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Posts Tagged ‘Lorianne DiSabato’

Separated

May 21, 2007 1 comment

From Hoarded Ordinaries, October 4, 2004

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Last week I received an updated copy of my car insurance which reflected the seemingly innocuous fact that my 1993 Subaru is now registered in my name and Chris is no longer listed as a driver of that car. And there in black and white I saw it printed for the first time: “Lorianne Schaub. Marital status: separated.”

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On the one hand, “separated” is such a mild euphemism. When I first phoned my mother to tell her of Chris and my decision to divorce, I couldn’t bring myself to say the dreaded “D” word. “We’ve decided to separate,” I explained calmly. “It’s an amiable split, but things are understandably awkward.” It was only after my mom pushed for specifics–was I referring to a trial separation, or had the die been cast–that I made the situation clear: no, it’s over; he’s moved to Vermont, and the paperwork for a divorce has been filed. Even with my mother, though, I stumbled over the “D” word. In my head “divorce” equated with “failure” whereas “separation” evoked an image of an amiable parting: here we’ve come to a juncture, you and I, and I will walk this way while you go that.

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On the other hand, though, “separation” is a jarring and even violent term. Whereas “divorce” can refer to a coldly clinical legal procedure (sign the papers, pay the fee, and you’re outta there), thinking of oneself as “separated” evokes images of body parts lying bloodlessly detached from one another: here’s an arm; over there’s a leg. “Separation” sounds almost surgical, as if the act of divorcing from one’s partner of nearly 13 years is a kind of dismemberment, a cleaving apart of flesh and bone that had improperly knit.

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This latter image of separation seems particularly apt. At times over the past two months since Chris moved to Vermont, I’ve felt emotionally dismembered, as if my head is in one place and my heart in another. On one level, I live and work and interact like any other normally functioning person; on the other, I feel like I’ve left a limb or two somewhere, but I can’t remember where. How can people talk and interact with me normally: can’t they see that I’ve been cloven in two, half of my limbs and nearly all of my heart having disappeared, severed? At times as I go about smiling and chatting as if nothing has happened, I feel like a magician’s assistant: my head is smiling, my hands are waving, and my feet are dancing… but each of these parts is neatly segmented into its own clever box, a benignly bloodless dislocation.

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Some while ago, Andi [link broken] described the experience of breaking up with a partner and then moving to Korea as feeling like an unaesthetized spinal transplant: suddenly the very thing that held you upright has been ripped from you, and there you are trying to navigate a foreign airport as if nothing ever happened. (Unfortunately, I can’t find the precise permalink to Andi’s post, so you’ll have to rely on my paraphrase.) Although I’ve never had spinal surgery nor have I ever moved to Korea, I know that during that week when Chris moved out, I felt like I’d been enviscerated, like I was walking around town with a huge gaping hollow where my stomach and guts used to be. I couldn’t eat nor did I want to, and I felt oddly detached from my own body: somehow it didn’t seem real that I could function like any other normal person with a brain that was spinning from an onslaught of “what if’s” and “if only’s.”

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The metaphor of divorce being a kind of unaesthetized envisceration works on several different levels. As I mentioned, I’ve never had spinal surgery, but I have had my appendix removed, and several years ago my father had both his colon and bladder removed not long after doctors had riven his ribcage to repair a long-abused and direly blocked heart. I know what it’s like to be bent double with abdominal pain; I know what it’s like to lie abed without the energy to stand much less walk while nurses exhort you to get up and be moving. I’ve seen my father slowly recover after doctors literally severed his insides to keep the rest of him alive: I know the mixed emotions you feel toward the bastards who stole your father bit by bit in order to defeat the damn Cancer that had been eating him, unaware. When you see a man brought to the brink of death then back again at gloved and masked hands–when you’ve felt the press of those same hands as you lay on a gurney, pain ripping your insides as you clawed at your own IVs, madly animalized by pain and fear–you don’t know whether to thank medical science or excoriate it. Those bastards cut open my father after he allowed them to cut open me, and neither one of us would be alive today without such goddamned and bloody intervention.

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The deepest irony of describing divorce as unaesthetized envisceration, though, lies in its agency, for I acknowledge that I am both helpless patient and goddamn bastard doctor. This separation is one I both asked and pressed for; when Chris has asked if there’s even a chance of reconcilation, my rational half (my inner surgeon) has said No. Even as I walked the streets of Bar Harbor, Maine several weeks ago, pencam around my neck as I snapped one reflective picture after another, visual proof to myself that I Am Standing and Will Survive, an unexpected cell phone call from him brought the pain of separation immediately back, unscabbed. Was separating difficult? Yes. Did I regret the decision? No. One of the oddest parts of self-surgery is the way you can simultaneously feel yourself lying strapped to a gurney, your guts splayed and splattered, while another part of you stands logical and detached, overseeing the procedure. Really, this must be done: truly, to save the life of the patient, the cancer and contiguous organs must be removed.

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Thus I live with an odd paradox. Although I both regret and lament the pain of separation and I’m staggered at the thought of my own relational failures and my cognizance of how this split has broken hearts other than my own, I never once have regretted the decision that led to divorce. Yes, I’ve had moments of loneliness since Chris moved out; yes, I’ve had moments of depression and even despair. But none of these lonely moments is as bad as the loneliness I felt in a mis-matched marriage; never have I felt so depressed that I wanted to curl up and die, which is something I felt too often while married. This current pain feels like healing: it hurts, but there is a reason and an end in sight. The pain that led up to separation felt inexplicable and never-ending, the kind of pain that simmers and seethes and ultimately destroys. This current pain won’t kill me; that other kind surely was.

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Unexpectedly, I’ve found moments of simple joy amidst the pain of separation: the joy of a quiet house, the simplicity of a single grocery bag full of enough food for just me and the dog. Even when the pain of separation was the greatest, I found unexpected, grounding joy in tangible objects: the caress of a broom on a well-worn floor, the warmth of newly dried laundry. The silent pictures I snapped in the aftermath of Chris’s move were my way of telling the world (and myself) I was all right, that as long as milkweeds still sprouted from sidewalk cracks and vines coiled from shattered factory windows, I too would persevere. Separation is a painful and difficult process–at times your heart and your head seem entirely detached, never to reunite. But underneath the pain lies a promise, a hope that one day I will awake to find myself no longer riven, but entire.

I snapped all of these reflective photos during my recent trip to Bar Harbor, and I’ve posted three of them to the Mirror Project. I am fully aware of the irony that the girl who avoided looking at herself in the mirror as a teenager, terrified of the Ugly Duckling she’d see reflected therein, suddenly feels the need to slap pictures of herself all over her blog. I’ve found, though, that taking and posting these pictures–a visual act of independence and acceptance–is more fun than therapy, and cheaper.

by Lorianne DiSabato

Out of Place

January 7, 2006 16 comments

At the heart of Central Square here in Keene, New Hampshire stands a bronze sentinel who guards downtown both night and day. As watchmen will, he stands alone, his view of Main Street obscured only twice a year: in October by a towering scaffold of Pumpkin Festival jack-o-lanterns, and in December by a stories-high spruce decorated with Christmas lights. It seems curious that Keene, like so many other New England towns, has a soldier at her center, for he seems out of place in a quiet community, vigilant and alone in an otherwise placid place. And yet these days it seems I stand as he does, a woman alone amongst families, out of place yet stationed in the practice of watching.

When I first moved to Massachusetts and then to New Hampshire, I was one half of an army of two. On visits to see family in Ohio, my then-husband and I countered questions by explaining we’d chosen to live in New England; we’d chosen to remain childless so we could do unthinkable things like live in a Zen Center or sell a perfectly good house to move into an apartment. Although my former in-laws duly visited New England at least once a year to see not one but two wandering sons, my family has never understood my leaving. “Why do you live there?” a sister asked after I’d e-mailed photos of my car buried by a recent snowstorm. Implicit in her question is an accusation: Why do you live there rather than here; why did you leave the state where your family lives?

In my writing and photography, I obsess about place, depicting time and again the same streets, sidewalks, and facades seen on daily dog-walks through town. At times I seem to argue for my town over any other: Isn’t she lovely? And yet my parents in Ohio never visit my blog, for it resides in cyberspace, a place as distant from their lives as New England. Why advocate for a town that is mine only by adoption, a place that is kind but holds no kin? If I’m trying to explain why I chose to live here rather than there, to whom am I speaking? Am I trying to persuade others to follow, or am I trying to convince myself to stay?

Like a soldier who has set down tent-stakes, I know the lay of the land around Keene: I’ve done more than my share of reconnaissance while walking with dog and camera. But unlike locals who have always lived here or newcomers who have invested by buying homes, bearing children, and starting businesses, I’ve no lasting commitments to this particular community. I don’t own property, I’ve no children to yank from school, and my circle of friends exceeds the limits of this town. In relationships mediated through phone and Internet connections, I could live my life almost anywhere. Even my job as an adjunct writing instructor is tenuous and temporary, a mutual agreement between college and contractor to stick around, for now.

Keene was a bustling town when I moved here two years ago, and she continues to burgeon, experiencing the usual growing pains: increased traffic, a flurry of corporate development, an alarming upsurge in crime. Locals rightly question the intentions of newcomers reaching for their piece of the New Hampshire pie. What will happen to downtown businesses now that an outlying strip mall is nearly completed? What use do locals have for a handful of proposed hotels? Keene thrives on an autumn influx of tourist dollars, but locals need to live here year-round. As I too watch Keene’s maturation with concern, I realize I’m neither native nor newcomer. If Keene changes irrevocably, there’s nothing but loyalty stopping me from pulling up stakes and stationing myself elsewhere, and I’m not sure how strong the ties of loyalty really are.

In December I walked to the Christmas tree lighting in Central Square. Families with bundled children were awaiting Santa, and the downtown gazebo was adorned with a caroling choir. There were bright-lit shop windows and lines of luminaries reflected in small, wide eyes. As usual, I walked alone, camera in hand. Christmas is for children and families; in December more than ever, an unaccompanied woman feels out of place, her solitary status running against the weft of society’s fabric. But if a lone woman is out of place anywhere, why not walk streets where children stroll with attentive parents in a town where Santa arrives, alluringly, on a glistening red fire-truck? Returning to my warm apartment, I settled on my mat and cushion, following the breath that feels like home. A Buddhist with a place to lay her mat, I tell myself, is never without refuge.

Keene is a question I’ve not yet solved: after two years of watching and walking, I still don’t know her true face. If someday I finally feel entirely at home in Keene, her mysteries solved and my place here found, I wonder if that will be adequate motive for me to stay or the final push I need to go. As someone obsessed by place, I know that “Here” is relative: I could find that, along with my feet, “Anywhere.” For the time being, I love my quaint little Keene, but we’re not married, and she has many suitors. Although I occasionally feel out of place in a landscape so far from my hometown, right now Keene is my chosen vantage, my stance set as I watch her streets as closely as any bronze sentinel.

Written by Lorianne DiSabato, of Hoarded Ordinaries.

Categories: Finding Home Tags:

A Little Place in Town

December 20, 2005 12 comments
Categories: Finding Home Tags: