Thursday, November 19, 2009

Change, in a Year

One year ago I was looking at apartments.

I was not quite paralyzed at the thought of moving, but dreaded it. I had told my then-husband that by the end of the month of November, one of us was moving out. That was a clear statement with a deadline, something I had finally learned to use in communication. I knew I could not force him to leave. As difficult as it would be, if he did not go I would go. Somehow, I would come up with a deposit and rent money, so he could either leave or take on the expenses of our house.

He was stunned, though there were enough indicators that the split was inevitable. We both had a gift for living in denial of anything we couldn't or didn't want to see.

He was hurt, understandably, and angry. He said he would be the one to move. Based on a history in which either of us might say “I’ll do this” but might or might not actually do it, I looked at apartments and started to bring home boxes from work. He started to gather his things, and found a place he could stay. The entire time, he told me later, he expected me to back down and to allow things to slip back into the status quo. It had happened so many times, with other boundaries I had set. Watching him go through the shock, I was tempted more than once to take it back but I just could not, could not go on with our life the way it had been.

By December 1, he had moved out. At that point, I am not sure which one of us was more surprised. I had expected a lot more drama, and was continuously braced for bigger arguments than we had; I was even prepared for physical violence, but it never happened. Learning to be clear about what I want and about how I communicate it was a big part of that.

I had no picture of how divorce goes, and found it very difficult to navigate without a mental map. Especially as a younger sibling in a large family, I have too often relied on “how everyone else has done it.” School, college, getting a job – these were all a matter of course, of what everyone else had done before me. The downside is that I did not learn earlier how to consider options and make choices according to my own strengths and goals.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. -- Helen Keller
No one else in my immediate family has been divorced, so the entire process was foreign, and frightening, to me. The dissolution of the marriage was more or less de facto by the time I embarked on the mechanics of separating our residences and eventually filing the paperwork with an attorney. At every step I almost expected to fail, to be unable to effect the changes I wanted. With every argument, I felt stuck in the same dysfunctional pattern in which we had been relating to each other. I wondered if the past three years of counseling had done nothing for me, but my counselor at Women in Transition reminded me that change can be like making a slow ascent up a mountain: you don't realize you've made progress until you reach a point where you can turn and look back and see how high you have climbed.

It's been one year. I am divorced, and have taken back my birth name. The kids are all right, not without some issues, but all right. Their dad hangs out with them at least two or three times a week, and we are getting along. We agreed to get along well enough to do the best job possible in raising the boys, and we are sticking to it. Working out a new relationship has been awkward and uncomfortable, but it seems like we will make it.

Goals for myself right now revolve around achieving some financial stability, writing and more writing. Everything was recently put on hold while my younger son has gone through a period of crisis, but I have long accepted that other goals come after the goal of being the best mom I can be for my kids. Who knows where I might be a year from now?

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