We meant it as a joke, but it turned out to be the saddest selfie I've ever taken.
The house where we spent the last years of our marriage, celebrated Christmases and Thanksgivings, where our youngest child was born ... it was cleared out. After three days and several trips, our beloved country farmhouse stood as empty inside as I felt.
My (soon-to-be) ex-husband's stuff was already in his new home, and mine was all packed up and headed for my new place 20 minutes away. I had already done my crying. Plenty of it. I completely lost it in the kids' bedroom when I pulled those chunky wooden letters, the ones that spelled out their names, off the walls. We had painted them Sully blue and Mike Wazowksi green several months before he walked out of our house and began sleeping at his mom's.
I imagine he did some stealth crying at some point, too. Probably out in the garage, where he kept sneaking off to take smoke breaks throughout the several days it took for us to dismantle 10 years of life together.
After a couple of smoke-free years, he took the habit up again the day I asked him for a separation.
Cigarette-after-cigarette belied the stoic exterior he displayed as the agonizing days we spent moving stretched through June.
So he took smoke breaks in the garage and I took crying breaks: in the kids' room, on the stairs, in the attic where I discovered a sweet birthday card he'd given me long ago. Something funny and prophetic, about how we belong together like matches and gas.
It was almost over.
Despite all the smoking and crying, everything was loaded up and the house was ready for the next family to move in and create memories within its walls. We wandered around, saying our goodbyes.
The attic where a fire started, forcing us from our home for 6 months, the shared bedroom where our son and daughter first learned to play together, the separate bedrooms where he and I slept and otherwise used to strategically avoid each other, the backyard where laughter used to bounce off the fence as dogs barked and kids splashed in the pool, the living room where our son slid from my body and took his first gasps of air.
We meant it as a joke. An ironic commentary about the world's obsession with documenting every living, breathing moment. I posted it on Instagram and Facebook with the caption "Awkward Separation Moving Day Selfie" and never meant for it to be taken seriously.
But now, when I look at that photo, I don't laugh. Even though it was a kind of half-as*ed joke, the pain and sadness seep through the original intentions and knuckle me right in the solar plexus. The selfie shows two people slogging through the worst time in their lives, trying to make the best of it, but also wondering what the f*ck happened here.
In that way, it ended up being one of the most honest selfies I've ever taken. No primping, no posing. Just a camera up and SNAP.
This is what separation looks like.
This is what separation feels like.