Tuesday, December 31, 2019

When you think about it, seriously think about it, it’s awfully peculiar how we ascribe meaning to days, dates, years, decades, centuries and eons, all the way to eternity. The days of the week each have their meaning. Maybe it comes from astrology. Here we are on a Tuesday, a Tuesday that also happens to be the last day of this year, 2019, the last day of the decade.

Wikipedia tells me that Tuesday comes from the Old English word Tiwes dæg. This was named after the Nordic god Tyr. Tyr was the God of War, like the Roman war god Mars, and Greek god Ares. In Latin, Tuesday is called Martis dies which means “Mars’s Day”.

Tuesday is considered to be an unlucky day in the Greek world because the Fall of Constantinople occurred on a Tuesday. However, Tuesday is considered a lucky day in Judaism because it is mentioned twice as a good day in the first chapter of Genesis.

So it’s hard to know what to make of Tuesday.

Today’s Tuesday however is December 31, 2019. I’m not sure whether today marks the last day I am legally married, or the first day of no longer being married. It’s a kind of  cusp between married and unmarried, significantly different sides of the same coin.

My birthday is the cusp between Capricorn and Aquarius, January 20th. This coming year it’s on a Monday.

I think I’ll go with the Fall of Constantinople. It’s suitably dramatic for this Tuesday, December 31st, 2019.

My Tuesday, December 31st, 2019.

In his New Yorker memoir The Art of Dying, Peter Schjeldahl writes about his daughter Ada asking Brooke his wife a question:

Ada asked her mother how to stay married. Brooke said, “Don’t get divorced.” If you don’t divorce, you are a hundred per cent married no matter what’s going on. I am so glad we stayed together that, for once in my verbose life, words to express it fail me.

Don’t get divorced.

Now there’s an idea. It’s an idea that implies a commitment beyond pleasing oneself, beyond believing that a life alone is better than a life together. Or that there’s a greener pasture out there, undiscovered, but surely better than the pasture we’re in.

It’s an idea bigger than oneself. It subsumes oneself into a cause greater than oneself.

“Divorce” comes from the Latin word “divortium” which means separation. It is also equivalent to the word “divort” or “divortere.” “Di” means apart and “vertere” means to turn to different ways.

 Divertere was also referred the meaning of divert, turn aside, separate or leave one’s husband. 

Leave one’s husband. Funny, it doesn’t say leave one’s wife.

Yes, she chose to leave her husband. Leave one’s husband sounds right.

Synonyms in Merriam-Webster: break up, decouple, disassociate, disconnect, disjoin, dissever, disunite, divide, part, ramify, separate, sever, split, sunder, uncouple, unlink, unyoke…

Of these I think she might like unyoke best. She saw marriage as some kind of yoke. Get that yoking bloke out of here!

Never call me your wife; it implies I’m your property. Yoked!

I’m not feeling particularly nostalgic. There’s no ache left in my heart. She wrenched that out over seven grinding months. She choses today to be a stranger, a ghost from the past, a former wife with no name that can be named.

Tuesday December 31st, 2019. A gray day here in West Oakland, not too cold, not warm. Much like my marriage: not too cold, not warm. There were days of sunshine, a few golden afternoons, and moonlit nights. Those were real, and few. Then Payne’s Gray washed over our marriage, neither black nor white, not too cold, not warm.

I need the separation of the Continent.

I need the clash of seasons again in my life: bitter storms, thunder, snow, merciless July heat and humidity, chilled Autumn evenings, the warmth of Spring.

Again Schjeldahl:

Meaning is a scrap among other scraps, though stickier. Meaning is so much better than nothing, in that it defines “nothing” as everything that meaning is not. Meaning prevents nothing from being only nothing. The “nothing that is not there and the nothing that is,” Wallace Stevens noticed. The same nothing, but a difference of attitude.

The meaning of distance, of seasons, of separation. The same nothing, but a difference of attitude.

Let’s cheer 2020. Wednesday, January 1st, 2020.

Wednesday has always been my favorite day of the week. For the past eleven years Wednesday is Cow Hollow, dinner with my friends, Gamine. New Wednesday rituals will emerge. I’ll find them. Give them meaning.

Welcome Wednesday January 1st, 2020.

