The Divorce Shuffle

If you’re tired of reading my post-divorce slump posts, skip this one.  I’m tired of having them, but somehow they just pop up occasionally.

I keep wondering when the sadness will leave for good.  I wonder when I will no longer wake at night from a dream about reconciliation with my ex.  Even in my dreams, that long-gone desire is dashed by the presence of his new wife’s son.  I don’t pine for my ex, can’t imagine returning to the shambles of a marriage we had those last several years, and spend most of my time feeling whole and grounded.

It’s just that divorce never ends.  The shuffling of children back and forth, the calls/emails/texts to discuss the children, all the extra work it takes to raise children in two different homes.  It never seems to end.  What was once a discussion after dinner or when the kids went to bed now requires a call between us, never at the right time for either one of us unless previously scheduled.  Decisions that take a good amount of back-and-forth either are truncated or tabled until there is more time to discuss the issue.

Don’t get me wrong.  We do quite well co-parenting in different houses.  Better than we did on the same turf.  It took us awhile to come to this point, and we still slip into unpleasantness at times, but we do pretty well.

Doing  “pretty well” does nothing to change the rather unfortunate yet real fact that we are no longer two adults parenting our children together, backing each other up and stepping in for each other when one can’t continue without coming unglued.  We’re probably doing better than we were during our last few years together, years filled with arguing, angst, and more.

So what undid me this time?  An article in the Spring, 2011, issue of Brain, Child, “Before This,” was the culprit.  Sarah Ivy elegantly wrote the crux of my struggle with divorce:  loss of family and the ever-present burdens of divorce.  The essay pivots around the birth of Ivy’s fourth child, the product of her second marriage, with the other three coming along during her previous marriage.  Although she never states it as such, it seems she was the catalyst for the divorce.  While I’m loathe to ever identify with the “leaver” in divorce, I know some situations are untenable and best left for the safety and sanity of all, and I respect the privacy she gives the circumstances of her divorce and ex-husband.  In short, she gives birth, fully expecting this child to be a full sibling to her other three, despite sharing only half their DNA.  It is her reaction to the child that’s jarring to her:  this child is clearly NOT just like her others at birth, appearing quite different.

While this different appearance may seem shallow of Ivy, her essay shows nothing of the sort.  She’d continued with life after the divorce,  determined to sally forth as previously planned, family intact (or what remained).  The birth of her fourth child broke that illusion.  The reality of the disturbance that is forever in divorced families weighs down heavily as she looks at this child who is clearly of different origins than her first three.  Life has changed forever, and the rest of the article recounts her understanding of that.  I could be crass and ask her what took so long, but that would only betray the touch bitterness that still surfaces at time as I sally forth in my completely changed world of divorced living.  Sure, the boys and I have settled in, but not to something any of us would have chosen, given the ability to actually choose.  (Okay, I wouldn’t have chosen to live the last years of my marriage as I did either.)

Not once did I hold the illusion that separation and divorce would be a blip in our lives, an event we’d experience then move on, like a speed bump taken a bit too fast on the road of life.  Never did the magnitude of dividing parents and shuffling children escape me.  I’m a child of divorce, after all.  While my being-shuffled years were minimized by my age at their divorce (16 years), my shuffling of myself has never stopped.  Holidays are parceled out, visits to different homes are scheduled, and the word “family” elicits a collage that doesn’t seem to quite all line up.  I never wanted that for my kids.  And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, I feel pretty angry and mighty sad when I think about the relative simplicity we’ve lost from our previous life as an intact family.

Despite division, despite adding family on their father’s end, despite mom dating, we all sally forth.  We’re still learning all the steps to the divorce shuffle, knowing these steps will change as time goes on.  I’ve gained some flexibility and increased my tolerance to the unknown, reaching somewhat better terms with change.  Sometime, however, I tire of the dance and its ever-changing steps, and I miss the relative simplicity of two parents, two kids, one house.  Sarah Ivy said it best: “…none of this was simple or clean, and ever would be again.”  Thanks, Ivy.

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