Bad News

Since the night of the 2016 election we have lived in a smothering blanket of bad news. The bad news is relentless. Just when you think Trump World can’t get worse, it gets worse. No day is better than the one before. Day after day the despair grows deeper– until it permeates every tissue of hope in my body.

My body is suffering enough in my own small world of despair that I don’t need the dismal distraction of our national catastrophe. I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds over the past four months, and this week was diagnosed with a stress related skin condition. Let’s not even talk about inside my head!

One’s home is meant to be a safe haven, a place of refuge from all the bad news outside. Since February I have had no such refuge.

And in my conception of marriage, one’s partner is also a kind of refuge, a safe person with whom to share the vicissitudes of life, to deflect some of the outside bad news; a partner to love and who loves me in return no matter what’s happening. I have no such partner today. In truth, my wife was never a safe refuge. It’s a description and role that she would reject anyway regardless of her feelings towards me.

My home today, the house in which I’ve lived since I married my wife, is simply where I sleep, prepare and eat most meals, and otherwise daily pack up my lifetime accumulated belongings in order to move out at the end of August. The bad news in my house—or rather, in my wife’s house—is more than enough to fill me with unhappiness. Adding all the atmospheric bad news is insult to injury.

Every day there’s less of me evident. Empty bookshelves. Empty drawers. Pictures off the wall. Slowly but surely my presence is being erased. My wife replaces what I take down with her own pieces. And our life together, such as it is, goes on within this peculiar diminishment—as though packing up and leaving is normal, the expected thing. Only occasionally do we talk about it and then it quickly gets ugly and we make a truce to not talk about the situation just to get through the remaining weeks together. Countdown time.

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I’m like a broken record my wife says, and so I am. (Is that, too, a divorceable crime?) To call it quits, without so much as a real conversation about what it would take to save our relationship, to not have the slightest interest in saving our marriage, is a terrible failure. It’s a moral failure of commitment and compassion. It’s wrong.

Would I want to stay in an unhappy marriage simply because my wife feels sorry to leave me? Would I want my wife to stay in an unhappy marriage simply because she feels too sorry to leave? No. But to end the marriage unilaterally, without trying to see what it would take to turn unhappiness into some kind of happiness, is an injustice–an injustice to the vows we made.

My wife calls it clarity of vision.

Her idea of marriage—as much as I can discern since she refuses to articulate it, and it’s so clear to be at variance with my own—is a kind of co-habiting business transaction. Neither of us were too comfortable discussing finances so what was left unsaid became an issue. Late or insufficient payments got penalized after the fact.

She has said she hoped to have someone with whom she could travel, which we did: first close by to Mendocino, then the Oregon Coast, Big Sur, Yosemite; later to Ireland and the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador. On each successive trip little signs—some not so little—appeared—words, actions– that should have been warning signals to me that all was not right.

Later, when my wife decided to go to Easter Island with two of her work colleagues, she didn’t feel it necessary to even tell me. I overheard her tell a friend at lunch. Although months before the 9th of February—the day she told me she no longer loved me and wanted me to move away (“…perhaps you could rent a room in a house somewhere”)—I was already being written out of the script. Still I didn’t read the signal, didn’t register the true intent. Love might be blind, but this was cognitive stupidity. Or was I refusing to accept what was plainly in front of me–refusing to accept the failure of my marriage.

Today I gave our little dog Bebe the last bath I would ever give him. I’m glad he doesn’t understand this. It’s hard enough for me. He’s without exception the most affectionate dog I’ve ever known. He loves us both and sticks to us like Velcro. When I say goodbye to him it will have to be forever. I don’t want to put him through whatever doggie anguish he would experience with infrequent reunions. It wouldn’t be fair to raise his hopes—or mine—only to leave again.

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In response to my saying how much I regret losing my dog, my wife has told me a dog is not a possession; that one doesn’t “own” another sentient being. I’ll keep that response in mind when I’m missing Bebe after I’m gone.

Of all that I’m leaving behind, I may miss Bebe the most. I will miss his innocent, trusting affection, his sweetness, his constant attention, his soft fluffy face, and his eyes that only ask for love. He has never let me down.

Will I miss the house? Not particularly. It was by design never mine, and while we combined our households in an equitable fashion—my wife was completely fair about sharing her space and we did our best to meld our possessions into a coherent whole—but our tastes and styles were not the same, resulting in each of us feeling only partially satisfied. There were her things, and my things. Never were there “our” things.  I will miss our upstairs co-owners, good friends–but we will remain friends.

I will miss my wife. I will miss the love I had and still have for my wife. I will miss her companionship. I will miss the memory of the love we did share, for a time. I have already missed intimacy for the past three and a half years so that won’t be so poignant now.

I will miss being married.

 

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