Before I met and married my husband, I was with my ex for 15 years, but only married for 6 months. That's because I was with a woman when California legalized same-sex marriage.
We had been the iconic lesbian couple: an artist and a writer – teachers and activists. People saw us as the perfect couple.
I had been deeply invested in my identity as a lesbian and in my identity as half of a loving, perfect partnership. After having been – as my mother put it – "boy crazy" in my teens and twenties, falling in love with a woman in my early thirties had been a revelation. I didn't have to worry about what men thought of me. I didn't have to sculpt my body to adapt to the male gaze. A woman could really understand me. We didn't have to conform to anyone's ideas of what life should be. I'd never felt so free.
Even though my parents thought this was a "phase," or that I'd been brainwashed, they not only came to love my wife as a daughter – they became outspoken LGBTQ advocates.
My wife and I had marched with thousands of others for marriage equality. We'd attended dyke marches and pride parades. My novels featured queer characters, and my poems honored the love between women. At the university I'd become known as a lesbian professor who incorporated queer content into her courses and who had a loving, long-term marriage.
Despite all of this, perhaps our beautiful wedding-on-a-boat had just been a way to try to resuscitate a dying relationship. It didn't work and it ended for all sorts of reasons. I was devastated. I couldn't eat or sleep, haunted by the thoughts going through my mind. I wondered if life was worth living.
It took me a few months of darkness and hours of therapy to see how being torn to the ground – as painful as it was – presented me with an opportunity to rebuild.
I moved from our old house, where the floors creaked and the electricity and plumbing were iffy into a bright apartment. I made plans to travel.
And I started dating men.
I'd had good sex with both men and women in the past. But for a while, sex with men had pervaded my psyche. I wanted a five o'clock shadow to graze my face. I wanted to feel a man's strength. I wanted to be with a man in bed.
Dating men was exciting, but it wasn't a panacea. While some were fun in bed, I met a surprising number of men who had various versions of sexual dysfunction. And some whose idea of a good time was – yes – watching TV and drinking beer.
Still, it was exciting to be doing something totally different. I craved trying other new things. I felt growing in me a kind of tenderness toward the world, an openness to trying new things. Now that I was single, I could do whatever I damn well pleased. I rode my bike 72 miles around Lake Tahoe. I went to a bo match. I read books and watched movies I would have pooh-poohed in the past. I even started wearing makeup again and pretty clothes that made me feel like a girl playing dress-up. And this time, I was dressing for myself, not for the men or women in my life.
I traveled alone to Hawaii, taking myself on a divorce honeymoon, drinking a small bottle of champagne on the plane and walking alone for five hours across a volcano. I joined a hiking group and a meditation group. I took salsa lessons. I developed new courses for my teaching job. Life suddenly seemed full of possibility.
My friends and family saw me coming alive. Most were thrilled for me, although a few were not. And me? Maybe I was bisexual? Maybe I was fluid? I was too busy living to worry about a label.
Soon I met a guy who liked to do all kinds of cool stuff, too. He loved music, travel and books. People loved him. I had focused so much on living the life I wanted to live, and that's when the right guy walked in. It could have been the right woman. But it doesn't matter because right is right.
So four years ago I returned to Hawaii. Although this time, it wasn't for a divorce honeymoon but to marry this man – surrounded by our friends.
The next year, we took our love for travel to a new level: We left our jobs to live without a home, staying with friends and housesitting all over the world. Then we bought a little house in Mexico. And this fall, we're moving to China, where I'll be teaching for a year.
Divorce inspired me to take a closer look at myself – inspiring me to deliberately create the life I want.