We’ve all heard the expression that divorce is a roller coaster and we need to enjoy the ride, right? Being told to enjoy the divorce roller coaster ride is akin to wishing someone a peaceful day at the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Luckily, divorce doesn’t last a lifetime and the parallels that can be drawn will help us deal when it feels otherwise.
The initial phase of divorce I liken to queuing up for the ride. Your adrenaline is starting to ramp up and the energy is electric. You may have a partial view of the tracks ahead but the full view of the ride is beyond your line of sight. Returning cars are unloading passengers in various states of disarray. Faces reflect looks of bewilderment, exhaustion and relief as people are released from their seats. Some run directly into the arms of waiting loved ones, while others wander off alone, reaching for handrails as they adjust to being on solid land again. Your palms start to sweat as you understand that they made it, but wonder exactly what is in store. As you ponder this thought, the line shuffles forward and it’s go time.
The Front Car. At first you may feel as though you are in control of this situation. You have immense confidence in your own abilities to handle what’s in store. Some may call you a thrill seeker. Some may call you a control freak. Others would call you crazy. In any case, you’ve chosen your lot and have secured yourself a front row seat to what’s coming. Nothing lies between you and this adventure but open track when the safety bar comes down with a resounding clank across your lap. Safety measures are tested. You hear the release of compressed air as the cars pull out of the bay with a sudden start. You’ve got this right?
The Middle Car. Then there are those of you who are more the middle car variety. It’s likely the divorce wasn’t your choice. You were standing in line thinking it was just another day at the park when she handed you the papers and you realized not only were you tall enough to ride, the only exit was on the other side. The only way out was to go through it. You deemed the middle car the safest option with the small amount of notice given. The middle car to minimizes your exposure and your risk. Or so you would like to think.
The Caboose. Which brings us to those who ride in the end cars. This experience has the makings of a cattle call when the majority of your day was spent innocently chewing daisies. A muffled voice over the crackling loudspeaker tells you to step forward and into the caboose you go. You are mortified of heights, fear change and have heart palpitations in any vehicle that has a velocity greater than that which you could outrun. And you don’t run unless you’re being chased. You’re in the caboose because it is the only seat left.
Disclaimer. So here’s the deal. Before you print this article and bring it to your therapist for further discussion, understand two things. One, no matter where you sit, the ride is essentially the same. Two, the ride is finite. This means you will come out living and breathing at the other end. You may feel lighter, for a number of reasons. You may need a moment to collect yourself, restore personal order and get that queasiness in the pit of your stomach to settle. But you will.
The Initial Ascent. Regardless of your seat selection or whether your divorce is by choice or by force, your initial ascent will be a combination of adrenaline mixed with pointed questions of self-doubt. These questions may take the form of someone screaming and crying as you approach the first summit. This someone may be you. There will be a brief pause at the apex. There may be a silence, a pause. You may feel suspended in time. You may have delusions that you will be able to disembark. After all, you see stairs. If they hold the technician, they’ll hold you right? Never mind that you are buckled in and the train has left the station. There truly is no going back now. Between white knuckles and the sound of your heartbeat in your ears, you have time to admire the view. You find yourself momentarily taken aback by the beauty from this altitude, that is until the earth falls away beneath you.
The Blur. Your ride may vary. Twists. Turns. Inverted suspension. You may scream. You may enjoy it. You may lose items you thought were safely secured. Fellow passengers may resemble a horror movie on mute. Negotiations, offers and pleas that would never otherwise be offered are chanted in varying volumes. You may even have your photo taken, by surprise, and the darkest time, and the most inopportune, compromising and unsuspected moment. Those that took those photos may try and sell them back to you. They will only hold emotional importance for a short period of time.
The Return to the Station. You can feel the ride has peaked. You have a moment to catch your breath. Wipe the tears from your eyes and catch your breath. And while you may never have the urge to clap your hands with glee, hop up and down and yell “Let’s go again!” Know that you could if you had to. And you would know what to expect this time. You would know how to pack. You would know to secure your items. And you would know which to lock away.
You’re divorced. For a suspended period of time, it felt like your world was ending. For a suspended period of time, it felt like you had been turned on your head as things came crashing down around you. For a suspended period of time, it felt like you wouldn’t get your feet firmly back on the ground. Well. Congrats. Why? Because you made it. You’re stronger, wiser and despite (or because) of everything that happened, you’re still a great guy.