This Sunday, March 17, marks 8 years since my divorce. Lots has changed since then, much of which is covered in my upcoming memoir Too Much of Not Enough. But the feelings from that day, in the courtroom, are easily remembered.
Because I’m a coach by profession I have resources on hand, like a file labeled FEELINGS. Looking through that alphabetical list jogged my memory. In fact, I identified 9 emotions just in the ‘A’s’ list:
- Abandoned – I thought marriage would be the key to heal childhood feelings of neglect. My mother lost her mother while still in her first year of life to the 1918 flu pandemic. Soon after, her father brought this toddler to her grandparents so they could raise her. Whatever psychological issues my mom had about being deserted by both of her parents were passed onto her own children. When my ex chose to be with another woman, that innate feeling of betrayal, moved into high gear.
- Afraid- All I’d ever known was being a part of a unit. You often hear how a person moves from their parents’ home into a marital home. I had college, grad school and a 1-year apartment share (never on my own!) before my marriage of 38 years. Damn right I was afraid. How would I be NOT being part of an identifiable system: family or coupledom?
- Agitated – Two major aspects of my adult life were now changing: marital status and home. For nearly four decades these were easy boxes to check off on forms. Now I needed to consider the impact of those changes on me. Agitated is a good word to describe my turbulent inner sensations at that time.
- Alienated – Alienated and alone are distinctly different, even though each of these emotions address my new singleness. Alienated had me feeling completely separate from this guy I’d known for four decades. Talk about men being from Mars and women from Venus. That’s how far apart I felt now from the person who once shared my bed and fathered my three children. Who was this person? Who was I?
- Alone – For the very first time in my entire life, I existed in the possibility that no one knew where I was or what I was doing. That may have been true before—that my parents didn’t know my whereabouts on a particular Wednesday afternoon, or that my spouse hadn’t questioned me as I walked out the door on a Sunday evening. But if I hadn’t come home, there would have been cues for them to find me. Single at 62 was entirely different. No one was in touch with my comings and goings. I took note of the fact that I could drive off into a wilderness and be undiscovered for weeks. My clients might have sounded an alarm and my kids would eventually notice that they hadn’t heard from Mom in some time, but no significant other was there to pay attention. That’s alone.
- Angry – Early in therapy I had a statement uttered to me that was a surprise. “Jane,” my counselor said after a particular diatribe, “it sounds like you think it shouldn’t be that way.” The implication was that I had created my own universe with specific rules and they were being violated. This was a sobering comeuppance for me. “They haven’t read your script,” she continued. So much of my life was being enacted, in my psyche, by the players surrounding me. When they went off script, I didn’t know how to cope. Getting divorced was a plotline that I NEVER concocted. I was damned angry that this stain would be on my record from this moment forth. It was NOT supposed to be this way!!!
- Annoyed – On a milder level of upset than my unwritten script not being followed was having my whole life turned upside down. I chose to move out of our marital home and had to find a new place, furnish it and replace all of the tools of daily living. Shopping at Crate and Barrel for housewares felt irritating and humiliating at this stage of my life.
- Ashamed – In my narrow way of thinking, marriage was GOOD and divorce was BAD. Period, the end. I never looked down on any of my friends (or siblings) who were divorced. I had simply separated myself from that possibility. It was for others, not me. When I found myself checking the DIVORCED box on forms, my neck reddened and my heart sped up. This should NOT be happening to me.
- Awkward – All of a sudden I felt like apart from the rest of the world. Even when I traveled singly as a married woman, that band of gold on my fourth finger was my shield against any and all harm. In my mind. Once that was removed, I felt like a 5’9” kindergartner. Everyone would notice me. I wouldn’t fit into any place. My every move would be watched. None of this proved to be so, but the sense in my gut was that of a 5-year old.
I could go into other letters of the alphabetic list, the L’s: Lonely and Lost, or the S’s: Sad, Shaky or Shocked. I was a jumble of emotions that day.
Reflecting back now, nearly a decade later, the one outstanding emotion I’m feeling this March 17 is triumphant. I survived. I lived a day at a time through every one of those emotions and survived. I’ve heard that emotions are simply energy in motion. If you ‘feel the feelings’ they will pass. They have.
I still have moments of aloneness and anger, but mostly I’m filled with strength, joy and wonder that this is where my life has taken me. I would not be living in the greatest city in the world, meeting men and women of extraordinary talent and brilliance, and stepping back into the literary limelight with my story.