In Which Our Lass is Liberated

Yesterday was the day. I got all my forms filled out with the help of volunteers in the Law Library, showed up for the Uncontested Court Docket and had my divorce waved on through.

If anything, the judge seemed pleased that I was able to read my testimony quickly and clearly, so that she didn’t have to wait very long.

Every time I went there (six total), I felt a little sick. Usually, my hands would start shaking. Almost every time, the enormity of what I was doing hit me and I had to fight back tears.

I had the love of my life. My soulmate. I thought I was born for him. We were going to build a home and a family together. He said things like how he would find me in every life after this one.

And I was wrong, and it didn’t last, and now it’s all gone.

There’s a lyric from a Blue October song that knocks the wind out of me every time I hear it. It’s the song “Been Down” from Approaching Normal.

Why can’t we work when we both try?
We try, we try, we try, we try
And why can’t this work, when we both try?

It’s difficult for a chronic overachiever like myself to really accept this. There is a very, very limited list of things I really tried for and still fell short. Especially when you factor in six years of work and compromise.

I’m strong and smart and tough and successful. I’m a finisher; I’m a winner. If it doesn’t come out right in the end, that means it’s not the end. All those adages. Yadda yadda.

I don’t know how to reconcile being a failure on such an epic scale, after working as hard as I did.

I had a man who loved me more than anyone, who had a job, who was healthy, who treated me well, who made me laugh, who got along with my friends, who liked my family, who wanted everything I wanted, and was willing to do whatever it took to get it.

Then he quit the first job, and lost the second job, and quit the third job, and lost the fourth job, and lost the fifth job, and quit the sixth job, and lost the seventh & eighth jobs, and by the ninth job (in six years), my patience was wearing thin. (He kept that ninth job almost two years, but was fired during our separation and blamed it on the stress I caused him by leaving.)

He got sick during the first year. I handled it better some days than others, but I also prioritized his health above my own. I bought food for the diet he needed. I bought medications. I budgeted for the weed he needed for pain management. I bought e-cigs and vapes, then would be enraged to find packs of cigarettes in his coat. I put medical procedures on credit. I took him to clinics, I took him to specialists, I took him to ERs. I don’t want to tell you how many endoscopies and root canals we (I) paid for.

His opinion of me fluctuated based on many factors, but let’s just say after chronic pain and poverty led to violent outbursts, I wasn’t really laughing or feeling loved anymore. When he became physical with me, some part of me snapped. I began pushing back instead of apologizing, and suddenly he didn’t laugh or feel loved anymore, either.

My friends slowly fell away, unless they already had a close bond with him. The friends who objected to his behavior or choices were first to go. My family, once the joy in the marriage cooled, was being phased out as well.

He still wanted what I wanted, a house and kids and a steady, easy, loving life. But he self-sabotaged to a degree I couldn’t keep up with, and carrying the weight, I grew bitter. I grew angry. I built resentments, and I started voicing them.

We fought daily. We fought multiple times a day. In his own words, he forgave me, because he loved me so much, but I needed to stop doing the things that triggered him. Then everything would be fine.

We saw three different therapists across five of the six years of our relationship. They all said essentially the same things.

So I had a man who rarely had a job, chronically ill, who lectured and criticized & manhandled me, who made me cry & scream like a banshee, who disliked my friends, who avoided my family, and who wanted a home and kids with me, as long as he wasn’t expected to take the necessary steps to earn it.

He still loved me most. He always said that. That was the redeeming factor. I lived over a year like that, with everything stripped away, holding on to the fact that he loved me most.

Then he met her.

There had been lovers and girlfriends. We tried being open, we even tried being poly for one very confusing, jealousy-laden year. It was quite complicated. But nothing else compared to when he met her. She was in an open marriage too, and her husband and I agreed that their bond scared the living daylights out of us.

Within a month, I reached a limit and said “No more. I’m shutting this down. Here is my Wife card; I’m playing it. Her, or me.”

I packed my bags, and I went to stay with a friend. (The friend later told me her guest room had been reserved for me for over a year.)

He was furious. Within a week he informed me that I had no right to dictate who he spoke to or was friends with. Crushed, I wept for hours, and told him he was an idiot, and he would regret this decision. He came back the next day claiming he had thought it over and would stop speaking to her “for a time” to give us a chance to fix what was so patently broken.

Six weeks into the separation, I learned that they were communicating in secret, and she had come to our house that day to see him. So I let him know we were getting divorced, and he was free to pursue whatever life he wanted, but I wouldn’t be in it.

Because all I had left was He loves me most. And there it went: poof.

It has been a long, hard road, of denial and rage and numbness and nightmares and loneliness. I tried so hard, gave until I was hollow, and I still lost everything. It had never happened to me before.

Once he learned he had no chance to get me back, he vanished off the face of the earth. His own mother didn’t have his address. I served his divorce papers by something called Public Posting, reserved for missing persons cases.

A year passed. I healed somewhat.

And yesterday I went from Separated to actually Divorced.

It doesn’t feel real yet, and I made strange animal noises (half laugh, half whimper) from the courthouse to my car. I don’t know what to do with myself, because half my life is still ripped away, and it’s growing back at the rate of cave formations.

