There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning. --Thornton Wilder
Looking back, I can see how blindly optimistic I was--as if willpower alone could rescue and restore us to sanity. I never once imagined we'd be taken down by the slow, inexorable crushing: months of sleep deprivation and twins born on the cusp of a devastating economic downturn, the strain of raising five children on one income and the ongoing process of recovering from our cult backgrounds.
I guess I just didn't think divorce could happen to us. That somehow, we'd be different. We'd overcome. After all, we'd escaped our childhood cults and forged a new life for ourselves. We'd beaten the odds. We were the exception.
There's a reason, I think, why people refer to life Before Twins and life After Twins. Giving birth to multiples--especially on top of three other children--is the kind of shocking life change around which the whole of a marriage seems hinge. At least, that's how it's been for us.
"The twins run the show now," a neonatologist told us when our babies were still in the NICU. He was amused, chuckling. I remember thinking: yeah, right. I'm already a mom of three. How much more intense can it be, really?
Answer: way more intense.
I had heard the anecdotal horror stories about marriages falling apart within five years of a twin/multiples birth. Four years after our twins were born, I suddenly understood.
Last summer, I asked my husband to move out. I was exhausted. We were both exhausted. Burned out. I didn't have the will to carry on anymore. The prolonged crucible of raising twins had exacerbated all our other issues. At the time, I could see no way through except quitting.
But the greatest act of courage is to love. I heard that line last night in Smokefall, a play at South Coast Repertory. Something in that line sank deep into my soul. This play was the story of a family--a pregnant mother of twins whose husband who could no longer bear the crushing weight of life. And so he disappeared one day. It was the story of a family over several generations. It was poetic and plebeian, heartbreaking and humorous. It was a story of leaving and staying, of the moments that define us and bind us.
And like all good art, this play reflected life back to me. It inspired me. It helped me remember. The greatest act of courage is to love.
My husband and I, we stayed together. By daily grace we are staying together. Last summer was our rock bottom and it's been a long, slow, moment-by-moment recovery. But it is a recovery.
We live in these daily moments and by being present in them--by living the pain, by facing our pain instead of seeking escape--we are finding a very present grace and a refined-by-fire love.
There are moments like a Sunday breakfast--the twins flipping through the coupons (look! Mama! orange juice on sale!), husband answering a phone call from one of his employees, my ballerina wandering in all groggy and tired from her week dancing in NYC, our sons playing with the the dogs--these moments we remember.
In the end, these moments are all we have--the moment in the arbor where the rain beat/ The moment in the draughty church at smokefall/Be remembered.... --T.S. Eliot
Every day is the choice to live courageously--to love by word and deed--to cross the bridge between life and death. The bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.