I am a bitter, vindictive bitch. And everybody knows it. "Says who?" Says my ex-husband Richard Cranium (we call him RC for short.) And he's right. Divorce has taught me a lot about myself, and I admit to being bitter. I admit to missing my split-plan suburban home and book club and goldfish pond and "Howdy neighbor!" neighbors and financial stability and a slower pace and, most of all, those moments with my child that just happened when I was not so stressed.
Divorce was not in my forecast. Meteorologist Emily Braden predicted white picket fences and play dates with the neighbor kids and cute birthday party invitations and that week in New York I was always promised. And that bigger diamond I was promised. And that post-graduate degree I was promised. Oh, and I don't have to mention the "love, honor and cherish" part. I believe that was also a promise, and one that I took to heart.
I had always wondered what people were thinking when they divorced. All marriages have problems, right? Isn't the beauty of marriage growing and learning together? I also admit to past judgment. I judged those who gave it up and split the kid's time and busted up that nest. I even gossiped about those who were divorcing. Well, bless my heart, as I have learned something.
It's the deal breaker. It's the thing that sometimes breaks the vows before papers are even drawn for dissolution, and it's the thing we can't tell people about. It's the reason people say "We grew apart" or "We love each other but aren't in love with each other." It's alcohol abuse or drug abuse or adultery or domestic violence or other things our minds cannot believe is true, or a "good" Southern family doesn't speak of.
Every day people ask me what happened, and I cannot tell them. It's private I guess, but mostly because it would be me just gossiping some more, but this time I would know what is true. RC prefers to call it "I don't love you." I lost my picket fence and probably do get a bit snarky when I think of the home I thought I had built or my magnolia tree or summers when I did not have a nine-to-fiver when I could take my son to museums and libraries or just enjoy his conversation over watermelon.
But I'm betting monkeys RC has some bitterness, too.
However, something magical has happened to me at the same time. Something so powerful, sometimes I cannot contain the euphoria.
I can do whatever I want.
I listen to B.B. King at full blast every morning (or show tunes if I'm feeling exceptionally liberated). I cook with pineapple juice. There is a planter right smack in the middle of my front porch I decoupaged myself with wallpaper samples. Some might call it tacky, but by God, I call it art. I'm going to paint my front door cherry red. I might even get a pink flamingo.
I may live in a house the size of a shoe, but my footwear collection is much cuter now that I have the power to cut the "big ass speaker" budget and expand the "cute shoes" budget. I think I even dance better. I never got that room of my own, promised for writing, but right now at this moment, my whole life is my own.
So, yes I have moments of bitterness. I suppose if I had not valued my family as much as I did, it would be easier. But let me tell you what I now know that I never knew before.
I am not a white picket fence, or a goldfish pond or a homeroom mother. I am not a whirlpool tub or a doctor's wife. I am so much more, and I am hopeful about my future. I know my heart, and I know why my marriage is over. I know that wallpaper samples beneath a potted plant are all the rage, and at the end of the day, stuff is stuff and people are people. I am good people. And a damn smart one to boot, all puns intended.
Emily Braden is an MSU graduate and former brownie-baking soccer mom. Now she's a free-lance writer mom who lives in Rankin County with her son Patrick and her dog Zeke. She joins the JFP as a columnist this issue.