I’m in a holding pattern in life right now. The kind that reminds you that life is full of crazy contradictions and extremes.
For months earlier this year I struggled with a messy home, yesterday’s half-eaten school lunches, my hectic new schedule as a Scientists in School presenter balanced against my long-standing prior commitments as a piano teacher, and – every night – a depressingly long and anxiety-provoking list of unfinished jobs for the morrow (some of which I began involuntarily freaking out about right at the moment I should have been putting the 2 kids to bed).
All this, of course, was set against the backdrop of me running out of the house to drive to yet another new school on said morrow. By 7 am next morning I was already running late. No time for the list until I arrived home again, hot and exhausted, at 5 pm. Throw in a hefty measure of daily guilt that my whole family was not eating properly, that everyone was upset at me with their own personal axe to grind whenever I happened by, and that my 7-year-old son was playing video games all evening instead of progressing with reading, and there you had “me” in a nutshell. Don’t forget at this point in the proceedings I still had my workshop kit (all 6 Rubbermaid bins of it!) to clean up and prep again before the next day’s events.
In short, this past spring it was pretty much a wonder I did not shatter into a million tiny crumbs, like safety glass collapsing after a catastrophic impact. Somehow I got through it. No points for style, though.
There were things I hated then. Chief among these – to summarize, I suppose – was that nagging feeling that I just didn’t have time to put my house in order, as it were. Maybe we all know the feeling, that your mind is an overcluttered attic that you simply haven’t had time to set right and that – at any moment – one of the unsorted teetering piles you haven’t yet dealt with is going to topple onto your head. Think Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement here and you will soon have an image of what the inside of my head felt like from April to June.
Second among things I hated would be the 7 or 8 piles of clean laundry thrown on my bedroom floor in the course of daily events and then simply left there all week. Somehow putting away those fresh, clean underpants and socks (a job I used to love… honest!) never quite made it that high on the list of urgent fires to be put out. Until, suddenly, it did. Usually a mental leap like this would happen to me at about 11 o’clock at night.
Luckily, real work makes the Room of Requirement Of The Mind disappear for a while and, so, there were parts of my Crazy Spring Routine that I loved as well: the “me time” of driving, having a pay cheque to call my own again, the constant stream of new schools and people, and the hustle of rushing to get somewhere in the morning because – somewhere, and to someone – I was an important and irreplaceable component in the events of this day. It was nice to feel like I had status again. I mattered. I got paid for what I provided. And – most importantly of all – I was doing something I loved and believed in the importance of. I was teaching something about the ecology of this planet to children. A life changing lesson possibly. Yes! I was possibly changing some kid’s life. Every day. I could hold my head up when I thought of that.
When you’re separated and your mind constantly clutters up with each moment’s new problems, misgivings, and nagging doubts, a distraction as incredibly awesome as that is a very great blessing indeed. And so, when the day’s workshop ended and negativity crowded back in, trying to drown me, it was always more than a little depressing. There were days I cried my eyes out during some long drive home.
And then along came summer. After a whole winter and spring of worry and hassle and “hectic” and grief. After I’d already been through all the questions and all the feelings until my head ached from the effort and my heart was now a blank slate, emptied of grief.
This week it is too hot here to do anything. At 33 degrees Celsius with a humidex rising above 40 during the day you can feel your skin baking in the sun the moment you open the front door. Sunglasses, sun screen and a hat are required equipment for any outing. The air feels heavy in your lungs. All your clothing seems to be for another place or another season – I only own one cool blue slip of a top that’s “nearly nude” enough to ventilate me properly on a day like today. You can drink and drink, but you’ll never pee. And it feels like you’re overdue for a cold bath. All the time.
There isn’t anywhere to be rushing off to now. No alarm clocks or lunches. No school for any of us. From a famine as far as free time goes to, now, a completely embarrassing feast.
Not just that. I have already dealt with all the grunt work that separation entails. The papers have been sent for, scanned, signed, submitted. I have already had every conceivable argument, talked to everyone about everything. Sometimes twice. Every proposed detail of our proposed agreement has been thought about, rewritten, and thought about some more. There is nothing left to do here. I’m into the waiting game now. Waiting for something to happen.
In television dramas, break-ups are always dramatic. People walk out. Doors slam. Someone is always left, shocked, saddened and broken-hearted, unable to process something so sudden.
Sudden is not a word anyone could now use to characterize our break-up. Not without laughing anyhow. We did manage to slam some doors at least…
Breaking up with my husband – the man who, at one point, I really did see as the love of my life and the person who completed me – has been a lot like quitting smoking. I have heard that most people try to break the habit about 13 times before they finally and forever butt out. I’m sure I’ve been through this over and over, have gone through this process as a thought experiment in my own person version of being Albert Einstein, at LEAST that many times.
I tried to put this to bed for years by making a “final” decision that was the wrong one. Tantamount to a diabetic who won’t give up refined sugar or an alcoholic who can’t admit that they need to shed some destructive weekend friends. And you know what? I found out that as you go over it and over it in your mind – each time with the stupid arguments somehow ringing a little less “true” and the phony reasons becoming progressively less valid, less important – you slowly change on the inside. You have to change on the inside until you are strong enough to see yourself through the storm to come. The storm that happens when you re-arrange your life, re-aligning it with your new truth.
When I talked about those slow epiphanies I wasn’t kidding. It really was like that. I sat with this a long time. I have already cried out all the tears about lost love, about disrespect, about doing this one, terrible thing to the lives of the children I brought into this world vowing that, above all, the one thing I would give them was security.
When I got over THOSE reasons for not leaving, I still had to get over that inertia. That reason that says splitting up will mean buying your own toaster, or microwave, and that these are decisions you’re just completely unable to confront. This reason (a lousy one!) tried to tell me that my comfort in this life of unfocused sloth had a stronger pull on me than the call to be more in life, to show my children how I value their lives (because I am valuing my own). How I want BETTER for them (because I want better for me).
After a number of failed attempts to “quit” my relationship, I began to look around and see that, over the years, I’d acquired many of those stupid, inertial household items in duplicate already. In past fits of “I will leave!” I had bought pots, cutlery, an electric blanket, a Queen-sized mattress for me, fitted sheets. In fact, this time I was ready to try to quit again, but with equipment. And there were no tears left. That’s something like leaving “too late”, but – whatever, good enough – at least it finally felt to me like I had processed what I had known already for so many years. I walked out of the Waiting Room of Life where I had been sitting, waiting for my husband to have time to love me. I made a firm decision about that (which required me to toughen up a bit), so – when I walked out – I closed the door this time. And locked it.
Now I am waiting. I’ve done my part. I’ve even spent some months, as I now realize, waiting for my husband to catch up to me on this one. Watching him go through his own version (surprisingly) of the 5 Stages of Grief. My paperwork has been done. I’ve gone as far as I can go, for now, with lawyers, bankers and realtors. Everything has gone out and now I must wait for the things that come back.
In the meanwhile, the kids and I hang out together at home. They have cooked lunches and dinners. Fruit smoothies for breakfast. No one is having bathroom problems. Everyone’s teeth have been getting brushed. We can spend our whole day at home in pajamas now and no one will notice. Or miss us.
My list right now has nothing real on it, even though I know hopefully soon another long list will drop from heaven and make me feel like I am, once again, running behind on so many things. I’ll be back in the Room of Requirement of the Mind then.
But for now – like the song by the Cure says – I Wait for Something to Happen.
Perhaps, meanwhile, I’ll go buy a toaster.
All for now,