The End is Where We Start From

December 29, 2019

This is my last Sunday as a resident of California. It’s the last Sunday of the year, and the last Sunday of the decade. There’s some kind of poetic significance to this—it all lines up so well. Of course that’s just a story, the dates in and of themselves have no meaning. They have meaning only to me: the story I tell myself. They mark an ending.

In two days my marriage comes to its legal end.

The year ends; the decade ends; my marriage ends; my life in California ends. The narrative is almost too perfect.

At dinner last night with Ray—whose past year has been personally worse than mine with two bouts of cancer and other ailments—he mentioned that his sponsor suggested he look at where he is today, and what he has gone through during the year, as an accomplishment. Victory over poor odds. He’s alive, and looking good, and engaging in his life, out with friends, making plans. These are indeed accomplishments.


The future remains unknowable.

We are so often overwhelmed with misfortunes small and large that once beyond them we fail to register any success achieved. Things happen. Bad things happen. If we don’t die, aren’t maimed, we go on. We might be different men as a consequence. Maybe we have learned something important. Maybe things just happened. We try not to make bad things worse. That’s a moral obligation we owe ourselves and others.

Where do we go from here? Where do I go from here?

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

I want my life to flow forward without pain, or unhappiness, or poor health, without too limited resources, with the people I hold dear, with someone in my life to love, to be vital, to accomplish things, to be of service to others, to not suffer in death when that time comes.

Most of these plans won’t happen. Life doesn’t work out that way.

Yet I can live a life that manifests itself as meaningful. I can discover my values.

What I can accomplish is taking responsibility: responsibility for myself, my decisions, my responsibilities to others, to work, to my body, to my life. To not make anything worse than it already is. To not let people down.

To found my relationships with others on trust and truth.

To remain sober and committed to a life of sobriety in all its manifestations. To be free to be and free to act. To be there for my sons, for my friends. To do the things that matter. To take responsibility for being.

Her life with me did matter. That she ended it also matters. The end is where we start from.

Everyone says, so common wisdom goes, that fresh starts, new beginnings, are the revitalizing staff of life. They keep us young. They open new doors, new vistas, new horizons. New people enter our lives. What didn’t matter slips away.

I didn’t plan a fresh start. I didn’t plan my marriage to end. I didn’t plan my son to become ill. These things happened.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

What I have learned in sobriety is that accomplishment, however defined, must be for oneself. To do anything solely for someone else is to fail. It’s incomplete. When I first stopped drinking I told myself I did it for my sons, that I would never let them down again, never let my own life’s unmanageability be a burden on them. I did it for them.

And then I realized that, too, was a burden I placed on them, a burden they wouldn’t want. My commitment had to be for me, and being for me, and for me alone, the resulting lightness of being would benefit everyone. That caring for myself relieved them of caring for me. They have their own lives to care for.

That doesn’t mean we don’t care for each other. We care deeply. But it means our care is without strings. It’s free.

I’m sad that my marriage ended. Sad about the idea of marriage ending for me. Right now, I’m not sad not being with her. During the last years of our marriage, indeed three fourths of it, physical and spiritual nourishment wasn’t there. Sex and intimacy are a form of communication; we weren’t communicating. Let go of that negative power. I’m sad that it wasn’t so but that’s what happened.

Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;

The beginning lies on the other side of the country, today in the snow, far, far from this city of hills on the Pacific. There’s a future there that didn’t exist for me before. I don’t know what it is.

That I wanted my future to be here in San Francisco is another story, now a closed chapter in my life. It turned out to be a short story. Life didn’t turn out the way I planned.

Maybe there never was a plan, just a story. She’s part of that story, but no longer part of my life. Let it be.

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.


‘Twas the Night Before Moving

‘Twas the night before moving, when all through the house

The closets were empty, and my mind set loose.

Everywhere I looked I was leaving behind

That and that and memories that bind.


Another night before moving: first from Russian Hill to her house; then from her house into the Pod and temporary housing—very gratefully received temporary housing in West Oakland; now from one temporary house to the next across the country in Boston. I will live temporarily with my son Sam and his family. My plan is to have a new place of my own in February.

My mail, already going to three different impermanent addresses, will be screwed up for a year. Mail forwarding is a suggestion by the Post Office. Much slips through. Mail has been stolen from my Oakland son’s front door. I hardly know what mail is going where.

It’s hilarious that she said to me that her life was just as disrupted as mine by our divorce. She who changed nothing, whose life goes back to exactly to the way it was before she met me. It’s hilarious only if you aren’t experiencing the truly dislocating, life up-ending consequences of ending a marriage and moving out.

