People who suffer from the rare condition CIPA, congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, can’t feel physical pain. While this might seem like a kind of advantage, it actually puts these people at risk of seriously hurting themselves without getting the warning signs that help protect the rest of us.
Through my divorce, I discovered I had a similar liability–though an emotional one. My strung-out-on-rage chapter awakened a nerve receptor in me that I didn’t know I had, for it had never operated properly–one that recognizes and filters out disrespect. In some primary way, I had always registered disrespect as love. It took divorce to untangle these two threads.
As love and disrespect were somehow righted to their separate camps, what came undone along with my marriage were my friendships with almost every man in my life. In a grand sweep that was heartbreaking then and seems comical now, each of these men stepped up to behave in such absurd and unacceptable ways that our pattern of disrespect was illuminated like a constellation in a sky I’d only viewed before in daylight.
As I broke up with each one in turn, I started joking about “voting them off the island,” my tenuous and absurd link with men seeming more a reality show than like reality. When married Brad proposed that we have an affair because “he wanted to comfort me,” when James spun out into an antagonistic rage because I was unavailable to speak with him two days after my miscarriage started and one day after Pete and I had decided to end our marriage, when David took Pete aside and, for reasons I will never understand, shared with him in his own flawed interpretation my most intimate and personal pain, each one left the island for good.
Suddenly and strangely, the island of my life was spacious and open. Disrespect was now a filter I could count on when making my most important decisions. The few men left standing were the kind of people I knew for sure I wanted to be seasoning my life and my son’s with their integrity and kindness.