Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.
You know the ‘memories’ feature on fb? The one that takes you back to this day in years past and shows you what you posted? It’s such an interesting time capsule for me.
This time in 2010 I had just moved into my absolute dream house. I was so excited and happy. I look at the posts from that time, knowing that in three months the woman who was posting about how blessed she was will literally be on the floor with grief having found out what her life ACTUALLY was.
Reading them feels like a scene in a horror movie when everything is idyllic, so you know someone is about to get offed. It feels creepy. Oh honey, don’t go in that room- DON’T LOOK BEHIND THAT DOOR! It doesn’t make me sad any more, though, or even angry. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible, but it doesn’t.
This time in 2011, I was newly separated. We were trying. I was trying. Family dinners once a week. I’d push food around my plate and drink too much wine. We’d guess at normal. It was awful. But I got up every day, put on my makeup and wandered around my gorgeous house. I fulfilled all my PTA duties beautifully. I was fine! Everything was FINE!
The funny thing is, I never even thought I would get married. I thought no one would ever propose to me. When I got married, I thought I would always be married. Our family would always be intact.
We love always and never, don’t we? Uncertainty makes us squirrely. I think it leads us to speak in sweeping absolutes. It’s reassuring to think that things are written in stone, that the terms of our lives are non-negotiable. The problem is, most of the time we are making those statements about situations we’ve not yet faced, or challenges we don’t know anything about close up.
That’s dangerous and more than a little arrogant.
Everything, all the things, are different close up.
When I got married, I thought, “My husband would never cheat on me.” And then, at a certain point I thought, “If my husband ever cheated on me, I would kick him to the curb.” I was wrong on both counts. When we reached a certain income bracket, and had been so careful with our money for so long, I thought, “I’m finally safe. Never again will I lay awake worrying about money every night.” I was wrong about that, too.
When I got married, my husband said, “I will always love you.” I thought he meant it. Maybe he did, I honestly don’t know. Perhaps it was a confabulation- what Brene Brown defines as, “a lie told honestly.” Perhaps he thought he meant it. Perhaps he thought he would always love me. I knew I would always love him. Always.
Now, sweet friends, we find ourselves on the other side of always.
My friend Cissy, a gorgeous writer/healer/warrior posted this yesterday, when she was putting up a link to a recording of one of Mary Oliver’s poems. It brought tears to my eyes.
My once partner of 20 years sent me the link. He remembers I love Mary Oliver. I remember he puts Tabasco on everything. There’s not always a lot we can do with these stored facts but sometimes they can be useful and handy in the present. Even when a relationship doesn’t last. We still know and shared true things about one another and that doesn’t have to stay heartbreaking or sad. Having shared these things maybe changed our world. Or someone else. Or the gift of sharing and being real comes back much later as unexpected or simple gift.
Today is my Divorciversary. Three years ago yesterday, my divorce was supposed to be final. I met my then husband at a Starbucks with the papers. He signed them, stood up, and tried to hug me. I said, “NO. Not today.” I took the papers, and fled into the adjoining supermarket and staggered into the bathroom, sat on the toilet in a stall and sobbed. I couldn’t believe my marriage was over.
Except it wasn’t, technically.
Then there was a snafu at the courthouse, and the papers didn’t get filed. I went to bed that night crying, knowing I would have to meet up with him the following day and do the whole thing over again. It was like Groundhog’s Day in Hell.
To my surprise, I woke up the next morning, and an incredible sense of calm had come over me. I realized that nothing had changed, Life was the same as it had been three days before, two days before, the day before. It was just paperwork at that point. It wasn’t a death sentence, it was a death certificate. Our marriage died long before that. Long before I even knew. I was not mourning the recently passed. I’d been mourning it for nearly two years at that point. Grieving the idea of my life. Keening for a relationship that no longer existed, if it ever had. Lamenting the story I’d thought we were living.
I was heartbroken for so long. My grief was deep and wide, and it was swallowing me whole.
I think about her, that earlier incarnation of me. On the floor. Undone.
The thing that happens when a marriage ends badly is that you are not only mourning the loss of your marital status, you are mourning a LIFE. A life made up of of memories that suddenly seem compromised. Tainted. It can lead you to paint in those broad strokes again. “It never meant anything” and “It was always a lie.”
The truth is, I have no idea about a lot of it. The big stuff. I never will. No one is more surprised than me that I find I am okay with that. I don’t need to know.
But there were smaller truths, too.
Some big things are certain. My kids are who they are, in part, because he is their dad. And they are SPECTACULAR. For many years his family was my family, and I loved them. Love them, really- but things change. I understand that. I’ve mourned that loss, too.
I might never have moved to Seattle, if not for his job taking us there. It began what will be a lifelong love affair with the Pacific Northwest. I remember how he made me laugh. I remember the particular and slightly odd way we used to hold hands. I think of how he’s likely the only other person who knows what our daughter’s name almost was. He knows our family recipe for Monster Spray, and patiently learned the names of far too many Pokemon. He went to some God-awful kids’ movies, so I didn’t have to.
I have him to thank for my enduring love of Elvis Costello.
Toward the end of our marriage, Elvis Costello came out with his album North. There was a song, Still, that I tried to convince myself was “ours.” I really wanted it to be. It’s a tiny little gem of a love song. Mr. Costello is a beautiful writer.
These few lines I’ll devote
To a marvellous girl covered up with my coat
Pull it up to your chin
I’ll hold you until the day will begin
Lying in the shadows this new flame will cast
Upon everything we carry from the past
You were made of every love and each regret
Up until the day we met…
It never was, though. I was never his marvellous girl. It didn’t capture the essence of what our relationship EVER was, and certainly not toward the end.
My Favorite is amazing. He loves me for who I actually am. He doesn’t tear me down, and he doesn’t idealize me. As it turns out, the floor and the pedestal are equally cold, equally lonely. I love him.
But it’s not our love song, either.
I’m the only love of my life that’s guaranteed. The only always.
I listened to Still this morning for the first time in a long time, and I realized something. I know whose song it is. It’s MINE. It’s my song, with myself. From the old me to the me of today. The me of today is made up of all those mistakes and broken parts. The undone girl, reassembled.
And I kind of dig her.