I’m moving too much of that I’m certain, yet cannot eliminate further what’s coming with me. I’ve done the downsizing already. (Oh, did she downsize her life, too?)

I want to be reunited with all this stuff. That’s the sorry truth. I take comfort in what I’ve accumulated. It’s not that much—it all fits in one moving 8’ X 16’ moving Pod. They say it holds four rooms of furniture. I don’t have four rooms of furniture. I have a few chests, one chair, a table (no bed), bookcases, and twenty-five boxes of books, many boxes of papers, and artwork, and framed paintings, and a lot of this and that, random things too good to toss away, not good enough to sell, someday needed for sure. I have no idea how it will fit into whatever small apartment I come to rent.

Moving does have a cleansing appeal. Despite too much remaining there has been a paring down, a sorting out of the essential versus the almost essential. There’s the anticipation of thinking about a new arrangement, in a new place all my own. There’s an appeal to that.

I fit into her life, into her house. She never fit into my life. I adopted her ways—and then she blamed me for always being there, anticipating, trying to please, trying to fit in. I gave up everything to be with her.

Foolish me.

So moving again. Back East. It’s a return not a retreat. I don’t want to be in her orbit. I don’t want to be yet another castoff, another healing broken heart. She’s had several of those already. She’s been the cause in the matter, called the shots, but not the decision maker now.

Her life will likely remain small, maybe even smaller. Emotional trust zero.

Who could trust a bounder? I did and look where it got me.

Bounced and bounded!

Let’s reframe it a springboard!

Ordinary Tragedy

I’m stunned by the normalization of the most dire, most tragic, aspects of life. Things that make me blanche, make me cry, wrapped up in all that’s ordinary. Everyday occurrences happening all the time. To people everywhere.

Today I received from her attorney’s office two documents “for my records.”  A Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution” of our marriage, and its accompanying “Request to Enter Default.” Just pieces of paper, or rather their digital versions, signed by her. She signed away our marriage. And, no I did not contest. Why contest the inevitable. Why add time, expense, and agony to heartbreak? In California only one party in a marriage is needed to legally end it. It’s no different than in Sharia law when all a husband has to do is say three times “I divorce you.” Much quicker, less expensive. The pain in the heart over in a moment of shock.

That’s what she did. She whose name—my wife’s name, the name of the woman I married, the woman I loved—whose name I can’t write unless I want to receive another threatening cease and desist order from her attorney. No name, no wedding photos. Identity elimination. Nothing to connect her to me. She was never connected to me. It’s an apt metaphor for our marriage. No names, no photos. Erasure.

I was wished well on this painful journey.

It’s all so ordinary.

I go with my son to his chemotherapy infusions every other Friday. Normal hospital procedure. Many people being infused with lethal chemicals. The normalization of cancer. I am chipper, and positive, and my heart is bleeding. I am there for him; we will get through this. It matters what’s happening. If I could trade places, let it be me not him, I would in an instant.

He is strong; he will be strong.

That she doesn’t ask how’s he doing, your son, your beautiful son, is testament to her disassociation, her own self-protection more important than caring, than compassion. It was always more important. Compassion withheld.

Of course she feels vulnerable. Of course she’s withdrawn. Of course she can’t speak to me, see me, acknowledge me. Of course she can only communicate by way of her attorney. It’s all so ordinary, the way she is, has always been, the way she wound up being.

I can almost forgive her. If it wasn’t so ordinary, expected, and sad. If it didn’t break my heart.

God help any man who thinks he might get close to her. Closeness spells the end. Closeness triggers leaving. That she could not accept the great blanket of my affection, that she found it invasive, is all on her. What she told me I won’t repeat. Why bother repeating her words when she only denies her words, says they misrepresent. It must be hard being her.

I loved her. I gave her my love. I gave her all of me, and all of me was too much. I was made to feel that to want togetherness, to want to be a married couple in spirit and practice, as well as on paper, was some kind of neurosis—she after all the brain specialist. All my problem.

Never call me your wife, it implies I’m your property.

Never call me your wife.

Never call me by my name.

Never call me.

Cold bed. Cold heart. Cold comfort.


What Friendship Looks Like



It’s the end of the year, the end of the decade, and the end of my time in San Francisco.

