There was a point – before Will was diagnosed – when I spent a lot of time and energy trying to hide what was going on in our marriage from everyone. My family. My co-workers. The neighbors. For over a year, I was on red alert and damage control where he was concerned. It would shock you to know some of the details. I look back now and realize I should have left and not worried about where the chips would fall because the thing about chips is that they can be picked up, put away again, or simply swept out with the trash. The chips are just details.
My biggest fears were ridiculous in retrospect, but I know that focusing on them helped me deal, indirectly, with the larger truth which was that Will was really sick and there would be no fixing him. I was buying myself time.
And I wished him dead. I don’t know how many times I just asked the powers that be to simply let me wake up to a phone call or a knock on the front door announcing he had killed himself or been in a fatal accident. It was, ironically, a more innocent time for me when I could believe that his death would actually make me feel better. Nonsense too in retrospect. It would have solved the more pressing issues but would have been worse in the longer run in more ways than not.
I am thrown back there today by a phone call from my dearest best girlfriend who helped me so much through Will’s illness and was my staunchest support after his death. Not to go into too many details, but her marriage is dicey. Things are going on, and have the potential to go on, that make me afraid for her and her kids.
As I listened to her talk, I could hear myself way back when, rationalizing and trying to control a situation that was beyond me instead of doing what needed to be done. And I can understand and empathize completely because I have been right there where she is, a place I would not wish on anyone.
It took two stays in the psych ward for Will for me to mobilize and do what needed to be done. And a lot of tragic things could have happened while I dithered. One did in that we didn’t find out what was wrong until it was too late to do anything about it.
My friend and her husband got married a few months before Will and I did. They are celebrating their tenth soon. It’s something that has been on my mind too. Ten years. It’s a long time. Between my marriages I don’t have ten years as a wife.
One thing I have learned is that it is too easy to talk yourself off the right path because some of the initial decisions require heavy lifting and letting go – of ideas, people, dreams, or just the stuff you’ve accumulated over time that seems more important and necessary than it really is.
There is a long soliloquy in Hamlet where he contemplates and then rejects the idea of suicide. He reasons that it is better to stay with the known troubles of his life than to foolishly rush off into the “undiscovered country” of the after life which could as easily be worse than what he is facing. In his case he talked himself back onto the right path but still let inertia and fear keep him from the actions he knew he had to take and so ended up losing everything anyway. I hope my friend has not waited too long.