The past few weeks have been almost unbearably busy, and have left me breathless — in case you hadn’t noticed by the dearth of posts. And the exhaustion has left me feeling a bit blue — though grateful I am not wiped out and wrecked like I was at this time last year.
However, I often find it difficult to communicate who I am; where I am. I find it hard to ask for help, and this, of course, is a recurring theme in my life. But what I really find impossible is for me to explain how hard the transition has been from having had a partner virtually all of my adult life, to now, having to do everything on my own.
It seems I should have figured this out by now, this long after having become single…but strangely, I have not.
For instance, in a very basic example, it sometimes seems challenging to change lightbulbs.
I’ve mentioned this before: I live in a pre-war apartment — beautifully re-done, and well-appointed — but the wiring in the building was never reconfigured, and even with fluourescent bulbs, I chew through them like whoah.
I have tall ceilings but am not a tall woman. I find it endlessly irritating to have to remove the delicate globes from the fixtures from nine-feet above; carefully handle the frosted glass; replace the bulbs in the three-piece configurations that never seem to wear out all at the same time. Even more fundamental than changing the bulbs, I find it annoying to have to buy the bulbs. What’s the right degrees kelvin for fluourescents so they don’t cast horrible light? Do I want to suck it up and buy incandescent bulbs, which will burn out in, like, ten days, just because I’m so sick of looking sickly in the blue-green glow of the wrong-degrees-kelvin ones?
What I am trying to say is that it is enough of a struggle to manage my life and my schedule and my dog and running and All of That, and it is not until I find myself literally sitting in the dark that I begin to take care of some of the more practical household elements of my day-to-day. For some reason, it all reminds me of that old, slapsticky routine where you have the juggler who juggles the pins, then throws them to the empty side of the stage, and the pins fall flat, the punchline is: It is so much better with my brother.
The routine is a pairs-act, and the brother is dead or otherwise indisposed, and so the juggler goes on alone.
The point is that even after three years, I still often feel: This was so much easier with my husband.
And then that becomes the punchline to a really unfunny joke: How many unhappy spouses does it take to change a lightbulb? And the answer is: Two. One to show up at home with the correct degrees-kelvin fluourescent blub, and a ladder to remove the glass globe from the fixture from nine-feet above. And one to bitch until the lightbulb gets changed.
That’s even less funny than the juggler joke.
Sometimes, the having to change the lightbulb bothers me. Sometimes, not having anyone but myself to blame for the fact it isn’t changed bothers me more.
And that’s the thing, and maybe the hardest part — I have no one to blame but myself for anything. Dishes in the sink? Mine. Clothes on the floor? Mine. Wet towels on the bed? All me. Mistakes made; blunders committed; burned out lightbulbs unchanged; stinky trash not taken out? Me; mine; me me me mine.
No matter how well informed you think you are as you head into your life on your own, I will tell you that you don’t know shit about shit. In a weird way, I’d like to think that the last few years have softened my heart towards myself and others.
The other night, exhausted, I leashed up the dog. I went to the hardware store. I bought lightbulbs. I borrowed the ladder from the doorman and I changed every damned lightbulb in the entire house. I left the dishes in the sink. I left the trash to rot.
In other words: The lightbulb went off. I recognised my own limits. And as to other things that needed doing, I reached out to a few friends; asked for help. While some part of me feared (and might always fear) that a cry for help might be met with ridicule and rejection, my friends responded without hesitation.
Yes, I’ve learned that a divorcee can change a lightbulb on her own. And often, that can be strangely satisfying. But all things — even the changing of the light — is better shared with others. And those who are near and dear will always be my needs answered.