My heart’s like an open book,
For the whole world to read.
Sometimes, nothing keeps me together
At the seams.
I’d been sitting there, on the edge on my couch, staring out into the cold, January night, where daylight appears to last ten minutes, the icicles shimmering happily in the streetlights, occasionally flipping through a trashy magazine, wondering when bone-skinny got to be the new black.
I finally stopping flipping through the pages and began to read when I got to the article wherein Giuliana Rancic was discussing her breast cancer (NOW you know how long ago this was), because, well, we Chicago girls stick together (Norrrtth SIIIIIIIIIIIIDE!). In the article, she discussed the treatment of her cancer, and how she’d been vacillating between one option and another.
The way she told the story, her husband, Bill, (North SIIIIIIDDDDDEEEE!) sat down and held her as he told her that she had to do what offered her the best chances at recovery and that he would be by her side, every step of the way; that he loved her and would love her no matter what.
That normally sweet sentiment would generally have one of two effects upon me:
Instead, I found myself weeping, alone, on a cold January night.
I wept, not for Giuliana Rancic, or her sweet husband, Bill, but for what might have been. I’d known for some time that Dave no longer loved me – it’s not the sort of sentiment like, “Hey honey, can you pick up some honey for my tea on your way home from work?” that you can forget. Those are words that cannot be unsaid and unheard, no matter how you try. And I did try, believe me, I did.
I remember my marriage counseling class, given by the church we were to be married in. The couples, we all sat around a long chipped table, covered in that hideous brown fake wood veneer, and I tried my hardest not to scribble out a “Becky Rules!” on an area in front of me that someone before me had peeled away the plastic covering, leaving an open white space that the former bad-ass I’d once been longed to fill.
I smiled about the serendipity of it all – I’d spent many years in that room as a child, practicing for this youth orchestra or that, and now, it felt I’d come full-circle, sitting there with my husband-to-be, listening to a dour old lady talk to us about conflict resolution, communication techniques, as well as filling out a personality inventory (which, for the record, gave me absolutely no insights into myself or Daver, it simply told me what I’d already known). I walked out of there, hand-in-hand with my fiance, our foot-falls echoing the hallways of the church, practically bouncing with smug superiority: I’d beaten the odds, gone from a single mother eking her way through nursing school, to having graduated with some variation of cum laude and now I was going to be a married lady. It wasn’t my life as I’d expected it, but here I was, and I was happy.
“Pshaw,” I remarked to Dave at one point, my superiority flag flying high. “WE won’t get divorced.” Like anyone steps up to the alter with the intention of later stepping up to a judge, saying, “Irreconcilable differences, Your Honor.”
But no. I was so fucking smug about it – I’d finally found the right man, a great father for my son, what could go wrong? He’d seen me at my worst – and I his, what more was there? Divorce happens to *waves hand* OTHER PEOPLE. Not to people like us.
Except here I was, sobbing stupidly into my People magazine, light years from where that smug 2o-something once stood, realizing that, not only does divorce happen to people like me, it has happened to us. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but I knew it was coming. Too many words unsaid or unheard, a chasm as wide as Soldier Field now separating us, there was nothing left to be done.
We’d spent some time in couple’s counseling (which came about after this), in which I learned that Dave had been carrying a backpack full of resentments toward me regarding things that had happened so many years before – those resentments led him to lash out at me, emotionally withdraw, clearly unsure of what to do with me. At one point he told me, “I can’t deal with your problems.” Whenever I’d bring up things like, “my PTSD acting up,” he’d sigh a semi-disgusted sigh; the sort that said (without words), “Another problem? Jesus fuck, woman.”
I eventually stopped telling him.
I felt weak. I felt like having “problems” meant that I was a miserable excuse for a human being – my problems clearly the sign of a shitty character. Who could love someone like that? Someone like me?
And, he’d asked me, once we were separated, yet living under the same roof, after I’d written this, to not speak of our separation, so that we could go it alone. I respected it. Protecting him and trying to pretend that my life hadn’t been drastically altered, however, came with some unexpected side effects: I lost my voice. No longer could I pour whatever was into my heart onto a keyboard. No longer could I tell the world how I’d ached and cried or laughed and smiled. It all had to be said through a fake filter – written several steps removed from my actual life.
Losing my words took a toll far greater than I’d expected. I felt I was living a double life: the one I presented to the world, and my real life; the space in which things, well, they weren’t so funny.
It finally came to a boiling point last night.
The night before, I’d shared my goals for recovery, my plans for the future, my hopes and ambitions, as I sobbed into my blankie. He informed me of the things he needed, and mentioned that nowhere in my soliloquy had I mentioned “staying at home with the kids” or “keeping a clean house,” which prompted the suggestion that “perhaps it would be better for my recovery for me to move out.”
(blink, blink, blink)
Not being particularly rash, or prone to throwing things around the room, I instead thought about that offer.
I mulled it over all night and the following day (yesterday): Could I afford moving out? Could I (with my migraines) manage to go back to work? Would I go on public aid? Would I have insurance? Where could I live? What would I do? Why would now be the time to think about these things if I was (per the both of us) supposed to be focusing on my recovery?
I sat down last night and told Dave that after thinking it all through, I was planning to move out. I wasn’t sure where, I wasn’t sure if I could afford it, but I’d be moving out, getting my head straight, and returning to be with my children. He offered to sign all the divorce papers so that I’d get some alimony.
As for me? I just wanted – and still want – to get better. To feel safe, loved, respected. To work on myself and begin the road to recovery. I wanted the time to heal and grow and make the right choices for myself. To not see my failures played out upon the features of Dave’s face every time I turned around.
Where that will take me? I don’t know.
Nervous Breakdown: 4
Aunt Becky: 0
And that, my dear friends is the way my marriage has ended – not with a bang, but a whimper.