Sometimes you just gotta let the ghosts go.
The last 15 or so hours have been an unexpected walk down Painful Memory Lane, with side trips down Sad Memory Lane. It started when I stopped at the library yesterday and checked out Shadow Tag, Louise Erdrich's latest novel.
Shadow Tag is a novel of a marriage gone badly awry. Some reviewers are speculating whether it is an autobiographical rehash of scenes from Erdrich's marriage to Michael Dorris, who committed suicide twelve years ago during that marriage's disintegration.
I don't know if it is. But I do know that several pages into the novel, I had the distinct feeling that Erdrich had somehow been a spectator to the end stages of my marriage almost a decade ago. Had she been sitting in the bedroom closet scratching notes? Did she watch me from afar? I winced as I read last night, almost gasping for air as I finished each page.
And then I woke up this morning to emails from my ex regarding our younger son's plans to attend college in the fall. He wrote in one: "At some point, you and I have to discuss how to pay for this. My preference is to split our contributions 50-50."
Without going into details, let me just say he makes over twice what I do a year, with benefits, which I lack. I emailed back an overview of my financial situation, feeling violated as I typed away. I then hit "send."
This was all before breakfast, and while Warren worried as he watched my fingers fly on the keyboard, he kept his thoughts to himself. When we sat down to eat, I recapped what I had written, then explained what emotions and painful memories that email triggered in me. I stopped talking abruptly and leaned my head on my palm, waiting while the tears flooded my eyes. I did not burst out crying, but there was a long, quiet pause. Warren reached over and held my other hand while I collected myself.
After Warren left for work, I sent a follow up note to my ex: I just want you to know the landscape of my finances. I am not comfortable letting you know that landscape, but I think it is fairer to you that you do now rather than for you to assume things about me and my capacity to pay, then find out I cannot. Your email and my response have brought up lots of painful memories that I would rather not focus on right now.
I ended it by suggesting we revisit the topic closer in time to the start of college.
After I sent the second message, I turned my attention to my day. A major winter storm is moving across the face of Ohio, so that canceled my one outside appointment. The United Way allocation season is about to begin; Tracy and I have already exchanged several emails today on that topic. There is laundry going.
I turned my attention to these other things, grounding myself again in the quiet pace of today. While I worked, I thought back through the emotional walk I have been on since last night.
Then the thought came.
"Just let it go."
Just let it go. I don't need to rehash every penny spent and every wrong handed out during my prior marriage. I don't need to replay the "Worst of" highlights on a big screen TV. Ralph Edwards is not going to pop out of the closet and say "remember this moment, April?"
Just let it go. When Sam heads to school this fall, then his dad and I can reevaluate where we are financially and what each of us can do to help our son tackle his future.
Just let it go. I did. I felt the pain and the sadness lift from my shoulders and dissolve in the air.
As I was finishing up this post, I received an email from my ex that was such a considerate response that tears flooded my eyes for a second time this morning. This time, though, they were tears of appreciation that, despite the painful past, he and I did not tumble headlong into a cycle of ranting emails and flying accusations for the day.
Just let it go. I already had and, thanks to his response, it will stay gone.