The past year hasn’t been the best, with two unanticipated and unwanted life situations hurling major personal dislocation and stricken fatherly worry: my wife’s decision to end our marriage and my youngest son’s cancer diagnosis.

The past decade, and my time in California being nearly the same—I moved to San Francisco in mid-2008– has been as Life Experience goes a significant chapter.

Charles Dickens said better than I can:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

My eyes fill up with tears, I don’t know why. These were after all, in part, the best of times.

I discovered love at first sight, shot straight in the heart by Cupid’s arrow. Never before or since—maybe only once in a lifetime. Candles don’t burn brightly forever.

I made lifelong friends. I found my best friend. He will remain so.

I married a woman I loved. That she ended our marriage doesn’t take away the loveliness of the beginning.

The world of open water swimming opened up to me.

I joined the South End Rowing Club and found a new community. They, too, will remain if distantly.

My Cow Hollow men’s group has been a foundation and source of much joy. I will return.

I loved a sweet little dog. He’s gone from me, but held dear.

I created a new career in teaching, taking me to a future that hadn’t existed before.


It seems remarkable that all of this happened in one decade long lifespan. Many people never experience all of this in their entire lives.

One time, to know that it’s real.
One time, to know how it feels.
That’s all.

It was an epoch of belief, it was an epoch of incredulity. I believed in love. It was real. I knew how it felt. Two different romantic loves. One might have lasted, one should have lasted. Neither did.

What if it hurts, what then?
What do we do, what do you say?
Don’t throw your lifeline away

Do I still believe in love?


Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary of the English Language, defines love five ways:

  1. To regard with passionate affection, as that of one sex to the other.
  2. To regard with the affection of a friend.
  3. To regard with parental tenderness.
  4. To be pleased with.
  5. To regard with reverent unwillingness to offend.

I love my sons with deep parental tenderness. I have a few friends I hold close in loving affection. I love to read, to swim, to paint, to impart to my students what I’ve learned in my life. There are many I am unwilling to offend.

Do I dare risk passionate affection again? Loving commitment?

Is heartbreak too steep a price to pay? Does love always have to end, for me?

Don’t throw your lifeline away

One time, just once in my life.
Yeah one time, to know it can’t happen twice.
One shot on a clear blue sky.
One look, I see the reasons why you cared.

One chance to get back to the point where everything starts.
One chance to keep it together,
Things fall apart.

There’s a future that doesn’t yet exist for me. I can’t pull the past into that future.

So, yes, the risk is OK.

Let what life brings come.

What if we do, what now?
What do you say, how do I know?
Don’t let your lifeline go.

Don’t let your lifeline go.


Spear-carrier in someone else’s opera

“When you can recognize a person’s story as their story, you begin to have access to their version of the story, so that you’re not stuck with, you don’t have to resign yourself to, their version of the story.”

“You can’t ask questions like ‘True?’ about people’s stories. There’s no such thing as ‘true stories.’ A story’s a story. People get into trouble in life because they start believing their stories. Even worse, you start believing someone else’s story—makes you a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. This is not a good way to live.”                                  Werner Erhard


What happened: we got married. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. There was no hesitation: yes, I will marry you. It was an afternoon in the early spring of 2014. We were on the bed talking about things and I think she asked me if I could imagine living with her, in her house. I said, yes, and then asked “Will you marry me?” She said yes. We chose to get married.

As proposals, and acceptances, go, it was pretty cut and dry. There wasn’t any romance to it. I don’t think we kissed one another, embraced, definitely didn’t make love. We talked about the practicalities: health insurance, protecting assets with a prenuptial agreement, dates for the wedding. Then the day went on as any other day at home.

What happened? We got married. Then there’s this whole story. And they’re distinct from one another. Mostly our stories are constituted by our reasons. We live the kind of life that people would have if they lived out of a story.

My wife’s story is about leaving. She was already always leaving. Her story about leaving owned her. She left her childhood, her home, her family, her husbands, her lovers. Years and years and years of leaving. She was always already leaving. Oh, she had reasons. And her reasons confirmed that her story was the true story. She believed her reasons and her story and those reasons and the story she told herself validated her leaving.

