This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through divorce.
I’m not very proud of that statement. In fact, I’m embarrassed by it.
If you’d known me for the devout Catholic girl I once was, you might understand how remarkable it is that I’ve grown up to be the twice-divorced child of the family.
Even now, saying I’m twice-divorced evokes a deep sense of failure, even shame. Toward myself and my family, toward the values and traditions they taught me. I know that’s not quite rational, but when you’ve had it programmed into your head for 18+ years that only lazy people get divorced, these are the emotions you must contend with when you face the realities of adult life.
My first marriage was a flash in the pan. We were over and done within the space of a couple years; the kind of thing that happens when you’re too young to choose the right partner, yet thankfully mature enough to recognize you’ve screwed up.
I’m not going to dredge up all the pain and turmoil of that first breakup, but I was thinking about it today because I remembered a dream I had a couple years after I signed my first divorce. In the dream, I was angry with my first husband, overcome with a sort of irrational rage that I rarely experience. And all that rage was directed at him.
When I woke up, I realized that despite the pain and frustration I felt, despite the mistreatment I’d suffered during my first marriage, I’d never allowed myself to get angry with him. I’d tried to be rational, understanding, stoic. To see our conflict from both sides, and give him the benefit of the doubt. There was no right or wrong in what was happening between us, I had told myself. We were just two good people who did not belong together.
Okay, maybe it was wise to manage my first divorce in this way. But maybe, just maybe, I also needed to get angry.
A year ago this month, my second husband and I had the conversation that officially marked the beginning of the end of our marriage. At the time, we’d been together for sixteen years. For months after that conversation, I cried every day. Somehow I managed to survive fall semester (still not sure how). Then, over the winter holidays, I visited my brother and his family, a trip that proved deeply therapeutic. I came back rejuvenated, more ready to face the next stage of my life.
Since the beginning of this year, every week has been a little easier than the last. At the same time, not a week has gone by without tears. I’m never quite sure what’s going to provoke them. It might be a song, a particular place, or even unexpected kindness from a friend.
These past few days, I’ve begun the process of reclaiming my (second) ex-husband’s office space. That’s been predictably tough. There were documents to sort through, old photos of him and us, notebooks where he laid out his plans and ideas for projects that he wanted to complete while he was here.
I got through all of that in one piece, though not without some sadness. I cleaned out the bookshelf and the closet; I put all the important looking papers in safe storage. I vacuumed and dusted everything. Then, I started rearranging the furniture.
This is going to be my new writing place, you see. During the years of our marriage, “my” office was confined to a corner of the guest bedroom. To be fair, that made sense at the time, because he spent many more hours working out of the home than I did. But now I have the opportunity for a proper home office of my own, and I intend to make use of it.
In the midst of moving around bookshelves, chairs, and whatnot, my big toe had an unfortunate encounter with his old desk. That’s what triggered the meltdown. From one moment to the next, I became pure rage. For the first time, I hated my ex-husband. I did. Or maybe hate and anger are the same thing; I don’t know. But I hated him for having such a big, stupid desk. Most of all, I hated him for leaving me alone with all of this, for making me clean up everything that had been left behind.
Because the honest truth is, as many times as I’ve rationalized his decisions, as much as I’ve respected his choices, I don’t understand why he did what he did. I think I never will. There’s a part of me that still believes we could have had a good life here together, a part of me that cannot forgive him for giving up on us. A part of me that needs to be angry.
So just for today (and maybe a few days beyond), I’m going to give myself a break from being mature, responsible, understanding, and compassionate about this whole thing. I’m going to let myself be angry. I’m going to let my rage be felt. Anger is part of the path to healing, after all. Sooner or later, we must give it its due.