When I was young, in my early teens, girls my age were encouraged to keep journals. We were to document our lives meticulously-for posterity, we were told. Our children’s children’s children would take in our tales like we absorbed the tales of the pioneers; Dad? (it was always dad) tell me again about our great aunt/grandmother. It didn’t really take with me. For one thing, I was weary of tales of pioneers crossing the plains in the dead of winter, facing death and persecution at every turn. My life was excruciatingly dull. My sister and I were model children. We were A students who went to school, went to work, went to church, and did what we were told. I read, listened to music, and was a dutiful daughter who did her chores, helped her mother around the house, and never, ever dated. More importantly, however, I never pictured myself with any progeny. There wouldn’t be anyone to take one of my diaries down from the shelf and pore over the pages, no one to read the exploits I never had. Which is why I found it so strange about five years ago when I found myself reviewing forms from a local fertility clinic; and stranger still when my husband tried to rush me into signing with an ultimatum, if you don’t want this, then we need to reevaluate our relationship. I was not rushed and kept reading. I wanted this, or at least I thought I wanted this. In the end, I didn’t want it. Shortly after Pesach 2015, we agreed to go our separate ways.
It started as a thought exercise: we would spend the week apart and we would visualize the same thing, picture our lives if we stayed together and if we separated. When I tried to picture our lives together I could only get so far-my inability to have children. Then I saw our lives plunging down the rabbit hole of more donor eggs, more rounds with a gestational carrier until eventually we found ourselves in the same place, a thought exercise. When I pictured our lives apart, I saw myself alone, but happy. I saw myself moving into the city and doing the things I wanted to do. And I saw him living his life and having children with someone else. In the end each of us would have the life she or he wanted. I tried this exercise over and over again, but the result was always the same. Our marriage was over. Ten minutes after he got home from his week away, I said we need to talk. The conversation itself lasted less than 15 minutes. In the end he said, we know what we need to do and we hugged.
I kept it to myself. He went off the leash.
Our divorce was remarkable for its lack of animosity. We had what some would consider a good divorce. We submitted the initial filing in April 2015, filed for divorce in July 2015, and our divorce became final in November 2015; one week after my 46th birthday. We were still on speaking terms. He asked if I minded if he continued to attend our mutual synagogue. I said I didn’t. We settled our financial affairs and our property with minimal fuss. He bought me out of the house and I stayed there until I found a new place to live. I had enough to put a small down payment on a condo and buy paint. He helped me paint and I moved into my new place on 1 September 2015 (any later and he was going to start charging me rent). I spent the next six month settling in, unpacking boxes when I felt like it and exploring my new neighbourhood when I didn’t. For those six or seven months, I was free in a way I had not been since I was a young single woman thriving in New York with the world by the ass. Then around the time he announced his new relationship, I saw Amy Schumer’s “Last Fuckable Day” sketch and went oh god, and the grief hit. “I’ve been waiting for this,” my mother said, “You’ve always been a delayed griever.”
We think that because there is no drama that there is no grief. Yours was an amicable divorce, you had no children, YOU wanted this, why are you sad? What is there to grieve? Your life is your own. You can be selfish. (The ones who say that think you’re being selfish.) It turns out that when you’re in a relationship with the same person for 14 years, there is a lot to grieve. I mourn the time when it was us against the world. Our marriage crumbled under the weight of unmet expectations and in the end, the world won. I mourn for the person I was before I caved under the pressure of relentless negativity. I miss her. I’m fighting to get her back. I’m angry that I ignored some warning signs and missed others. I’m mad as hell that I actually think my last fuckable day passed while I was still married. That even though I think I’m more attractive and interesting and sexier than I’ve ever been in my life that the rest of the world disagrees and I am invisible. Why? Because I’ve always been invisible. I’m the one who’s had it together all along but has always been the friend, the confidante. Which brings me to the greatest loss I feel at the moment. The longing is intense. It’s insane. I am starved for affection. To me, men have their own mass, their own gravity; they’re like planets. Being in a relationship, when it works, is like being in a binary star system. When one goes, the other goes off-kilter. I am off-kilter, even though, and this is the most surprising thing of all, I don’t miss my ex-husband.