I don’t often do confessional. Yeah, a lot of what I’m going through finds its way into my posts in symbolic fashion, perhaps, but I haven’t done much in the way of personal narrative about my life, even though I have encouraged other writers here to do just that. But maybe this little bit is worthy of a slow news day.
I’m hardly the first guy to get a divorce. My guess is that a lot of other guys in my situation will recognize the sensation of emptiness that consumes the first year (or perhaps longer) after you leave. Once you had a house. Once you had someone to share meals with. Maybe you had a yard and grass that needed mowing and even a small garden to weed. You may have been unhappy and unfulfilled, but you had a life.
Once you separate you find yourself in an empty living space. In my case, in an okay little apartment downtown, but it was always just a place to crash for a year while I reflected and tried to get my bearings. But it lacked much in the way of character. I was surrounded by nameless faces whose lives were absolutely nothing like mine and once you said hello, pretty day, I like your dog, there just wasn’t anything else to talk about. A lot of the things I associated with home went with my wife, so my little apartment (which I couldn’t even paint, obviously) was incredibly sterile. Empty place, empty life.
One person I know said I should get a dining room set. Why, I asked – nobody here but me, nobody going to be here but me. I have a couch, a TV, a tray table, and I eat out most nights anyway. What’s the point? The point, I was told, was to begin living a life again.
Maybe, but I just couldn’t get there. My apartment from April 2010 until just last month was a place to recuperate, a place for the shock to wear off. Some days it felt like triage – a place to lay, to be sorted out, to ponder mid-life existentialia, to see if I was going to make it. I know, I know – a lot of drama in that sentence – I’m just telling you how it felt sometimes, because you go through a painful divorce and there’s going to be pain and drama, whether you like it, whether you admit it to yourself, or not.
The point is, life, such as it was, had been replaced by a great big emptiness, and while I’m not big on things, I was aware of the fact that my daily existence lacked much in the way of material symbols suggesting that a thriving human being dwelt nearby. I walked into a sterile apartment and it remained sterile despite my presence. I did nothing to fill it with life because I had no life to fill it with.
Divorced guys, am I making sense?
A month ago I moved to the Denver Highlands neighborhood, into a mixed use/new urban development they built on the site of the old Elitch Gardens amusement park. The Highlands are maybe the coolest neighborhood in the 5280, and if events leave psychic residue then imagine how much fun, how much rampant joy must have spilled and soaked into the ground from 1890 to 1994. It just feels like a happy place. And the developers did something special, too – my new ‘hood is really, really pretty. All kinds of great restaurants and shops nearby. I had been trying to get up here for years but never seemed to be able to make it happen.
I’m nowhere near to having the kind of life I want yet, but for the first time in awhile I’m feeling alive enough to start trying. To that end, I went out this morning and engaged in an act of symbolism – I bought a flower pot, I bought a couple of plants, and spent a few minutes doing a little repotting. It isn’t much, but the celosia and the gazania are alive. They’re pretty (not that my flower arrangement skills did them any justice, and as you’ll see in a second, my photography skills didn’t, either), they’re thriving, and they’re on display in front of my little … well, porch is way too grandiose a word for it … for all the world to see.
So please accept this modest testament to the fact that the person who lives here, after a long time of simply existing, is now trying. Wish me luck.