At the end of any great love, you expect the big — the heart-wrenching grief, the burning anger, the feeling of utter hopelessness, the momentous point you find you’ve forgiven, and that bittersweet moment you’re finally able to wish the other well — but here’s what they don’t tell you: it’s the small things that trip you up, long after the scar has healed.
And you know, it really was a small thing. The other day, I had to update a personal particulars form. It still reflected my status as “married”, and recorded my old address. As I sought to get those details changed, two things hit me. First, a society is incredibly narrow-minded if they have labels like this to classify people (by such a big and painful life event, no less) in the 21st century. Second, I would now have live with this new label, and the societal stigma that comes with it. But beyond just this stigma, the divorce has gone on to define me in relationships, in ways I am only just beginning to fathom.
The largest cut the divorce has administered is this: It has left me with an inordinate amount of fear (of heartbreak). And it is in this fear that I rather run, than stay. I rather cut my losses, than see if there could be a pay-off down the road. It has made sure I don’t give of myself, not fully and not without immense, conscious effort on my part. Loving someone else becomes a risk even I am not willing to take.
It is also because of this fear that I become rigid and inflexible — always emphasizing compromise, or meeting in the middle, or asking to be loved the way I need — because I am afraid that if I give too much, and too often, I will become the same hollow shell I was with him, and the same weak person I was with my mother, and have to deal with heartbreak I know I won’t be able to live through the second, or third, or fourth, time. So I erect walls. Wall after wall after wall, until even I can no longer reach the recesses of my heart. Walls that are too tiring to keep up; and far too thick to tear down.
The second is this: You suddenly know that are absolutely no guarantees in life. And when I say “know”, I mean you feel it — in your head, heart, and deep within your bones. The inertia that comes with this realization is stupefying; something I cannot express with words. Tears, maybe, but I don’t have enough of those. Some days, I feel paralyzed. It’s as if I will never be able to make a concrete decision when it comes to matters of the heart. Because deep within, I know that I know better now — if I think I’m making the best possible decision, I will always, always, be wrong, because there are too many unknown variables to ever be able to correctly predict the outcome. It’s as if I will forever float in this trajectory, unable to settle, to grow roots, ever again. So I put it off, day after day after day, until even I give up hope waiting on myself. Indecision that is too tiring to keep up, too gripping to let go of.
The other day, a friend said to me, “This divorce doesn’t define you.” But she is wrong. It does. It does more than define me — it has even shaped me, in more ways than I know, or am aware of.
And all it took was a personal particulars form, and a few bad days, and one song on repeat, to reopen the scars I wasn’t fully cognizant of.
Now, I’m all tripped up. Limbs all askew, feet barely touching the ground, mind barely keeping up with my breath.
And always, always in my mind; just a whisper, barely there: “Who would put up with these scars that you wear? You surely wouldn’t.”
But that’s the fear and inertia talking. Right?