Through her veil the room is softened, the lilies dusted eyelet white. Candles glimmer, expectant faces embrace her. She is captured in sepia, ethereal and soft, gliding toward him lifted by wings. He waits, solemn, her soldier. The room can feel him quake, just a little. A rumble, low in the ground. His hands stick to themselves. The organ sings, swells to fill the room with grandeur, uniting the onlookers, not in worship, or in the institution itself. Not in numbers or statistics, but against them, in their willingness to believe that the sacred can be larger than the rough hands of time. A dance is danced. Cake is sent around the room. A promise is made, not a vow but a promise, by those who have gathered, to wrap all of the love in eternal satin and lace, to stand vigil over it, build a sanctuary around it. To visit with offerings and prayers to the gods —to stave off the curling at edges, the yellowing of the image of them, a family, risen above, hopeful and pure of heart.
And just like that the day is ordinary, and the ordinariness is everything. It has filled the years. He doesn’t know where she has gone. The woman who saw him with wonder. Ghosts whisper in corridors. Tears soak pillows. She needs something she cannot find in him. Like the dream where she keeps searching for her car keys, her car, her home but each turn begets another turn and she is lost. Words twist into knots, they lie to her beloved. Someone is screaming about an unwrapped tomato in the refrigerator. How has a small red fruit become ripe with so much pain? There is no music to take up the space, pick up the slack. The vessel that held so much beauty slips and shatters. Children look up with their Cindy Lou Who eyes, beseeching, grabbing for pant-legs, sleeves. The bride and groom swear they will live a lie forever; scramble the rubble for shards they can glue back together. Brush glass from blossoms to spare the little ones. But the wounds keep multiplying. And it’s too dangerous, in the end.
This is how we script it.
Love is over. The family is broken. We have failed to overcome the statistics and the naysayers who threw them like sad confetti in our joyful tender faces. We have failed the children, to hold them in the bosom of wholeness. We have failed Aunt Betty who bought us the blender, and now every time the bananas and chocolate unify in frothy perfection, we are sick with Aunt Betty’s face, undeserving of our wickedness.
Our measure of a marriage is almost entirely whether it ended.
The only acceptable legitimate ending, the only one that honours Betty and Mildred and the children and the photograph on the mantel, is the one where the bride and groom make it into old age, and die together still holding hands and being spotted by the general populace engaging in acts of adorable devotion and companionship on park benches or in grocery store line ups or in their shared suite at the care facility.
Every other outcome is a fuck up or a tragedy, depending on allocation of blame, which in turn depends on which side of the church you were on.
I don’t know about you, but I think that when a person’s already going through a significant heartbreak and loss of their entire family dynamic, with all kinds of sub losses, right down to granny’s silverware and custody of Snookums, the Teddy Bear hamster, what they really need is for the whole world to give ‘em a little kick in the arse and say “Well you’ve gone and done it now, haven’t ye?”
And then to top off the blame with that extra special, You should have known. You should have listened to the sad confetti throwing naysayers and never believed in the first place you lemming, have a nice fall.
I DON’T LIKE IT.
Can you imagine if we did that with life itself? Bill died in work related accident survived by his two loving children and wife Susan. What a fuck up! Can you even believe that loser? He should have known.
Do you have to marry for your love to be sacred or holy, or blessed or meaningful or committed, or good or right, or a foundation for a proper family? Hell no. Do you have to choose romantic love, even, to have a meaningful life? No, of course you don’t.
But is it foolish to throw a big ceremony to celebrate your love if you are super into dresses and disco balls? To come together under the umbrella of family blessings? We can argue the pros and cons of legal joint venture-ship that is marriage. But is it foolish to feel and believe in something good with so much depth that you WANT it to last as long as life, which doesn’t always feel like enough time, thank you very much? I am going to say that kind of faith and belief and joy belong to the PRO category of ‘life and all of its trimmings’. There are all kinds of things we want to be saving humanity from. A party to celebrate romantic love, some overpriced party favours, and a legal institution that provides a structure for it (albeit with possible need for fine tuning) doesn’t make the list if you ask me.
Love and life are not complicated because of divorce. They are complicated because of complication. They are complicated for emotional and spiritual reasons.
