Friday, September 21, 2012

Keep Paddling

I would like to punch September 21st in the face.

Every year, without fail, September 21st shows up on my calendar. And every year, it is all I can do to survive the damn day. I thought about getting on a plane and heading west at the start of the day. I figured if I went far enough, I'd leave New York on the 20th and get back on the 22nd, missing the day entirely. Since that's not the most practical idea I've ever had, I considered hibernating under the covers for 24 hours and coming out when it's over. Short of that, I am trying to honor the past while not living in it, and looking towards my future with hope.

Yes, the future is uncertain and yes, the past is daunting, and yes at times the present sucks. But our time is what we make of it. I'm allowing myself to indulge in this little pity party for about five more minutes before I kick my own ass and move on with my life. It's a lot harder than it sounds. I should know - I've been trying to manage it for years. I'm sure I've made a bigger deal of today in my head than it really is, but when you're the attached, invested, emotional person I am, you can't help but take everything to heart. I can't stop myself from imagining what today would have been in an alternate universe. Surely, the world I'm living in now is far more surreal than anything that could've been hiding behind Door #2.

September 21, 2001: I met John.
September 21, 2002: We moved in together in London.
September 21, 2003: We got married.
September 21, 2004: We got our own house in the English home counties.
September 21, 2005: We moved back to New York.
September 21, 2006: We realized we were struggling as a couple and took a vacation.
September 21, 2007: We talked about a "trial separation."
September 21, 2008: He served me with divorce papers.
September 21, 2009: Our divorce was finalized.
September 21, 2010: I wrote a blog wondering where my life was going.
September 21, 2011: I wrote a blog, thinking I knew exactly where my life was going.
Dancing in the Rain
September 21, 2012: He and his new wife are expecting a baby. Today.

The world works in weird ways. Sure, we planned to get married on the anniversary of the day we met, but we sure as shit didn't plan to get divorced that day too. He's also not the malicious sort of man to serve me with those papers on our anniversary. I'm positive it was just when the process server got around to delivering them. (He tried again the day before Christmas, and ON Valentine's Day.) I also fully believed that my life had changed for the better last year, that I was finally on my way to breaking through the chains of the past that had held me back for so long. I was moving on in life and even more so, in love. I had a brand new relationship that I admit, I was kind of counting on to work out. When it didn't (a mere 48 hours later), my whole world crumbled again. Add that to John getting re-married within two weeks and you can picture the bottom-of-the-barrel self confidence I suddenly possessed.

What if we'd never gotten divorced? What if we'd tried harder? Paid more attention to our marriage and each other? Spent more time talking and listening and loving and less time working and fighting and playing video games? What if we'd made our relationship the priority instead of shuffling it in with all the other daily grind bull shit? What if we'd really, truly sat down and dealt with each other and the issues we faced, instead of sweeping them under the proverbial rug? The world may never know.

What the world does know is that John came home one night, after a long day at work and a long night at the bar, and confessed he no longer wanted children. We'd struggled with a lot of things before this came up, some little stuff, some big stuff, but none of it was a deal breaker. Not having kids was a definite deal breaker, and he knew me well enough to know that. We had baby names picked out. We'd talked about having children together for as long as I could remember. The very first night we spent together, I recall with perfect clarity his arms around me, whispering in the dark, "I can see our children in your eyes." Picture that in a British accent and tell me you wouldn't have fallen in love with him too? But there was that same accent, more than half a decade later, ripping away from me the very dream he'd planted in my heart, in my mind, in my life. He was taking the possibility of a family off the table and no matter what else we'd endured together, we would never be the same again.

And now, three years after the fact, his new wife is about to pop out a bouncing baby boy, on what would have been his nine year wedding anniversary with me. As Alanis Morissette would say, "Isn't it ironic?"

I sit in Starbucks now, same hazelnut chai latte I've been drinking throughout this blog, torturing myself by sneaking peeks at his wife's website. I know it's a mean thing to do, but I cannot resist the sadistic temptation to find out if she's in labor yet. Wondering if he will forever have to live with our wedding anniversary as his child's birthday. Desperate to know if he ever thinks about that 2 a.m. conversation in our kitchen, next to the Wedgewood plates he bought me for my birthday, half a bottle of white wine unfinished on the counter, dinner dishes still in the sink, the smell of lemons and lilies heavy in the air, the last night we would ever spend in bed together. The last time we'd ever see each other outside of a court room. The five minutes it took him to cancel out our relationship, undoing everything we'd worked for across two continents and six years. Will this date, forever etched into the fabric of my mind, stick with him as it has with me?

Some people say it's the worst thing you can do, remembering an anniversary that is better off forgotten. It's not because I miss my ex-husband. It's not even because I miss my marriage. It's because for those few years, I thought that I was the happiest I would ever be. I thought I knew what my life was about, and who I was sharing it with. Now that everything is a mystery waiting to be unraveled, the only thing I can be sure of is who I'm NOT anymore. I'm not his wife. That was a huge part of who I was. I found comfort in my identity there. Now I'm left re-inventing myself. I can be anyone or anything I want to be. I can see myself not just for who I was, or even who I am: I can look forward to who I want to be. I get to decide that. Not my ex-husband. Not anybody else. John, our marriage, our friends, our families, our wedding, our life together will always be a part of who I am. He shaped me in so many ways, whether he knew it or not. And tomorrow, when September 21st is over, he may wake up and be both a husband and a new father. But I get to be something even better. I get to go on being ME.

My mom gave me a card today. It's a cat in a rowboat that has sprung a leak. (The boat, not the cat.) The card reads: Some days, you just have to keep paddling.

Dedicated to all the amazing women in my life who have gotten divorced and not only survived, but thrived! You are more loved than I can express. And for you women who are going through it now: you are stronger than you give yourself credit for, and I promise - it gets easier. Never be afraid of your feelings, and let your girlfriends get you through it. Remember: Boyfriends (husbands) come and go but girlfriends are forever. Keep paddling!


  1. <3 I am so sorry about 9/21. Life will get better. Some days you're the statue, some days you're the pidgeon. Aim to fly and be the pidgeon.

  2. Ahhh this just ripped me open. The tears are welling up...
    When my old wedding date rolls around, I remember what I was doing at that specific time. But it's not sad anymore. It is apart of my past and me. I'm not missing him or that date though. I think about who I was then and who I am now.
    I am ME now. I have my own identity when before, all I was, was his wife.