“I want your life.”

That’s what you wrote on my Facebook page a few months back, after I told you that Angie and I were watching horses and eating cheeseburgers at the racetrack. I wagered that afternoon on a horse named Creative Genius. I bet three dollars and won nine.

All these weeks, I have been unable to get your words out of my head. How strange, I thought, that someone would want my life — where I juggle graduate school deadlines and thesis statements, newspaper columns and credit card bills. I rely on a team of baby-sitters just to get a little exercise or some adult conversation.

There are mornings when I have to sit on Angie just to get socks and shoes onto her feet before kindergarten. There are nights when I get home from class just in time to tuck her into bed.
You want this life?

I recognize the sentiment behind your words, of course. Not so long ago, I was where you are now: Standing on the precipice of divorce, wondering whether I would survive the fall.
Back then, I wanted to be anyone but me.

On Christmas Eve three years ago, I drove with Angie up the New Jersey Turnpike toward a life that seemed as though it belonged to someone else. My husband of 12 years had just asked me for a divorce and Angie and I were on our way to Maine to start over.

Angie was 2 years old at the time.

Those first few months were overwhelming. I hardly slept or ate. I felt lost and afraid. In the evenings, I curled under the covers next to my daughter, feeling the warmth of her skin and praying that everything would be all right.

On sleepless nights, I wrote letters to Angie in a journal that I kept on the nightstand. I scribbled furiously under the purple glow of her Hannah Montana night-light, apologizing for not being the mother she deserved and trying to explain what was happening to her family.

“I’m sorry I’ve been so sad and tired lately,” I wrote one night. “I wish I could tell you right now that I know what is going on, that I know where this road is going to take us. But I don’t. I don’t know what is going to happen.”

I bet you have written something similar. I bet you have tried to explain it to your own children, to your neighbors, and maybe even to yourself — but you just couldn’t find the words.

Your circumstances are different than mine, of course, but the anguish of divorce is the same. I know how tight your chest feels when you think about the future. I know how your shoulders slump when you wonder when things will get easier.

And I know what it’s like to wish you were living someone else’s life.
On our first Christmas on our own, Angie and I sang “Frosty the Snowman” in the car and ate sugar cookies until our stomachs ached. We set up a small tree in the living room and decorated it with ornaments we made ourselves.

That year, I sold one of my wedding rings to buy presents. I bought Angie a pink cradle and highchair for her baby dolls. She made me refrigerator magnets shaped like butterflies.
It was bittersweet.

Sometimes I’d like to go back to that time, though I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it is because I learned my most meaningful lessons there, in that first apartment that Angie and I shared.

That’s where I found the strength to take care of my daughter — and to take care of myself. I realized the value of forgiveness and the importance of making peace with the past. I discovered that time really does make things better. And I learned to write stories that could bring comfort to other people.
People like you and me.

So don’t wish this time of your life away, my friend. As painful as it may be, open your heart to every moment. Try to savor it all, the bitter and the sweet. These days are fleeting. They are passing more quickly than you realize.

They are horses racing around the track.

Wendy Fontaine’s Party of Two
column appears every other week. Her email address is: [email protected];
or follow Party of Two on Facebook.

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