DIARY

Wide Open Spaces

A few days ago I asked you guys for reader questions over on IG and…ahhh…let’s just say there was a theme. Some of the questions (where are you going to live? Where’s K going to live? How are you all handling the separation?) I simply can’t answer now, either because I don’t know what the answers are, or because they’re just too sensitive to touch.

Something that’s been fascinating to me ever since this process started is the sheer volume of women who’ve written to me, saying that they’re in various stages of the separation process, or saying that they feel like they need to separate from their partners, but don’t know why, exactly, and definitely don’t know how.

How did you know? they ask.

It’s a good question. So let me give that one a shot.

I always heard that divorce was, in some ways, worse than a death. “Death by 1000 knives”; that’s what a friend of mine called it. But I never really understood how that could be: I mean, aren’t we both…like, human beings? With emotions, and empathy, and (theoretically, at least) the ability to reason? And didn’t we spend over a decade loving each other, and being partners, and making the most beautiful little people?

Couldn’t we just…talk things through?

It turns out that we could not. Or at least not yet. And it also turns out that my friend was right: Divorce is, in fact, a death by 1000 knives – because there are few things that bring out the worst in people like fear. And when what you’re talking about is the dissolution of an entire life and imagined future, Fear gets in the driver’s seat and tells you to sit down, shut up, and don’t even think about opening up Google Maps and trying to navigate your way through this shit, because you are not the boss right now.

If you’re going through a separation – or just considering one – I don’t know that I have any wise words to help you make it is better. I’m so, so sorry. I wish I did. But if I’ve learned one thing from spending a decade writing about all the hard, scary things in life, it’s that calling something by its name has a neat little way of stripping it of its power. Shining a light on it lets you see it for what it is. You know.

Last night, I told Kendrick I was scared. We stood on the front step in the dark, the door opening over and over (and over and over and over) again. Go back inside for a sec, we said (over and over and over). Mommy and Daddy need to talk. Ooh, how about a fudge pop?!

Each time the door opened and let out a little sliver of light, I could see Kendrick’s face, and it was like looking through a telescope: the person you’re looking at may seem like they’re right there next to you, but they’re miles too far away to touch. I wondered how it could be possible to feel, one day, like you can see straight into a person’s heart, know everything that lives there even if they try to hide it…and then, in a matter of weeks, discover that you know nothing at all.

I’m scared this is going to change me, I said to him. And I won’t ever recover.

How did you know it was time to separate? women ask me. In emails, in texts, in whispered conversations on the street.

And my answer is that you can’t know, not really. Just like you can’t ever really know it’s time to have a baby – to blow your world up in the very particular way that the arrival of new life has a tendency to do – I don’t know that you can ever feel deep-down, ten-thousand-percent certain that you’re ready for life as you know it to end. So to answer this one, I’m going to call again upon my wise, wise Death-by-1000-knives friend, who is experiencing something similar, but is a little further out in the process. “What if this hadn’t happened?” my friend asked me, late one night. I was piled under the comforters, watching the text messages sail in like life rafts. “If this hadn’t happened,” she wrote, “you would know exactly what the next ten years of your life would look like. Now it’s wide-open.”

I did know what the next ten years of our life would look like. And I knew that neither of us deserved that.

Did I know it was *time*? No. How could I? But I knew that it couldn’t go on the way it was.

Of course I’m scared that this will change me in ways that I won’t bounce back from. I feel broken already, like a bone that’s been shattered, and that no one – least of all me – seems to know how to reset. But bones have a way of mending themselves, even if you don’t know it’s happening.

Will I recover from this? I don’t know. But I think maybe recovery isn’t the point. Change is coming; it’s happening already.

From where I stand it’s all wide open spaces, and for once in my life I may not even want a damn map.

magic hour in Joshua tree California

  • Sarah

    Beautifully written. Can I ask if the separation has caused you to realize you have no idea who your husband was or did the realization lead to the separation? I can see if my husband asked for a separation that I could go to a place that I was someone that I had never been or never knew was in me.

  • Gaile

    I have been hesitant to say anything, as our lives are in very different places. But when in my 20’s I went through a very contentious divorce and came out on the other side thinking I would stay broken forever. We weren’t married for long; in fact we met, were engaged a month later and married 3 months after that. It was all wonderful until one day it just wasn’t, so I understand that you can love someone but know in your heart that you can’t be together. Divorce is like a death and you don’t want to feel that kind of pain ever again, but one day you find yourself smiling and realizing that breathing doesn’t hurt anymore. And you start reaching out and allowing yourself to feel all the possibilities that are waiting. There is no timetable and obviously you are smack in the middle of all this change so it’s hard to see what’s down the road. I think you are incredibly brave in telling your story, so keep on telling only what you’re comfortable telling and if you have to step away for a bit nobody should judge you. I didn’t have nearly the friends you have standing by to help and felt very alone for a long time. In case you’re curious, I remarried 5 years later and we’ve been together ever since. I feel like I’m with the right person now. You might not see it yet, but your future is out there waiting. Godspeed.

  • Jennifer Williams

    Great post. I esp love, “I did know what the next ten years of our life would look like. And I knew that neither of us deserved that.”

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