The Pieces of a Life
Breaking up is an act of violence that rips the soul and shreds the heart. Smash, sever, and shatter are the only adequate words to describe the horrific reality and the fierce nature of what happened to my marriage.
This is the first I have written about that violent episode, except, for the tear soaked pages that fill several journals. I probably hesitated because I did not know how to begin.
How could I tell such a story that glides past the cliches to describe the destruction of a lifetime of hopes and dreams? The violence was inevitable, I suppose. How else do you sever two souls that were supposed to be together forever?
Twenty-five years ago, the thought of such violence was unthinkable. He was eighteen and I was one year older. We were full of hope and promise and intoxicated with our feelings. He wanted so much to make me happy and I wanted to believe in what he offered something great, grand, and beautiful. Moreover, it was awesome for a very long time.
Many people envied us and I fully believed I was the luckiest girl on the planet. However, like Humpty Dumpty looking dapper and happy before his fall, I did not realize how precariously we perched on the wall.
Sadly, our story is not unique. Somewhere between babies and bills, responsibility and routine, we edged each other out. Our youthful passions gave way to midlife obligation that could not sustain happiness. Life happened. Hardness happened. There was blame to go around as well as sins, great and small. Towards the end, there was little kindness, grace or forgiveness for our aching souls.
My former husband was not violent but the day he walked out my world shattered violently. That same day he snatched a vase off a shelf and declared it flawed, not worth saving, and threw it onto the floor.
I keenly remember the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, as I watched the vase fall as if in slow motion. It was just out of my handís reach. I knew I could not catch it. I watched silently as my priceless possession shattered.
That brutal act against my soul left my life demolished and unrecognizable. Twenty-three years, four kids, five cities, three mortgages, hundreds of friends, several pets, dozens of dreams, and countless smiles.
Everything was gone. I should have seen it coming, but I thought he was perfect. I thought we were perfect. I assumed that the depression he had experienced for several years was just a phase, and that our promises for better or worse would enable us to weather things.
I was wrong. I certainly knew our marriage was in need of some care and that the stress and cracks of life had left it leaking and fragile, but when did things get so bad? Surely, we could get help and things would return to normal, or maybe better than normal.
Either optimism or denial kept me plugging along, ignoring the signs and trying in my lame way to plug the leaks. Never did I seriously entertain the thought that it would end. Yes, our marriage was definitely weakened and cracked, but was it necessary to throw it to the floor and break it apart so purposefully? This could not be happening to us.
Now I know that he felt he had no choice. The impact knocked me out of a dull haze. Maybe I could ignore the cracking, leaking vase, yet I could not ignore the rubble that lay at my feet. Moreover, just like the unsuccessful kingís men on their horses, I realized that no amount of crying, pleading, wishing or dreaming would be able to put my marriage back together again.
It took almost five years for the grieving to end. During that time, the healing came in stages, with emotions so powerful there were times I could not breathe. Often the struggle to get a grip on the situation was overwhelming. There was the pain, the reinvention, the identity loss, the grief, and the financial devastation, and of course, there were the questions. Was it ever real, or ever beautiful? How could he? How could we?
Then, it stopped. The week he remarried, I knew the mourning was over. I found myself staring at the pile and knowing I must get serious about the business of re-crafting my life.
Rummaging through the pieces, I had to choose what to keep. I knew I could only rebuild with what was mine and only with the stuff worthy of keeping. However, the oneness of marriage made it difficult to determine what was his and what was mine. I do not mean the physical stuff, separating that was easy, he wanted the cabinet, and I wanted the books.
Yet, it was tricky to determine which of the emotional pieces were fully mine. What were my thoughts, feelings, and dreams? What was my guilt? I often had to fight hard the temptation to pick up his pieces, and to make too much of his faults or to carry his emotional pain.
Slowly I figured it all out and decided what I needed to discard and what would be valuable for my future. Some pieces such as my passion and loyalty were definite keepers. Others, like my sharp tongue and judgmental spirit, I hoped to leave on the floor.
I will never be the same. Happiness surrounds me and grace upholds me, yet I will always walk with a limp. I suppose on some level that is what I want so I do not forget how fragile my heart and the nature of a relationship can be.
I am learning. I am mending. The pieces of my life are coming together to form something I never could have created before.