A friend of mine is getting a divorce. I found out last Saturday, and sat in the car and listened to him describe the whole thing in vague detail over the phone. I didn't want to probe too deeply into the intense issues revolving around this life-changing decision; I'll find all this out eventually one way or another. While I am of the belief that this may be the best thing for him right now, it still comes as a crushing blow that another one of my friends has to go through this ordeal.
I never dealt with divorce as a child. It was something that happened to other people, for reasons unknown or unexamined. It was certainly a horrible experience for those going through it, but it had as little relevance to my childhood as ideas of foreign relations or economics. Something that happened for no reason, and with no effect on me whatsoever.
Now seeing it inch into the lives of those around me, I've been thinking about it more. I don't think I'll ever understand it completely, but now it is at a place where I have to actually see it broken down into component parts, and try and figure out what they each mean. I don't like being voyeuristic like this, and I feel terribly guilty about using this to gain some kind of insight. It does come out of a deep desire to do anything to help, so maybe it isn't as bad as it appears in my own mind.
When it came to growing up in family, one of the few things that I could reliably count on was that my parents we not going to split up. They would say that they were too poor to actually get a divorce, but it was easy to see through that. My parents were of the belief that family was one of the most important responsibilities that one could had, and they were both determined to make as many sacrifices as possible to make their family stick together. Even at times where it looked like everything was broken, they managed to eventually move past hostility and piece things back together. Perhaps the pain of the early years of their marriage put things into a certain perspective that helped them through all this.
However, this last visit home led me to reconsider all of these notions. Even through both of them are well-intentioned when it comes to their personal motives, I can see my mother becoming tired of certain aspects of their relationship. During the conversation that we had, I played the sympathetic ear, but my mind was racing as she continued on this topic. This is the first real rift between them I have been aware of since 1984, and while this one seems to be considerably less serious and ultimately fixable, I can see the weariness in my mother's eyes. This is a disturbing concept I had hoped never to have to hold.
My father, on the other hand, is a case study in stoicism. I have never heard my father say one negative thing about the sacrifices he has made in his lifetime, even though a cursory examination of his past reveals them plainly. In disturbing form, he said not a word about any trouble at home in the many hours we sat alone in his pickup driving around the north woods. Yet, looking back with my now educated eye, he was out of form to an extent. Something was wrong, just outside my perception. At first, I thought that he was ill and didn't want to speak of it with his children. Now, I'm wondering if it is a longer list of issues that has him in such a state.
In all honesty, I don't worry about them. They've been though tougher shit than I can imagine, and still continued to reach inside for strength that logically shouldn't exist. They will find their way. I think my mother just needed an ear to fill, and my father just wanted to see his children. I think I'm just looking at it way too hard, and missing the greater picture.
I am a firm believer of a certain philosophy in decision making that I came up with. I realize that my ideas have already occurred to others, but humor me for a second. I believe that every decision in life boils down to a choice between 'Right' and 'Good'. A 'Right' decision usually is the morally correct, properly upstanding, and extremely boring decision. The decision to dive into a river to save a drowning child is 'Right'. 'Good' usually involved some kind of personal gain with a slight risk attached. Eating the last bit of ice cream out of the freezer is a 'Good' decision.
For example, let's say it is one in the morning, and you're at a bar. You told your SO/spouse/rock/whatever that you would be home by 1:30. You could make it home by then if you left right this instant, but your friends are all still there and you're having a good time. The 'Right' decision would be to pack up and head home, while the 'Good' decision would be to stay even through you might be upsetting folks at home. Heck, even calling home would qualify as either of them, depending on the context. An endless stream of choices between 'Right' and 'Good', forever and ever.
For a majority of my early adulthood, I always went with the 'Good' choice. This led me to sleep around, drink a lot, do a lot of drugs, and systematically stomp all over friends and loved ones. I was an asshole, and I was pretty much okay with that perception of me, because I was having a lot of fun. After hurting a lot of people, and finally meeting the woman I would marry, I decided that I needed to fundamental change my philosophy in life. One of the first things I decided was that I would make more 'Right' choices going forward, even if it sucked.
Nearly five years ago, I found myself in a terrible position of having information that I shouldn't have had. The wife of a friend of mine was cheating, and I had complete and corroborating proof. The 'Good' decision here would have been to wash my hands of the whole thing, pretend that I didn't know anything, and let everything continue as it did until it blew up very far away from me. Instead, I did the 'Right' thing, and composed a five page email to my friend, including every little detail.
He was understandably angry at my accusations, and cut off contact with me. I was crushed, but at the same time completely understood where he was coming from. I probably would have done much the same to this asshole that was telling me that my wife was cheating. I tried to comfort myself over making the 'Right' decision, but I didn't want to listed to that crap. I had hurt someone, and I seriously doubted whether I had made a proper choice.
I made contact with him again about two years ago. He is divorced now, and my email became a contributing factor in the split of his marriage. I was right about things, but he was at a place where he couldn't accept that information and retaliated the only way he knew how. I told him that I completely understood what happened. We email each other once in a while, and things are somewhat better now. I don't think things will ever be the same between the two of us, but at least we're at a place where we can understand things.
I actually think about him more than I let on. I don't like being a heretic, even when my motivations are pure. His situation is not one that I would wish on anyone, and yet I was a contributor. I feel like I haven't apologized enough for the mess, or didn't help enough even if I couldn't. I'm not sure what to make of any of it, really.
Which brings me back to my other friend, who calmly told me last Saturday that he will be getting a divorce. As I said earlier, I don't have all of the information, but I have enough to have these distressing feelings come roaring back. I can understand, but I don't want to understand. The selfish side of me wants things to be static, hopeful, stable. The world does not operate in this state, and I am struggling with this.
I actually went through an incident like this several years ago, when they first got together. They were living in the same place, but something messy had happened and she was moving out. I drove to their house expecting to walk in and see them both and have a good time, but instead I found her in the living room alone, and she began begging me for answers that I didn't have over a situation of which I hadn't even been aware.
To understate things a bit, I found it especially difficult to try and comfort her in any respectable amount. I sat there for three hours asking questions, thinking on things, making wild assumptions, and ultimately doing little more than just spewing words in her direction hoping to affect some kind of change in her with no success. It was one of the most uncomfortable nights of my entire life, and when I finally saw my friend later that night I laid into him for allowing me to ignorantly waltz into that situation. In the end, they got back together and got married, and things were looking like they were settled and moving toward a better life.
Now, it is happening all over again, and I find myself once again pouring the words on in the hope that they will do something magically good. This is all in vain, and I know this, but I keep doing it. Perhaps it is a defensive move. Perhaps I'm just a huge fathead with no hope of actually helping.
But I want to help, more than anything in the world. I want to atone for past decisions, where I chose the 'Good' and went on to hurt people. I want to help because these are my friends that are going through such horrible calamities in their personal lives. I want to do something miraculous so that, if I ever run into this again, I have the knowledge that will fix things. I want to be the proxy that brings things together, and heals things so that their lives can be less painful and more complete. I want to be able to read through my parents, find out what is really going on, and mechanically and defiantly make everything run perfectly.
And I am deluding myself for hoping for things that will never happen. Instead, all I could do is sit on the phone and listen as the world around me creaked and shuddered.