“I want a divorce.”
I still remember saying that. I still remember thinking that I had been betrayed so deeply, and that I was in the right. I was the hero of my own life- the one trying to do right, beset on all sides by those enemies known as depression, exhaustion from work, and a wife that had contempt for me. She was the villain.
I kept believing that… for months and months and months, I believed it. I gave what effort I could, and a steady love, to be repaid by someone who would not sleep in the same bed as I, who wouldn’t talk to me, and who would flirt with another man behind my back. I was so justified. I was so certain. I just KNEW that I was making the sacrifices for “us” that needed to be made, and was finally standing up for myself by saying it out loud.
”I want a divorce.”
I was the hero of my story, and I would fight this battle of justice. I’ll pack up your things and ship them to you whenever I feel like it… I’m not the one who left. It’s not my problem. It’s no rush for me. I’ve worked hard enough for you already, why try anymore?
In Greek plays, there are two common terms that folks learn: Anagnorisis and Peripeteia.
Anagnorisis is the realization of the truth; or the removal of ignorance.
Peripeteia is the “reversal” of a situation, such as the plot in a story.
Last night I had my own version of those two terms.
After starting to focus on the packing of her belongings, I came across school notebooks from previous semesters. “I’ll for sure toss these, as they’re old” I thought, “but there might be something she needs in one.” As I shuffled through them, I marveled at her copious notes (one of the things I absolutely loved about her). The detailed lists, different colors, and the ability to make a simple list into an elegant one. One notebook down. Two. Three. Four. Fiiiiiiiiiii…..wait. There’s something at the back of this one. A journal entry. I nonchalantly scan it at first, but then have to double-back, and am drawn to every word.
She was hurting. She felt alone.
“What was that date?” Oh… a year ago. “Has she been feeling that way for a YEAR?!?!”
I grab the previous notebooks, and start flipping to the back. They also have entries.
She’s worried about me. She’s disappointed in me.
Another tells of speaking to me about things, and my not caring.
“I remember that conversation!” I exclaim aloud to an empty apartment. “That was…right before she….”
She lost interest in me and looked elsewhere. She spiraled down into depression. She stopped sleeping in our bed. She stopped wanting to be around me.
I frantically look for more writing, trying to piece together timelines and conversations we had, trying to think back to what was happening… trying to gather information to make sense of it all. Anagnorisis hit me like a baseball bat to the face.
She was in hell for over a year, and I had put her there. She was desperately trying to continue to love a man who seemingly didn’t love her and support her back. Who’s words were empty and untrustworthy. Who had become lazy, uncaring, unwilling to change, and worthy of nothing but contempt.
Oh. My. God.
I’m the villain.
Thinking back to the previous two years, I can tell you that I worked hard – but in the wrong things. I put so much effort into my effort at my job, that I had none left for her (or our dog). I carried that stress home with me. I was promoted 4 times, going from barely above minimum wage to a comfortable salary. But all of that work… for what? To lose my soul? To lose my love?
That was the bargain I had unwittingly made. My mind at the time thought “I’m doing this for us.”, but in reality, all my wife wanted was for me to actually be there for her.
I can’t imagine what she must have felt – to go through her own mental issues, and to feel like she couldn’t rely on the one person who swore he’d love, support, and protect her. Through my daily exhaustion and laziness, I’d left her stranded with no support, and then blamed her for it. She tried to love me, wanting to make it work… and got nothing of substance in return. What she got was failed attempts to improve (by me), which could be seen as simply empty promises. Over and over and over again, she wanted to be with me…. and got nothing.
Oh my God, I’m a monster.
Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh dear God what have I done.
I ran. For the first time in months, I sprinted until I was exhausted, and then sprinted some more. I slapped the shit out of a sign along a running trail, turned around, and sprinted some more. I was literally gasping for air, trying to keep myself together.
I couldn’t. I broke into a thousand pieces.
I cried. I’ve cried more in the past 24 hours than I have in the past year. I’ve sobbed uncontrollably. I’ve yelled at the heavens. I’ve whimpered into a pillow. I tried to work, and ended up in tears there, too.
I’m in the middle of my own tragedy. Anagnorisis, peripeteia, and me.
I am not the hero; I have been the villain.
I have lost the one I love. I have lost everything.
I am lost.