Originally appeared on soulfirewoman.com
The dreaded encounter with my EX, the one every divorced, separated, dumped gal fears. I’ve sat opposite many broken hearts as a psychotherapist, and inevitably, the same familiar laments are aired:
What if I bump into him?
What if he’s with his girlfriend?
What if I start crying or spew vitriol and anger at him?
What will I say? What if I still care? Will it break my heart all over again? I can’t; I just can’t do it!
It’s been many, many years since I split with my ex-husband. Other than Facebook, I have not seen him, and other than a few emails, mostly about money, have not communicated with him. I live several states away, which makes it improbable that I’ll just “bump into him.” We don’t share custody of young children, making it even more doable.
We do share an adult daughter who lives on the same property as he does, in a separate building–The Barn, we call it. It was modeled after a 200-year-old structure previously on the site. It sits a mere 30 feet away from the back door of the house I called home for 25 years, The Big House.
I am invited to stay with my daughter when He is out of town. But I visit on Christmas Eve when it can’t be helped that He is in the Big House, waiting to share Christmas morning with our daughter. On those nights, I have many times thought of walking over to the house and announcing my presence, usually after a couple of glasses of wine. My daughter stops me, asking me just not to do it. So, I don’t.
I have talked with her about it on other occasions, mostly when I am feeling particularly merciful, when I haven’t been triggered by yet another action taken personally and perceived as hurtful. She continues to discourage me. I feel like she is protecting me on some level. It gives me permission to put it off yet again.
One of these Christmas Eves, his girlfriend and I managed to be in the driveway at the same time. Neither said a word. This was deliberate on my part. I thought I should really break the ice with him, not her. That would be letting him off the hook. No way. I saw her peering from the kitchen window throughout the evening. This arrangement has been difficult over the years as my attachment to Home took some time to undo and not think of as Mine.
Now our daughter is getting married and the inevitable encounter is looming. Like my clients, I envision what this encounter will be like, a casual civil lunch together that almost always ends in a disagreement. I hear every word He says and imagine every eye gesture and movement of his body. I put it off some more. A flotilla of years gone by with no action. No movement on either part.
My Ex is out-of-town. It’s my daughter’s birthday, and there are some essential wedding planning details to take care of on this particular weekend. I make the long drive from North Carolina to Pennsylvania listening to a book on tape, which I am not completely sure is the best thing for me. On one hand, it makes the trip go faster. I zoom through construction buffeted by large tractor trailers and cement blocks with nary a care. Otherwise, I would have been white knuckling it and be major league stressed. My attention is more focused on the story, though, than the road. All is well. I make it A-okay.
We need to get up and out early our first morning together, my daughter, her fiancé and I, to meet up with his family for a special wedding shopping trip in northern New Jersey. She bops over to the Big House for a shower while fiancé takes a shower downstairs. I start to feel that uncomfortable cramping in my abdomen, patiently waiting for the bathroom to vacate. The cramping intensifies. I need a bathroom NOW.
I bebop over to the Big House since the Ex is away, to use the bathroom there. My hand is on the doorknob, which I push down and in on as the door starts to open. My daughter and her dog are standing there in the kitchen. She moves slightly. There He is standing right in the middle of the kitchen.
“Dad’s Home,” she says.
I’m halfway in the door by now, cursing myself for not noticing the car in the driveway, hidden by another car. Too late to retreat. He stands there frozen. In a split second, another person slips into my body, an Angel, I think, a walk-in as my friend calls it. I smile like I’ve seen an old friend. After all, I do need to use this man’s bathroom. I say hello, walk over and give him a hug. I ask how he’s been. Good, he says, and You? Good Good, I say. The house looks great, I say. This is how I really knew someone else was filling in for me. I didn’t really believe that. It just fell out of my mouth. I dropped in, I say, to use the bathroom and the one in the Barn is occupied. Oh, go right ahead, he says.
I run around the corner. I meant it when I said I really needed a bathroom. Explosion. There I am seeing my Ex for the first time in years, and I have diarrhea. The smell is choking even me. I have no control over the noises being emitted. The bathroom is in his office. It shares a wall with the kitchen. I remember the quirks of the house, like every time you pull on the toilet paper roll, you hear the squeak in the kitchen. I try to hold on with both hands to muffle the sound. My mind starts racing. I feel embarrassed, mortified. I imagine him coming around the corner, inhaling, wrinkling his nose, and saying Dammit, my Ex-wife keeps SH**TING on me. I try not to use all of the toilet paper.
I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I sheepishly say my goodbyes and hope he goes to the living room where I hear the TV and not his office. Admittedly, I wonder to myself, if after 25 years of marriage, you remember each other’s smells or if those fade with time too.
As my daughter, her dog and I walk back to the barn, I share my embarrassment. We both start laughing.
Like I always say to my clients, these encounters are never as you imagine them to be. You may even surprise yourself, I say. You will definitely not feel the way you think you will feel. At the very best, it could very well bring you closure.
My daughter laughs, “Well, mom,” she says, “You left all of your SH*T behind you. Time to let it go and move on.”
No wiser words have been spoken. We laugh some more. I truly released it all, I say to myself. Completely cleansed. Divine timing. Confirmation again that the Universe has my Back.
No SH**TING; No Kidding, I mean!
And Reader, wouldn’t you know? A few days later I received an email from my EX apologizing for startling me and thanking me for the hug versus any other of the many options. Mercifully, thankfully, no mention of the above. Balance has once again been restored.