Thursday, May 17, 2012


Letting go is never easy. Figuring out when to and how to make it harder still.

In my head I have a general timeframe of when my marriage went south. No-one will argue that the last year and a half we were together that we were in the process of ending it and letting go, despite our attempts to make it work.

Even when I realized it was over, it still took a full month for me to leave and let go of my expectations of what might or could happen.

Three years later, I am still rebuilding my life.

A colleague of mine has been in one of these phases the last year. His wife announced to the pastor that they were getting divorced. Then, they were going to counseling, and then yesterday he confided to me that they were divorcing again.

I empathized with his unexpressed helplessness. There are kids involved, and he remembers his own experience with his parents' multiple marriages. I sensed his defeat and his uncertainty at what was best and how to move forward.

He doesn't want the divorce. And I have no idea if only for the kids, or also because of remaining affection for his wife. This period takes a lot out of you. I shared with him that I knew it was finally the end when she made one of her many threats to end it all, and I felt relief.

I remember well the night after a day and a half of long emotional terror when she announced by text (she had run away by then - having snuck out of the window from a locked room so that I still have no idea how long I spent pleading to an empty room - that she was going to pack up her car and essentially ride off into the sunset.

My mother - correctly - warned me that this wouldn't happen. That my ex didn't really have a practical plan, and wouldn't really be so stupid as to leave and leave everything behind.

But I remember the immense relief I felt. I remember feeling the pleasure at a sense of certainty. So long that I couldn't even remember I had been continuously planning to leave all options open in case we stayed together, in case we didn't. Until she had suggested a finality, something I could actually plan, I didn't even realize how exhausting that was.

I knew the road ahead of me would be hard. We were behind on our mortgage and many other payments. But I had found myself limited in making long term plans with my hands tied not knowing what was happening with us.

My mother was right. She didn't leave. And even though she had family in the area that she had frequently threatened to go live with, she never did that, either.

Instead, she made my life a living hell to where I had no choice but to not only let go and walk away from her, but also to walk away from everything else in my life. From, essentially, my life.

I admit I mourn that more than I mourn losing her. Even though at some level it was just stuff. Letting go of my life, after I left, has been really hard.

Sometimes I have wondered why letting go of her was easier. And I came to realize it wasn't. I had just started earlier. I was looking back the other day at some old emails to friends. And I was surprised to remember that there was another milestone point in the end of our relationship - that we had been having problems a good year or so before the period I typically think of as the beginning of the end. I had softened my memory. But in hindsight, I had been learning to let go of her over three years before I was able to actually let go.

Today, another friend received correspondence from her soon to be ex-spouse saying that in order for him to be happy, he couldn't have any more contact with her. And while I know she was done being his wife, I can only imagine that part of her reaction is part of letting go, and the pain when someone else lets go of us.

It isn't easy to know these things, to go through these things. It takes time.

When my colleague told me of the change in tides, all I could do was give him a big hug. Even knowing that with time it gets better, it is hard to watch those you care about struggle with letting go.

As Elizabeth Bishop once wrote, the art of losing isn't hard to master:

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

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