In her book, The Year Of Magical Thinking, author Joan Didion reflects on the sudden, unexpected departure of her husband of 40 years, not through divorce, but due to a massive coronary event that claims his life as she occupies the next room preparing dinner.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
She laments over his shoes, refusing to give them away to charity, for one simple reason. He’ll want his shoes when he comes back. The same with his corneas. He’ll need to see when he comes back. After all, she believes that there is a way to turn back the clock and the outcome, his death, will be prevented.
In the same way, I’ve held on to things that were associated with Husband #2. Cards he gave me, poems he wrote, gifts that have passed their useful life. I held on to these things to show that he wasn’t disposable, not to me, that I thought of him as valuable. I wanted him to feel comfortable when he returned.
The way you got sideswiped was by going back.
Looking to the past, reworking every word, every conversation, every action is the way to ruin the future. There is no changing, no magic time machine that allows us the opportunity for a do-over. The past is what it is.
People who have recently lost someone have a certain look… one of extreme vulnerability, nakedness, openness… These people who have lost someone look naked because they think themselves invisible.
For many years, I felt invisible in my relationship, but I covered it up with frustration, voiced as anger and many other bad behaviors. There is no going back to change my actions or responses. They are what they are.
I put away the plates and allowed myself to think for the first time about what would be required to restart my own life.
It’s only in the past 6 months that I’ve made concrete plans for life without Husband #2. Small, permanent things that show my willingness to move on. Removing his town from my weather app proved to be a bigger deal than I thought it would be. But once I did this seemingly insignificant deletion, the flood gates opened. Then there was the change in my emergency contact information; the removal of my name from the last, small bank account, barely touched over the year; the trip to the DMV to discuss removing my name from a joint vehicle and trailer; even going as far as to tell Husband #2 to change his emergency contact with his employer to one of his kids’ names, not mine. On this last item, he laughed and told me I was going to be “It” but that was 2 months prior to our breakup conversation.
…the place where everything would be the same, the place where no one would know about or refer to the events of my recent life; the place where I would still be the person I had been before any of this happened.
I do want to be unknown, in a way. I’d prefer to be known for “Deja”, not for being twice-divorced, not for being a single mom, not for being anything that puts a label on me. I’d just like to be me for a while.
Any choice I made could carry the potential for abandonment, even betrayal.
And there’s the big one. The one underlying thought that has dogged my steps over this past 6 month period… the feeling that I’m the one who’s leaving Husband #2.
But I realize how flawed my thinking is (with the help of a Cuckoo Momma and a personal coach). Boiled down to bare bones, only one of us left. Only one of us lost our faith in the other. Only one of us kept us apart. Only one of us was willing to try again.
With that epiphany, I stopped crying over Husband #2.
I can’t change the past but I can start anew and create a different future.