five years on

Well, I wasn't gonna do this to myself, but then I decided to do this to myself. No plans for tonight, anyway. May as well have a date with the ghost of Ellie past. I hope she likes Chardonnay, because that's all that's in the fridge.

Five years ago right now, to the hour, as I am composing this, I was doing this:

And I'll tell you right now, I have no idea where, if anywhere, this post is going. I can see some vague "Aaaaand it all turned out ok in the end!" sun setting on the horizon, but I'll try to steer the ship clear of cliches, because really, right now, all I wanna do is look at some pretty wedding pictures.

Because holy christ was my wedding pretty, full of pretty things, pretty people, and pretty moments.

True story: I had big time hots for the cellist from our string quartet. I wonder if he's still married.

Ridiculous. God, it was such a beautiful day. I was going to add a bunch more photos, of all the pretty details, the flowers and the clever table decor, but gah, enough. This is already overly sentimental as it is. I shouldn't fetishize the material, or the materialistic. It was gorgeous. I know it was. And I'll always remember it that way.

And incidentally, I'm not trying to blot out the existence of my ex-husband, by showing him so slightly. It's just that we're not in touch anymore, and I don't want to drag him into my little exercise in navel-gazing. He's moved on, and I wish him nothing but the best.

Anyway, it's irresistibly seductive, to look back at all of it. But now what? What do I do with all of this, now that it's laid out before me, like a bunch of flowers strewn across the bed? Is there some pat takeaway to be had, if I just distill it all down?

Probably not.  

It was another time. I was another person. Life happens. Life goes on. Most of the people in those photos aren't even a part of my life any more. Some are still firmly planted in it, though.

I didn't have bridesmaids, but I had a best man, and it was that guy. And at this very moment, he's in NYC, at a rehearsal dinner for another friend's wedding where tomorrow he'll resume the best man mantle again - for the fourth time, in fact. Four times as a best man. Not to brag or anything, but that should give you an idea of how good I am at picking friends.

Other than that, I've still got my other best friend - Chaucer. And that, folks, is about all that is the same in my life, five years after these photos were taken. 

It's not that surprising, I guess - a lot can happen in five years. My current life is populated by people I didn't even know existed, when I stood in front of that mirror in Tucson, Arizona, carefully applying my wedding day lipstick. I guess if nothing else, that's an encouraging thought. The months leading up to and following our separation were brutally painful and scary, and even though people promised me that amazing things were waiting for me, just around the corner, I didn't believe them. 

They were right, though. 

If nothing else, then, I guess I could spin this post into some kind of pep talk for those who are struggling - particularly those stuck in unhappy marriages? I could say something like, Chin up, your life will be unrecognizable in a few years! But I don't know those people, and I don't know that it will be.  Reflective posts are too tempting, to wax facile. I don't want to be facile. 

My life is unrecognizable, five years later. Am I happier now? Yes. No question. Don't be fooled by those photos. I mean, I was happy that day. We both were; we really, truly were. But that was just one day. And if you can't be happy on the day that you're surrounded by all of your loved ones, who are holding you so close in their hearts, pouring love and attention onto you, then good grief, forget it. 

But wedding days come and go, and then you're left with the reality of the daily. And our reality wasn't reflected in any of these pretty pictures. I married a fun-loving, funny man, who was entirely wrong for me. But that wasn't even the real problem. The real problem was that I had no business even getting married to begin with. I had no idea who I was, or what I wanted out of life. Hell, I'm still figuring those things out!

I got married because I was desperate to feel, and to find meaning in my life. To be something. Becoming a wife was the perfect answer, because it let me off the hook of designing a life for myself.  Getting married created an insta-life for me. An insta-existence. An insta-identity. But it didn't work, and I was miserable. I hated myself, I hated my husband, and I hated marriage. I felt suffocated and trapped, lost, unsure of who I was, unsure of who we were, and just so, so unhappy. Christ, it's only in the past few years that I've started to understand the things I need to make myself happy. My former, younger self didn't stand a chance.

Anyway. What a terrible, rambly, pointless post this is! Ugh, sorry. I just wanted to look back a little bit. Five years is a milestone, after all, even if it's an inverted anniversary. It's a little bit melancholy, but mostly it's relieving. I'm worlds away from the person I was in these photos. She wasn't a bad person, but she was a person who had a lot of growing to do. She still does. But she's happy to have the chance to do it.

The older I get, the more I understand how little I really know. Five years on and I'm still working to understand my place in the world. But five years on, I think I'm doing ok. 


all photos courtesy of Chris Richards Photography