Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


My Independence Day

Birth of the nation, yes. But today may be an historic day for another reason. It may be the day I snapped out of it.

Snapped out of the pandemic. Snapped out of economic concerns. Snapped out of my divorce.

It might’ve happened last month, the snapping-out-of. Or even earlier this week. But at some point recently it happened, because as I devoted some time this morning to cleaning out my writing room, which had become overrun on every flat surface and every square inch of carpeted floor, I came across all sorts of things from 2020 and 2021 and 2022, and asked myself, “When did this happen?”

As in:

  • “Oh! That’s right! I wrote this play and it was produced. Completely forgot about it.”
  • “This LP is a one-of-a-kind test pressing of the remaster of the album that introduced me to Pere Ubu almost 40 years ago! HOW DID I GET THIS?”
  • “Oh wow. My Twitter music buddy in Nashville sent me this package. Did I even open it? What is it?”
  • “This is an unused gift certificate to my local comics shop from my sons – from two years ago!”
  • “These 15 pages that I wrote, dated and printed out and paper-clipped together, are called ‘Blink.’ Is this a short story? A play? A monologue piece? What is this?”

These are just some of the things I found sloshing around in stacks and piles in a room I’d let overgrow like kudzu the past two years.  Plays or parts of plays that I’d written, some pieces of fiction, rehearsal notes, correspondence from friends across the U.S. and the U.K., disks from musicians I revere in Ohio and California and Brighton, England, and ephemera of my travels and sightings: ticket stubs, theatre programs, pins, postcards.

Throughout these two years, I’ve felt healthy and well. And I’ve sure been active. But it was bizarre to look at so much archaeological evidence from those two years and not recognize the tribe responsible — which was I, myself.

Thirty-one years ago, when my father was dying, a friend of the time told me that it takes two years to get over trauma. Specifically, he said it takes two years to get over the death of a parent. He said that when his mother died, he went on a kibbutz (even though he isn’t Jewish) and acted strangely all around and then realized in retrospect two years later how oddly he’d been behaving. He was kindly advising me that I was going to lose my mind for a couple of years after my father died, that the death of your parent was like mortality knocking on your own door. As he nicely related this to me, trying to do me a service, I thought, “Yes, but I’m stronger than you. That’s not going to happen to me.” And then that August of 1992, my father died, and then in 1994 while on a mountain top in Arkansas on a fellowship at a playwriting retreat for a month I realized that I’d been a complete asshole for two years, so I called my wife and apologized, and then came back to town and apologized to other people too.

So maybe the past two years have been like that. Except instead of the death of my father, it was the death of my marriage.

I never expected my father to die — he wasn’t supposed to do that — and I don’t expect to die, not really, and I certainly didn’t expect my marriage to die.

But it’s been okay. It’s a cliché to say we’ve both changed, my ex-wife and I, but it’s true; we just don’t belong together any more, not as life partners. I’m glad that she and I are still friends. I care about her, I truly do. Thirty-eight years of almost entirely positive memories — of romance, of childrearing, of vacations with and without kids, of raucous laughter with friends, of adventures out on rivers and in woods and in cities and with family — are worth safekeeping. Precisely when each of our three beautiful children was conceived; that’s worth treasuring. These are precious memories, to be treated with respect and care. When I told my divorce attorney that I wanted the parting to be amicable, she said, “Everyone says that.” And then when the court issued the final divorce decree, a day that my now ex-wife and I both met with a wrenching sadness, the same attorney said with surprise, “Congratulations. It really was amicable,” which was a testament to the determination my wife and I had both made, to keep talking, to talk it through, to keep it friendly, to preserve the good feelings and the good memories as part of the heritage for ourselves and our children.

Since July of 2021, when the pandemic was in full swing and the marriage was flatlining, I’ve been busy building the next phase of my life, connecting with friends on a deeper level, bearing down on my business and lifting it up, immersing myself in the music that suffuses me with the thrill of discovery, and re-entering the dating world so I can find a new partner to share adventures with. And, evidently, writing all sorts of things, some of them half-remembered.

I never stopped working on any of that, but today I feel like I have a fuller awareness.

It’s my Independence Day.

3 Responses to “My Independence Day”

  1. Joe Stafford Says:

    Happy Independence Day to you for sure! It was absolutely super of you to invite me up to NYC in April for a couple of days of movies, a play (!), and walking around a city that I love. I’ve been fogged up by covid, the death of a spouce in April of 2021 and a cardio work-up in 2022. I’m continuing to lose excess weight with a diet that I got sent back to school to learn, and my cholesterol levels continue to lower. I’m a vegiterian now with no boredom about food whatsoever, my exercise level is continuing and I’m in gym 3x a week. I can get what you talk about snapping out of it, I was in Florida for most of June, and I’m planning a trip now to visit a friend in Dundalk, Ireland, on the Cunard Queen Mary 2. Bartley is a good friend over decades of visits to AC and staying at my house when it was still a hotel run by my late Husband, Martin. More on this soon, but for sure have a Capitol 4th, and I’ll see you on Wordzee!

  2. Carolyn Jackson Says:

    Thank you for sharing the changes you have been through over the past two years. For our time, I think that the pandemic years were our ‘lost years.’ So many losses, perhaps most devastating the loss of any illusion that we are a civilized society. The arguments over masks, the former occupant of the White House, the deluded folks who blindly cling to the idea that the election was ‘rigged’. No, folks, that is just what it feels like when a candidate you believe in loses.

    We lost my father during the pandemic. He didn’t die because of COVID; no, it was a long hard battle of a soldier fighting his lasts battle. However, he was cut off from society during his illness for two years because no one wanted to risk being the one who carried COVID to him. My mother, sister, and I did hands-on at-home care for two years. Yes, it was intense. Also gone is any ambition of accomplishing much in this phase of my life. I’m just enjoying the time I have with my loved ones, another of whom passed away two weeks ago. My world gets smaller and smaller. I still have things on my bucket list and went to Italy last year.
    I’m sorry to hear that your marriage broke up. I know how hard that is, having had my first marriage end many years ago and leaving me to care for a newborn and a 2 1/2 year old alone. As hard as that was, it opened my eyes to the fact that, no matter the circumstances, we must get up and fight one. more. time. Exhausting as it may be.
    You have many tales yet to tell and write about, my friend. Loved reading your blog today, although I’m sad to hear of your difficulties. Keep writing!

  3. Dan Says:

    Is this the “mid-life crisis” thing? Sounds like something much more personal and carefully judged.

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