As I prepare to take my oldest daughter to college in less than two weeks, I find myself both grateful and grieved, but not for the reasons I was expecting. I’m equally proud as punch and bracing for impact, like many parents out there, but also find myself melancholy about not being able to share this experience with her father.
Actually, the specific experience of taking her to college and schlepping boxes among the hot and crowded hell of move in day will be fully shared. It’s the after-experience, the new normal of having only half my chickens under foot, that I will be experiencing alone. As a divorced couple we will resume our separate lives shortly after driving away from campus.
It is a transition we’ll experience by ourselves, just as we have experienced countless things over the last five years without the other. This is one of the many costs of divorce, and a price everyone pays no matter the circumstances. Given that we have been able to carve out and maintain a friendly uncoupling has not diminished the misery that is divorce.
The deep ache does not discriminate. There is no hall pass for good behavior.
You would think after this much time (and especially since we are friendly) that feelings like this would be a thing of the past – that the integration would be complete by now. And it feels that way much of the time. But divorce is a sneaky little bastard and delivers dagger moments when least expected.
You might be going about your day unawares and BOOM: you hear a David Gray song. Out of nowhere you are slapped with a harsh reminder that things aren’t as they were. Aren’t as they were supposed to be. Aren’t as you wish them to be. And there is nothing to be done about it. No workaround…only a kind of slogging through, one day at a time.
While I believe the pain of the divorce experience is universal, the arc of transition appears more variable and mercurial. I sometimes wonder if my lengthy and non-linear path is “normal.” Is it my sentimental nature or some other attendant temperament influencing the glide path? Is there a better way to do this thing?
Do some in my tribe know something I don’t, or are they just more stealth in the Art of Distraction?
As someone dedicated to sucking the marrow out of every experience, I count William Stafford’s sentiment as one of my favorites: “I embrace emerging experience. I participate in discovery. I am a butterfly. I am not a butterfly collector. I want the experience of the butterfly.”
It would appear that this butterfly’s wings are unhurried in their unfurling. And so it is.