Early one morning last week I met my Ex-husband outside a nondescript law office that specializes in real estate transactions. There was tension as we walked into the building, likely hungover from a contentious conversation that ensued the night before when our 16 year old daughter started asking very specific questions about alimony and child support and financial solvency. Her questions hit nerves that have been stripped raw over the past few years, as we scratched and clawed our way to a semblance of a settlement.
We were there to sign our papers for the closing sale of the marital home. What amazed me was how swift and expeditious the process was – less than 10 minutes – probably closer to 5 – and with one stamp of the Notary’s seal we were no longer bound legally or financially to the one thing that had been the greatest catalyst in the demise of our marriage.
I think I was expecting that severing the tie that bound would take some time, perhaps be more ceremonial. Heaven knows we waited long enough for this day to arrive. When we went to court to actually get divorced the judge made us wait what seemed like an eternity while she scrutinized our separation agreement. Our respective attorneys were visibly agitated at the potential for a pronouncement that would not be in one or the other party’s favor, so when we finally got our turn at the bench it felt like we had paid our pound of flesh.
But the legal assistant on this quiet early morning simply asked for two signatures, a copy of our driver’s license, and that was that. My Ex departed the building so quickly that had I not turned to watch him go I would have missed him altogether. I stood awkwardly in the lobby, waiting for someone or something to jolt me out of my fog, before squaring my shoulders and returning to my car for an uneventful trip to Starbucks before heading to a routine day at the office.
It has been draining these past few weeks to watch the detritus of a failed marriage – of a failed life in some respects – get parceled out to Goodwill and The Salvation Army. Watching the recycling truck dump the contents of a bin containing discarded school papers, and books, and scribbled drawings, made me feel that my entire existence was worth nothing – that the experiences and attempts at growth and learning were as useless and meaningless as that which was being sent to the incinerator. I left the house for the final time last week, alone, sobbing, as I closed the door on a story that has no further chapter or sequel.
I began to realize as I drove to the office that for the first time since I was legally divorced two years ago that I actually felt divorced. There was nothing tangible that was truly tying me to my former status. There was no joint property that had to be maintained, no joint accounts or investments to create a bond of ownership or solidarity. Nor was there really anything that had to be hidden or sequestered away from prying eyes. All the “stuff” that had cluttered and obstructed our relationship had been dissolved, recycled, repurposed or re-gifted.
I was free to make my own decisions, go in a direction of my own choosing. I was accountable only to myself, and my children.
I still find it somewhat curious that after years of therapy, legal bills, arguments, soul searching, journaling, trips to court and trips to the edge, that the feeling of separation and independence – the feeling of being divorced – came during a 5 minute visit to a building I never noticed, spent with a person whose name I will never know, and who likely has already forgotten that I was there.