While I shudder at the possibility of being an object of pity, I have been touched by the outpouring of empathy, encouragement and support in the wake of my marriage separation. Though no longer the laconic Russian Australian wasting time believing everyone hated her, I had no idea so many people cared! Not so much about me, but about the fate of my marriage. Getting separated is like being on television- you hear from folks you hadn’t heard from in years, your parents get calls and suddenly everyone is nice to you. Pity I’m not actually, you know, on television.
I feel compelled to introduce a daring and unusual concept that seems missing from the collective outpouring of grief over yet another marriage ending and that is “Not every separation is a bad one.” That not only are many separations a correct and positive step in the right direction, but the experience itself can be quite pleasant and civilized if the person you chose to marry and yourself can take the ego out of it and still remember the huge chunk of time you shared together, most of it happily. I’m surprised that all I had to do to get all this attention was get separated- I would have done it years ago (jk, smiley face, lol.)
Three and something years ago when I first started experiencing the worst depressions of my life, I reached out to friends, on social media and in person thinking that perhaps a collective of hands to hold on to might lift me up out of the darkness. The response was warm but scant- people were too busy for my nervous breakdown. I continued medication, therapy, 12 steps, good nutrition, yoga and went to 5 days of outpatient therapy. I held on, but I was mostly unhappy and sometimes barely functional. I continued to find refuge in humor, my blog and short films bringing others and myself lots of laughs. In between I dutifully suffered, which I can predict with a fair amount of certainty, was no laff riot for my husband and kids.
Last year, after a short stay in the loony bin, I needed to start making changes in my life. I kept telling my then-husband daily “I’m lonely I’m unhappy but it’s not you.” I refused to believe that he had anything to do with it because all of my training told me to own my part. And then something changed…
I walked away from a car accident and like almost everyone who has that experience, was struck by the epiphany of how brief life is. My discovery was no less profound for being completely mundane. How much more time was I going to waste settling for a life that inexplicably wasn’t fulfilling me? How many more years was this poor man going to have to put up with all this emotional instability? And how many A & E “Intervention” marathons did I believe it was going to take to make me feel comparatively sane?
Then some other stuff happened and suddenly I knew. Not one day more. The marriage had passed away peacefully in the night, the sign of a marriage well lived. He knew it too and we mourned it together and continue to. We have cried over the photos of us (there are thousands) and the death of an era that began in NYC in 1998, was sealed in front of family and friends in 2000 and is the reason for two beautiful children coming into this world. But we are still a family – that will never change. We are not “estranged” as how can we go back to being strangers, after everything we’ve shared? No one cheated, no one lied, no one was living a double life as a Republican… Hence there is no reason to choose rancor. We are amicable.org, friendlyexes.com and copacetic.net. And yet the assumption is that this has to be a transition full of drama, intrigue and catastrophe.
When I mentioned it to the pharmacist picking up my medication today she looked like she was going to cry. “Oh Susanna, are you alright?” She asked me with feeling. Malibu is really a small town and this lady knows way too much about me. She knows what medication I’m on, which medication I’ve tried; in short she’s aware that I’ve hung out in some dark places… and yet now she has all this empathy? I guess separation in marriage is a “tragedy” people understand more readily than something as ephemeral as depression. Nevertheless it floored me and made me a little angry. Where was all this support starting three years ago when I needed it most?
“I’m great, I’m happy,” I said smiling, and meant it. I cleaned my house today and my other house (the one inside) is clean as well. Then the phone rang and Beyoncé’s “I’m a Survivor” sang out across the drugstore (it’s my ringtone) and I knew that no matter what happens, Bey Bey has my back. And maybe so do you.