Time heals

Three and a half years ago, I had my wisdom teeth out. I was meant to be the first patient to be operated on that day, but ended up being the last. Three teeth came out fine, but the fourth was trickier. The nerve was damaged, leaving the right side of my lower jaw numb. My dentist assured me it was temporary, and the nerve would grow back, but three years later I still can’t feel that side of my chin – I’m always embarrassing myself because I can’t feel when I’ve spilled food there – and after some recent dental work, there’s a constant throbbing that sometimes blooms into low level agony.

Time clearly doesn’t heal all wounds.

What is there to be written now that has not been written already? I met my ex-husband in October 1999 and agreed to get divorced on the last day of September ten years later. On November 6 2009, the divorce was official, and I have spent the past four years putting my life back together again, blogging about much of it along the way.

At one point, a friend proposed an ex-husband jar, the equivalent of a swear jar which I would pay into every time I mentioned him. But gradually, little by little, I am letting him go, and my feelings about the whole thing are abraded by the passage of days, and months, and years.

And then he sends me a Christmas card, one showing him and his wife and sons in Father Christmas hats, and we’re back to square one. I posted it to Facebook. 29 comments and one “why do you post this sort of thing?” later, I took it down.

It is interesting to see how people react, what they assume. Because divorce is a taking of sides. It is tribal. So people assume that they must take my side, and say rude things about him and his family, and that wasn’t the point at all, though I understand why they might think that. They assume that I am still in love with him, or he is in love with me. They assume that I am bitter about the fact that the marriage is over. They assume that I am angry because he has found happiness and I have not, and that he is the cause of my unhappiness.

It is, of course, so much more complicated than that.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful that the marriage is over, though I have stopped being reminded of him quite as much as I used to. What I regret is that I ever met him in the first place, because the second law of thermodynamics, time’s arrow, holds that what is done cannot be undone.

I don’t want to say: “He damaged me.” That sounds far too passive. I was not so malleable. I’d rather say that I changed as a result of my marriage and divorce, and that change was not good, and that it can’t be reversed.

I keep thinking that one day I will wake up and be normal, that Sarah will emerge on the other side of the valley of darkness and be full of fabulously witty throwaway lines and bonhomie. That she will be successful and bubbly, a closer approximation of the image that others apparently have of her.

But it never happens.

I cannot be in a relationship again, certainly not one that I can be sure won’t become toxic. This year I broke my own rules, and allowed someone past my defences, and it cost me, literally. I know that I attract men who wish to take advantage of me, no matter how nice they seem, and the only way I can prevent that is to keep to myself.

I will always be exceptionally vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life. Most people maintain what I call “the bubble of ok” that is required to be a functioning human being without having to think very much about it. I have to think about it, a lot. I have to work at it, because I know how easily it bursts, as it did this morning.

I have become impossibly cynical. Cynicism is not good, but this is about survival.

Most importantly, I haven’t laughed in four years. Not the kind of rollicking, stomach ach-inducing, hilarity I used to take for granted. I go to comedies and my companions hoot helplessly while I can barely raise a chuckle. This is how I know I’ve lost a part of myself and it won’t grow back.

We both came out on the other side of this. In his drawing attention to his happiness, he reminds me of how my own is now impossible, and I would be lying if I said I did not resent him for that.

The pain was meant to go away. They told me it would. But it is still there, keeping me awake, deep into the night.


2 thoughts on “Time heals

  1. PM

    Well…I suppose that I wouldn’t be so sure that he really has moved past your (mutual) divorce. There is no reason for him to casually send you that card, right? So why did he do it?

    Look, I’ve done the divorce thing, as have lots of people i know. For many people, while you can not “win” a divorce, you can “win” afterwards. Perhaps he wants you to think that he is happy. After all, if he is happy now (with you out of his life), and you are still unhappy (with him out of your life), then maybe your unhappiness has nothing to do with him–and, possibly, everything to do with the divorce.

    I am NOT saying that this is any reflection of reality, but perhaps it is something that he is trying to assert via the card. If so, then he most certainly has not moved on–he is still arguing with you, but in a more subtle fashion.

    While there really is no way for you to ignore him (or the card) on an emotional level, you clearly know (intellectually, at least) that you are becoming more and more free of him. Just as time eventually heals all wounds, so it also wounds all heels. I doubt he is as happy as he appears.

  2. hyj

    I’ve been following you on twitter for a few months now and feel like I’ve gotten to know you. You’re a remarkable woman Ms Britten – a remarkable writer, artist and, I’m sure, advertiser. I hope you can chin up and continue being these.

    While I’m too young to be wise about these things, it is probably easy to fall to cynicism after facing one unexpected setback too many. But I’m sure time will continue to heal. I also hope you prove yourself wrong about men and your relationship with them. I really do.

    Most everyone I know is fighting their own tough battles in life. Your ex-husband most likely is too. Just different ones.

    Keep the posts and tweets coming!


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