Her story left no clearing to have a new possibility in her life. Her future was constituted by her past, and her past was always already leaving. Its obviousness was apparent to anyone who looked closely. That’s why so many of her friends, afterwards, told me that was her history. She left her men. The two who immediately preceded me, the two between husband number two and husband number three, perplexed many. One I know; one I don’t. Both, I’m told, were hurt by her leaving. The one man I know, and like, has only very recently opened up to me. His polite reserve prevented him from ever saying anything while my wife and I were together. It wouldn’t have been appropriate. Or kind.

Three times in my life I have confused an interesting, compelling story with an interesting, compelling person. One would think I might have learned the difference, even the hard way. But that’s the danger of stories. Stories captivate the listener as they imprison the teller.

Then, as Werner warned, you become a spear-carrier in someone else’s opera. Tragic opera.

And sometimes the spear-carrier gets speared in the story.

It’s bloody, and bloody awful.


What Matters Most is Friendship After All

I leave San Francisco in twenty days, Boston bound. In twenty days my California adventure will come to an end. It wasn’t a chapter in my life that I intended to be temporary. I moved from New York in mid 2008 to create a new life, away from the turmoil and drama of an ugly divorce and unmanageable behavior. A new job in San Francisco facilitated the move.

I have created a new life here in this city on the Bay, the bay being a huge part of the life I’ve created. I have loved my life here, and yet, again, I am moving away to change the music following another painful, if less ugly, divorce. Failed marriages seem to be my catalysts for change: the first one an urgent necessary, the second not: calmer and sadder. It needn’t have been.

What I have come to realize, and appreciate, is that the friendships I have here are more important and more lasting than the two romantic relationships that occurred during these eleven and a half years. My friends will remain my friends forever; the two women are gone from my life. Forever.

Last night my closest friends Josh and his wife Peggy hosted a farewell dinner. My two friends whom I’ve known the longest in San Francisco, Michael and Ray were there. New friends Ross and his husband Greg, and Alan and Zena were there, too. Old friends meeting new friends, all present at the dining table for me.

Adapting the lyrics from Barbra Streisand’s beautiful song by Marilyn and Alan Bergman  called “What Matters Most,” Ross wrote and sang his version to me:

It’s not how many swims shared in the bay

What matters are the friends who swam together

It’s not how far we traveled on our way

But what we found to say

It’s not the springs we’ve seen

But all the shades of green.


It’s not how far apart our homes may be

What matters is how sweet the years together

It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall

The laughter and the smiles we gratefully recall

What matters most is friendship after all.


I’m not ashamed to say it made me cry.

What matters most is friendship after all.

She can’t take that away from me. She can upend my life, but she can’t take away friendship. My friendships.

Josh, Michael, Ray, these three men in my life—each so different from one another and each occupying such large swathes of geography in my heart. I love these men in a way that romantic love can’t equate. My love for them is like the foundation of a building, on top of which romance builds a house. The house blew down in a storm—it was made of straw– but the foundation remains rock solid and secure.

The irony, if irony is what it is, is that my friendship, my best friendship friendship, with Josh came about because she was friends with him; he swam with her for years before meeting me. She introduced us and asked Josh to take me on my first South End bay swim. We swam out of the Cove and behind the Balclutha. Of the many things for which I’m grateful that she gave me—there are many—my friendship with Josh touches most deeply.

Version 4

It’s rare when later in life you meet a new friend, another man, who comes to occupy so important a place in your life, as though friends since birth. Josh was the first person I called after she told me she no longer loved me and wanted to end our marriage, that clear cold day in February when I biked to the center of the Golden Gate Bridge and stared down at the dark water for an hour, realizing that my life could be renewed in ways I couldn’t yet imagine. He and Peggy came immediately, and have been there for and with me every single day.

She can’t take that away, what she gave to me she can’t take away from me. Only herself.

Part of the sadness that pervades the dissolution of our marriage and the resulting disassociation is that I can’t share my gratitude for what she gave me. She closed that door. She won’t speak to me, pretends not to see me when I’m a few feet away.

She broke my heart, yet provided the tools for its mending. My friends, and the life I created being with her.

Also at dinner last night Peggy, too, composed and sang a song, to the melody of Silver Bells. Many stanzas, with these sweet refrains:


It’s almost time for departing

Off you go, to the snow

Soon it will be sub-zero!



It’s almost time that you’re heading

To the east, take your fleece

You’ll be a Bostonian!



Soon you’ll betaking your leaving

The Club will care, you’re not there

You will be missed everywhere!



