EXT: FARMER'S MARKET, LOS ANGELES: I had breakfast with my Ex-Husband on Monday. We don't know what to call each other. We are still married. I'm not sure why, but we are. We see each other infrequently, but we talk every day, and he is, to be honest, still my best friend. He introduced me to someone as "the mother of my children and my current wife" but that's not entirely true. I have to find a better word. There must be a better word. In his honor I ordered huevos divorciados. I chortled at the joke. He didn't notice. He stuck with rancheros. And all the way to breakfast I'd felt excited, as if there was something magical in this meeting, that I'd maybe I'd been wrong all along, and that he was lovely and I was lovely and it was all a big misunderstanding. Five minutes in I remembered why we couldn't live together. Tears were pouring down my face in the middle of the Farmer's Market (not enough tears apparently to prevent me from gulping down my divorced eggs and their two delicious salsas) and I remembered the pain that only someone who has known you most of your life can inflict, unwittingly. When he's really mad at me his eyes blink rapidly. But breakfast finished with my face only slightly red, my nose only slightly swollen, and I saw how bad he felt, not just for making me cry, but for all of it, for the years and years and years we spent together where we couldn't quite get it right, for being children together, for raising each other, for our co-dependence we couldn't shed, all of it. He struggles. I struggle. The children struggle. But we love, too, over divorced eggs and warm tortillas and "a bunch of fucking tourists you'll never see again" (his quote when I complained about crying in public).
For over a year there was anxiety: when was he (London boyfriend) going to call, when was I going to see him, would he keep his word, would he return the text, would he say good night, was he having a bad day, did he in fact love me as he said he did, was he going to miss another plane. It was constant. It was constant and I think I thought that I enjoyed it. I loved him. I loved him because he was brilliant and kind and funny and unpredictable and completely off his tree. And I thought that I would be able to change him. I thought that by loving him, everything would transform for him. I thought that the brilliant sunshine I brought to his life (and I am, I promise being ironic) would illuminate his days and we'd live happily ever after.
You see, the damage we dispensed to each other was beyond anything I imagined two human beings could do. I don't think it was intentional, but it felt like it, and so everything became miserable. Every time we spoke. Every interaction. Even seeing his name, or a letter he'd written me, a present from him, set me off into such a state of anxiety, I could hardly function. I didn't sleep. The sunny way I saw the world became dark and bleak. I was like an addict. Maybe I was an addict. "You're in a bad relationship" said my friends, all of them, at different times. "It's toxic" they said. But like my sweet Frenchie who won't let go of a toy she loves, and you have to wrest it from her grip and her strong, puffy jaws, I wouldn't, couldn't let go. 27 years of one relationship went pear-shaped. And then I was dancing and being read poems and walking through London at midnight and I was loved and fed smoked fish and flat whites and my hand was held constantly and I was told I was beautiful (and that hadn't happened for a long, long time) so you see, it was very hard to give up.
"You're worth more than table scraps" said a friend and I wondered what that meant. Because after no food, table scraps taste pretty good.
My mother said something quite telling the other day. She said "you can't keep asking about someone if there isn't happy news." And I think that is how we are programmed, to fill our lives with happy news. I do it without thinking about it. But one thing that John (my husband) taught me was that being in it, living with it, being in the pain, and feeling it, and allowing it to cover you, knowing, with faith, that it will go, that it will dissipate, is important. Maybe that is the healing, to just be with it, without judgement. Maybe that's what I have to learn to be comfortable with. My mother also said "he will make you unhappy for the rest of your life if you let him." It was that advice that allowed me to let go.
And so now, when I walk in the mornings, early, with the dogs, and marvel at the flowers that have grown overnight, and watch the hawks, the crows nesting, the little band of wild parrots that flies over the canyon, the cucumber vine with the spiky chartreuse fruit, that people hate and I love for its persistence, I have back a sense of wonder that I'd lost in the fraught, hard-scrabble world of trying to make a man love me when he didn't know how.
It's all here. It's in the trees and the grass and the birds. It's in the sky that makes theatre every morning and every evening, without fail. It's in the constant knowledge that the sun will rise and that there will be a new day, a new way to start, and way to make amends for the crappy job you did of yesterday, and that today there is a cup of tea, a joke, a book, work, a warm bed, some furry friends.
"Oh, to throw my arms round the neck of a creature, dog or man, a creature who loves me!" -- Colette
I'll stick with dogs for now. Ok?
Here's the Velvet Underground: