Rough year out of the way, now it’s time for smooth sailing (The Long View)

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After 23-plus years of matrimony, I have again experienced all four seasons as a single person. The first anniversary of the decree putting my marriage asunder came up in last month's calendar.  

As has been previously discussed, there are few cultural norms that apply to commemorate the occasion of divorce. Other than noting its arrival, I tried not to think about it too hard.

After 23-plus years of matrimony, I have again experienced all four seasons as a single person. The first anniversary of the decree putting my marriage asunder came up in last month's calendar.  

As has been previously discussed, there are few cultural norms that apply to commemorate the occasion of divorce. Other than noting its arrival, I tried not to think about it too hard.

The year has been a long exercise in maintaining a balanced perspective. Whenever I was convinced that I deserved to throw a pity party, the universe has been good about giving me glimpses of, if not how good I have it, how much worse it could be.

October was a rough ride, marking what would have been my 24th wedding anniversary and the first birthday celebrated in my new house. However, that was also the month a friend called to suggest I visit her in the hospital from time to time during her treatment for leukemia.

February held its share of emotional triggers, too, including the aforementioned anniversary and Valentine's Day, a holiday rife with tear-your-heart-out memories if ever there was one. But the news of another friend’s spouse sudden passing gave me another dose of insight. If my eyes are open, I’ll surely see people bearing a heavier load than mine. By comparison, my glass is assuredly half full, if I choose to look at it that way.

Nevertheless, it is still tempting to look back at my former life as better than the one I am now living.  

I have come to appreciate the understated intimacy of incidental contact. Whether a salutation from a neighbor as we come and go from our homes, or momentary small talk in the break room or between cubicles at work, we learn about each other’s activities and plans. These little gestures pile up until they form an edifice of lives shared.

Looking back on this year of unfamiliar territory, I find this incidental contact, the low-key sharing of day-to-day existence, is one of the things I miss most. An arm briefly put around my waist in the kitchen as I put away the dishes or scrub the pots and pans. A cheerful greeting as I rumble through the door with groceries. The sight of my sons sleeping late in the morning or running out the door, almost late for class.  

These familiarities are the everyday building blocks of relationship; they stack up to become the depth and richness of our worlds. Without these familiar touchstones, life can feel threadbare and barren.

Still, the universe replies, “So what? As you’ve been shown repeatedly, everyone’s got a load to carry, and many of those burdens are worse than yours. There is nothing for it but to keep going.”

And the universe is correct.

This first year is the hardest, I tell myself, and that’s the story I’m sticking to.  

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com