On Thursday I retained my lawyer and experienced first-hand how one tallies a life. My husband and I have been married eight years, an entire lifetime shared, the result of which are three young, beautiful people. Simple math tells me our marriage represents 30 birthdays, 8 anniversaries, three pregnancies, three births, two apartments, two houses, over 150 Christmas cards, one car accident, three surgeries, two therapists, and now, one divorce decree.
And as I sat at the long lacquered table answering my lawyer’s questions, I couldn’t help but wonder how you divvy out a life. Could we really calculate all the spiritual debts and assets that have accrued within that time? Could we tally what’s yours and mine and theirs without ripping, unnaturally, at the center of our lives? As my lawyer applied this surreal formula of delineation I anticipated years of emotional hemorrhaging for all of us. This moment, drawing the lines and boundaries between us, preparing a chart of alternating holidays, determining percentages of responsibility, was the lesser of two evils.
If you’ve seen Indian Jones and the Last Crusade you probably remember the scene where Indiana is to walk across a gapping chasm to reach the Holy Grail. He’s instructed to walk the chasm by faith. I’m certain that doing such a thing would weight your heart with a cold fear, because how could you see such impossibility before you and ever expect to achieve solid footing again? I’m certain because as I sat in my lawyer’s office that day, my heart was a frozen anchor of fear.
I believe in marriage and always have. Divorce was never in the plan and for years, three exactly, I struggled against the idea. I perceived divorce, like a character in Wonder Boys, “as the first refuge for the weak in character and the last of the hopelessly incompetent.” It took no less than a whisper from God to assure me that what I saw as death would be a better path, not necessarily now, but years into the future. And while I’m sure there are some who see divorce as a lack of faith, for me it has been a faith-filled journey, one-step over a darkened chasm.
So as I type to what seems to be a never-ending pulse of pain, I allow myself to answer it with tears; they honor this marriage that will soon be over. It wasn’t a mistake, because the three beauties of my life were born within its bounds. And while I’m not sure how I would define it, I do know that regardless of what the divorce decree may say, five lives are forever held together by one fine gossamer strand, and that will always remain.