Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mediation with a Stranger

art by MarlinaVera--on Etsy

I've got one foot in Divorceville since the mediation last Saturday--like I've blown out a flip-flop and can't quite limp back over the line into Margaritaville. I've felt shitty all week and on top of that, felt shitty about feeling shitty because, well, there's good stuff going on too, and I want to punch myself right between the eyes when I focus on the negative.

THIS piece in the Sunday New York Times explains a lot. Maybe the person who wrote it bored a hole into my head and has been walking around in there--you know, making herself at home, ordering out for pizza, drinking my gin, and getting comfortable on my cerebral couch. Here's an excerpt in which the essayist, Anna Fells, writes about the difference between the betrayer and the betrayed:

And to an astonishing extent, the social blowback for such miscreants is often transient and relatively minor. They can change! Our culture, in fact, wholeheartedly supports such “new beginnings” — even celebrates them. It has a soft spot for the prodigal sons and daughters who set about repairing their ways, for tales of people starting over: reformed addicts, unfaithful spouses who rededicate themselves to family, convicted felons who find redemption in religion. Talk shows thrive on these tales. Perhaps it’s part of our powerful national belief in self-help and self-creation. It’s never too late to start anew.
But for the people who have been lied to, something more pervasive and disturbing occurs. They castigate themselves about why they didn’t suspect what was going on. The emotions they feel, while seemingly more benign than those of the perpetrator, may in the long run be more corrosive: humiliation, embarrassment, a sense of having been na├»ve or blind, alienation from those who knew the truth all along and, worst of all, bitterness.
Our societal soft spot for the prodigal son fucking pisses me off.
And bitterness? Well, just the thought of being a bitter old woman makes me, well, bitter. So, kind readers, what follows is a purge.

Want to know how I spent the week before I was told my marriage was over?
Playing gracious (and I might add, sincere) hostess to a group of in-laws, arranging entertainments,  dinners out, excursions, shopping, etc.--because whatever they wanted, I wanted because they were family.

Want to know how I spent the night before I was told my marriage was over? Dinner with friends. Were there three couples? Four couples? Just two? I don't remember, but for once, I was not urged out the door subsequent to his last hastily swallowed bite. We closed the place down. Goodwill and friendship were savored like wine. Lingered over like coffee and dessert. My around-the-next-bend post empty nest future wavered in front of me like a mirage that was just about to materialize. Less than 24-hours later that evening, like the 32 years before it, was wreckage.

I have shelf after shelf of family photo albums. Photographs are a somewhat skewed toward the rosy as a record of reality, but I regard them as proof that I am not delusional. Those pictures, I tell myself, are record of my life as I lived it. Still, if the present could be scrutinized frame by frame, I'd too often find myself looking at happy moments with suspicion. Why that exact inflection? Was that irony? Disapproval in the raised eyebrow? I don't want photos. I want x-rays. Of everyone.

I am fortunate to be a writer. Writing helps me sort through a lot of bullshit. And the page, the screen, the blogosphere are probably better than the bottle for dispersing bitterness. Or maybe it's just smarter to be bitter and sober than it is to be bitter and drunk. So, bitterness, be on your way. Go find the prodigal son. Seduce him. Turn him back. Take him out for drink--a tall drink of you.


Ms. Moon said...

I like it when you purge. You purge beautifully in glittering shards of honesty.
It's good to do it. And a little bitterness- ah, it can be a spice in the great soup of it all.
You were betrayed. How would you not be somewhat bitter? There is a difference between focusing on the negative and being honest about it.

Elizabeth said...

I, too, like it when you purge. Keep going. It's not over until it's over, I guess.

Val said...

I sent this post to my husband but as usual, he has made no comment. It's hard for him to relate to my complex stew of emotions related to my first marriage - never having been married before himself.

Tara said...

found you through Elizabeth. your writing is fantastic, real and raw. I've been divorced TWICE now and, sister, we could talk BITTER for days. Your description of the days and weeks before your ex dropped the bombshell are most poignant ... the lives we lead are full of illusion that we buy into until, on a dime, the world changes utterly.

At least we are living lives truthfully now, right? Taking the lessons learned and puttin' on our big girl panties.

Anonymous said...

I am seven years post finding out my dh of 16 years was thinking he would start a life with a woman who was in jr high when we married. We divorced and are now friends and things are good. But reading your blog that I just found brings back how I felt so defensive and bewildered of our years together. How could he remember them with such muddied glasses and my glasses looking backwards were rose colored. I wanted muddy glasses. I wanted to hate our history. But I couldn't because I was looking at a four and seven year old and they were beautiful. I wanted X-rays of the past too. What if.... Thank you for your writing.