My divorce sent me spinning. But not necessarily in a bad way.

Before January of this year, I harbored the illusion that the life I was living was a life I would basically live until the day I died. I would be married to the woman who mothered my children, I would write novels, and I would participate yearly in some sort of male demon-exorcising ritual—I’d run a marathon, or climb Mt. Hood, or spend a week at Cycle Oregon with my brothers. The stability made me happy, even if the marriage was quarrelsome and the novels a financial sinkhole. I was a respectable American citizen.

In January, though, with me screaming “Do you realize how badly this is going to suck?” my wife decided that she was done with the quarreling and the financial sinkhole, and wanted out.

That’s when the dam broke.

The minute I walked out the door and into a studio apartment of my own, all hell broke loose. Afloat on an innertube on a placid lake for years, life was suddenly Class V rapids. In my anger and disgust, I began dating, IMMEDIATELY, desperately and hungrily dating. I found someone quick, and stared down anyone who gave me grief about it. My hair stood about an inch higher than usual. I grew a beard. I started smoking. I drank red wine every night. I was defensive and overly sensitive in my dealings with people, and when I perceived a challenge, I lashed out. I had breakups with friends.

It only fed the river.

I wanted faster. I wanted more.

I stopped the laborious novel writing and wrote quick essays for the Nervous Breakdown. I penned short stories and submitted them everywhere. I plastered queries for my novel on every agent’s door. I applied for writing residencies. I started an online creative writing school. I offered to manage the Writers’ Dojo, a shared office space for writers in Portland, Oregon. I busted out headlines for corporations. I found one-off freelance writing gigs. I collected friends—guy friends—and bitched about life and women and the brutality of the world.

Meanwhile, two of my brothers were also getting divorced. My mother contracted cancer. My kids were torn between two households. It was all part of the raging around me.

None of it mattered. Go. Go. Go.

Every once in a while, I’d do something stupid. I’d go out to the woods for a hike and contemplate. Come back with an oar. Try to reverse course.

After one such episode, I returned and tried to end it with my new girlfriend in a local park. It wasn’t right, it was too fast, I need to take some time, mourn the loss of my marriage, maybe date around. For about ten seconds, the innertube flipped and I was underwater: sadness and bubbles and drowning. My girlfriend held my hand, pulled me out of sensibility and behind a rhododendron bush. I took a deep breath and faced the next rapid.

I’m not sure if there’s a moral here. I don’t really want there to be. I actually prefer thoughtfulness and careful consideration to speed. If I’d had a choice in the matter I’d still be married to the woman who mothered my children, I’d still write novels, and I’d still participate yearly in some sort of male demon-exorcising ritual.

But if there has to be a moral, let it be this: If someone goes and blows up your dam, don’t try to steer. You no longer have control.

Ride, motherfucker, ride.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JAMES BERNARD FROST is the author of the novel A Very Minor Prophet, published by indie wonder-press Hawthorne Books, reviewed here by The Oregonian, recently optioned by Rocking Stone Media, and available wherever books are sold. He is also the award-winning author of the novel World Leader Pretend, published by St. Martin's Press, and the travel guide, The Artichoke Trail. His fiction, essays, and articles have appeared in venues as diverse as Wired, SF Weekly, the San Francisco Examiner, The Official Magazine of World of Warcraft, Trachodon Magazine, and the Farallon Review. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his two children, the rain, and the trees.

15 responses to “Ride, Motherfucker, Ride”

  1. Mary Richert says:

    Divorce is a funny thing because you never want to be happy for someone else’s loss, and yet, I’m tempted to applaud your handling of it. I mean, what else are you going to do? Good luck.

    • It’s funny, I’m aware in this essay that I don’t like my own advice, but for me, divorce was such an emotional flood that the only way I could get through it was to act. Thought was deadly. Rather than drown I just said yes to everything that came my way.

  2. Gloria says:

    I got an email from Writer’s Dojo announcing that you’d been selected for a Sitka Fellowship. Congratulations; I was jealous as hell. I wanted to apply, but with a two household kid post divorce relationship gotta work thing, I couldn’t. You understand.

    Seriously though – right on.

    I like this piece. A nice meditation. I get it. Kudos.

  3. Brad says:

    Terrific piece, Jim. Sitting still and thinking about something so life-changing can makes things worse. Lots of people don’t get that until they’re in the rapids. You either swim like hell or drown. You swam.

  4. Doug Bruns says:

    You made me want to feed the river. Whatever that means.
    Doug, of the other Portland.

  5. jennhipp says:

    love this.

  6. M.J. Fievre says:

    “In my anger and disgust, I began dating, IMMEDIATELY, desperately and hungrily dating. I found someone quick, and stared down anyone who gave me grief about it. My hair stood about an inch higher than usual. I grew a beard. I started smoking. I drank red wine every night. I was defensive and overly sensitive in my dealings with people, and when I perceived a challenge, I lashed out. I had breakups with friends.”

    This does sound like hell. People say things get better with time…

  7. Simon Smithson says:

    Ride, motherfucker, ride?

    Check.

  8. Marni Grossman says:

    This is the year that my parents got divorced. Which is to say that I’m coming at the experience from a whole ‘nother perspective.

    There are pros and cons to being an adult when your parents split. As I keep telling my father, if I was a child, I could probably have gotten a pony out of the thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *