Little Deaths

“Endings are like little deaths. We forget that they can be entrances to the beginning of a new life.” 

I came across this quote in a New Yorker article and it struck home. Unwanted divorce is like a little death. It’s the death of romance, of companionship, of a shared life. It’s the death of one particular future. It’s the death of a dream.

But it’s not the death of me, and as the quotes states, it can be the entrance to a new life.

I have been rehashing the events of the past three months, and all my turned-upside-down emotions, in more than a dozen past posts. My wife hates these. I realize that nobody is truly happy to be someone else’s creation, to have their actions and words noted.  Yet this is my chronicle of an experience I didn’t foresee or agree to.

My wife says that whatever she does or says to me, I own my reactions and emotional responses. She has not caused them. She has not made me feel miserable. I feel miserable on my own. I choose to feel miserable she tells me.

[On the other hand, she’s told me that our emotional conversations upset our dog.]

Perhaps if I were the Dalai Lama I might successfully separate my being from her acts and words—let them bounce off me like beams of reflected light.  I’m not.  I’m an ordinary man feeling badly and resentful that my life against my wishes is being upended: that the decision to dissolve our marriage is unilaterally hers, however right it may end up being.  No one likes decisions being made against their will.

It’s a repudiation of vows we made to one another.

I’m resentful, too, that my wife is reconstructing her old life, as it was before she ever met me, in advance of my moving out of her house. She says she wishes me no ill will, but her actions don’t conform, at least to my feelings.  Yesterday she asked that I remove a painting from the dining room, in order for her to hang her own artwork. I asked couldn’t she wait, just a month, until I had a chance to pack it properly. She said no. For the past month, every time I pack a picture, she immediately replaces it with what was once there before.

Erase Niland as quickly as possible, while he’s still in the house.

Resentments come too easily in situations like this. And resentments aren’t healthy. Despite her protests to the contrary, my wife’s life is returning to where it was before our marriage. But for five years passing, and the emotions associated with those years, it will be exactly as it was. My life on the other hand is dramatically shifted, up-ended, physically changed.

Little things of only financial and logistical consequence: when we married and I moved to my wife’s house, I gave away my printer, toaster, three beds and mattresses, a sofa, all my chairs, five lamps, a food processor, blender, toaster oven, coffee bean grinder, three cabinets, dozens of other household items, not to mention giving up an apartment I could afford that is today nearly three times as expensive, in a city that’s become unaffordable. Just stuff that can be replaced (except for the apartment)—but it’s an annoyance and expense.

Let me put that aside, however, and think about an entrance to the beginning of a new life. Perhaps starting over at sixty-eight is life enhancing!  Re-inventing my life instead of settling in to comfortable later years.

What does this future hold? Four months in Oakland will be an adventure in discovering an unfamiliar part of the Bay Area, a chance to decompress from the agony of this divorce, and my former shared life, before the big move across the country.  I’m grateful to my friends who are making this possible. I’m grateful to my many friends for supporting me.

I’m facing many unknowns looking ahead to the Boston move. None are particularly scary. The foundation of my son Sam and his family, my friends there, and the familiarity of a city and region that I love are comforts to celebrate.

It will get better.

It will be better.





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  1. here’s to our continuing friendship and supporting you wherever you live, much admired, multi-talented, eloquent and candid friend Niland Mortimer


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