Three years ago today, I was sitting in my attorney’s office as my soon-to-be-ex-husband sat in the office next door with his attorney. We spent the day slicing up the life we had built together, with this asset going here, and that asset going there. We had to agree on where our kids would be each day, each holiday, each school break. Dividing up my life, and the lives of my kids, when I thought I’d be doing it with him was a heartbreaking and painful process. We had been together 20 years and built a good life. And here we were, dismantling it because I could no longer stand being cheated on and lied to and strung along.
I remember crying that day. A lot. I kept saying, “This isn’t what I wanted” over and over again to my lawyer and the mediator handling the formalities. It felt totally surreal to see the father of my children sign off on my potentially moving the kids across the country, to see him sign over the home that we had remodeled over the years, to see him continue to let this process move forward, knowing how much pain he was causing me and our children. It made absolutely no sense to me at the time. When I think about it now, it still stings.
But one gift of time is understanding. What I understand now is that he didn’t value our marriage, our family, or our home the way I did. I might not have always shown it. In fact, I know I didn’t always show it – taking things for granted often comes with the territory of decades-long relationships. I understand that his treatment of me had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him. I understand that it didn’t matter what I did or didn’t do, how much I weighed, or what my hair length was. He was lacking something in himself and went to try to find it in another person.
I could almost understand it because of my alcohol abuse. I can remember feeling so lonely in that relationship and turning to alcohol to numb that pain. I can remember reaching for his hand and being denied and then swallowing glass after glass of wine to wash that bitterness down. It was a horrible, vicious cycle. Medicating pain – whether with drugs or porn or gambling or other people – never works. The pain remains underneath whatever you layer on top of it. No substance or person can fill a void you haven’t acknowledged and felt fully.
On that day we sliced up our life, I had been sober for two-and-a-half years. I had felt the sharp pain of watching my marriage disintegrate for that entire time. I had slept with that pain. I had lived each day with that pain. I had felt that fucking pain for as long as I could stand it. And then I had filed divorce papers, and here we were.
They say that which does not kill you makes you stronger. Maybe. For me, that which did not kill me simply did not kill me. I lived. I walked around in stunned disbelief for a long time; I still look around some days and am astonished that we sliced up that life. While I will never understand it, I have accepted it. I have accepted it and done my best to move on from it. I took what I needed to learn from that pain, and I decided to create something else.
Today, three years later, I see that I have taken that sliced up life and made something worthwhile. I am in my lovely home. My children are well-loved and cared for. I am with a man whose own sliced-up life is a thing of beauty. I am teaching again. I have scars, yes. But they are there to remind me of what I have learned. They are there to remind me that even the deepest pain can be felt, endured, and learned from. They are there to remind me that I have lived.
After all, it’s the sliced-up pieces that make the most beautiful mosaics.