Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Pain of Collateral Damage

As I mentioned in yesterday's post (okay, it was just a couple hours ago, but technically yesterday), I'm getting a divorce. I instigated it, and so I feel supremely guilty even though I recognize all the very good reasons for it and the mutuality of the things-aren't-working-ness of it. But overall I recognize how this has been the best decision I could possibly have made, and I don't for a moment regret having made it. But.

Then there's my five-year-old son.

He's part of my reason for leaving (though I would never breathe those words to him), in that for two months prior to that fateful day he asked me on a near-daily basis, "Mommy, are you sad again?" I would cry uncontrollably in front of him. I would have to leave the room, but sometimes I couldn't even manage that, and one time I crumpled up on the floor and sobbed while my sweet, darling, sensitive, smart, beloved boy watched. There is no pain that can beat that, at least in my experience--knowing I'm causing him grief, knowing I can't stop myself. I was deeply depressed, and contemplated contemplating suicide. In other words, I didn't think about me doing it, I wasn't making a plan--but I could understand why someone would. The decision to end one's life no longer seemed irrational or impossible or even necessarily wrongheaded. That scared me.

So, I got a great therapist, I got on some lovely meds, and my fog cleared. I looked at my life and saw, maybe not clear as day but perhaps clear as an early morning sunrise with the mist and the dew but the promise of blue sky later on, that I had to leave. As soon as I could, I told my husband, whom I still care for and like, that I wanted a divorce. And although this has turned my world on its ear, I haven't regretted it, for myself.

But as it sinks into my son's psyche that this is the New World Order, that Mommy and Daddy aren't going to move back in together, that ahead of him stretch years of back-and-forth from my apartment to his dad's house and vice versa, that we may have dinner together or go to the occasional party together or laugh at each other's jokes but we aren't ever going to be in bed together in the morning when he wakes up and comes into the parental bedroom for a morning snuggle--as all this happens, he's feeling all the grief and anger and frustration and pain one would expect. I'm watching it happen, and I'm trying to be as understanding and loving and supportive and open to him as possible. Even so, when his little eyes just melt into tears and he says he wishes we weren't having the divorce, I feel completely helpless.

I don't have a good story arc for this post. I wish I did, I wish I had a neat beginning, middle, and end. Oh how I want that happy end! But instead all I have is a sad little boy whose bubbling laugh--the one that makes my world go all technicolor--I hear less often, whose anger gets the best of him more often, whose sense of the world and his place in it is suddenly coming unhinged. I know it'll get better. I know I can't sacrifice my own sanity and happiness for the unsustainable illusion of a happy nuclear family. But right now I just want my boy to smile.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your honesty here. I appreciate it much. I'm a male friend of yours from grad school who went through the same thing -- the same feelings, guilt, depression, etc., and having kids as well. I wish I could tell you that your son will be alright. I can tell you the most well adjusted of my children was my youngest, and she was older than your son is now when my wife and I separated.

    I can also tell you that if you both love your son, and if you can both keep from hating each other in his presence, and if you don't rely on him to fill your emotional needs -- let him be a kid and not your best friend -- he has a good chance of growing up just fine.

    I've always known you to be a careful, intelligent person, and have always respected your opinion. From what I know of your situation, this has been coming for a long time, and you're far from primarily responsible for the divorce. You're just making a real decision and shouldering responsibility for it. I hope you're not the only one involved in your situation who is doing so.


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