It’s almost time for departing

Soon you’ll go, to our woe

Maybe you’ll find a new beau!



Do stay in touch with your old friends

We implore, so therefore

You must comeback evermore!


We wish you sweet adventures

Paint more art, mend your heart

Swim in Boston Harbor!


Eyes again filled with tears, and smiles.

 Michael wrote, “I have always liked the Michael I saw through your eyes.”  Michael was my very first friend I made in San Francisco, beginning before I even moved here. I learned the city through his generosity of time and friendship. His six years at Tassajara and subsequent life commitment to the San Francisco Zen Center have been a beacon of integrity, hope, and a model for life, one I could never achieve but so admire. The Michael I saw, and see today, is a man for all seasons, all ages–wise, funny, generous, kind, intelligent, with a voice I could listen to forever. I hope I do.

And Ray, dear Ray, for whom 2019 has been a year of health emergencies and hardship, what can I say. I spent my first California Thanksgiving with Ray, scooped up when he hardly knew me to not be alone on this first holiday in a new city. Michael and Ray have seen me through both romantic break-ups, have been there even when the “there” was histrionic and overwrought. They never judged. Ray knows me I suspect better than I know myself. And smiles.

They will be there long after. She can’t take them away from me.

My friends live all over the world: Janine in Australia, Sean in Germany, Alan in France, John in Chicago, Richard in New York.

Now three in San Francisco.

They will all be with me long after this. They come with me to Boston, to what life will bring, to what new future that doesn’t yet exist.

May I honor them and keep their love and respect.

What matters most is friendship after all.


It’s not how long we held each other’s hand
What matters is how well we loved each other
It’s not how far we traveled on our way
Of what we found to say
It’s not the spring you see, but all the shades of green
It’s not how long I held you in my arms
What matters is how sweet the years together
It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall
What matters most is that we loved at all.
It’s not how many summer times we had to give to fall
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall
What matters most is that we loved at all.
What matters most is that we loved at all.




What Would Completion Look Like?


As the year draws to a close, this year of divorce, dislocation, sickness, surgery, and global malaise, what would completeness look like? What would complete the conversation with her, the woman I loved and who ended our marriage? What words might be said? Setting all leftover rancor, bitterness, and the nasty threatening cease and desist order aside, what communication remains that would end the year if not in joy and happiness, at least not in sorrow and regret?

Our experience of things, of the world and relationships and even love, exists in language. When language is absent, all that’s left are emotions, our internal states disconnected from what’s actually happening, drawing on the past, and pulling that past into the present. There can be no future lived in a new possibility when there is no language to declare the way forward. There’s only stalemate, and all the old regrets. It’s like leaving a brick wall behind.

I don’t know what we would say to one another. That, yes, we did love one another once? That we were sorry our marriage ended this way? “I’m sorry our marriage has ended this way” was the last thing she said to me, standing in the living room, moments before she walked out the door and out of my life forever. I believe she was sorry. Perhaps no more, now that the dissociation is total, that the only communication from her arrives in lawyer’s letters. (She had only to call and ask. Talk…words.)

All that I might want to say I have written. And I would no longer want to say these things that I have written. The past needs to be put in the past.

But some words, maybe even kind words, need to be said for there to be some kind of completion to this marriage ending. She told me many times in our final months together, those strange painful months of packing up and moving out when nothing was said of any consequence, that she had to withhold compassion because it was what I wanted. I never said I wanted her to be compassionate but of course I did. I would have been grateful for any table scrap of kindness. And maybe she was right: to have been kind to me might have given me false hope that there was a glimmer of salvation.

No, those words need not be said now. No rehashing, no rationales, no what if’s, maybe’s, might have beens.

But something. To part, finally, these four months after my moving out, with no words, no language, no looking into one another’s eyes, maybe even a smile of recognition, is sad, deeply sad. To remember the person who more than five years ago was the light of my life. To say goodbye. No I’m sorry’s.

Just goodbye and good luck.

It would be nice.

It would be complete.


Silence is never golden

Of all the things I find unfathomable about my wife’s decision to end our marriage—and there are many incomprehensible things—all these many months since she first told me she no longer loved me—it is her refusal to speak to me, now even to acknowledge my presence. I have become a ghost in the corner. She told me once during the dissolving of our marriage that she was a better friend than a partner. This has turned out like much else not to be true. She could no longer find a way to be a partner, and now isn’t a friend. Friends talk to one another.

