Showing posts with label divorce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label divorce. Show all posts

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

detached

I went out last night with my girlfriend G. The early evening was gorgeous, so we sat on her roof and shared a bottle of wine before walking to Little Tokyo for sushi and sashimi. She's exceptionally easy to talk to and I really enjoy her company. Very unlike me: a total leader, great work ethic, ambitious, grounded, and responsible. In other words: an excellent influence on me. She's a newish friend, and we've only hung out alone a few times; she works a corporate job with a killer commute to Santa Monica that leaves her exhausted most days. It's a job she's sticking out long enough to be able to start her own company - at which I'm pretty sure she'll rock. I'm glad I got her out last night. We had so much fun that we made tentative plans for a weekend getaway in San Francisco this fall, and maybe Vancouver in the spring.

Her husband joined us after a while, and the three of us went to Far Bar. I had something called a Jet Jaguar I think? Vodka, something cherry, maybe mint? It had a couple of maraschino blueberries lurking at the bottom that were not to be taken lightly. Sryyyyuppy. We talked about music, politics, architecture, their work...my lack thereof. At one point, G. conned me into chatting up some Australian dudes sharing our table. They were nice. Nice and dull. G. and I got disproportionately tipsy compared to her husband and we dragged the poor bastard across the street to another bar, where I may or may not have clowned around for their entertainment. I've been a smug married. I know how amusing a boozy divorcee with no filter and no shame is.

(Note: they're not actually smug, not in the slightest.)

It's been ages since I've played third wheel to a married couple. It dawned on me just how long it's been since I was part of one myself. November will be two years since my husband and I separated. I don't know if it feels longer or shorter or about that. It's just a sort of surreal, abstract thing now: I was married. To someone with whom I was supposed to spend the rest of my life, but to whom I don't even speak anymore.

In fact, it gave me a huge start when a few weeks ago, his name popped up as a suggestion for my Google + circle, under the lolsy banner, "People You Might Know." I clicked through to see a couple photos of him - one with his hair line looking suspiciously...restored, and one with a blonde woman he'd befriended at work while we were still married.

Cough. People I might know indeed.

Neither photo made me feel anything other than a vague, detached curiosity.

Every so often, until recently, I would send him a picture or video of the dog, that I thought he would enjoy. But he never responded, so I realized I should stop a) out of respect for his obvious desire not to be in contact with me, and b) to spare myself the slightly dejected feeling that resulted when he didn't reply. We did say "forever," after all.

I was so terrified, when he and I split up. It's really nice to be able to look back and know that everyone who cheered me on during those dark days was right: I really would be ok. There are even times when I'm a million times better than ok. When I feel deliriously happy and free and open and light. When I feel bursting with love for my friends, the people that fill my life with laughter and joy, and who challenge me to be the best version of myself I can be, just so I feel worthy of their company. When I think of the adventures that, unbeknownst to me, life had in store for me, when I said goodbye to my husband. The places I would go. The things I would see. The friends I would make, or grow closer to. The men I would meet and love. All of it was waiting for me when I took the leap. No Google + required.

divorce mistakes

The "Things I Learned During My Divorce" post is probably de rigueur for bloggers who've gone through one, and I doubt I have anything new to add. But I wish I'd been at least exposed to these ideas, a year, year-and-a-half ago. Not that I would have acted any differently. But maybe. And statistics being what they are, at least someone reading this is on the verge of filing. So in the hopes that this might help someone else, here goes.

I wish I hadn't...

...rebounded. Biggest mistake, by far. It was incredibly easy to seek solace and comfort in the arms of someone ready and willing to prop me back up, emotionally. But it enabled me to be my weakest, most helpless self. The time and energy I could devote to a new relationship was the perfect escape from facing my very real problems of what the fuck do I do next? and how am I going to take care of myself?

...been so proud. I should have sought help. Professional help, I mean. I was way, way overwhelmed by what I was going through, but too proud to seek out the sort of support that could have saved me months of pain and time wasted: cheap/free legal counseling, therapy, career counseling - even antidepressants. Any and all of those things would have made the process much easier for me. I wish I hadn't tried to tough it out on my own.

...fed the jackals. One of the lovely side effects of getting a divorce are the emotional vultures that creep out of the woodwork, looking to feed on the carrion of your pain. Toxic people - usually peripheral characters in your life, like acquaintances or frenemies - just love to pick over the carcass of a dead marriage. They'll swoop in under the guise of friendship and concern, then blindside you with passive aggression, a stunning lack of consideration, nosiness, and other inappropriate behaviors. Then they'll swoop right back out again, fattened on your flesh. Minimize contact with anyone you suspect is just looking to get a quick fix of schadenfreude.

