The Story of My Divorce
Let's Go: HellNovember 17, 2008
Getting a divorce requires collecting information. I need a guide to this foreign land, a Lonely Planet Guide to Divorce, or a Let's Go: Hell. In my bedroom late at night, I scour websites for information on custody, child support, alimony. I don't understand the jargon. It occurs to me that getting a divorce is not unlike being diagnosed with a terrible disease. You have to learn a new language you had hoped to go your whole life never knowing. You have to hire experts and pay them lots of money. You have to deny, rage, bargain, despair, accept.
The computer screen blurs. I clear out my search history and switch off what used to be our bedside lamp.
M. is asleep across the hall in what we refer to as his "office" but which now contains a bed.October 4, 2009
I'm driving the boys to a birthday party about 20 minutes from home. M. was supposed to come along, too, but at the last minute he backed out -- he had errands to run. At a stoplight a block from the party I happen to see a man who walks like M. emerge from the door of an apartment building. He holds a sheaf of rental literature. I see, but I don't really see, that this man is wearing the jeans I bought him last month. The car behind me honks. My foot somehow knows to press the pedal.December 7, 2009
M. comes home from work early so we can get the legal separation agreement notarized at the bank. He's agreed to almost everything I asked. We split our assets; he'll financially support me and the boys, then 5 and 8, until they graduate from high school. He'll pay for college. Essentially, he honors the pact the two of us made during our happier days -- that I'd be a stay-at-home mom until the kids grew up.
We share legal custody. I get sole physical custody, but the boys will spend three nights a week with him. M. gets to work around the clock to support two households instead of one. His every moment is accounted for; meanwhile, I get free time while the kids are at school and when they're with him. "All this," I inform M., with too little appreciation for what it's costing him to do right by me and our sons, "is the price you'll pay for your freedom."December 23, 2009
We deliver The Speech to the kids as we rehearsed it yesterday with a therapist. Our story is that the divorce is not M.'s fault. Nor is it mine. We simply failed, together. Fate handed us lemonade and we somehow turned it into lemons.
Later we take the boys to M.'s new apartment. I'm shocked at what a great job he's done decorating. There's an exquisite leather couch in the living room, the kind I always vetoed because it was too expensive.
Tonight M. will spend his first night in his new home. Tomorrow morning he'll pick up the boys from my house and take them to spend their first night with him, in the new apartment that Santa brought our family this year.December 29, 2009
In an attempt to pull myself together I decide to go work out at the gym. I get in the car but it won't start. The battery is dead because I left the interior light on. This is where I'd normally call my husband, but this isn't his problem. Also, I don't have a husband.
I walk next door, where four recent college grads -- Dave, Nate, Larry, and Laurence -- live. Laurence is home and sweetly offers to jump the car. Between tries, we stand facing each other, and for some reason I blurt out, "I've never had to deal with this alone before. My husband just left me."
Poor Laurence is stunned. We have exchanged just a few smiles and hellos in the six months we've been neighbors. He reassures me that M. will certainly be back. When I shake my head, he becomes more determined than ever to bring my car back to life.
Later, during the record blizzards of 2010, Laurence and his roommates, unbidden, shovel me out after every snowstorm. They accept nothing in return but some meager offerings of homemade chocolate-chip cookies.January 5, 2010
One of the first things I do to flex my independence is to cancel my TV service. I've never been a fan, but with another adult in the house, you can hardly make such decisions unilaterally. Now I can, so I do.
Many friends exhibit more disbelief over the end of my TV service than the end of my marriage. Makes sense, I guess. Half of us eventually ditch our spouses. But who gets rid of her TV?