I saw my wife last night at our South End Rowing Club’s holiday party. “Saw” is the operative word, because she didn’t acknowledge me, or say hello, or ask after my son Adam’s health. Her disassociation is complete. It is purposeful, and intentionally hurtful. She knows and finds some kind of perverse satisfaction withholding communication. It’s because I want it that she withholds it. It’s the one power she retains. She held all the cards, played them, and now that the game is over has shut down the gaming hall. Her gamble is complete. She won. Let us hope it’s not a Pyrrhic victory—though as she once said to me that she was destined to die a lonely old woman.

It didn’t have to be so. And perhaps she’ll find yet another man to be with, briefly. There have been many–all without the foreknowledge of her expiration date.

She also said to me months ago that she couldn’t talk to me because I write about our conversations. If she talked to me maybe I would not have to write about it; maybe I would know and not obsess. Genuine communication—a practice we were never good achieving—would resolve so many questions, would make things complete. Completion wasn’t her goal; only ending.

Thinking about how she’s behaving, I have to ask myself the question, why do I care? What did I expect would happen? Why did I harbor any misguided illusion that she might turn out to be genuine, to be a warm, compassionate woman? It was my fantasy, what I wanted so passionately to be so, when it was so evidently not so. Ever. The trauma in her life prevented it. Her default attitude is distrust, especially men, and people in general. So when I failed to perform to her expectations, the thin veneer of trust vanished. She called me untrustworthy. In truth, there was no trust from the beginning.

I didn’t expect to be disappeared.

I know, now, that my decision to move is beyond doubt the right decision. Continuing to share with my wife the life I created here, so much of it with her, is emotionally impossible. Yes, my emotions are internal states that I inflict on what’s happening. Putting them away, far back in the past drawer, will be so much easier on the other side of the country.

I imagine she’ll be grateful, too. She has told me many times that she is not the cause of anything I’m feeling, or decisions I’m making; that these emotions, these decisions are mine alone. And they are. Yet to deny being the cause in the matter, the match that lit the fire, is yet more evidence of her disassociation—from me, from her life, from life. It’s a denial of possibility, a wall constructed to block out any light that might, just might, shine in.

I walked out of her house on September 1st and her life returned to how it had been before she ever met me—but for five years past and the specter of Niland still haunting our common pathways. Very soon that specter will be gone, and she can be free of being purposefully furtive, evasive, avoiding the places I might show up, not “seeing” me when I’m there.

She wounded me, and has found a way to twist the knife. She knows how much this causes me despair. I doubt it makes her happy.

Moving will be my healing. I sacrifice much leaving the life I have created here, but good friends will remain good friends, and new places and people will come to replace the old ones. She cannot take these things away from me. She took one kind of life away from me, but not my actual, as-lived way of being who I am. I realize I am more who I am without her. I had hoped to be more of who I am with her.

In two weeks it will be Christmas, a holiday my wife hates on so many levels, and did everything within the limits of family acceptability to ignore. She permitted a celebration, one dinner, with our children and sometimes a friend. She very reluctantly participated in gift giving. She disliked that I enjoyed Christmas, enjoyed giving gifts. Among the reasons she gave to end our marriage was that I spent money on Christmas gifts for her, and my sons, when I was otherwise short on contributions. I think my wife did try to make the holiday acceptable–she liked giving us experiences instead of things–but at base Christmas was a bone that stuck in her throat. And she resented it.

Will Christmas come this year to her with any memories of our Christmas dinners past, when together with our children and friends we feasted on the elaborate labor of love dinner I prepared, setting the table with all the “good” china and silver, an orchestrated holiday meal meant to surpass the year before? Did she enjoy those times, or see them as an obligation she couldn’t avoid? I know she saw my enthusiasm as an indulgence, something to endure rather than be delighted.

This being Christmas I end this very last piece I will ever write about my marriage to this woman, a marriage I do not regret but for all the things I failed to see, with my sadness over one Christmas gift delivered a year late. It was promised, and after much trial and a lot of error, finally accomplished. I know it was received, opened, and the packaging discarded. Yet when I asked whether this package had been received, more than a week after it was delivered and verified by the PO, I was told no. I don’t know why she would lie to me.

It’s unfathomable, and sad. It tells me something I don’t want to know.

Time to move, move on. Onward and upward!