Sunday, May 15, 2011

The End of An Era

Isn't it funny how you can re-read posts from your own life and yet not identify with them at all?  I think that's how I feel about the last two posts certainly.  Can that possibly have been me?  Did I really feel that angry?

Life has moved on.  And about bloody time.

The past three months have been eventful.  The half term visit seems like a life time ago.  I like to think that I carried myself with my usual dignity...whilst inside I was simply seething at rage over the matching Mr and Mrs luggage that was parked unceremoniously in my kitchen.  Funny how it's the silliest things, the most banal evidence of his relationship with another woman, that hits me the hardest.

But here's the thing that really annoyed me the most...AG arrived in my house, after an 8 hour transatlantic flight, at 8am in the morning and fresh as a daisy.  Her make up was perfect, her skin flawless, her teeth shiny.  How did she do that?  Is that purely an advantage of youth, which I never fully appreciated at the time?  Not fair.  I had merely to step out of bed and walk 15 steps down the stairs to the kitchen and I looked more exhausted than she did.

The boys scampered around AG, holding her hand and dragging her to each room of the house.  I smiled wanly through gritted teeth and tried to avoid an inane conversation with Ex as we waited at the foot of the stairs.  I finally managed to drag my own suitcase out of the house and decamp to my friend's, before swanning off to Stockholm to visit a friend for a few days.  The change of scenery did me the world of good - it started to dawn on me that I need to seize these opportunities to grab life by the scruff of the neck and do my own thing, so I can stop being so fixated on the comparative lives of others.

Once home again I impulsively joined a gym, signed up for 3 months of eHarmony, started Ceroc dancing lessons twice a week, satisfied my inner Torvil and Dean by learning to ice skate, joined a local Rock Choir and also began to officially volunteer at the boys school two days a week.  I also coordinated daily play dates for the boys and harangued mums that I particularly liked the look of to meet me for a coffee, so I could force my friendship upon them.

It was all a bit mad.  It was all a bit much.  After a couple of months the Rock Choir fell by the wayside and, as the weather has been so glorious, so has the ice skating.  But it succeeded in kick starting my life again, with an optimism and energy that I haven't felt for a long time.  I no longer felt in limbo - simply waiting to be in a position so my life could start again.  This was it.  I was galvanised into action and it felt fantastic.

At Easter I agreed to take the boys to Chicago, to visit their dad for a couple of weeks so that he could spend more time with them.  I was dreading the trip.  I had no compulsion whatsoever to revisit Chicago and return to the city where my life had taken such unexpected twists and turns.  I coordinated a hectic social calendar, arranging to see my friends as a distraction from being in the one place on earth that I really did not want to be.

Yet in the end, it was a much needed trip that laid many ghosts to rest.

I woke up the first few days, staying at my friend's beautiful loft apartment, gazing out at the sun coming up over the concrete jungle that is Chicago in the Spring, and my heart reflexively palpitated to a point where I felt constantly nauseous.  It was as though I had never left.  I felt a sense of panic that I hadn't felt for a long time in London.  I spoke to the boys daily and their tales were of people that I didn't even know - some of them AG's family - and I felt berefit that my children have a life that doesn't involve me at all.  It's an unnatural feeling.  I felt simply lost without them and my whole body ached to be around them again.  The fact that they were gaily going about their lives and I wasn't a part of it whatsoever, felt like a physical wound.

I felt more than a little bit lost and confused by the feelings of familiarity with my surroundings - I just wanted to pick holes in the city that had been my home for half my adult life, to re-convince myself I had done the right thing in moving away.

But I couldn't ignore how fantastic it was to see my friends.  These women who have meant the world to me over the past 2 years. The trip highlighted how much I missed them and how big the hole is in my life without them in it on a regular basis.  Women friends do that to you, don't they?  Family is critical, but friends?  They're the best.

On the last day of the trip two very unexpected things happened.  First, I got officially divorced.  Ex and I had been wrangling over one aspect of the agreement, which finally got resolved when I was in Chicago.  So on my final day in town I turned up at court with my lawyer, and Ex turned up with his, to get the divorce done and dusted by the judge.  I didn't want to go.  I can't tell you how much I really didn't want to go.  Feelings of panic re-emerged and the thought of having to face up to the reality of the divorce - with Ex by my side - made my skin feel as though it was on the verge of breaking out in pustulous hives.

