exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

not the worst thing

by Jen at 9:57 am on 15.11.2011Comments Off
filed under: mundane mayhem

i wrote this last summer when j and i were in paris, but hadn’t published it here until now. j and i are splitting up, and as awful as it is, it is not the worst thing. keeping comments off.

we were in paris, on holiday with the in-laws, when i first said the words, whispering in the dark across to the other uncomfortable sofa where he lay.

“i think we might need to get a divorce.”

he got up without a word, got his pack of cigarettes, went out onto the balcony. i joined him, watched the red glow of the cigarette as we gazed down together at the boulevard below. suddenly the will to stand drained out of my legs, and i collapsed, weeping so hard i felt i might turn inside out. all the disappointment and frustration and anger i’d been storing for months and years, rushing out of me in wracking, violent sobs. and below, people laughing, cars passing. and me thinking, how is it possible the world hasn’t come to a screeching, crashing halt? surely that would be appropriate.

nearly seventy percent of second marriages end in divorce. i think i must’ve read that before, but i never allowed the reality of it to penetrate my consciousness. naïveté. denial.

i don’t know yet, if my husband and i will split. but in the weeks that have passed since that night in paris that ended with the two of us desperately clutching each other on the balcony, trying not to drown in the waves of sorrow, i’ve come to know why that 70% figure is so true.

even a “good divorce”, an amicable divorce for all the right reasons that makes you both better, happier people, as mine was, leaves you scarred. even a “good divorce” is hell. it rips any sense of security out from under you, makes you confront the possibility of being completely and utterly alone, drains every ounce of foolish fairytale right out of your head. a divorce, even a “good divorce”, is the death of your shared dreams for home, family, and future. it’s a death, and you mourn it, and carry guilt and shame over it for a long while.

but as time passes and you begin to emerge from the blast-shadow the explosion left behind, the world begins to right itself. time moves on, and you tuck away the lessons learned, and you stand a little straighter knowing that you have survived the worst that love can throw at you. you think yourself stronger and wiser, as hemingway would say, “strong at the broken places”.

it’s dangerous knowledge.

it is dangerous knowing that divorce is not, in fact, the end of the world. that however painful the experience of a shattered marriage was, that however much it hurt to walk through those shards and pick up the pieces, that *you were okay*. dangerous how that “d” word, that word you thought you could never bring yourself to utter, that word that choked you for so long before you could finally, actually say it (because to say “divorce” out loud was to admit that it was really fucking happening)… it’s dangerous how close that word sits to the tip of your tongue after that.

divorce, which was once the very worst thing that had ever happened to you, is now no longer the worst thing that can happen to you.

more to the point, it’s not the worst thing that can happen to me. even with all the tears, even when to untangle my life from his would feel like flaying off my own skin, i know this much is true: it is not the worst thing that can happen to me. however bad it gets, i’ll be okay.

and somehow, that just makes it worse – the knowledge that the world will keep turning, people will keep laughing on the boulevards below. i will once again face the fears and learn the lessons, adding one more statistical failure to the punchline of life, but emerge and walk on stronger and wiser.

i know what i’m in for, and i know how unthinkably excruciating the dissolution of love can be. i know all this, and still i know it will be a hundred times worse – because i loved him more.

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