I’ve been feeling all warm and fuzzy on what, by all rights, should have been a shit weekend. I moved out of the apartment that the Object and I shared for some 3-4 years, and the first place I ever really felt was my home, a place I was homesick for. I even wrote about that not long after I moved in.
Two weeks ago, the Object was packing up his things and preparing to move out, so I’d stayed with a friend. After he moved out in the first weekend of September1. I brought my stuff back to the apartment so that I wouldn’t have to keep running back and forth while I packed.
Guess what? That was a special kind of suckiness, one I was wholly unprepared for. The Apartment Formerly Known as Home (AFKH) was in shambles, a visceral and literal metaphor for my personal life. Every time I woke up, I was alone, no Object there to oversnuggle me 2. I restlessly tossed around at night, buying stupidly expensive things on the internets and accruing circles under my eyes of the kind normally reserved for drunks in the throes of advanced liver fuckeduppedness.
It’s like that disease that kids get – failure to thrive. It’s kind of the worst feeling in the world – you’re not dying, but you’re not actively living, either. And you’re just alone. In Stone Soup, Barbara Kingsolver describes the humiliating crux of dissolving a long-term relationship.
This might be worse than being widowed. Overnight I've suffered the same losses--companionship, financial and practical support, my identity as a wife and partner, the future I'd taken for granted. I am lonely, grieving, and hard-pressed to take care of my household alone. But instead of bringing casseroles, people are acting like I had a fit and broke up the family china.
A few friends are absolutely devastated – almost surprisingly so – by my breakup with the Object. We seemed like the perfect couple. It’s very hard to explain to people that you’re leaving not because of anything he did, not because of anything I did, and not even because the relationship was bad.
It just wasn’t good.
So, as Friday night rolled around, I steeled myself for a hellish weekend that would officially mark my lonely foray into singlehood.
Oh, how I underestimated the Divorce Bridesmaids.
This is my group of friends who have rallied around me the past month, giving me support/cupcakes/fruit, telling me not to drink too much, and gently walking me through the motions of life. Like nursing a hospice patient, they’ve helped me shift how I define the quality of my life, shaping the end of my relationship into a good death.
This weekend, one of my first friends in DC drove up from Roanoke for the sole purpose of holding my hand through the move. He even let me give him shit for unquitting smoking again. Saturday morning, six more friends showed up, and lifted all of my things into a truck, drove me to the new place, and started unpacking for me. They convinced me to go buy new furniture 3, and to buy my very own furniture that would make me feel like an accomplished adult, not just scavenge from friends. “This is why you have a rainy day fund. It’s raining.”
Then they took me over to RCKNDY, where I’d been lusting after furniture I didn’t think I should really buy, helped me make decisions, and reminded me I was doing the right thing. “Sometimes stuff is better than love,” the Rawk Goblin reassured me. “At least the love you had.”
The furniture salesman rang me up. “It’s not everyone who gets six friends to help them move stuff; you’re an awfully lucky girl,” he said as he handed me lollipops for all of the divorce bridesmaids.Meanwhile, two other bridesmaids had stayed back to start unpacking boxes and make my new apartment feel like Home. Throughout the day, I got all kinds of encouraging messages and texts.
It was almost the opposite of what Kingsolver described. I felt scooped up into an embarrassment of riches from all the attention, love, and kindness my friends offered me. If I remember my Dad’s funeral properly, soon the crisis and the immediacy of loss will settle down, and the dull ache of grief will settle back in. I’m pretty sure that lonliness is a painful prerequisite to relearning how to be alone4, and there will still be some very hard times ahead.
But this time, I feel so much more optimistic. I’m looking forward to cultivating these friendships, which I neglected while I tended to an ailing relationship. I have the energy to make a house a home without the emotional exhaustion of trying to please someone who wanted to be dissatisfied. I woke up this morning, a little startled that this is the next chapter of my life – a beautiful home, friends who care deeply for me, and a future brighter than the inside of a lightbulb. And I didn’t even have to go that deeply into debt to get to the feeling I always crave, when my brain kicks in and says, “You have enough.”
I never wanted a wedding with the Object, but I did want some kind of commitment ceremony, some way for our friends to come together and celebrate a love I thought was worth a fist pump or two. Plus, let’s face it, the presents are awfully awesome 5. I never got the ceremony. But I did get the Divorce Bridesmaids, and now I feel responsible to live up to all the awesome they’ve shown me by coming out of my post-breakup stupor and living again. It’s probably the best present I’ve ever gotten: the desire to thrive.
1. Not without a bang or some proverbial turds left in my closet that may or may not have been from his friend, but that’s another story for another day.
2. And for me to then complain about being oversnuggled. I underestimate how much I enjoyed whining about that.
3. The Object got the furniture, at least, all the furniture worth taking. Packing up was rough. We bickered over things that have little intrinsic value, but that each of us had built up to mean something completely different. It was more than a little indicative of why we’re splitting up. He took all the furniture. To be fair, he paid for much of it. But I paid for a number of intangible things – our trip to Peru; several years’ worth of Christmas presents from both of us to his family – things like that. I’d found and picked out most of the furniture – incredibly unique finds that we both fell in love with. When he paid for it, I thought we saw it as building a life together. He saw it as him paying for some sweet investments in furniture he would have for the rest of his life.There’s some discrepancy in the pronouns there, no?
4. One of the most useful life skills, which, much to my chagrin, is not taught as one of the professional development courses I’m forced to take at The Elliott School of International Affairs. That’s a pretty gross oversight on their part, especially considering all the people in those executive inpatient programs.
5. I’m convinced that 87% of weddings are just to score the presents. The other 13% are the weddings of my friends, who would never be so crass.