Romantic relationship, whether or not you put a ring on it, is typically the deepest dive into intimacy many of us will face. In my estimation, and I have spent most of my adult life digging into it, it is THE ARENA in which most of our unhealed hurt will play itself out. The Dan who is friend and co-worker and uncle and son may be a very different Dan than the one who is married to Susan. Because he sleeps in the same bed with Susan. He makes life choices with Susan. He spends money with Susan. He parents with Susan. He can’t separate his unhealed trauma from Susan the way he can with his workmates.
Marriage is a vulnerable place, where we can’t hide from ourselves what we cannot hide from our partners. It’s hard to be wrestling a crocodile and still take the baton when Susan hands it to you Friday at 3pm with a sink full of dishes, Jimmy’s soccer game at 6, and a fistful of unpaid bills. I posit that the answer to all of this is not to swear off the institution of marriage or define our reality as an imminently depressing binder of pie charts and graphs, but to get a bit more emotional help. To shine some light on emotional health and how we get there. To fix some of those broken histories and systems and models and deprogram ourselves from the cult of fear.
And if we don’t have those tools, or we can’t find the help we need (if we’ve lost Erin’s number) or the hurts are hurting faster than the healing is helping, then we need a loving way out.
Divorce says This isn’t healthy anymore. Either because I can’t show up for you, or myself, or as a parent. I can’t do it at the same pace as you, or in a way that honours both of us. Or you can’t and it’s not healthy for us to stay in this place where we are not lining up.
And healthy IS loving. It’s a part of love. It hurts. We all want to be part of the other side of the statistic THEORETICALLY. We all want to die in a peaceful sleep while holding hands with our beloved who still looks twenty five in our moony dreamy lovelorn eyes. Or if you’re me you’re aiming for that golden glowing light that scoops you like a baby chick with less focus on the bodily decay, but also with all of your baby chick bros in hand so that your happy ending is not someone else’s The Notebook.
But here is the news flash for y’all.
ALL OF THE LOVE AND THE INVESTMENT IN LOVE DOES NOT DISAPPEAR WHEN YOU GET DIVORCED. All of the emotional bravery. The kindness. The times you reached for something bigger than yourself. The moments in which you stood up to your legacy and chose something better. The intimacy. The sharing. The children’s laughter. The times you ate toast together. The time the dog threw up in your shoe. The SHARING. The vulnerability. The days you were a superhero and spread joy. Even if for you a small act of kindness was your very best. The moments of heartache you took solace in your partner. The promises you made. Even if you married someone only to find out together that they were filled with painful splinters and shards and no one was coming out in one piece, the love you gave that you chose was a gift. A sacred thing. And your investment in it has brought you closer to home. It’s not the only way, but it is an important way, HOME.
You cannot un-heal, and you cannot un-love. Love is carried for you. When the vase breaks it’s okay to craft a new one, but the LOVE itself, the union and the trust and the caring and giving and protecting, well that goes into an emotional-spiritual trust. It’s held for you. It’s in your metaphorical blood and your veins and your bones. Your psyche and your truth. It’s the stuff you are made of.
Even if you are on draft three of that new pop song you are rage writing about keying their car for cheating #itsokaytobeangry.
So don’t break it to your kids that their family is breaking up. Not to the actual birth kids or to the one who lives in your heart and believes in fairy tales.
Tell them that they are made of love.
Tell them how proud you are of them and of making a family for them and the story of them.
Tell them that the best way to grow love has now changed and that you are going to be brave and grow to fit a new size and shape, a new story, or garden.
Celebrate the good times, or how hard you tried. Laugh at the epic mistakes that were made. Give them a legacy of joy, or doing the best one can, or overcoming abuse.
Tell them to take what you made and run with it.
Do it again. Do it softer or safer or smarter. Do it so it hurts less and laughs more.
But failure? Blame? A measure that doesn’t give you a passing grade until death do you not part?
Don’t sign on that dotted line while you’re disoriented and grieving, when you need support and a loving voice to guide you forward, to help you make safe decisions that protect your future and your family (#alsome).
Or in your right mind.
Don’t take on the shame of a narrator who is drunk and sad.
Your story is made up of a thousand points of light.
Because you are.
Let them illuminate the way forward, until the dark is dispelled, and the hurt heals. Then dazzle the world, wear them in virginal white.
Love like nobody’s judging.
I, for one, will say yes to that dress.
— Love Erin
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.