There is an exercise we do in fencing warm ups: we balance on one foot. And then we switch to the other. And after we switch back, we balance on each foot with our eyes closed.
You find out two things when you close your eyes and balance on one leg. 1) A surprising amount of balance predicates itself on vision. 2) Your proprioceptors function amazingly well if you get out of their way. Because the human body should adjust, balance, and re-adjust in response to stimuli. In fact, the human brain should also adjust, balance, and re-adjust in response to input.
So why do I feel as though, only a few weeks into the initial process, that a divorce is knocking my body and brain so far out of whack they can’t adjust?
I know this isn’t supposed feel easy or simple. I know after 15 years the path isn’t going seem as clear as we’d hoped when we finally, finally admitted how wrong our marriage has been for so very long. I have proof, from the Interwebs, which tell me whenever I ask, that feeling all of the feelings is normal, even during an amiable split. Read some really lovely and awful and heart-felt descriptions of the journey from the incomparable Heather of the EO and my new blog-crush Carla of All of Me Now.
By the way, any time someone says their divorce portends a good thing, and that they’re both doing a great job of addressing the issues they could never address while married, you should give them caramel, the way two of my friends did. Because I can tell you that “doing a great job” of splitting up is something like doing a great job reading Heart of Darkness. It’s ugly and awful, and nobody would ever recommend it to anyone else. Caramel I can recommend unequivocally to everyone. Divorce and/or Conrad? Not so much.
But until a couple of weeks ago I thought, because I’m quite keen on control and planning and overthinking, that I could make a nice tidy plan for how this breakup would go. And that it would. Go. Just follow a path toward eventual harmony and paperwork and a co-parenting friendship.
Rather like the way I thought I was rather balance-y at fencing. Until I close my eyes. Turns out I balance myself by finding stable points ahead of me and staring at them. When I close my eyes, that stable fixative point ghosts into a bleeding black puddle behind my eyelid, and the swimming scarlet and yellow vitreous drowns my efforts to clench myself into balance and unnerves my thinking mind enough to make me wobble. A lot.
Navigating through the day in an almost-former-marriage feels a lot like wobbling on one foot with your eyes closed. [My eyes closed. I can’t speak for you, nor should I. If you ever try both the blind one-foot-balancing trick and the initial phases of separation in the same week, let me know how they compare.] I feel as though I have it all under control, barely, until I blink. And then logistics and hurt and choices and relief and work and timing and panic and money and regret and discussions and feelings and my poor, sweet, vulnerable little boys all swim in green and blue and purple venous blobs before me like a lake of bruises beneath which I’m drowning.
So I open my eyes. And I try to balance without focusing so hard. I try to let my body balance me rather than trying to force everything with my mind. I try to trust and I try to breathe. And I try to memorize how my body feels with this balance so that when I close my eyes I care less how it looks than how it feels.
And each day happens. And each night does, too. And the next day there’s another endless string of challenges.
And when I let my body handle those obstacles, rather than relying just on my mind, it’s like living in molasses. Because letting go and not controlling the hell out of everything taps proprioceptors I’ve never used before. I’m so slow right now. I type slowly. I think slowly and answer slowly. I’m even running so slowly that I’m considering seeing a doctor. I’ve lost more than a minute per mile off my regular, don’t-have-to-try-for-it pace. That minute, on every mile I’ve run for the past month, is gone. Lost to the ether. I hope some young person in love and full of hope is running faster with my minutes. I miss them, but I’m willing to lose them forever if they go to a good home.
The words “a good home” make me a little maudlin. And by “a little” I mean “ask me in person because I’ll admit very little on a public blog even though I’m pretty darned honest here at good ol’ NaptimeWriting.”
All I know is that if asking my mind and body to do too much leaves me wobbling, I need to balance smarter. Eyes open, deep breath; eyes closed, rolling with the wobbles. Because that’s what learning experiences are for, right? Strengthening muscles you didn’t know you had? Part of me says, “but I don’t want these muscles because I promise I’ll never need them again.” But I will. For the rest of my relationship with the boys’ father, I will need these blind-balance muscles.
And that right now is the saddest part for me, after the waves of gut-punches at what this adult tower of cards means for the boys: I’m building muscles I don’t want to need. But I do need them. And so I will build them. I have to.
Eyes open, deep breath; eyes closed…let go.
Heart of Darkness AND fencing references? You have me:)
Divorce is awful. There’s no sugarcoating that. But like with anything, you will adapt and practice will make better. Think of it like learning to balance on one leg with a weighted pack tied loosely to your back. You will stumble as the weight shifts but, in time, you’ll get better at finding your footing and trusting your balance even with the new demands.
I’d like to sound cheerful, but did you just add a weighted pack to an already challenging exercise? ;-)
Yep. I suppose marriage is just as much work, but divorce feels more foreign and fraught. Can’t imagine why…
Yup. Because that’s what divorce does!
I got through!! Crying and leaping off my chair because I got through. And like so many things, we don’t know what they mean until we work through them, and then appreciate them. Like this post, the work in transformation and the honesty… the painful honesty, of realizing the growth is something we need. You will get there, you’ll be wiser and stronger and humbled and broken… but pieced together and so much opportunity to see the strength in you. Not just lip service, friend. I see you and hear you, and understand you. And believe you. xo
You got through! You got through!
Thank you for seeing and hearing and understanding, Alexandra.
Yes to process and growth and appreciation. Yes.
Omg, it sounds like the heart of darkness. Oh Lord, I am so sorry that you have to walk through this. Glad you are getting support here. And caramels.
Caramels are my pudding, friend. And pudding fixes the moments that feel unfixable. The rest we can transcend, if we only have pudding.
do you like the kind covered in chocolate? or are you a straight caramel gal? with the sea of salt? you are being supported on the east coast by someone who has never met you. you are definitely strong enough to make it through this monster transition to the next phase of existence. the post. the certain future.
Thanks for the support, J. I have actually never doubted that support, cuz you’re my kind of people. I will definitely make it through. So will my family. We can do this. We are doing this.
I hesitate to reveal my caramel predilections to the world, for when I star in a film with George Clooney he will engage in untold pranks that sully my love for the caramel, but if you promise to keep it to yourself (and not send any), I’ll tell you: straight up. Sometimes with salt of the sea. Or flowers of salt. Or whatever other nonsense people making caramel are willing to put their names to.