Things I Lost in the Fire

It’s been almost two years since my marriage ended. Possibly longer since I wrote anything of value. Or wrote at all. I’m caught in a strange grieving process that doesn’t seem to have an end. The grief comes and goes. Some days are good days: I find myself busy and productive and life feels light. I feel healed, almost. Then the grief hits me out of nowhere. A smell, a place, a memory evoked and I’m back on the couch, split into pieces.

Today it was family. By family, I don’t mean the annoying relatives you see once a year at Christmas, with their noisy kids with their electronic toys beeping incessantly until you think you’ll go mad. Family is that. And it isn’t. In a way, family is about identity. It’s about not being invisible even when you feel most alone. Most people I know have that sort of family. Brothers and sisters and cousins they’ve known since the year dot and who know them, with all their foibles and faults. People they can turn to in a crisis.

I have a brother. He lives in another country. Two countries, actually, and neither of them is here. Sometimes he WhatsApps me to see how I am. Our exchanges are brief. He’s not much of a WhatsApp conversationalist. My brother has no children, which means I have no nieces or nephews. I have a few cousins scattered here and there, in different cities across the globe. We’re not close. We barely connect at all. I have my mother and my daughter, like the archetypal trio of women, maiden, mother and crone (sorry Mom).

Which means I am jealous. Of friends when they meet up with their siblings for lunch. Of sisters who fly off together to look after their aging parents after a fall. Of that connection you can’t have with anybody but the ones who squabbled with you in the car on the way to Durban, or where ever your family went on holiday. A long history of love that binds.

I was married for eighteen years and I thought I had a family. They were my family by marriage, but still, they felt like my family. They unfriended me on Facebook when my marriage ended. Ouch, you’re thinking. Ouch doesn’t begin to describe it. My mother didn’t do that to my ex. Excommunicate him from her life. There was a part of me that wanted her to, to exact a kind of revenge, but a bigger part of me was proud of her that she has such integrity, such kindness in her soul, that she wouldn’t do that to someone she had loved as her family for so many years.

Friends too. I had a circle of friends, a tribe I considered to be my chosen family, because my blood family is so small. They replaced siblings and cousins and rendered me visible. Divorce has multiple tentacles, it reaches into crevices in your life you think are safe spaces, and tears them up like a traffic fine. The tribe feels fractured now. Some couldn’t stand to be around me when I was going through the worst of it, because I went a little crazy. One, who felt like a brother to me, betrayed twenty years of friendship. That sucked. I’m hoping time will heal the fractures, but right now, I feel adrift from them. Lost.

I thought, after two years, my life would be full again. I thought, after two years, the grief would abate. Neither of those things has happened. When I was a kid, my mother used to say, “You know what thought did? Planted an egg and thought a chicken would grow.” Sometimes my post-divorce life feels like that egg, but the weird thing is, the egg is slowly growing. I am beginning to make new friends, find a new tribe. My life is not yet full, but perhaps one day…

What do you think?

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