In the last year, Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
When your life breaks up, and everything is change, it is necessary for a time to cling to a structure that you make for yourself. If there is an unexpected vacuum at the centre of things, you build a bridge, however delicate it may be, and cling to it in order to get you to the other side.
When my marriage broke up, for a time I became somewhat regimented about weekends. Weekdays were fine. The round of work, playschool, coffees, park dates, playground trips, playdates keeps you busy.
But at the weekend, playing things by ear, seeing what will happen, what you will be in the mood for in the moment, can backfire. What if you’re in the mood for company, and everyone is busy, so instead there are empty hours, dead time? I’m lucky; the family home is almost across the road so there is really never no one unavailable to hang. But you need to relearn how to be comfortable in your own life, on your own.
To sit over coffee on a Saturday morning. To do a Sunday evening, the rush of bath, bedtime, then the couch afterwards. A Friday evening after a working week. To do these things without inviting guests over, even the closest of friends or family.
So you contract, and then you expand. Expand back into your new life. And it can be joyful. “You’re enjoying making all these decorating decisions without having to consult me aren’t you?” Himself laughs on the discovery of some recent Ikea purchases. He is right.
It wasn’t that I planned every minute of our lives. But I thought ahead. Friday nights- the brother was always available to flake on the couch if needed. Saturday mornings we were often up and out, walks, parks, coffees. I instigated movie nights on Saturdays upon reading Sali Hughes write about how she had come up with it after her own separation. Sunday lunches. Life needed more deliberate punctuation.
It’s a tricky balancing act. Some weekends you may not particularly want to timetable, to schedule. You might not want to do anything. But you need to judge ahead whether that will open the door to too much sadness.
One recent weekend, everyone was away. My ex-husband, the parents, the brother and sister in law. It was just me and Her. Work had been busy. I was tired. So I decided to have a pottering day. To not plan anything, just go with the flow.
It is two o ‘clock by the time we leave the house, after some intensive pottering. There had been dancing around the living room to Tom Petty, pancake making, listening to the radio. When we do leave, we decide on a scoot-run to the park, a notion invented on the spot to ensure I can get my run in. She scoots, I run beside her. It is a mixed success; Herself is yet to turn four, so any sort of perambulation involves the inevitable stopping every few minutes to examine something, twirl around a lamppost, announce sightings of DOG POO at the top of her voice, or stopping to talk to other children we happen to pass. We get there eventually.
After the playground- I love the idea of it but find the reality instantly boring so am badgering Herself to go for ‘ccinos within minutes-we meander over to the shops, have a quick look in the charity shop for books before hitting the coffee shop.
By now the restaurant is virtually empty, so we spread ourselves out, Herself with her magazine and colours, me reading the paper on the phone. We have a second coffee, share a bag of popcorn. It’s time to head home. There’s a discussion over what to have for dinner. We scoot-run back through the park.
On the first week of maternity leave, before Herself came along, I remember saying to my husband how I loved having the time to do things like hang out laundry on the line. Potter about the house. There may have been baking. Just be at home. When she did arrive, and I eventually got the grip of things, I liked nothing more than those days where we would stay local, taking in the park, maybe a trip to the butchers, coffee and cake in our local Italian. It was a very pared down life and I loved it.
When you are no longer in a marriage, you have to relearn your life. Relearn how to be in your own space. And then it stops being a thing of labour, of being forced, of timetabling.
You relax back into your life.
You have confidence in your new existence, so that you no longer need to hang it off a pre-prepared plan. Now, we play it by ear, see what we fancy. We no longer need the safety of structure.
This weekend I have nothing planned. Literally nothing. I want to hang with herself. Hopefully get to the park. Do a food shop. But we’ll see. We’ll see how we feel.