Unsettling trends

This past week I found out that one of my friends is getting divorced and another is expecting another baby. Among the people I know, that makes four divorces in less than two years and at least six new babies (I’ve lost track — it seems that every time I turn around someone else is pregnant). When I shared these bits of news with my SO, he first responded with sorrow and wry surprise, respectively, then grew thoughtful.

“That’s scary,” he finally said.

“What’s scary?” I asked.

“All of it,” he replied. I nodded, aware that fear lay coiled, dormant and unvoiced, in the back of my mind: Could it happen to us? Could we be standing at the edge of a precipice and not even know it?

What seems sudden and unexpected to onlookers, however, may not be so surprising to participants, especially where a dissolving marriage is concerned. All four of those marriages showed some signs of stress, but what marriage doesn’t? Only the individual partners knew the toll that stress took on them; to the rest of us — maybe even to one another — it looked as though they were coping as best they could. Surely they had some sense that they were nearing the end of their resources, even if they didn’t let on to those around them.

But what if they didn’t? What if they simply found themselves one day on the wrong side of an invisible boundary, beyond which there was no hope of returning? Perhaps it is only in retrospect that anyone can point to a moment, a choice, an event and say, “There’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Thus the unvoiced fear moves in its sleep, mumbling incoherent anxieties.

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