photo courtesy of the author
Eyes feeling tired? Take a listen to the full essay below. I'd love to read it to you.
*I hope you'll excuse the few, minor flubs. What can I say, sometimes the truth is imperfect.
I didn’t want to write anything about our divorce because I was afraid of what I would find. Or not find. What if it opened up a chasm in me that I couldn’t shut off? What if I cried and couldn’t stop crying? What if I couldn’t cry? What if it meant I still loved you? And that I had made a huge mistake?
So I got really good at getting busy. I made tea and cleaned my apartment. Listened to podcasts and meditated. I got good at working on myself and in myself and out of myself. I cut my hair and went to New York and LA and I took a lot of baths (so many baths). I put up string lights and told myself I didn’t have to write about it, think about it, talk about it because I was fine, and I was healing. I told myself writing about it would be a betrayal. And that because I didn’t know what I would find, it was best not to find anything at all.
But then one day during a global pandemic, I got my period and took a walk and cried a lot and listened to Oprah. And Caroline Myss told me there was a fire inside me …. So, of course, I did the dishes and made a slow cooker meal and meditated; as if preparing for some event I didn’t know how to prepare for. And then I opened my computer and I started writing. To you.
And then I cried, which I was really hoping I wouldn’t do because I don’t know what the tears mean and so they make me nervous and I wonder if I’ll ever stop crying or if I’ll just keep avoiding it until I find myself in the grocery store sobbing in the soup aisle … again. Staring at all the soup and wondering how many people can see me or if it really matters if they see me and mostly just wondering how a person can be sobbing but at the same time be pondering how there could possibly be so many different kinds of soup. Maybe the whole problem is that there are just too many options and if someone would please just make all my choices for me, I could go back to sleep walking through my life. That way when it’s all over and I realize I didn’t achieve anything I can just blame the person who told me what to do in the first place. And that way I’ll never have to take responsibility for anything ever again.
I think I mostly don’t understand it all. The complicated feelings. I didn’t know a person could grieve something for so long. Doesn’t it end? Doesn’t it go away? I thought once you set fire to your life and put all your “old life” belongings in a box labeled “do not resuscitate” that meant it was all done, all gone, never to be heard from again. But instead, the top of the box keeps coming off in my dreams and there you are. And I wonder, “How’s he doing?” and “What does he eat now?” “Is he still angry?” And worst of all “Is he happier now that I’m gone?” And I surprise myself with my grief again.
Cheryl Strayed said you’re supposed to wave at your other life and send it love and light, but I don’t really know how to do that from over here in the dark.
I turn over and see someone new and wonder how I can love that person and still love you and be almost four years out and only now feel like I understand things that would have been really helpful to understand 10 years ago. And I wonder if I failed. If I gave up too soon. I wonder where I would be with you and whether we would have a child and if I would be happy there, or happier there, or unhappy there. I think about hindsight and how shitty it is. And I wonder about regret. How you can regret something and at the same time understand that you maybe, perhaps, probably, definitely, definitely, ultimately made the right choice.
Cheryl Strayed said you’re supposed to wave at your other life and send it love and light, but I don’t really know how to do that from over here in the dark. So when I don’t want to think about you, I wonder about all the flowers I planted and if they grew and whether or not they ivy climbed up the front of the house like I hoped it would. But I was too scared to drive by the house that one time, so I don’t know if it did or not.
I think about how it’s hard to have lived half a dream. And that it’s odd how I thought I knew what I wanted and lived part of what I wanted, and then said I didn’t want that anymore and then said, well maybe I do, but not exactly like that and then I wonder about the flowers again and then think maybe what I really miss is the dog and not you at all.
I wonder about your life and who you’re sharing it with. If she is satisfied and thinking that I’m the dumbest woman in the world and she’s the luckiest. I think about her taking my dog for a walk; putting on his leash and giving him treats. I think about how that hurts more than thinking about her being with you. And then I wonder if that means something about me emotionally or just that I really miss my dog.
I wonder a lot about vows. How you can make them and break them and then make them again. Do the new ones completely cancel out the old ones? Because this time you really mean them and last time you didn’t know any better? And I wonder which of them is the worst to break? Did I make it easy for you by leaving? Or did you make it easy for me by disappearing? How is it that you were completely gone and yet still there? Where did you go and why wasn’t I able to ask that until now? How come I’m so much better on paper and how come you’re so much better without me? How come I’m still asking questions and instead of finding answers I keep finding more questions?
I texted you that one time because, well because, I thought it would be nice or maybe I thought being nice would make me feel better. But mostly it just made me sad. And I really hope you don’t respond. And I also hope you do. And maybe that’s where this all lives. Somewhere between hoping I hear back and hoping I don’t.
And that better is the lie we tell ourselves (or have been told or sold) and different is the truth.
I also think how I want this to be brilliant and somehow profound but all it really is is messy and uncomfortable and so blindingly naked that even I have to look away. And that maybe the other side of it all isn’t better, it’s just different. And that better is the lie we tell ourselves (or have been told or sold) and different is the truth. That I’m still me and you’re still you and we actually could live without each other and that some of it was your fault and all of it was mine and that love doesn’t end but it definitely dies and I’m pretty sure when I’m 80 I’ll think of you and wonder how your life turned out. And truly, from the bottom of my heart, hope it turned out great. And that you got everything you ever wanted, including me and also not including me. And that until 80 comes, I’ll just be over here, waving like Cheryl told me to do, not sure if I’m waving goodbye or waving hello. Maybe … well, actually probably, both.