I really don’t want this blog to become ‘The Divorce Chronicles’ (the term conscious uncoupling has been sacked for being beyond irritating in daily discourse).
I want to be able to still lose myself for two hours, as I did yesterday, ruminating on the word ‘serendipity’ expressly for the purpose of entertaining you. And me.
Today I wanted to write about Trump and The Mooch, about the EU border chaos, about Piers Morgan pissing off to LA and being replaced by that even slimier reptile, Jeremy Kyle.
But today is one of those days where I can’t entertain myself or you. And whilst that feels very familiar to a depressive mentalist like me, I know this is different. I’m not unwell (at least, not YET) but I’m clearly not alright either.
I realise I’m far from being the first to articulate this, but the separation biz is, in so many ways, incredibly like being bereaved.
The key similarity is that thing where you’re fine-fine-fine for a time and then BAM; a single memory pops up or someone says something or you smell something and you suddenly can’t get up off the floor (which, depending on the floor, is not a wholly awful place to have a lie down. Eg your front room carpet – if it’s hoovered – can be pleasingly acceptable, but a pavement on the high street would be an uncomfortable mistake).
Take last night. It started out fine. Gwyneth and I sat down to eat dinner together like the emotionally intelligent adults we (try and mostly fail) to be. He told me about his day and I told him about mine, like we always do. I talked about the new play I’m writing and about how youngest skipped into his holiday club full of unusual confidence. It was all fine.
Then I told him about the brilliant chat I’d had with my sister on the phone; how she’d reminded me that I’m stronger than I think, how all my dreams might still come true, how I must remember that I am NOT our mother and that I can deal with this change and be happy.
And then I looked up from my plate to see Gwyneth’s eyes leaking as he said, “I’m never going to see your sister again, am I?”
I filled the teary gap with assurances that OF COURSE he’ll still see my family if he wants to and there’ll be loads of family occasions where we’ll both be there. But both of us knew. It can never be the same. Nothing is ever going to be the same.
Then we were fine again for a bit. He worked. I dicked about on facebook having amusing exchanges with friends, until youngest appeared to give us a crucial update on the imminent falling-out of his first wobbly tooth. This required both Gwyneth and I to have a good wiggle and announce it will surely be out by morning.
The unspoken agony of this: that perhaps by the next tooth, we won’t both be there to inspect and wiggle; that the next tooth will be left under his pillow at either his dad’s house OR his mum’s.
That sent me straight to bed where I indulged in the now routine performance of sobbing-into-a-pillow-until-your-stomach-aches which is always followed by a night of interrupted sleep and dreams where I am either trying to break out of jail or my mum turns up and I repeatedly scream in her face that she’s DEAD.
All good, healthy, restful behaviour.
So I entered today at 5am with coffee and a fag and the attempt to shut-up the night and crack on. Which this morning meant seeing a dentist because a prominent tooth has fallen out (YES I DO FEEL IT’S SIGNIFICANT) and I can’t have meetings with lettings agents and landlords whilst looking like Grotbags the witch.
The dentist experience was fine-fine-fine until I got to the reception desk to pay and realised this is yet another thing I’m going to need to take over the funding of somehow.
My teeth will die. My gums will blacken. I WILL BECOME GROTBAGS…
The widely agreed five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They all apply to separation too. We’ve already been boinging between those first three stages for longer than we should have, exhausting each other with denial, anger and what-if’s which made us both an absolute pleasure to live with.
I refuse to contemplate the fourth stage; depression is surely NOT inevitable. Yet stage five, acceptance, feels very far away.
Experts say it takes an estimated one year to recover for every ten years you were together. So it’ll be two years before we fully accept our marriage is over and I can accept that it’ll be some time before we can accept this acceptance.
But there’s one crucial difference between separation and grief: we are CHOOSING to put ourselves through this heartbreak. And we are choosing it because despite all the BAMS and the baby-teeth, we believe that out on the other side, our hearts could be stronger than ever.
For a while, Gwyneth will still need me to remind him when the tooth fairy needs to fly by.
For a while, I will still need Gwyneth to help me pay to keep my imperfect smile.
After a while is a while away yet…