It was raining, which was good. The windy downpour blew through the parking lot of the YMCA where my son was in camp, and camouflaged the adult word choices I barked into my phone. I picked up the battered notebook on the passenger seat and began scribbling into it, adding to The Story of My Divorce. Today’s chapter was scribed in blue ink and tears. Same as last chapter.
The angry voices in my head jostled around my skull, demanding to be heard. I carved deep scars into the paper with my pen trying to get all the words out, spitting them like olive pits into the stitched binding until the pressure against the back of my eyes eased. I leaned back against the headrest and closed the cover. The rage, disappointment and grief was safely sandwiched within the marbled black and white cardboard. I wanted to tear the door off my Honda Civic and rampage the neighborhood, but I had a life. I had to make tiny smalltalk with the other moms and the college student Camp Counselor, pretending the lack of humidity was as delightful for me as it was for them.
Writing brings the muddy unconscious up into the startling light of day where some of the edges can be softened and managed. Writing can break something unknowable into words and help regain a sense of control, lassoing galloping thoughts with articulation. Even the physical act of writing, the back-and-forth motion of printing the letters, can channel anxiety, soothe and calm.Best of all, it can catch all the pain and sadness and put it on nice clean paper where it can be spit on, thrown down a quarry or set on fire. Therapeutic and accessible, writing can be your sounding board, bookkeeper and ally all in one.
I wrote through three books going through my divorce, creating a terrible saga on clammy,wrinkled pages. I wrote to vent, I wrote to document, I wrote to release the pressure building in my chest that threatened to collapse onto my organs. Mostly I wrote because I had a little boy
who counted on me to run with him in the park and buy him unhealthy cereals because they had Ironman on the box.
Writing the story of my divorce
Writing the story of my divorce as each episode unfolded gave me that place to put it all, the hopes dashed and plans ruined, so I could function in the moment and then go back to processing all the negative crap later. Writing also gave me the space to organize my thinking at a time when new information slid down the side of my face without ever making a dent in my consciousness.
Divorce is a time for strategy and clear visualization because you need to make some pretty heady decisions.
Not soup-or-salad decisions, but big decisions about your money and your home and your holiday celebrations for the next two decades. Decisions that shouldn’t be made in the irritable fog of sleep deprivation and revenge fantasies. The pages of my book filled with lists and priorities and curses that would bring shame to my ancestors, but eventually made it to concise coherence, drained of the emotion that jerked me to the peaks of irrationality.
This is where I started to plan my new future as a single mom, a single woman.
I also wrote to root for myself, to cheer myself on as I moved through the process, congratulating myself for surviving the lawyer’s meeting, for fixing the sink that was now entirely my responsibility. I wrote pep talks in that book, pages ahead where I knew I would stumble on them when I needed encouragement. I was the only one who knew what it was like inside My Story, writing it helped me make sense of it and reading it later was like having a companion I could commiserate with, the only other who knew the inside scoop. And then I started to heal,
and I could tell because the gory details started to melt away and congeal into landscapes filled with hope, the texts of regrets and accusations became pages filled with gratitude and possibilities, and The Story of My Divorce became about chasing happiness and catching it.
How’s that for a surprise ending?
Finally, I put The Story of My Divorce with all my other writing, on a shelf in a closet. It was not the easiest part for me to write, but nestled next to the other books it blends into my other life adventures, like my first year of college or getting my nose pierced. Not only does The Story of My Divorce not define me, it’s not even my best writing. As my pen glides around the crisp beginning of a new book I know that, like the Jason Bourne franchise, there’s always another exciting installment in the works. And I get to write it.