Divorce sometimes feels like sitting on the floor in an empty room. Like during a move, maybe, when you’ve cleaned out part of your space and it’s all empty and strange feeling, but you know if you got up off the floor and opened the door into the next room there would be all the stuff you haven’t cleaned up yet. Life and furniture and laundry. And maybe your partner would be in there too, playing computer games or boxing up dishes or something.
It’s not a very good simile, but it’s the closest description I can give to what my feelings are today. I’m here, in my space, and while I have furniture and things on the walls and have been living solo for 3/4 of a year, my life is sort of a blank. Over the years I pictured myself building a life that included my partner (not a generic partner, but my partner, J), a dog or two, and a kid or two. It’s shocking to plan these things and to invest yourself in a relationship, to discuss and agree on having a family, to have a kid, and to suddenly find yourself alone when your best friend and partner suddenly decides your goals are not for them anymore. When I talk to my ex now, it is like talking through a door. We can hear one another and sometimes I feel like I could open the door and walk across that threshold into the old life we had built. I know, though, that on the other side of the door there is nothing I would recognize. My old best friend is there, yes, but the furniture is all different and there is somebody else living there as well, and I am a stranger, both to that space and to the person who meant so much to me.
The nice thing about moving is the simplicity of a blank slate. I like being in empty rooms sometimes because without all the furniture, it’s easier to notice things like light slanting in through the windows and making patterns on the carpet. This morning, in my apartment, I sat down by my couch in a patch of sun and felt somewhat at peace. Not having the toddler for a weekend is both peaceful and disconcerting. I met an acquaintance for a short hike. I felt sad, and I felt hopeful. This coming week includes some more hiking plans with friends, an evening at the community garden, and some subbing jobs. I do miss the friendship I had with my ex and I still find it hard to believe how rapidly and completely somebody can change (we all change, but some people change much, much more than others). I still grieve over the lost family hikes and camping adventures, the shared difficulties, the tag-team approach that would have given each of us some time to see friends and pursue other interests, the well-earned kid-free nights when we could have enjoyed one another’s company and reached for that core of solidarity and companionship that would have taken us beyond the child-rearing years to a time when we would, once again, be able to be vagabonds. I grieve over the spirit of shared adventure that would have let us discuss, as partners, how to make life exciting even in the midst of the increased responsibility of having a family. People do have families and lead interesting lives. The potential was there. It’s just…. my partner didn’t see it.