Natalie Zed: Defying Gravity

Sunday, August 24, 2008


1. I did not think I would cry this much. I expected that this would be a very emotionally turbulent time for me, of course, but I did not expect that any human being could cry this much. It's really kind of embarrassing. I have to actively hide now to keep people from assuming I am actually a walking waterbed that has sprung a leak. There has not been a movie (of any genre) that hasn't made me cry, including Wall-E and Batman. There has not been a single night that I have not cried as I was falling asleep. Usually, now, it's just a tear or two, not a full-fledged torrent. I can't actually remember what life was like before I cried all the time.

2. I very rarely want to talk to anyone about anything. Seeing people, even (especially?) old family friends who I dearly miss and under any other circumstances would be dying to see, is incredibly difficult. In some cases, I've blurted out the events of the past few weeks just to get it over with. Sometimes, I've been ridiculous enough to actually pretend I've gone selectively deaf to avoid answering a question. I've variously entertained the ideas of never coming out of the house again, and wearing a t-shirt that says "separated," and handing everyone I see a sheet with a bullet-point summary of the past 10 weeks or so.

3. People really want to pick a side. Someone, clearly, must have done something terribly wrong. It really seems unfathomable that there could not be a villain.

4. I am far more comfortable being the villain, if a side must be picked. I dearly wish I could just call Ed an asshole along with the people who have proclaimed him so mere seconds after learning about our separation and long before they ask what actually happened. It would make my life a lot easier, and would mean that I didn't have to deal with point 5 nearly as much. Instead, I find myself talking about what a marvelous human being he was, what a good man, and assure them it just didn't work out (also I am very difficult). If they press (and they often do!) then I mention that well, he did have the regrettably stuffy habit of chastising me when I dined on kittens, and that really would never do.

5. Many people are much more comfortable with me being the villain than our separation being relatively quiet and amicable. I have been asked, to my face, and usually in that falsely comforting "you can tell *me* the truth now" tone, if we are separating because I had someone else on no less than five separate occasions. I've also had people, to my face and with not even a hint of apology, immediately ascribe the separation to my career, ambition, activity level, or all of the above -- and not in a "could this have been a contributing factor?" kind of way, but in a "if you'd have stayed home and been a better wife this wouldn't be happening" kind of way. On one memorable occasion, I was told simply "Well, I am not surprised -- I imagine you're very difficult to live with."

6. I realize that I really had no idea who and how would be by my side during this time. In many cases, I was not surprised. My family has been tirelessly supportive. My best friends, my girls, my Toronto coven, have stood by me. Another of my best friends has kept phone dates with me despite being in the midst of buying a house and planning a wedding. The literary communities in TO and Calgary, as well as further afield, have been awesome. I was, perhaps, simply amazed by how much love, how much support they offered, and how unconditionally. However, there were some, friends, acquaintances, and family alike, who surprised me with their support. People I was afraid to tell about the separation shocked me with their sound advice and unquestioning acceptance. People I certainly knew and whom I though liked me well enough surprised me )often to tears) with their love. There are a few, as well, who I expected would be here with me, who I expected would always be here with me, who are conspicuously absent. I miss them.

7. I miss absolutely everything. I miss the mountains. I miss the air. I miss the sunlight on the carpet in the late morning. I miss walking to Nellie's to write for a couple of hours. I miss walking up 8th. I miss meeting friends for breakfast at Dairy Lane or Take 10. I miss the farmer's market. I miss my bedspread. I miss riding the C-Train to the University. I miss the sabbath. I miss the babies. I miss my job. I miss everyone and everything with an intensity that shocks me.

8. I am beginning to realize that if I stayed in Calgary I would have done myself serious harm. I certainly had a place to go and a way to support myself, and it is not as though I was without a support system. But I am not sure I could have made it through the winter without something very bad happening. I feel like I narrowly escaped something.

9. There are some things I am just never going to learn. I am that goldfish that just keeps slamming its face against the side of the tank, despite the fact the glass was there yesterday and it will be there tomorrow. There is something in me, even when I know something is a horrible idea and going to end badly, that sometimes just cannot resist.

10. There is a part of me that wishes things could be different, even if I were lessened by it. This part wishes I could have been quieter, softer, easier. It wishes I chose differently or not at all. It wishes I could have felt less and handled more, even if this meant I was blunted or dulled. There is a part of me that wishes I were still there, because it would be easier and this is very, very hard.

11. I had no idea this was going to be so hard. I knew it was going to be the hardest thing I had ever done, and I am neither interested in an easy life nor likely to shy from a challenge. This is still harder than anything I could have imagined. This is the kind of difficulty that makes taking a shower an unbearable prospect, that feels far less heroic than grossly masochistic or just plain stupid. It makes me wonder what is wrong with me, that I can't just admit defeat and go home.

12. From somewhere impossible (and maybe rather ridiculous) I've managed to find an unshakable little spark of optimism. I get genuinely excited whenever I contemplate moving in to my new place, starting my new job, even simply unpacking. I will be reading as part of a new series, Decadent Rare, in TO on September 17th, and I am as giddy as if it is the first time I've been on stage. Somehow, when I think of my impending move, instead of every organ shuddering and clenching like a sane person, I am looking forward to starting over, beginning again. Whenever I forget for a moment or two exactly how miserable I am, an odd film of cheerfulness clouds my vision and I can't help but look at the great unknown ahead of me as some kind of ridiculous adventure. That feeling, that little bit of tenacious joy, keeps me going.

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Natalie Zed updated @ 9:31 p.m.!!