The best I can do is keep moving, keep functioning, until my lungs catch up to my paperwork. At least the “try” has a new direction.

Day 14 – Mouth – #30DaysBodyPositive

My mouth makes pretty singy-song noises. It is scarred and asymmetrical from that faceplant off a bunk bed in college, but when the pressure rises, this mouth can fire off some zingers like you wouldn’t believe.

My mouth is frequently humming or singing. It has a (charming?) Drew-Barrymore lisp, especially when I am sleepy. My mouth says things that surprise me, instead of holding on to things I regret keeping to myself. My mouth quirks and twists in hundreds of ways, and it looks nice in pictures.

My mouth has ten levels of smiles, from fake grimace to where-did-her-eyes-go hilarity. If you could still see my pupils when I smiled, that means it was fake. If my mouth was uneven when I smiled at you, I think you’re funny. If my mouth was closed around you, that means you intimidate me. If my lips thinned when you were talking, it means you’re pissing me off.

If my mouth has teased you more than once, it means I frigging love you.

Day 13 – Heart – #30DaysBodyPositive

My heart. It never stops working. It has a lot of work to do, keeping this body going, but every time I go to the doctor it’s like, “120/80, everything’s cool.”

It’s a warrior. It’s been tested, pushed, stretched, broken, crushed, questioned, and threatened with removal (every time I sing that Florence & the Machine song). But it keeps on beating.

It’s the most stubborn part of my body, marching on when the rest of me is sick of this and wants to surrender, and today I am damn grateful.

Day 12 – Eyes – #30DaysBodyPositive

They are not the highest-functioning part of my body, what with needing glasses since I was twelve.

They are not the first thing you notice when you meet me: many other aspects are so much… bigger.

They are deep-set in my skull, with modest eyelashes and wispy eyebrows. They are a very common shade of brown (chocolate, not golden). They do not change colors with my moods, or remind people of the sea, or anything super-cool like that.

But they are, without fail, the most expressive feature of my face. I can hold the muscles of my mouth and eyebrows completely still (and have, when my students are working my last nerve), but nothing stops the emotions radiating out from my eyes at any given moment.

I can wink with either one of them. I can cross them a couple different ways. They squint when I smile. They dance when I am teasing. They fill with tears at the slightest provocation, whether it’s a sad song or a sweet commercial or a baby or a puppy or a penguin or a really tiny shoe. My eyes say everything.

I actually like my eyes. You know… when they’re not squinted shut, and you can find them.

Day 11 – Skin – #30DaysBodyPositive

It’s time to talk about skin.

Everybody has it. It seals in your guts. It prevents infection. It creates tough shields over spots which are frequently abraded or cut. It weeps salty moisture to keep us cool. It grows hair in unique patterns. It stretches like crazy.

Why do we say so many hateful things about it?

It is summer, so mine is 90% covered in freckles. I look like Seurat tried to paint on my tan, and used six different brush sizes. The parts that aren’t exposed to the sun are pale like an Easter Lily, with random melanin spots for no discernable reason.

My skin is soft. My skin is everywhere it should be. My skin crops up little moles or spots (red, brown, golden, doesn’t matter), just to keep things interesting. My skin does its job beautifully (although it still overreacts to sunlight). My skin sends up goosebumps when something exciting happens. My skin floods with color every time I am laughing, or angry, or singing, or thinking someone’s cute, or wishing I could hide.

My skin is one of my most expressive features: not sure what I’m thinking? Look at the color in my cheeks and ears.

Day 10 – Ears – #30DaysBodyPositive

I was born with a hearing defect, although the cause has never been determined. One ear only hears the highest part of the sound register, and the other compensates.

I may never know what perfect hearing sounds like, as one of my Dumbo-sized head-appendages is largely for symmetry, and the left one does all the work. I’ve never known what I’m missing.

They stick out from my head well enough to tuck my hair behind. They support the arms of glasses. They aren’t sensitive to metals and can rock some badass earrings. They turn red when I am angry or embarrassed, which is kind of adorable.

My wonky hearing enables me to shut out extraneous noises for unparalleled focus and the ability to sort through threads of music. I can tell which top-row mezzo is rolling the vowel into the back of her throat, or which bass is a quarter step flat.

Thanks, ears. My job literally depends on you; please never quit on me.

Day 9 – Hands – #30DaysBodyPositive

Like a matched pair, today’s featured body part is my hands.

My hands are used to twenty-seven years of typing and piano. My fingers may be callused, but they are still generally clean & tapered and handle loads of rapid fine motor function.

There is no use in getting my nails done, ever, because of how the polish chips off the ends within a day of steady use. The one time in my life that I got long acrylic nails, I was consumed by frustration and ripped them off after three days (which hurts; I don’t advise it).

I’m also ambidextrous, which makes life easier in so many ways.

The palms are good for holding and cleaning things, and the fingers are deft with cooking utensils (as long as I don’t get too showy with the knife). The knuckles and wrists are strong, and have never broken (although there was I time I fell out of  top-bunk bed and landed on my right hand, spraining one finger… yeah. I’m tough).

My hands do lovely things when I am conducting. They also know their way around a darkened room and a companion’s body. All good things.