The six hardest words I’ve ever had to write. While it’s the most amicable, respectful, even loving separation of all time, it’s still hard. I never thought I’d be anything other than married, and he and I were such a good match, it seemed. But when you reach a point where you’re roommates instead of spouses, it’s over. It’s still painful, even when you know it’s the right thing.
Maybe it’s because I’m an actress, but lines from movies and songs pop into my head all the time. My whole family does it, actually, so much so that sometimes when we’re all hanging out together, we’ll have an entire conversation consisting solely of quotes from movies and CDs of our childhood.
So it’s no surprise that from the moment my husband and I decided to separate, my thought was flooded with quotes. Some were comforting, some were bittersweet, some were downright painful.
The one that sums it up the best was actually given to me by my sister Katie. It requires some context – my husband and I met in a show of “Little Women the Musical,” playing John Brooke and Meg, respectively. It was adorable, and as I have said so many times in sharing this story, by the time the curtain went up we weren’t acting anymore! But my sister pointed out that it seems to her that we actually became Jo and Laurie – deeply close friends, almost siblings, who shouldn’t be married to each other. It was really, really comforting to have such a reference point.
Another, more depressing, connection was Barbra Streisand’s incredible recording of “Free Again.” It pretty much sums up my entire reaction to the idea of being unmarried. The numbness, the surprise, the brief moment of hope before a crash of despair, and the PAIN. For me by now, the pain has mostly passed, but the first several days were very, very tearful. I didn’t know you could grieve a failed relationship the same way you grieved someone’s death.
One of the others was the song, ‘Pictures of the Border Signs.” I’d sung this musical theatre song months ago and hadn’t quite figured out what the context was. The last line didn’t make much sense to me, and so I wrote it off as, “Well, maybe one day I’ll get it.” The night we had our conversation, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I GET IT! She’s leaving someone she doesn’t want to leave but knows she has to! I’m going to sing it in my voice lesson today, and I’ll be curious to see if I cry on the last line. Every time I’ve sung it in my head (and the shower) since splitting, I’ve cried on the last line. Who knows how I’m feeling today.
Best in Show
But by far the most quoted, most helpful of my emotional touchstones was the movie “You’ve Got Mail.” In the middle of our “we are actually going to split” conversation, this line popped into my head:
“But we’re so right for each other!”
It’s from Meg Ryan and Greg Kinnear’s breakup scene, where they both realize that it’s over. Theirs was a much more lighthearted breakup than ours, but the sentiments are similar. It should work on paper, but the reality just isn’t there anymore. Later, she says in response to his question if there’s someone else,
“No. But there is the dream of someone else.”
Hi, me. (Watch the whole scene here.)
Really, if you combine the breakup scene with her closing-her-store scene, you have my exact experience of the past two weeks. Even writing that first line of this blog, “My husband and I are separating” felt like when she writes to Tom Hanks, “My store is closing this week.” Definite, but an admission that is hard to acknowledge. Also, the quote, “People are always telling you that change is a good thing, but all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all, has happened.” I guess what I’m saying is, God bless Nora Ephron for capturing my emotions so perfectly in a movie.
So that’s where I am. It’s sad, it’s good, it’s painful, and occasionally I even have hope for the future. Rest assured that my husband and I are still good friends and hopefully always will be. This is a harmonious and respectful and conscientious separation. We will both be happier as a result. But, like ripping off a band-aid, it stings.
I moved out yesterday (naturally, it felt like when Meg Ryan stands and looks back at her empty store and sees the beautiful memories of her joy with her mother – oh, heavens, now I’m crying again), and things will unfold from here, I know. God is taking care of me, and there is good ahead. I am in a beautiful apartment, surrounded by my most inspirational artist supplies (and a healthy stack of chick flicks), and my parents are coming to see me this weekend. But it hurts.
I suppose that’s a sign that it was, at least, a good five and a half years of marriage.