I moved out of our house in a hurry. Not abruptly, but quickly. We had been living together for two months after deciding to get divorced. Things were awkward. The tension had lessened, but the air was thick with an eagerness to move on. So when I found the perfect little home on a street called Hope, I threw our things in boxes and moved out.
Most of those things made it in one piece. But one of the last boxes I unpacked in my new home was a box of necklaces. I had taken the necklaces which were neatly hanging on hooks, separated by length and color, and thrown them into a shoebox. They were a tangled mess. All lumped into one clump of metal chains and beads. I sat down on my bed, the first bed that was solely mine since I was 22, and I started to untangle them. I spent an hour detangling them. And eventually got down to one clump of tiny necklaces and paused.
Dave was always the one who untangled my necklaces in the past. It was an anomaly that his giant hands could easily untangle my delicate necklaces, but it was some strange, natural gift. I sent him a picture of the tiny, tangled necklaces and said something like: I have tried not to ask for your help during this moving process, but I might need to pull you in on this one. He kindly replied that he would be happy to help not only with the necklaces, but with anything that I need and that I shouldn’t hesitate to ask. In the end, I untangled them on my own, only sacrificing one of them.
That box of tangled necklaces and the exchange that followed is very representative of our divorce. Divorce is messy. Really messy. And complicated. We are trying to untangle a life that we spent the last twelve years building together. Trying to unravel everything with a gentle touch, not wanting to sacrifice anything that we have worked so hard to build.
So in an effort not to unravel everything too quickly causing them to snap, we have taken on an interesting living arrangement. Two days a week when Dave is out of town on business I stay at his house with the kids. We wanted to maintain some normalcy in our kids’ lives. We wanted Evelyn to finish her first year of school with her friends. We wanted Wes to hug the same teachers every day. There are other options, but traveling to and from my place would mean a lot of time in the car for the kids, so we make it work. Once a week I pack up a bag and sleep in my old home, now Dave’s home, for two nights. As you might imagine, while this is the best solution for our children, it is not the most comfortable situation for either of us.
Actually, it is more than a little uncomfortable. It is super weird and it sucks and it turns my week upside down. So today, I sat down and figured out how many more nights I have to stay there before the school year is over. And the number was 40. 40 nights. I don’t consider myself to be a religious person, but I understand the significance of the number 40 and it is hard for me to believe that it was a coincidence that I chose today to count the number of nights, when I had 40 remaining.
There are several references to the number forty in scripture, a few of the more popular ones being: it rained for 40 days after Noah built his ark, Moses spent 40 nights on Mount Sinai, the Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years, Jesus was tempted for 40 days and there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. And although there is still a debate on whether 40 is just used as a reference to a very large number, similar to umpteen, or if it symbolizes a time of probation or trial, I think both are fitting for my situation.
These 40 nights are a reminder that the kids will always come first. That our comfort comes second. We are not naive nor foolish enough to pretend that divorce is not viewed as a selfish act. That no matter how hard or much we try to explain that this will be better for our children in the end, we are taking away something that they will never get back. We are taking away the chance to be with their mom and dad every day, to live with both of them under the same roof. So while we breathe a sigh of relief as each piece of our lives becomes untangled, we realize that our children’s chance for a normal family is being sacrificed. That painful understanding is not at all lost on us.