Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Independiversary

One year ago, I was supposed to be married. I’m not sure if 10/24 is trapped in my heart because of what was going to happen that day, or if it’s from the time spent creating Save-the-Date cards and seeing those numbers in every font available on my computer. I was proud of my design. Proud, too, of the life I was embarking on. I was leaving the dating scene and stepping up to the prospect of “happily ever after.”

I tried to let the weekend come and go without indulging in any feelings about the milestone it could have been, but it’s hard to force emotional currents one way or the other. It felt like I was trying to pull the meaning off of 10/24 the same way I might have tried to peel a sticker from an apple.

If it’s not ready to come off and you continue to try, you’re likely to pull some skin away with it, too.

It’s not just the date itself that has been keeping me awake at night. About a month ago my ex-fiance called to tell me the tragic news that someone we had spent time with as a couple had unexpectedly passed away. Given that we’ve both moved on to new relationships, our correspondence has been limited to pleasantries and the occasional conversation about how things are going. Sharing the news of an untimely death was easily one of the most emotional exchanges we’d encountered together in more than a year. My immediate reaction was to be there for him, the way I would be there for any friend in that situation, but it was reminiscent of something more. Something that we used to be – partners in life’s hardest situations.

At some point, though, we couldn’t make it through one of those situations. We came upon an obstacle that was too large to ignore, and at the time we were unable to do anything about it except argue. And then fight. And then resent. It was no way to spend an engagement, and I couldn’t move forward with a wedding that was suddenly surrounded by so much doubt and pain.

Our wedding was postponed right around the time that I turned 30, and after several months of couples therapy, we decided to break things off. I will never forget the weekend I moved out. I have never cried so hard as I did packing my things to move on from the life I was so desperate to live, back into the life of the unknown. With the wedding canceled and a parade of empty boxes swallowing up my life as I knew it, the pressure “to make things work” was off and me and my ex were actually able to talk and laugh again. The combination was jarring. How could we feel so impossible week after week, but then find a sense of calm in one another on the day before I was moving out? One of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

What I’ve learned from all of this, is that even though we never married the way we’d planned, we’ve remained close within our hearts. I am connected to him in ways that are not immediately (or ever?) undone, and though I made the right decision to end the relationship, I shouldn’t expect to encounter would-be anniversary dates and emotional conversations about someone’s untimely passing without feeling some sense of that connection manifesting itself. What it means is that I almost married a good guy, but I didn’t go through with what might have been a great mistake. At times I wish that ours had been an abusive relationship, one with crystal clear reasons for why it was wrong and shouldn’t continue. What I had was a relationship that I didn’t feel passionately about. There were boundaries as to what could be comfortably expressed and shared – and my gut feeling told me that I couldn’t live that way.

The independent woman in me knew that it would be hard to walk away from a relationship that made me mostly happy, but it had be done. It’s not easy to do the right thing, and if you are independent, you know what’s right for you and are faced with hard decisions that test that self-commitment all the time. Being “independent” isn’t just about being able to do things on your own without relying on someone else. It’s about being strong in who you are, defending what you’re about and what you need to be happy. Marriage isn’t about “finding my other half,” because I don’t feel that I’m missing any portion of who I am, nor do I feel that I need to find someone to be the yin to my yang. I see marriage as the ultimate sharing of one’s soul – it’s not about anything that’s missing and needs to be found. Or about something that’s empty that needs to be filled. It’s about something that amplifies an energy that’s already there. For many reasons, my relationship with my ex fiancé did not work. One of them was because I felt my energy was stifled in some ways and I began to feel trapped in a life that wasn’t mine.

I made the decision to break things off and face the emotional tide that comes with ending one’s fairytale wedding. Hundreds of Save-the-Date cards were recycled. Teary cancellations with vendors took me off the radar as a bride-to-be, and the walls in our home became bare as my possessions piled up into moving boxes.

I stood in those rooms staring at the walls like a ghost from a past life. Some part of me would be lost in that house forever. Time passed and gradually things got easier, but never so easy as to forget what it felt like to face that fork in the road.

Go one way and be true to “society," go another and be true to myself.

I won’t say that it’s been an easy road – because more than a year after breaking my engagement, I’m writing this blog. But I will say that it feels good to know that I can weather the storm on my own and that despite the sadness I felt on my would-be anniversary day, I know that my heart is still in tact and I’m still moving forward. Even if there are times when I pause to look back.


Jen said...

Very well said. These are feelings that so many of us deal with on a day-to-day basis. "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." -Walter Wellesley Smith

Nicki said...

Well put. It does get easier with time - which I know sounds contrite - but some of those feelings never go away. I have been out of my marriage for 12.5 years, ironically the same amount of time we were married, and what would have been our 25th anniversary hit me hard this past summer.

Clever Elsie said...

Let me say to you now what you didn't get to hear last year--congratulations! Congratulations on making one of the most challenging yet essential commitments you could ever make--the commitment to yourself.