“So how many different fetal positions have you discovered?” my friend Jane asks as we set out for our evening walk. She’s smiling, but that’s because the sad ass year when she separated from her husband was over a decade ago. Now she can laugh.
The thing about having a serious discussion when walking 4 mph – as my friends and I do – is that if you start crying you’ll end up wheezing. Trust me, I’ve done it; it’s hard to cry and walk. Last night I just got a little lumpy in the throat – a little choked up.
I remember Jane’s divorce – sort of. I remember thinking she was brave. I remember how cool her new apartment was – how gathering around the coffee table with our friends felt like being in a cool, all-girl’s clubhouse. No boys allowed! I remember seeing Jane rockin’ it in her short kilt and sexy engineer boots sometime later that spring. I don’t remember seeing her in the fetal position, but apparently she was doing a lot more of that than I knew.
My friend Jeremy recently told me that when his marriage ended and he left his wife and family – when the distracting hubbub of family life – all that colorful noise that crowds your attention and takes up space for so many years; running a house, working, shopping, feeding, and tending to other people – when that was gone, he could make out a much more clear shot of death. Of course it had been there all along, but he’d been too distracted, too busy to notice.
“That’s it,” I told Jeremy when he said it. “That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling.”
It’s not so much this sense of death, but a sudden nakedness, an exposure to the inevitable without the family to block its path.
Life in Motion
Since my husband moved out six months ago, and my kids got all independent on me – started driving, got boyfriends and jobs – there’s been a whistling sound around here – like a wind blowin’ through an abandoned town. I’ve been lonely.
I’m not saying that my separation from my husband of 22 years was a mistake – it was correct in many ways – and I’m glad that my teenage daughters are inspired to leave the house and go meet the world.
But this loneliness is a new feeling for me, one that I think I’ve kept at bay my whole life.
“You can call me anytime,” said a well-meaning friend. But this isn’t the kind of lonely that gets filled with friends or a movie. It’s deeper than that – it’s like what my friend said about that clear view of death.
Before I met my husband 25 years ago, the thing I was most afraid of was not finding a partner and being alone. I was certain it was a dark destiny for me, something with my name on it. I hadn’t had that many relationships, and I’d only recently recovered from many years of drinking, doing drugs and other kinds of self-destructive behavior that involved a lot of bad choices. My husband was a happy, energetic, boyish puppy. He was talented and full of life. When I first visited his art studio he had a whole wall of hand made journals that he’d been writing in for years. The paintings nailed to his walls were his own, and if that weren’t enough, Joni Mitchell was playing on his turn table. I thought I’d met my match – and I had in many ways; you don’t stay with someone for 25 years without having a lot of compatibility. Still, marrying him was just as much about running away from my fear of being alone as it was about loving him.
And so we had our life. Our kids. Our home. Our careers. Our spats, our travels, our friends, adventures and community. We made a big life.
And then our time came to an end. I like to say that in our 25 years together he and I created amazing things. Our separation was just one of them.
There’s a great quote by Marion Woodman, the Jungian therapist, who says, “You will become conscious. There are two ways. You can either walk bravely down the path with your eyes open and take your lumps, or fate will drag you down like a squealing pig.”
So, for the last 25 years my loneliness, my fear of being alone, the inevitable stain that I felt had my name on it, has been patiently waiting for me like a devoted dog. And now it’s here. Finally. Time to take my lumps and see what it has in store for me. Maybe I’m finally ready to see what’s there if I’m not running from it. As my old therapist, Gary, used to say to whatever was working me at the time, “Let it do it’s thing to you.” Easier to say, or course. More challenging to live. Let the wild rumpus begin.