Ultimately, like many things that I have dreaded and don't feel capable of facing head on, I was so grateful that we faced that rite of passage together.  That we both acknowledged the end of an era as a couple - almost our one last show of solidarity.  It was emotional.  It was poignant.  It was therapeutic.  It was closure.  After 2 hours of waiting in a court room, making small talk and both slightly on edge, we finally stood before the judge, with our lawyers between us, and listened as the end of our marriage was read aloud in legalese.  It felt quite momentous.  It felt tremendously sad.  It was incredibly official.

With my own blurry, tear filled vision, I watched Ex's eyes also well up with tears.  We looked at each other with sympathy and understanding.  And ultimately, although our lawyers tried to usher us out of the room separately, we drew together and walked out of the courtroom with our arms around each other, as we have comforted each other over the years, many times before.  Outside the courtroom Ex held me tight and refused to let go.  I could tell he was quietly crying.  I was quietly crying.  It was a mutual acknowledgement of our combined disappointment that the marriage, which we had set out on so optimistically over 12 years ago, had come to an end.

But not a bitter end actually, inspite of the past few months of angst and envy that I have felt.  Not a bitter end at all.

In fact I felt almost an instant release - a sense of calm and closure, mixed with pure exhaustion and an element of elation that I wouldn't have to wake up to stressful messages from my lawyer anytime soon.  A weight had been miraculously lifted.  The monkey on my back had ceased trying to strangle me with it's strange, strong feet-like hands.  I felt free.  I felt relieved.  I felt proud that, for the most part, I have conducted myself like the person I would most like to be, rather than following my primal instincts of destruction, retaliation and revenge.

And then I went out to get shit-faced.

Well, you know me - forever the dignified, sophisticated woman of the world.

Actually, the last thing that I felt like doing was going out that night.  My bags were packed and I had nothing to wear.  After such an unexpectedly eventful day, all I wanted to do was sleep.  But it was my last night in town and my amazing friends from Book Club were going out, so it seemed a little churlish not to join them.

Fast forward a couple of hours and we are bar hopping.  I am struggling to keep up with the alcohol consumption - my third drink is making my head spin and my stomach lurch.  This could get ugly...I think to myself, as I set my drink down.  The last thing I need is a hangover for the flight home with the boys and the subsequent jet lag we are going to be subjected to.

My friends are in fine form - raucous and slightly outrageous.  I feel so sad to be leaving.  I miss these opportunities to let my hair down - Chicago is such an easy town to socialise in (although on reflection I had been bored to tears by the bar scene in the 6 months previous).  My attention is focused on my girlfriends and our ongoing banter.  We are joking about some of the young men around us, as some of my friends are getting hit on.  There's no point in me engaging in flirtation at this point, so I watch my friends and soak up the energy around me.

As I am reviewing the people filling up this trendy bar on a Wednesday night, I spot a man across the room. Well, in all fairness, it's hard not to spot him.  He has to be at least 6ft5" tall, so is easily head and shoulders above everyone else there.  I nudge the friend next to me.  "Now THAT is the sort of man I totally like," I tell her, before we seamlessly return to our conversation.  It's getting late.  I feel drunk and tired and want to leave.  I am persuaded to stay for another half an hour at least, but know I will reap the consequences of this the next day.  Ugh.   The flight home.  I can't stand the thought of it.

Just as I am about to make my apologies and leave I get jostled from behind and turn to find the attractive tall man behind me.  We talk and he is funny and smart and, in a heartbeat, I am seriously regretting the fact that I am leaving the next day.  I instantly feel drawn to this stranger and completely at ease.  I haven't felt this for a very long time.  My whole body surges with energy and suddenly I don't want to go home at all.

Great timing Universe.  What on earth's the point of that, then?

Oh God, being smitten with an friends are going to KILL me.


  1. Wow what a trip! I'm sorry to hear about the divorce it must have been very hard but what doesn't kill you and all that. Finally closure did you sneak a kiss form the tall handsome American then???

  2. I love the description of your divorce. It sounds like a very cathartic experience. I'm sorry you had to go through it, but if you had to, that sounds like a very human way to do it. And your line at the end of that part was just brilliantly timed to make me laugh out loud. x

  3. Oh God! You've been busy haven't you? While it's great to hear your news I'm sorry that not all of it is good. I felt really sad at the end of my marriage too even though it was the best thing to do, it felt like a real failure.

    And what about the American? That's so typical to meet a man before you're about to leave the country. Maybe I should plan to do the same thing....