...tried so hard to be friends with my husband. That was a wall I banged my head against again and again and again. It hurt terribly every time, but I couldn't stop myself. I desperately wanted to keep him in my life, as a friend. That wasn't right for him, though, and it ultimately didn't work. I wish I hadn't tried to force the issue, and had allowed time to do its thing. Maybe then we could have carved out a space for friendship, later on. Or maybe not. Either way, I wish I hadn't prostrated myself again and again, reaching out like I did. I never got anything back, and I ended up feeling depleted and resentful.

...aired my dirty laundry. Mutual friends can only handle so much of the negativity you have towards your spouse. And who can blame them? That puts them in an incredibly awkward position. They want to be supportive of you both, but no one needs to hear the ugly details of your various disagreements. Honor the friendships you shared together by letting your friends retain positive memories of you and your spouse. Divorce sucks, badly, but it's not an excuse to bring others down into your rabbit hole of sadness.

scrap

The same guy who bought my old, unwanted Halloween crap unburdened me of some other junk, too: my wedding and engagement rings.

He was a jeweler who'd seen the ad I'd placed on Craigslist: FOR SALE: Huge lot of Halloween decorations. Latex, plastic, stone, and foam props. Window, wall, and table decor. Hanging items. Yard decorations. Vintage items and one of a kind curios. Animatronic and mechanical decorations. Dolls, clowns, gargoyles, mummies, skeletons, skulls, black lights, string lights, candles, candelabras, dusty old books, brooms, bats, demons, fog machines, headstones, black roses, and police tape. High quality cheese cloth, moss, cotton for webbing. If you're a Halloween person, this is your wet dream.

I'm surprised it didn't get flagged.

When the man had met me at my storage unit to see everything, his profession had come up in conversation. I told him I was looking to unload my rings, and he expressed interest. A few days later, I walked the three blocks from my apartment to his office.

Every time I walk through the jewelry district downtown, I feel like I've stumbled onto the set of Snatch. Eastern European men stand clustered on the sidewalk, talking and smoking outside of jewelry arcades that stretch for blocks. It's a dazzling display of gold, glass, and mirrored surfaces.

The building I visited that day was, however, a typical looking office building, with no flashy storefront. His two-room business was on the eighth floor, and I had to be admitted first by a lobby doorman, then buzzed inside his office. There were cameras everywhere, and I was intrigued by my proximity to (what I wanted to believe were) millions of dollars worth of jewels and precious metals.

When I handed my engagement ring to the jeweler, he examined it carefully first with his naked eye, then with a loupe and magnifying glass. He verified what I knew about the solitaire's quality and weight. He told me something else I already knew, as well: that the resale value of engagement rings is lousy. That my husband had paid a huge markup, by virtue of where he'd bought it. That I'd be getting pennies on the dollar for what he'd spent.

I didn't care. I just wanted it out of my life.

The assessment he gave was matter of fact; dry. He took an objective look at it, pitted its virtues against its flaws, and decided, dispassionately, what its ultimate value was. It was exactly what I'd done with my marriage. And the conclusion I'd come to was similar: not worth nearly what it once seemed.

Next, he looked at my wedding band, which was inlaid with tiny diamonds the whole way round. I'd always preferred it to my engagement ring, which I felt never fit quite right - never sat the way it should on my finger. So many metaphors, so little time.

What he said then caught me by surprise. He asked whether I'd mind if he removed the diamonds so that he could weigh the platinum of the band. I hadn't been expecting that, but I suddenly felt very naive. Of course he's going to take it apart, and sell it for parts. Like a stolen car.

He must have seen my expression, because he said something about it being a potentially painful ordeal - the selling off of the rings. I assured him it wasn't, really. That it was just a bit surreal. He nodded with understanding, and said, "I know. When you're standing up there on your wedding day, in front of all your loved ones, expecting to be together forever..." He trailed off. I didn't correct him. He was still happily married, as far as I knew.

When I left, my wallet slightly heavier for the check he'd written to me, I realized that the physical symbols of my marriage had been reduced to scrap and dollar signs. It wasn't exactly happiness that I felt at that moment. But there was a sense of satisfaction and peace, deep in my gut. It was closure and acceptance.

It was really over. And I was really ok with it.