Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Divorce: A Report from Earthquake Country

Here I am in my new life. A life that six months ago I would not have imagined. But, as with earthquakes, I suppose the ground was quietly shifting at subterranean levels for years. When the quake itself happens, we are taken by surprise. It feels as though the earth's violent movement has come from nowhere. But, indeed, it was set into motion long ago by invisible pressure against the tectonic plates.

So now I am a single woman living in a downtown apartment. It feels worlds away from my previous incarnation as committed partner in a 15 year relationship, where the focus was family and creating a domestic world together.

Here are some things I'm learning in my new incarnation:

1. When you are with a woman, people see you as a lesbian. When you are dating men, people see you as straight. Bisexuality is invisible. Maybe even to the self.

2. When you have two small dogs in a 6th floor apartment, buy a piece of sod and place it on the balcony on top of a piece of plastic. That way, you don't have to walk the dogs more than once or twice a day. The rest of the time, they can use the small square of grass. It costs only about $3 at a place like OSH. Water it regularly and replace it when it gets too dry or smelly.

3. Time becomes more friendly when you have only to walk across the street to get to work.

4. Coming out of a long-term relationship, while painful, is also an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Suddenly you realize that you can plan a trip and go. You can play your piano or grade papers at 2 a.m. You can spend all day in bed, revising your novel on your laptop.

5. Speaking of writing, when you write autobiographical fiction and poetry--and your life takes a major U-turn--reading your work can feel like reading the work of someone you know very well but who clearly is not you.

6. A divorce turns the most intimate person in your life into a stranger.

7. In your new incarnation, your own strength can surprise you. You can do things like peel your sorry, sad ass off the floor and make an appointment with a shrink or attorney. You can catch yourself laughing after thinking you never would smile again. You can begin running and biking again, feeling the muscles awaken in your back, your legs, your heart.

8. When your attorney or attorney's assistant calls, you feel they are talking in slow-motion, which works great for them since they charge an absurd per hour rate.

9. Friends and family are oxygen. They call you, invite you over, let you come live with them, email you, offer you boxes and arms for moving, make you dinner, spend the night when you can't imagine making it through the night alone.

10. When you begin to heal, you want to do more for every person who crosses your path. Loss can morph to tenderness. The earth shifts: We humans are vulnerable. And resilient.