Divorce is a cruel and impartial vivisectionist. In this way it is much like death, the death of someone you love. In CS Lewis’ understated and underrated work, “A Grief Observed” he reflects on the death of his wife, Joy, with these words:
Oh, God, God, why did you take such trouble to force this creature out of its shell, if it’s now doomed to crawl back to be sucked back into it. Where is God? What pitiable can’t to say, “She will live forever in my memory.” Live! That is exactly what she won’t do. What’s left? A corpse, a memory, a ghost. Three more ways of spelling the word ‘dead’!
Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand. The conclusion is not “So there’s no God, after all” but “So this is what God is really like, the Cosmic Sadist. The spiteful imbecile?”
I don’t care so much anymore what people believe. I care a lot about what we – individually and collectively – do.
One of the ugliest things we do is demand of others that they be happy, stay cheerful or just “keep the faith” amidst the sometimes unspeakable sorrows in life. Like the friends that Lewis is preemptively swatting away, we too often call this kind of happy bullshit, “consolation.”
Unlike Lewis – an adult convert – I come from the world of Christianity. I have been saturated in it and the plethora of conflicting worldviews therein all of my life. And I am not (yet) that far removed. In that world we tend to offer the happy bullshit consolation, coupled with trite explanations for suffering, quite often. We are – by and large – fans of Proverbs and not Job.
Since my wife and I split up I have been on the receiving end of a lot of this kind of tomfoolery. My dad thinks I would have a car by now and not be sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a strange house if I would only ‘do the right thing’ and ‘get my faith back.’
Sorry dad, I am more interested in doing good than believing right. This is what I have been doing since my world crashed. Writing. A shit-ton of writing. I have confessed and lamented my own misogynist tendencies after one of our last marital counseling sessions. I have wept aloud, raged and protested in bitter anger the divorce, my wife, and a whole host of shadows, ghosts, memories of others who have hurt me. But she never meant to hurt me. Nor I her. It is what happens in life when you stop communicating. Sometimes it really is too late. But I have also rediscovered my empathy. I loved her. I suppose I always will, in some way. She is the mother of my children. And I do certainly hope the best for her.
I am sure as I learn and grow, I will return to this subject matter again and again over the years. But right now I have to do something that Christianity always taught me was wrong to do: I have to learn to love myself. Divorce is a cruel and impartial vivisectionist. I am exposed, open, every nerve is raw. I feel like I have been experimented upon by god, or the universe. But I am still alive. And I plan to keep it that way. I plan to keep healing; keep growing. It is all I can do. Because I am not happy. I am not okay. But I want to be. I deserve to be. I will never be all “put together.” That is fine. But this experimented upon animal was intended to fly. Life has tried to clip my wings again and again. But I am still gearing up to take flight. I intend to soar. I hope you can see the determination in my eyes.