It was so immediately clear that this was the only thing to do. I would not have accepted any other answer. I would not have trusted a great booming voice that said either: You Must Divorce Your Husband! or You Must Not Divorce Your Husband! Because thats not true wisdom. True wisdom gives the only possible answer at any given moment, and that night, going back to bed was the only possible answer. Go back to bed, said this omniscient interior voice, because you dont need to know the final answer right now, at three oclock in the morning on a Thursday in November. Go back to bed, because I love you. Go back to bed, because the only thing you need to do for now is get some rest and take good care of yourself until you do know the answer. Go back to bed so that, when the tempest comes, youll be strong enough to deal with it. And the tempest is coming, dear one. Very soon. But not tonight. Therefore:
Go back to bed, Liz.
In a way, this little episode had all the hallmarks of a typical Christian conversion experience the dark night of the soul, the call for help, the responding voice, the sense of transformation. But I would not say that this was a religious conversion for me, not in that traditional manner of being born again or saved. Instead, I would call what happened that night the beginning of a religious conversation. The first words of an open and exploratory dialogue that would, ultimately, bring me very close to God, indeed.
If Id had any way of knowing that things were as Lily Tomlin once said going to get a whole lot worse before they got worse, Im not sure how well I would have slept that night. But seven very difficult months later, I did leave my husband. When I finally made that decision, I thought the worst of it was over. This only shows how little I knew about divorce.
There was once a cartoon in The New Yorker magazine. Two women talking, one saying to the other: If you really want to get to know someone, you have to divorce him. Of course, my experience was the opposite. I would say that if you really want to STOP knowing someone, you have to divorce him. Or her. Because this is what happened between me and my husband. I believe that we shocked each other by how swiftly we went from being the people who knew each other best in the world to being a pair of the most mutually incomprehensible strangers who ever lived. At the bottom of that strangeness was the abysmal fact that we were both doing something the other person would never have conceived possible; he never dreamed I would actually leave him, and I never in my wildest imagination thought he would make it so difficult for me to go.
It was my most sincere belief when I left my husband that we could settle our practical affairs in a few hours with a calculator, some common sense and a bit of goodwill toward the person wed once loved. My initial suggestion was that we sell the house and divide all the assets fifty-fifty; it never occurred to me wed proceed in any other way. He didnt find this suggestion fair. So I upped my offer, even suggesting this different kind of fifty-fifty split: What if he took all the assets and I took all the blame? But not even that offer would bring a settlement. Now I was at a loss. How do you negotiate once youve offered everything? I could do nothing now but wait for his counterproposal. My guilt at having left him forbade me from thinking I should be allowed to keep even a dime of the money Id made in the last decade. Moreover, my newfound spirituality made it essential to me that we not battle. So this was my position I would neither defend myself from him, nor would I fight him. For the longest time, against the counsel of all who cared about me, I resisted even consulting a lawyer, because I considered even that to be an act of war. I wanted to be all Gandhi about this. I wanted to be all Nelson Mandela about this. Not realizing at the time that both Gandhi and Mandela were lawyers.
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