"Your home is regarded as a model home, your life as a model life. But all this splendor, and you along with it . . . it's just as though it were built upon a shifting quagmire. A moment may come, a word can be spoken, and both you and all this splendor will collapse."
-- Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Norwegian dramatist. Lona Hessel, in Pillars of Society, act 3.
The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright © 1993, 1995 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
A long time ago, morganaus asked me a question concerning my newly single state. She asked, "Can I ask how long you'd been with your ex and how long it's been since she moved out?" Subsequently, I began to answer the question, starting with the first part, which took several hours to compose. As prolixfootle presciently observed, I am a deliberate man, and I hate to be misunderstood. When I wrote the entry answering the first part of the question, I mentioned that, to those who knew that I was/(am still) married previously, I have been almost pathologically reluctant to inform them that Crystal has left me. To those who I have met recently or who otherwise did not know of my marriage, I haven't mentioned that I was/(am) married. At the time of the entry, I mentioned that I was not entirely sure why I was acting this way and I said that I would speculate at some time in the future. The future is now. Crystal's promised "paperwork" came the Monday before last, and it has been sitting on my kitchen table for close to two weeks.
I did not want to discuss my marriage with anyone because I cannot really explain what happened to it. Oh, there are pieces of the puzzle which are very clear -- a differing understanding of how life and the universe works; a slowly worsening ability to communicate on each other's wavelengths; experience, even shared experience, producing growth in different directions; familiarity producing complacency and mind-set; different preferences as to how intimacy is to be expressed, and how it is to be received, understood, and appreciated; a relentless and terrible corrosion of trust due to infidelity (hers) -- but just listing off these standard generalities does not tell anyone anything specific or useful. The generalities are non-information which consists of lots of facts that, in sum, explain nothing, not even to me. They do not explain how we could let what has happened happen to ourselves, how I could let what has happened happen. It does not explain how I feel about things, and why that is such a complex tangle of conflicting emotions. It is a frustrating thing to confront and try to explain, especially when I can't even do that clearly for myself, entirely, although I am getting there, very slowly. In addition to this, the issue goes beyond Crystal and I. She and I did not just crash a "relationship;" we crashed a family.
Crystal and I are the proud parents of two wonderful daughters, ages thirteen and ten. We are certainly proud of them, but I don't know how much ground we have to be proud of ourselves. They are living with their mother now, forty miles away, with someone Crystal finds more suitable to her than me. She has agreed to joint custody, and our arrangements have been very ad-hoc and friendly so far. I see my daughters on weekends, when they feel like visiting. Right now, my younger daughter is sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room. Her sister is still with her mother, having previously arranged for a sleep-over with some new friends from her new school. They are not really happy with the situation, but they are dealing with it as best that can be expected, for now. I miss seeing them every day. This is weird for me. How can I explain how I/we let this thing happen to me/us? I don't know, but I guess I can try, now, and see how far I can get.
Mary had asked how long it's been since she left. Like the first part of her question, there is a complex answer to what would appear to be a simple straight-forward question. Like the first part, the answer depends upon how one of the key terms of the querry is defined. This part depends upon how the term "to leave" is defined in the context of a marriage. How long has it been since Crystal and I were "regularly engaged as husband and wife," which in my mind, encompasses more than just sex -- about a year. How long has it been since Crystal quit our bedroom for good and started sleeping on the couch -- six months. How long has it been since she started "shopping around" for what she believed was missing in her life -- about five months (this time). How long since she found someone that she thinks fits the bill -- about three or four months. It was about this time, after the second time she returned home in the morning after having been out all the previous day and all that night, that I suggested that if she wanted someone else so badly, she should divorce me. How long has it been since she and our daughters packed up and moved out of our house -- fifty-four days, one day short of the elder daughter's birthday, and for no other reason that I can discern, than a certain logistical convenience. How long since one of her good friends served the paperwork on me that started the divorce proceedings -- thirteen days, although the paperwork is stamped as having been filed with the court on October 17th. When did Crystal leave this marriage? As I said, I'm not really sure. I'm open to suggestions.
*** Later **** 9:45 AM, Nov. 9th, 2003
Uh boy. Exhaustion cuts another one short. I can't survive 4:00 AM as well as I used to do. After a bit of sleep, I look at this and realize that there is still much more to say on this topic, but life intervenes and I have higher priorities than writing today. Perhaps tonight I can sort this out while the laundry is chugging away in the next room.