It’s funny the things that you remember when you aren’t looking for them.
I was getting ready for bed — collecting my phone and paperback book, slipping my flip-flops back on so I could take them off again next to the bed, taking my nighttime medicine. I stopped in the bathroom to brush my teeth, and as my eyes crossed over my book again, I felt it: the touch of a memory, the memory of a feeling.
It won’t be long now, and I will have been informally unwed for 6 years. The formally came much later than is probably the norm, but in our case, paperwork was strictly formality that we left sitting to the side for a couple of years. All of which I only point out because my brain can be a strict grammarian, and sometimes it feels ingenuous to say that I have been divorced for nearly 6 years. I actually giggle a little at the irony of the fact that I used to tell friends who were living together that, no, it was most decidedly NOT “basically the same thing” as being married, and yet, in my case, our living apart truly was “basically the same thing” as our being divorced. So, okay, fine. Let me start again…
I’ve been divorced for nearly 6 years now. A friend once told me about seeing a counselor at the end of his live-in, long-term relationship that had not become marriage and asking the counselor how long it would take him to get over it. The counselor responded that it was safe to assume an average of 1 year for every 3 years together, with considerably longer times added in if the relationship included children and any major life stressors such as death, etc. I was married for a little over 12 years. We were together for almost 15. So, I went into my divorce figuring a minimum of 5 years, plus. I remember thinking, “I AM GOING TO FEEL LIKE THIS FOR FIVE YEARS?!?” Oh, Sparrow…. No. You’re not going to feel like THAT for five years. Though, at five years, I was still wondering when the hell it was going to let up. But that’s another post for another night.
At 6 years, I notice more moments like the one tonight that catch me… not off guard, because it is not a defensive posture that comes into play, but maybe just… by surprise. So unexpected. After living so long in this phase of life that I probably once referred to as the “new normal” but now more as simply a transitional period in my life, to find myself having memories and memories of feelings without having an immediate and visceral reaction to them is rather a surprise. Maybe a bit of sensing there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. (Not so sure I’m going to go as far as “seeing” the light at the end of the tunnel for these. I have those moments, but they are an experience that is built in layers.)
Tonight’s memory of a feeling involved that paperback book. I remembered the specialness that I used to feel for my bedroom. It wasn’t the brick or plaster or built-in cupboard and drawers. It wasn’t the size of the space or that I kept it perfectly appointed (my headboard tends to look more like a train wreck of paperbacks, jewelry, lotions, and dust from my Kleenex box). It was a sense of refuge. A place I could retreat to my book at night. A place that was ours, together, two people who knew each other in ways no one else knew us (I’m not touching the truth of that one; we’re just going with the feeling here). When I laid down there at night, it was simply our space and ours alone, and there was a warmth that comes with that and can certainly be there in a space of your own too; it doesn’t require marriage or another person.
But I had spent so much time falling into my bed and lusting after sleep as a way to forget, so much time staying awake until I couldn’t stay awake anymore just so my mind wouldn’t race when it got quiet around me, so many nights when crawling into bed was my only non-mom time and the cares and worries of the days just poured out of my eyes onto my pillow so that I could do it again tomorrow — that I had forgotten it could be something else. I had misplaced that sense of both refuge and ownership, that sense of permanence and place in the world. In truth, I was surprised to have forgotten the emotion, but I was almost shocked that I had completely forgotten that it exists.
If that simple sense of surprise isn’t a sign of transition, then I don’t know what is.
I think it is time to redecorate the bedroom. And get a bookshelf.