Five years ago this month, my marriage ended.  We didn’t separate for several more months and the divorce took over two years to be final, but the marriage ended in April of 2009.

I have never experienced anything quite that painful.  It didn’t help that I had also lost my job because of the economy and that on June 9, 2009 my mother died.  And my daughter decided to move to California and then I had to move.  So with two dogs and no job, the end of a 23 year relationship and the death of my mother, I somehow managed to get through the most intense period of fear and grief I had ever known.

I got so much support from friends.  I was so lucky to have resources like therapy and different communities (especially Friends In Deed).  The grief was so intense I don’t think I could take a deep breath for months and I know that I lost probably 20 pounds within the first two months.  That was a perk, to be honest.  For years I’d struggled to lose those pounds and they simply fell off.

Five years later, I feel stronger in many ways and happier most of the time.  I feel grateful that I’ve learned to live an independent life and that the loneliness I feel sometimes is better than the loneliness I felt when I was married.

This too shall pass.  One day at a time.  Surrender.  

All those trite expressions really are true.  Everything I learned from reading Pema Chodron helped me.

I think I will go back to the Big Group at Friends In Deed tonight just to give thanks for all the support I got there and to listen.

Five years later I am not the same person was and I am deeply grateful for the lessons I learned.   They were painful lessons, but I think maybe that’s the only way we really ever learn them.  And I am grateful most of all for my sense of humor — which I sometimes forget about — but somehow I’m always reminded to laugh.

Last night I heard the news: after a twenty-three year relationship, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are separating.  At least they don’t have to get divorced, since they never got married.
Yesterday, someone told me that in a recent NY Times op-ed there was a statistic that something like eighty percent of people in their “middle ages,” whatever that is, are married.  But in New York City that number is dramatically lower.
I have heard of more couples separating in the last year than I can ever recall.  I also know of many people who are not happy in their relationships, but aren’t going to leave.  The reason I know this, is that when you announce you are getting divorced, suddenly everyone confides in you.  I also heard from a friend yesterday, that out of her four grown kids, two are now getting divorced.  
Another friend recently told his wife if their relationship didn’t improve he wouldn’t stay.  Another couple hasn’t really spoken to each other in about a month. 

I think that the myth we are sold on marriage is distorted and also that people show one face when they are dating, and after they get married, they very quickly become who they really are.  I do know couples who deeply love each other, and think about how they can show that love, and are supportive and genuinely enjoy each others company.  What a gift. 

I don’t know if I’ll find someone to share my life with again.  I know that my living arrangement with my friend has taken the edge off and I feel more relaxed about the future.  I wonder what Susan and Tim would say about their separation – did they grow apart, as so many of us do?  Even with the perfect life, the great careers, the multiple homes, the money, all the kids, and the fame?  Did one of them find someone else?  The message is we’re all basically the same…humans struggling, trying to find connections and good lives.  No one is immune from loss, sadness, illness, death.  Even Tiger Woods has to do some major re-evaluating of his life choices. 

As difficult as life can get, it’s also fun too, and the difficult times pass.  It’s been about a year since I first mentioned the idea of separation and each day gets better.  I keep going where it’s “warm”, even when the wind chill is fifteen degrees.  Going where it’s warm is about turning to friends who are supportive and really care about you.  I am grateful for the friends I have, every one of them. 

I’ll be away between Christmas and New Years, up in the country, enjoying nature.  This has been a very difficult and extremely good year for me.  I hope that Susan, Tim and everyone else who is going through these major life changes can find peace even in the painful times. 
Do you think Tim Robbins will post his profile on Match.com? 

A friend of mine who is going through similar life challenges suggested to me that rather than feeling we’re on a roller coaster these days, perhaps surfing would be the better analogy.

All I know is that today it was tough to get out of bed. I’m glad I have to walk the dogs because it is a beautiful morning and I enjoyed the walk. But getting up and moving was difficult.

This past weekend I went to my high school reunion – I don’t even want to say how many years it’s been because it seems impossible that so many years have passed and we are so old. Of the five hundred or so people from our class, I think about eighty or so showed up and they all looked pretty good. People came from as far as Greece and Israel. I found it enormously stressful to try to talk to people and have any kind of meaningful conversation. I was there for approximately eighteen hours (slept eight of them) and the rest of the time was spent trying to cram in listening and talking and yelling over music…is this supposed to be fun?

I had a few really good connections with people and enjoyed seeing them again. It seemed a lot like high school in some ways. I felt both snubbed and appreciated and the only upside is that at this age, I really don’t care. Well, maybe a little…actually.

The guys from this high school, mostly the athletic ones, have an annual reunion and have stayed very close friends. Some of the women do that as well, but I am not included in that group. I found a few of the men were able to openly talk about their feelings and their experiences. Many people had been divorced at least once and were on their second marriage. My old friend Sue said to me, when I first arrived, “Everyone is a bit worried about you…having just lost your mother and separating from your husband.”

When I heard that, I wanted to get back on the train and go home. Let’s just say it wasn’t an easy night.

Zoe and Steve are now leaving Utah and headed to Nevada. They seem to be doing well on their cross country trip.

I’m here in Brooklyn, trying to ride the waves. I know that eventually it will get easier. I’m sure it will.

I keep recalling when I gave birth and thinking that what I’m going through now feels incredibly painful, but also in the end, I think it will be worth it. I remember when I gave birth it hurt so much and I didn’t have an epidural (not because I didn’t want one, but because by the time we got to the hospital I was already eight centimeters dilated, so it was too late.) In the middle of the pain, as the contractions intensified, I had a few moments of thinking, never mind. Let’s not do this, keep the baby inside me, skip the birth, let me just stay pregnant forever.

If you’ve never had a baby, I’m sure you’ve worked on some major project, or work effort, or some health issue, or care-giving, or something just felt too difficult. And it’s not like once you’ve finished, or had the baby, or recovered, or whatever, that it’s easy. There are always struggles and in the middle of the pain are glimpses of what will be and hanging onto that keeps me breathing and moving through the pain. And I haven’t even mentioned the grief I’m experiencing about the death of my mother.

Maybe I could get an epidural now?