When my 13-year marriage ended in divorce, I started writing, both to read the wisdom of others and to purge my pain.
I needed to sort it out, but most importantly I needed to be with the pain so that I could move through it. Putting one word after the other is a kind of forward movement. Bringing mindfulness to the process through daily practice is also a kind of forward movement.
Together, they are powerful.
The Buddhist concept of hopelessness to accept situations as they are, rather than falling into fear or hope—has been a touchstone practice for me as I navigate this stage of my life. It has helped me see and, I hope, write clearly about what happened and how I learned to make space around my feelings, anchor in awareness, notice the many seemingly unrelenting sources and places of resistance, and to ultimately accept what is.
In one moment of contemplation, I was sitting at my kitchen table noticing it’s solidity and how so many moments have passed over the table. In this way, it’s like the field of awareness, I thought. The field of awareness, like this table, remains constant, while many thoughts, feelings, and experiences pass through.
I also noticed that the table possessed qualities that my marriage did not have. It was strong and still on one piece. It supported me in a way the relationship didn’t.
The table was speaking to me. This is what it had to say:
You sit at the old kitchen table bought on clearance from a home goods store that went out of business soon after your one and only visit. The table is smooth and then pockmarked; the maple colored finish is faded to grey in places. There are scratches and grooves from years of use: the first dinner parties, craft projects, hot pie pans, baby spoons, broken glass, Christmas cookies, and dinner forks that pierced its flesh.
You remember how you bought that table with your soon-to-be husband, the man who is now your ex-husband. It was the first piece of furniture you bought together. It’s a good memory, and a good table—for it is strong. Despite all the moves and use or abuse it doesn’t wobble or bow. The table could go on being a table for another 20 years; yet your marriage cannot go on being a marriage.
You’ve been over it in your mind time and time again all the ways the marriage was flawed. All the memories of disappointment, anger, resentment that built to contempt (the cyanide of marital union). It was a slow death. You thought it could withstand the setbacks and hardships, like the table, it could be refinished and go on for another lifetime it seemed. So you tried therapist after therapist, and book after book, and you talked about everything repeatedly, and you prayed together, meditated, and lit candles to symbolize who knows what.
You tried to revive your sex life and to have more date nights and you journaled together about all the things you first fell in love with and all the things that you each still loved about one another. You thought that maybe when it was all said and done and you had “saved” the marriage that you would write a book about what you learned and help other couples who were in the same mess.
Strangely, that’s exactly what you’re still doing—except that you saved yourself instead.
You write about the raw undoing. You write about how he won’t admit to all of his infidelities, and only recently, reluctantly owned up to adultery and then he told you that was just who he is.
And that’s okay with you, really. At least now you know enough to make an informed choice in all the ways you will keep yourself safe from him. It’s easier to accept as long as he’s no longer your husband and he stops trying to hug you and make nice. You can accept it as long as he accepts that you aren’t his confidant or cheerleader or cook or laundress or lover or friend any more.
But he comes over and you set the table. You cook dinner. You try to be his friend. He tries to be more.
Your boundaries are all wonky.
When he leaves, things are scattered. You put them back into place. It happens all over again. At the same table. The same plates. A different recipe.
You walk that circle, until you just don’t.
Author: Angela Meredith
Image: liz west at Flickr
Editor: Renée Picard