Ten! The sound of my hammock swishing from side to side.
Nine! Eight! Seven! The beat of different music reverberates in all directions from nearby neighborhood homes.
Six. My voice starts to drop as midnight draws near.
Five…four…three… My parents, brothers and their wives are inching closer to each other as I stare blankly at the sky.
Two. Did I actually say that number out loud?
One. Dinner for one. Bed for one. Holidays for one.
Happy New Year! December 31, 2009, was my first single New Year’s Eve in eight years. Adam and I had been separated for nearly a year. Our first holiday apart. While he headed to snowy Rhode Island, I hopped a plane to sunny Puerto Rico. A few thousand more miles between us. These 10 days were a memory-making family vacation for me, but in those 10 seconds, I became distinctly aware that I was on a couple’s trip.
Kisses. Hugs. I watched with tears in my eyes. I’m not a couple anymore. Seconds later, it didn’t matter. Allison. Pam. Khoi. Chuong. My parents. They all came in for one large hug, with me in the middle. I was not part of a couple anymore, but I was part of this amazing family.
Divorce is fucking hard. I don’t swear much, but that’s what it is. Fucking hard.
Over the last year, I’ve been nearing the double digits of people who have called, texted or emailed. Their marriage is in trouble. They want a divorce. They are confused. “You’re the only person I know who is divorced,” is a comment I’ve gotten a handful of times. “How do you do it?” is an equal opportunity question from single friends, happily married couples, troubled relationships. “You make it look easy.”
I’ll say it again. Divorce is fucking hard. What happened in my marriage, what caused the collapse are not details I need to share ever, but I can tell you that Adam and I didn’t separate with a hug, a high five and a simultaneous “Go us!” It ended with me heaving over the kitchen sink, unable to breathe. It ended with a “Fuck you. Get away from me.” It ended with me looking through blurry tears at a house I thought would hold my forever before I closed the door one last time. It ended with both us of crying, knowing our family would never be the same.
So how did we do it? Time. Trust. Love. Friendship. Letting go. Ethan. It always ends with Ethan. Adam and I were civil when we separated because of Ethan. We talked logistics because we had to. We created a shared calendar. We picked out a daycare together.
We became friendly because of Ethan. We talked at soccer and baseball practices. We’d share silly stories and text funny photos. During snow storms, Adam would walk to my apartment and shovel out my car.
We grew to love each other again in a different way because of Ethan. Accepting a stepmom is its own post, but I can tell you that she is an incredible person and stepmom, something I’ve learned through Ethan. Years later, I had my aha moment. Even if we were both single, there’s no way in hell either of us would ever want to get back together, so why would anything that happened during our marriage matter anymore? It didn’t. Only Ethan did. So I let go. And how amazing it’s been since then.
We spend time together because we want to, not because we have to. Where we are now in 2015 is different from where we were in 2013, which was different from 2009. It was not easy, and there are days where it still isn’t easy. But I can tell you outside of Mark and my family, Adam is the person I trust most to have my back. We are not a couple, but we are family.
And a year from that single New Year’s Eve? I was at Rehoboth Beach. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Happy New Year!
“I love you.” I had never heard those words from Mark before. “I love you too.”