The Quietening

Read all my posts about divorce here

On Valentine’s Day afternoon, I took a nap with my kitten (pictured above having mixed feelings about this choice). I sat on a patio in the valley with my friend Margo, and ate some good sushi. I Facetimed with the kids, who were spending the weekend with their dad. I asked him to handle their Valentine’s Day presents, and didn’t beat myself up about opting out of this particular task. I fell asleep again only a few hours after I’d awoken from my nap, then woke up at 11PM, watched some bad TV, and went back to bed. Everything I did all day long – from the breakfast I ate to the midnight show that I watched – was my choice.

At some point during the day I posted this picture to Instagram, and thought about how happy I was when it was taken. I thought about what a difference a decade makes. I thought about how happy I am now…except I’m not even sure I’d call this feeling “happiness” – it’s easier to define it as the absence of sadness. I think it’s the kind of feeling I’ve spent my entire life both searching for and running away from.

Let me explain.

Nowadays, a work hiccup arises, and I feel the old tendrils of panic creeping in around the edges – you’ll never work again!  For years, I relied on that panic; I thought I needed it. But now, instead of panicking, I give myself a rational talking-to about things like Historical Precedents, and go back to doing the same thing I’ve done for over ten years, which is hustle. As it turns out, I can do that even in the absence of dramatics. Amazing.

Nowadays, I meet someone on an app, and we text back and forth. Maybe it’s nice, or maybe it’s not, but either way I don’t go ping-ponging off the walls: I just watch, and see what happens. A friend asks me how a FaceTime date went, and more often than not I write back “Good.” There’s not much to say, because the desire to project about the future, or to create romance where nothing real could possibly exist yet – it no longer holds any appeal.

Nowadays, I get into a disagreement with a friend, and how that disagreement gets handled feels like a choice, as opposed to a rollercoaster that I just happened upon. Perhaps it gets talked out. Perhaps we let the disagreement go. Perhaps we let the friendship go. None of these choices require crippling anxiety; they are simply options, all with their pros and cons.

Nowadays, Kendrick and I have a difference of opinion about something having to do with the kids, and I remember the kind of blinding anger that used to swell up inside me whenever we found ourself in conflict. But there is simply no room in my body for that emotion anymore, and so instead of yelling we voice our concerns, and then compromise, and then thank each other for compromising, and then get on to the next of the ten million decisions that go into the raising of human lives. Sometimes I don’t like what he does; sometimes he doesn’t like what I do. We are both parents. We both have a say. It’s a peaceful place to live.

Which is not, of course and obviously, to say that I’ve “figured it all” (or anything, really) out. I worry that my emotions have grown smaller, or have at least been tucked away somewhere where they’re unavailable to anyone who doesn’t have a key. I’m pretty sure that (for me, in any case) these developments are healthy – they certainly make for a more even day-to-day. But I do wonder whether, in what I’ve come to think of as The Quietening, I’ve lost the capacity for those kinds of grand emotions that lead to, you know…love. Or at least the kind of love I’ve always sought out in my life.

It’s a fair thing to question. I don’t have the answer yet.

Fortunately, these years have given me a great deal of practice at watching, and waiting, and then seeing what happens. So I suppose that’s what I’ll do.

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