Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Naming of Parts

I've considered myself single since Christmas of last year, though in truth I wasn't officially divorced until yesterday. After months of planning, fretting, and arguing, we sat before a judge who declared my marriage over--confirming the status that we had assigned to it months ago. My now ex-wife cried. My ex-mother-in-law cried. Even the judge cried, having to stop at one point and compose himself, wiping away the tears that had begun to form in the corners of his eyes. I sat there stoically, just waiting for it to be over. And as I waited, I couldn't help but think about the proceedings in relation to my wedding ceremony four years previous. We spent a year planning the wedding and then on the day of the ceremony, we waited nervously and anxiously for the evening to come, time dragging by, and when it did, it was all over in a matter of minutes-- twenty, maybe thirty. And yesterday's proceedings didn't last much longer. We spent more time waiting in the lobby than we did before the judge.

 And then it was over.

I'm writing this not to evoke sympathy or even to vent, but to put forth this idea: where do I go from here? I had dinner with a friend from high school who is also recently divorced. We've had numerous conversations about the turns our lives have taken and what those changes mean for our futures, the extent to which the decisions we've made and the circumstances under which we've found ourselves (whether by fate or our own doing) define us. Over dinner a couple weeks ago, we discussed what terms we now use to define the various aspects of our lives. For example, take the subject of dating: are the terms boyfriend and girlfriend applicable to the lives of people in our situation. (side note: we're not dating.) I have a friend who is nearing fifty; he's lived with the same woman, a woman to whom he is not married, for as long as I've known him--nearly seven or eight years. He refers to her as his girlfriend. I have another friend who is around the same age. She lives with a man to whom she is not married, and yet she and I discussed this subject and she seemed to think that the term boyfriend was not an applicable term, as it seemed to be indicative of an earlier age, of youth. She didn't have an answer.

Nor could my friend and I reach a conclusion of how to define the relationships in our lives. She has a boyfriend, and they use the terms boyfriend and girlfriend, but there seems to be an uncertainty in the terms when she uses them. Perhaps that uncertainty will fade in time, but that leads me to ponder the terms I'll use in my life. And this uncertainty started even before I thought about moving on. I would catch myself being uncertain over the past few months as to what terms I should use when discussing my now ex-wife: call her by name? continue to refer to her as my wife? start calling her my ex-wife even though we were still technically married? I found that I would alternate among the three. My choice was dictated in part by my audience, I suppose, but I still found that I was never truly satisfied with any term I used.

Which leads me to the future: boyfriend and girlfriend? mate? partner?
I don't have an answer. Nor do I know what comes next for me. I hope to make it to California after the school year ends, as I won't be teaching this summer. Maybe Hawaii. I have family in both places. Maybe NYC. I've wanted to go back for years. But who knows whether I'll make it to any of them. I tend to live in my dreams far more than in real life. Well, I used to, that is. With new chapters come new resolutions, and new attempts at making sense of and defining the world around us and our place in it. I don't have all the answers, I don't know what it all means or how to name the parts that make it all up, but I do know one new word that rings true in my life: free.

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