I said I wasn’t going to write about divorce this month, but today I need to. Because today, J and I got divorced.
It wasn’t an awesome day for it to happen. I turned 35 yesterday. But our wedding anniversary is in a few days, and I think it would have been worse to submit the paperwork on that day. Maybe it would have been worst of all to not have submitted it by our anniversary, and to be thinking about that day, when it came, with all its technical meaning and emotional flatness.
J has been decent and fairly nice in the whirlwind leading up to this moment. She admitted to me that she feels terrible guilt about our relationship. The way it ended. That it ended. All of that stuff. It didn’t mean she wanted to get together again. We both know that is no longer possible.
When we arranged a time to go to the courthouse, I asked her if she wanted to get some coffee first. She hesitated and I told her it was fine to say no, but that it seemed like a friendly way to start the day, given the depressing errand.
“That sounds great,” she said. And then: “A year ago I never would have imagined being in this place. To disassociate and divorce my best friend. You’ve been so graceful about it. Thanks for making this less difficult. I’ve chosen to cut off our contact all this time to try and speed along hardening my own heart. Maybe in time we can hang out again, without business as an excuse and without kiddo.”
Then at 8pm yesterday, she sent this message: “I hope your birthday has gone alright.”
My sister found the message off-putting, but it made me feel a little better. Not because I get any satisfaction out of her guilt (that just makes me feel sadder), but because it’s fairly crushing to be abandoned by your best friend of a decade. I know if J was able to value me in practice we would still be together, but at least she values me in the best way she knows how.
Our morning at the courthouse was similarly bittersweet. J and I did meet for coffee– At a nearby Whole Foods, a place we used to enjoy going occasionally. We got breakfast burritos and sat in the cafe area on tall stools, looking out the window at the downtown. We even joked around a little, like we did in the old days. We used to joke around a lot, though to hear J tell it since our separation I never “got” her humor. She may not remember how much we used to laugh, but I do.
There wasn’t a lot of time to sit and enjoy the morning. J had the folder of paperwork and there were still some things I needed to review. While I was reading, though, I had her get a present out of the trunk of my car. It was a road atlas, and a card with a note that said (something like), “When you feel guilt about us I hope you can look at this and feel better. Thank you for the adventures and for a beautiful decade. Happy trails, -P.”
We went to the courthouse shortly after that. There were no lines and it didn’t take a very long time to run our errand. We are not officially divorced yet, of course, but this was the big step. Both of us going together meant that I didn’t have to be greeted at my door by a stranger carrying papers (I guess that’s how it works when you are “served”?). All we have left is to take a mandatory, one-evening co-parenting class, and then we wait.
I’m a crier, and I was wiping my eyes and nose during much of the paperwork submission process. When I was able to keep my mind blank I had an easier time managing my emotions. The real crying would come later.
On our way out of the courthouse J and I held hands. She led me to a park bench and we just sat there for a few minutes, talking. I only remember pieces of the conversation now. J was upset. Not just about us but about her life as a whole. She seemed broken to me in some ways and I didn’t know what to say to her. I laid my head on her shoulder, something I used to do all the time when I was tired, confused, or upset. It always made me feel better, and I thought how that and a good hike have been my operating guides for a very long time. I will probably never lay my head on J’s shoulder anymore. The hikes are there, though.
Back in the parking garage we hugged each other one last time, said “I love you,” and went our separate ways. I drove to work and had a very surreal day there followed by a lot of raw emotions when I got home. Now I am tired again, and I am hoping tomorrow will be more manageable than today was.
But given what today was, I think everything went as well as possible.