About six weeks after my ex-husband and I decided to divorce, I got a call from my friend Michael. I remember it vividly.
I had just gotten back from a workshop with Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Lee and I were fighting, loudly. When the phone rang, I took it as a sign to stop.
“So….can you tell me about this divorce thing….,” Michael said.
I was shocked. And then I wasn’t. Their marriage mirrored ours in so many ways. This is what I told him:
“Divorce is highly inconvenient. The only thing that makes sense is walking. The Artist’s Way has been my constant companion through it all.” And, “I love you.”
It was funny telling him all I had learned in six weeks. It was like being six weeks sober and telling someone who just put down a drink everything you know about not picking it back up. There’s so much to say, but not a whole lot of experience behind it. And yet….
My divorce was highly inconvenient. And I remember the miles and miles I logged in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. No special shoes. No special clothes. Just out the door, usually in my brown suede boots, up the hill and around “the crown” – a mostly circular loop designated by brown, instead of green, street signs. It boasts wonderful views of downtown, West Seattle and on clear days, the Cascades, the Olympics and Mount Rainier.
I would often talk to Michael, literally for hours, on these walks, coming home just as the first stars made themselves known. In many ways he was my divorce companion during those weeks between his first call and my summer sojourn to Rwanda.
Going to bed in the spare room wasn’t quite so lonely knowing we would talk or text into the wee hours, until exhaustion gave way to sleep. He gave solid counsel when we met with our mediator. “Get a good night’s sleep. Draw up a fair agreement. Don’t fight.” We assured one another that we would not be alone, that we would both find companions again. One day.
I sent Michael a copy of The Artist’s Way, thinking it might bring him comfort, direction and a sense of creative purpose as it had me. I don’t know if it did. I never asked.
Sometimes I forget that it was my first divorce companion. Before Michael.
Sitting at my friend Rainey’s breakfast table in California, writing my “morning pages” – three handwritten pages written straight out of bed, stream of conscious. Definitely not art. One of two core practices from The Artist’s Way.
She and her partner John were away in Hawaii, but they had offered me their home to stay in while I tended to some business in San Francisco. Each morning, looking out into the green hills of Marin County, I wrote the same thing.
“I think I am alone, because I am getting ready to be alone.” And, “I am not scared.”
When Lee arrived at the end of the week to join me, and asked for a divorce, I wasn’t entirely surprised. The universe, my spirit guides, my higher self, already knew. I had already spoken it. Written it.
It happened during week 4 of the 12-week Artist’s Way program. The week titled “Recovering a Sense of Integrity.”
Returning to Seattle, I continued my weekly Artist’s Way work. I read. I wrote daily. I collected stones on hikes and shells at the beach. Went to museums and fabric stores. Took a week-long break from media – including Facebook. Wrote letters to myself from my 80-year-old self. And about imaginary lives I might lead. Sent postcards to friends. Listened to music. Bought myself really good socks.
And when the 12 weeks were up, I put the book on the shelf. And later in a box, bound for Chicago. Even though its author, Julia Cameron, suggests beginning again when the cycle is complete.
It’s been about six months since then. Michael and I no longer talk every night before bed. We haven’t for a long time. But we still support one another in this “inconvenient” process. I know if I need anything he is there, as I am for him. But he is not my divorce companion.
Nor is Mark, a man I knew in Seattle who was also going through a divorce when I was. I thought he might be a different kind of divorce companion. And he was. But just once.
My divorce was final three months ago. I am without a companion, or the prospect of one. It seems right. But I don’t necessarily like it.
There’s been a date. The suggestion of a date, but no follow through. A make-out session in a parking lot. A letter from a friend in Seattle disclosing his feelings for me. But no companion.
Earlier this week I discovered that in updating software on my phone, a voicemail I had been saving was deleted. Gone. It was sweet and a little bit sexy and reminded me how it felt to connect in a profound way. I cried. Really. I felt so silly. I knew my reaction wasn’t congruent to what had happened. But I couldn’t help myself. I felt like one more thing had been taken from me.
My friend Lisa told me I didn’t need it anymore. She reminded me that this is my time to learn to be alone. To be less people dependent and more G-d dependent. It was not what I wanted to hear. It never is.
And then I heard my own words, followed by my friend Slade’s. I had told him about The Artist’s Way being my constant companion in divorce. And how I had offered it to Michael as well. “Pretty great companion,” he said.
And I knew he was right.
Yesterday morning I pulled my copy of The Artist’s Way from the shelf. Today we begin our courtship – our companionship – starting at the beginning, with Week 1.