Chapter 1  |  Day 1: The leaving

The walk down the driveway is painful. My steps are slow and heavy, lacking energy and purpose but most of all, direction. I dawdle along with Penny our Labrador sniffing around my shoes. She’s ever hopeful my appearance will lead to a walk. I’m still tipsy from the night before; I wouldn’t have the courage to leave if I were sober. I woke up this morning, grabbed a plastic bag and filled it with underwear and toiletries.

It’s autumn. The leaves are leaving — just like me. The days have begun to cool and in the afternoons the sun fades quickly on the horizon. A breeze that once promised warmth now carries the whispers of a cold chill. This season of change, from the heat of summer to winter’s cold and grey greeting, is a lot like my life. There’s no avoiding it.

Each forced step reminds me I’m walking away from the only meaningful thing in my life. That I’m walking away from the best part of myself. That I will never be fully whole again.

I stop. For a long time I just stand there in the driveway, totally confused. A part of me feels this surge of elation. Freedom. I rediscover my sense of self-worth and dignity. I’ve found the courage to leave, to resolve the relationship deadlock, to put an end to living in fear. But at the same time I’m devastated because I don’t want it to end. It’s like receiving two letters in the post — the first one saying I’ve won first prize in the Lotto draw. Great! The second being test results from the doctor saying the little mark on my chest, which I thought was a piece of dried jam, is a rapidly growing melanoma. The elation of finally acting after months of procrastination has been crushed by the devastation of doing it.

What to do? I try to think through the fog. What to do now? I know what’s ahead; I have no illusions. This has happened to me before, but now I’m ten years older and a future alone isn’t so appealing. The thought of telling my parents, children and friends that another divorce could be looming is sickening. Talk about embarrassing.

I knew this moment was coming but I didn’t know when. How it would unfold and in what manner. Last night, Sarah and I attended a fundraiser for my youngest daughter — her school cross-country running team had made the final of the World School Girls titles in Brussels. The money raised will help pay for flights and accommodation. (They ended up winning.)

I drank a bit. Okay a lot. When we got home I was told to sleep in another room. I refused. It was my bed too. The red wine courage had kicked in. We lay there like two strangers staring at the walls. Then I reached across to touch her.

‘DON’T!’ Sarah said. ‘It’s over. Don’t touch me again.’

I jumped out of bed yelling — all huff and puff and don’t-talk-to-me-like-that. I said something about her still being my wife and that I’d had enough of this shit. I was over it. I stormed off and crashed in the spare bed for the night.

Now here I am Sunday morning wishing I was anywhere but.

That’s it. Done. Easy to say and another thing to do. Over. That marriage was like going to a dance party. The vibe is upbeat — you’re having a great time and you don’t want it to end. You want to live in that moment forever and make it last. Then reality kicks in, you realise you’ve had too many drinks and you’re starting to fatigue but you try and recapture it. Keep it alive. But it’s long gone. And now you’ve got to deal with the hangover.

Talk about confused. So much noise and chatter: Go back! Turn around. But it’s either today or tomorrow. We can work it out. Walk out or be thrown. Can’t believe this is happening. Can’t keep living a lie. Elephants of doubt dance behind my eyes. What to do? Where to go? F@#k! Not again. To start all over again. No! I never planned this at my age.

I’ve hit another iceberg. It’s like the scene of a major car accident on the highway of love, my life will be smashed up and fragments of it will be strewn all over the place — lost dreams, aspirations, dignity, self-confidence, integrity — all lying in the gutter for everyone to see. Again. The sudden carnage of another lost love will slow the traffic of life so that people can gasp and gawk, then drive on, their curiosity appeased. All of them relieved it wasn’t them. Not today at least.

I freeze mid-stride. A shudder ripples through me, offering a numb form of protection. Doctors have a name for this — it’s called shock: life’s protection against the impact of shattering moments that merge into hours, days, weeks, months. Perhaps years. This is the “Knowing” of what’s to come, and it paralyses me. Why can’t I have the naivety and innocence of the “Not Knowing”?

A practical person would see the benefits of the Knowing, the experience to pre-plan, contact a lawyer, organise a place to go, secure a financial position, create private banking accounts, contact accountants, warn relatives and friends so they can be available to offer support.

I think of how I’ve walked away from love in the past — my first marriage. But that breakup wasn’t like this. This time I’ve been sent away. Frozen out of the relationship. Told it’s over. Finished. I can’t accept this truth. This difference between walking away and being sent away — it’s killing me. Away: to go, to leave, vacate.

My elder daughter’s cat, Tink (short for Tinkerbell), sits on the fence staring at me. She gives me that condescending move-to-one-side-you’re-blocking-my-view sort of look. Then she returns to preening — disinterested in my appearance. That cat hates me. I never wanted it. I inherited it from Josie when the novelty wore off.

Penny is snuffling, persisting with her efforts to get my attention. She drops a ball at my feet and nudges it forward with her nose. I give her a pat, unaware that I will never walk her again. Penny, our surrogate child — the result of years of trying for another child after a reversed vasectomy. I will return in the coming weeks to throw the odd steak over the fence to her, but like most things in my impending separation/divorce, she will be lost to me.

I wave to a peering neighbour and decide I better do something. What? I don’t want to look back at the house. The opening of the side gate would have woken Sarah. She was probably awake anyway. After what happened the previous night I doubt if she slept that well. I know I didn’t. No. Don’t turn. Keep going. To do that you have to move — remember? Move! One foot, one foot, one foot ... pretend you have a purpose. Pretend you know what you’re doing.

The neighbour over the road gives me a smile. He potters in the garden, raking up leaves and bending down every now and then to pick up a twig or tug out the odd weed. He glances over at me again, questioning why I’m just standing there looking lost. I get into my car, start the ignition, anything to avoid that question shaping on his lips, ‘Is everything alright?’ I don’t have a clue what to do or where to go. I will avoid my parents, family and friends for a while — avoid the embarrassment. Maybe, just maybe, it will all blow over and not eventuate.

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About the Novel

Harsh reality: on a cold autumn morning, Dale Craig stands at the end of his driveway, his life in ruins. Alone and confused, he’s in denial.

‘It’s over!’

His marriage has just been sunk in the Sea of Love by a two-word tsunami. Surely this can’t be happening? Another divorce? What lies ahead is a challenging four-year journey of self-discovery.

Dale must now say goodbye to his self-confidence, stability, peace of mind, friends, step-family, money, property, business and his dreams for the future.

Will he survive the impact of his relationship ‘iceberg’? Will unresolved issues from his first divorce re-ignite and drag him back to confront the ghosts of his past?

Dabbling with meditation, self-help courses, yoga, clairvoyants and Happy Hour, Dale will once again seek love and launch himself into the modern world of Online Dating.

At times sad, other times amusing, this true story is told simply and from the heart. Honest. Raw. Yet it’s buoyed by an underlying sense of humour which is what usually happens when a stand-up comic finds himself in a no-joke situation. The book is a beacon for those about to face a life littered with fear, loneliness and the pain of divorce.

Join Dale’s step-by-step journey as he attempts to answer the question of why, when he said ‘I do’, in the end he ‘didn’t’.

And perhaps when you’re finished, you’ll be at peace with the truth that when your partner says ‘It’s over!’ they mean just that.