On Love

Today I was deposed by my husband’s lawyer as part of what has been a very painful and abusive divorce. The questioning was rigorous, required as much concentration as does writing. For once I felt that my long training in Flannery O’Connor’s notion of “the habit of art” was actually useful under totally different circumstances.

Everything was scrutinized, including my books, piled as exhibit three. How much money did I make from each one? My reply: “nothing,” except for the twenty-four dollars and one cent garnered from royalties on my fourth book, My Life as a Doll, published by Autumn House Press in 2008, one month after I left the marriage.

Understand this much: that lawyer was out to break me as I have a major mental illness and he knows it. I was determined to maintain my integrity, a scrap of human decency. This was not a battle, but a test by God or whoever might be out there orchestrating the universe.

I maintained  my composure by doing three things, none of which was planned: I kept eye contact with my interrogator, recited the Serenity Prayer again and again in my head and sat pulled up like the dancer I was trained to be.

It worked. By noontime there was a proposal on the table. It will be thoroughly examined by my lawyers, but the intent to settle is quite clear. If not, my deposition will be resumed in a week, but nothing will be gained by further examination. My husband’s lawyer actually said to mine that I should be paid for what I do.

Integral to all of this is a question I had to answer as my bio for a theatre production that is using two sequences of My Life as a Doll, soon to open in Portsmouth, NH. The question was: “what is love?” My immediate answer was, “love is the catastrophic miracle that makes us who we are.”

An oxymoron perhaps, but one with a crucible of truth. My marriage of eighteen years was a catastrophic miracle, one that produced my son, now seventeen, and living in a different state. Although I detest my husband’s actions since our separation nearly two years ago, I still can’t say I don’t love him. He is the father of my only child. He cared for me more in sickness than in health and that the marriage failed is neither his fault nor mine.

It just died. And just like funerals take us out of life to mourn and celebrate the lost one, so does a deposition. I was in a very dark office on—how perfect!—Battery March Street in downtown Boston and that battery march was also a funereal one. Just as the deposition was suspended, I was suspended in time and space.

Still am. Words on paper are my footprints in the softly falling snow that will lead me back to my real home, that of heart and soul, in Kittery Point, ME. My long lost parents were my abusers, but I could feel them cheering me on from the grave today. I once wrote that I love them better now that they are dead, but God knows how truly I loved them as a child and how truly I mourned their deaths. They, too, were catastrophic miracles that made me who I am.

In the end, my means to an end is forgiveness. I can forgive my parents for their atrocities as well of those of my husband, but can I forgive myself? Isn’t that the hardest part of love: self-forgiveness? I was the one who left the marriage and I did so to save my son from witnessing my madness and from the very real possibility of suicide.

Eye contact, the Serenity prayer, the dancer’s pose. What more can we do when under such duress? A friend advised me to “lean on infinite sustenance” and I leaned hard, like a sailboat in a great storm. Someday I may even be able to tell my son that the divorce helped me grow stronger while trying to destroy me.

I’m home. I’m writing and what is writing but one more catastrophic miracle? I bless it, it blesses me back. I bless my husband and in doing so, bless myself. Just the weight of the pen in my hand feels glorious and my little word etching are my geography, the map by which I live. Today my husband’s lawyer saw me in my most human dimension and isn’t that exactly what we try to capture when writing? The going may be rough, but it is also good.

Filed under: Elizabeth Kirschner, Prose