I have always been comfortable with lines and boundaries and rules. Maybe that’s why that old Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette still takes up shelf space in my office. There is something comforting about rules of operation and engagement – if only to serve as a benchmark for where you are in the grand scheme of things. I guess it’s my affinity for these boundaries – for what is right and what is wrong–that gave me the naïve impression that once my divorce was final–and the depiction of no longer being married had been defined by the judge – that a clear map of behavior and emotional conduct would seemingly fall into place and I would “know” how to behave, respond, engage, emote – feel – now that I was divorced.
Boy was I wrong.
It intrigues me – surprise is the wrong word – how malleable and inconsistent my reactions to interactions with my Ex are now that we are divorced. One day things will roll off my back, and the issue at hand seems not worth the effort to discuss, then a brief exchange about some innocuous comment or event relating to our children can hit a nerve that makes me react like Linda Blair. (Last night my comment was so barbed that he actually hung up on me!) You’re probably thinking that it’s likely a good old-fashioned case of menopausal hormones at work here, but I really think there is more to it.
When we were actually married we didn’t really talk. Sure we discussed the weather and workout schedules and the occasional parent/teacher conference, but the really meaty topics – the ones that involve feelings and emotions and spiritual development – those were swallowed or swept aside lest the lid of Pandora’s Box get opened and we were unable to contain the spillage. I behaved and responded as I thought I had to – the way Emily Post would have instructed me to engage and respond.
Thinking back now on those somewhat silent years, I think that I was afraid to say what was on my mind at the risk of upsetting the proverbial apple cart. When I finally did…well, look what happened. So now that I am divorced and the apple cart is well and spilled, I wonder if my unfiltered and inconsistent reactions are a result of some universal truth coming out, or if it’s the years of sequestered frustrations finally emerging because there no longer exists a boundary of marital code that requires peaceful and harmonious co-existence.
Whatever it is, I’m slightly in awe of it. My newfound, unfiltered voice both scares and impresses me and makes me wonder if this is who I was all along, or if it is who I have become now that my identity has changed from wife (with all those implications and expectations) to Ex-wife, and all that can be embodied in that label. Or maybe it’s being 50 and experiencing the freedom from being beholden to rules and norms that don’t fit a lifestyle or personality from days gone by.
I do miss my rules and regulations, the boundaries that kept things identifiable for me in my relationship with my spouse. But I’m also learning to appreciate that at some point the boundary markers shift and the walls come tumbling down…I guess the important thing, as Emily Post would say, is regardless of where the line in the sand is, always be a lady…