I am not one to assign superlatives to phases of my life (This is my best accomplishment, That was the worst day, This is my favorite movie). But I think, after living through the last ten months, this has been the most difficult time in my life.
I am going through a divorce.
There, I finally said it.
The strange thing is, no one has died. Everyone dies, yet death is never a cliche. Divorce looks a lot like a cliche. But it doesn’t feel like one.
I cannot yet look back on joyful times and laugh, because right now, I can’t make sense of any of them. It feels like many of the happy times between me and my husband may have only been tricks somehow, the memories now marred by questions and doubt.
And maybe that’s why it hurts so much.
I listened to my friend the other day, as she mentioned she was on her way to pick her husband up from work. I felt, alongside the happiness I felt for her, a stab of grief. I envied the normal-ness of it, I guess, and realized how much I missed the happiness I used to feel each time he came home. I loved the long drives to the Salt Lake Airport to pick him up after an endless four day trip, the hope of seeing him again and having him back for three uninterrupted days of togetherness. I loved living in our house near the airport, watching planes overhead, and on rare occasions pointing out to the kids which one was his.
In this transition time, before everything is final, the kids and I moved into a small apartment. As ten men from church helped me load up a truck and move our stuff out of the house and up the stairs into our apartment, I kept criticizing myself for owning too much stuff, knowing I would only have to lug it all back out soon (And as luck would have it, I will be lugging it all back out. Soon. In about a week and a half, actually).
Amidst all my stuff (a lot of which is cooking and baking gear: tart pans, cake stands, cookie sheets, muffin tins, a mixer, food processor, and a potato ricer, to name a few), are my books. Heavy as they are, I cannot justify selling them, or leaving them behind.
I once read in C. S. Lewis’s autobiography, that his father owned every book he ever read, so young Jack was at liberty to read from a rather vast library.
For the most part, I have tried to do the same. I own most of the books I have read recently, and am now trying to get the kids to read them instead of opting for Wii time.
Tucked in shelves around our apartment, and filed in rows along my bedroom floor, are our family’s treasured books. To look at them gives me comfort somehow.
In each one is a story that knows nothing of my problems. The story doesn’t dismiss me, saying it does not care. It simply invites me to have a look at another life, another fantasy, another longing.
I tend to keep my choices light. Right now, I like the stories of people who get what they desire in the end. I like the ones that don’t make me feel guilty for being sad.
I used to wonder what value fiction had. Intellectually, of course, it has value. I suppose I wondered what value it had spiritually.
And for myself, I have decided on my answer to that question. Fiction gives us a moment to step outside ourselves, our friends, our circles, our world, and experience something else.
I am sure a lot of you have guessed, I am a Christian. A Mormon, in fact. In our faith, we believe this life is a test. And I think most religions agree on that to a point—that we are all here to prove ourselves worthy of something beyond this life.
Anyway, I have discovered that reading unravels some of my anxiety. When I can run through Narnia for a bit, or skip through the grounds of Misselthwaite Manor, I can come back to my own problems with a healthier, more positive outlook. The new car that seemed so important before I started the book, now seems a bit immaterial.
And then, I can see life for what it is: a test. Knowing that, I can understand that more importantly than if I pay my rent in time, is if I can give my kids the attention they need right now. More important than having furniture, is the hope that things will change for the better, and the hope of who our children and I will become in the meantime.