was not an option but she would come to visit my Mother just about every other day and talk and talk and talk with her, I guess about the affair that was destroying her and her marriage.

One day I asked nana Petrona why was this lady always talking about the same thing and she said that it was a way to heal. That if she didn't everything inside would fester and infect everything else in her life. I have never forgotten that and I think that writing about what hurts us and robs us of our "innocence" no matter how old we are, is a way of healing the spirit and not allowing what happened to become a measure of our lives but instead a lesson that while unwanted cannot go