  4. WoB - no kisses (unfortunately) although maybe I will see him on our trip to Chicago in August. *sigh*

    MWA - hello! Glad I made you laugh. The reiteration of emotional times does just make me want to change tack and be inappropriate. Oh - and get drunk of course. x

    NotSupermum - I guess after 3 years of separation it actually doesn't feel so much like failure, now it is actually official. The American is gorgeous...but. He has a life in Chicago and many obligations. The last thing we both need is to make life unnecessarily complicated. Which is such a shame, because this is the first time I have felt this type of spark with someone since I met my Ex I guess.

  5. Oh I so wish my ex husband had shown some emotion towards me at the time of our divorce. It happening that way would have brought me closure in the way only 3 years of therapy managed.

  6. My strong beautiful friend....I knew you could do and you did. You went through all that hell and torment, but came out the other side, ready to grab your new life with gusto! xx

  7. Hi Nicola,

    it's good to see you back on track. I read you blog last year before I had my baby and only caught up fairly recently.
    I'm sorry that you had to go through this but I am glad that you are on the mend.
    As for american guy. It's good for morale to flirt. Flirt more and more and make yourself feel human again xx

  8. Awww, I am glad that this era is over for you but I felt yours and Ex's sadness. Still, it was great to have you and the boys back in Chicago if only for a little while. See you in the summer.

  9. Sounds like you handled everything with style and dignity. And you write about it so beautifully, as always. I'm raising a glass to your shiny bright future xx.

  10. Gripped to every are one brave girl... and so love the way you write. One moment all dignified and the next 'shit faced'!! Brilliant. Likewise geeky mummy, here's to your shiny bright future too. xx

  11. I'm in awe Nicola, not only of your spirit and fortitude, but of the way you write about it. x

  12. I'm glad to hear the divorce is finally over - it must be a huge relief. And you sound really positive and as if you are really starting to move on. As for the 6ft 5 American - good for you!!

  13. I'm torn between applause and the urge to hug you, which makes my hands and arms feel very busy all of the sudden. What do I do, virtually embrace you and just pound on your virtual back really hard?

    Sure, let's say that's what I'm doing.

    I've been hoping, so hard, in all this time of silence, that you would reach that next point of clarity, where healing could truly begin. It sounds like you reached it, and I'm so very very happy for you.

    Bravo, my friend.

  14. Me too, so very happy that you've come through it all and you're ok. You ARE my role model. Hugs


  15. Kellogsville - I know, It was almost a 'nice' moment. I did feel that our lawyers were standing there thinking "and why are these people getting divorced exactly?"...but I just had to let those thoughts go and accept it and I no longer feel as screwed up about him as I did. Most odd

    Lulu - thank you for being there with me every step of the way with understanding and support. I appreciate it so much. Couldn't have done it without you x

    DC - Thank you! The whole american guy thing is so irritating! The only other guy I have fancied/flirted with since being home is from NZ and leaving London to live back there permanently in June. Boy, I sure know how to pick em.

    Expat mum - hey - see you at Cybermummy first my love! x

    geekymummy - thank you love - Maybe one day we will raise a glass together again?

    Ladybird World Mother - God, I am always so grateful to get a compliment on my writing. Thank you! Such kind words

    Potty Mummy - Hello love, thank you, that means so much from a woman that I admire so much, in so many ways.

    NVG - yes, my problem is that thing can just never move quickly enough for me. I guess the whole American guy thing is a sign that one day I will meet someone and that will be it...that my life could change in an instant if I am open to it. And yes, I am now ready for it.

    Teacher mommy - I love you - thanks xx

    Jo Blue - I love you too, thanks for being there x

  16. Just found you today and now reading your archives is going to take forever I can tell ;)
    A tall dark handsome no more a stranger, timing sucks but hey, I hear phone sex is all the rage if you are not old like me!

  17. Wow, that's a huge chapter of your life you've caught us up with. Lots of new beginnings and lots of closure. Wow.

    Women friends are the best, I agree.

  18. Anonymous15 June, 2011

    Wow, what a great post. My eyes teared up when you wrote about the final divorce moment but I was so relieved and pleased at the optimism overall.

    I hope it doesn't sound too wrong/cheesy/patronising to say 'well done you'. If I found myself in a similar situation, it's how I would want things to turn out.

    All the very best for the future and thank you for showing that unhapy phases in one's life can, eventually, pass. I need to know it. Thank you.