The morning of February 18th, I had a very vivid dream. It was the night before my wedding and I was in a dimly lit bedroom looking at my dress. I hear two voices from another room. One is of an older woman and the other of a man my age. I think I recognize these voices, but I cannot place them. I move to the door to listen more carefully.
The woman says: “Why are you doing this? She doesn’t deserve you. Why?” The man’s response: “Because I love her; I’ve always loved her and I want her to be mine.” I push the bedroom door open a bit and walk out quietly to see whom these voices belong to. What I see, shocking. Instead of seeing my current fiancé coming to my defense and declaring his love. It was my college boyfriend Chad.
I wake up immediately finding myself sweaty and disoriented. I try and dismiss the dream as nothing more than my anxiety from wedding planning and home remodeling. I laugh at myself, go downstairs, and read my horoscope:
Self-improvement is the name of the game for you this February, Virgo. You’ll start off the month even more interested in attaining perfection than usual. At the same time, however, you’re ready to implement an innovative approach to achieving this. After all, you know very well that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Although you are grounded by nature, you’re also extremely flexible. Because of this, you know that it’s time for some changes and you’ll be very willing to make them. Whether it’s a new health habit, work routine, or other personal shift, it’s as if you know that you need to be your own handyman this month, and you’re more than capable of managing a personal DIY project on yourself.
In other news, a major, unexpected expense might rattle you near February 13. This might be a tax bill you didn’t see coming or a sudden increase in your insurance rates or interest rates connected to a loan. Fortunately, it appears to be a one-time situation, so once the initial shock of it arrives, you’ll handle it and then forget about it.
I couldn’t wait to show this prediction to my fiancé. I had been different lately-moody, tense, anxious. And no wonder: everything my horoscope said was true. My perfectionism had turned me into an angry bitch. My realization that I couldn’t eat and drink everything I wanted and still fit into the wedding dress of my choice had made me cranky and bitter. And the fury I felt from seeing my tax return cut in half left me simmering with rage.
Strangely, though, after reading my horoscope, I felt better. I had a succinct explanation to share with him. Then I would apologize, lean in for a kiss, and wait for him to wrap his arms around me…
Had I known that 256 hours ago I would be getting my last hug, my last opportunity to smell that earthy masculine Right Guard deodorant smell, or the last time I would feel those back muscle grow tight when holding me, or the last time I got close to that face-that face with the softest beard and warmest lips, well then I would have spent every second remembering all of it-all of him.
I also didn’t know that 258 hours later, I would be writing an essay about how I managed to lose this incredible man, who only after a month of dating proposed to me on our first Christmas together. I didn’t know that 88 days later he would tell me that he was too broken to marry me that he was living a fantasy narrative, that the engagement was off and that he hadn’t been honest with me. And that I would hear these haunting words: “I’m not the incredible man you think I am.”
Of course, I texted him the next morning, thinking there is absolutely no way he means this. Our wedding is planned; the honeymoon booked, and our kids already consider themselves siblings. He told me he loved me as he left and so I will find the words to bring him back to me, to us.
My words failed. His response was cold and terse, explaining that he was resolute in his decision, that he would not change his mind, and that I must leave him be.
For the first time in my life, I honored the request of someone who said they wanted to “be left alone” and for the first time in my life, I didn’t demand answers. I believe this means I love him more than I love myself, but then again, I might just be too afraid to feel more hurt.
If on this tenth day without him I got a chance to say anything, it would be this:
I have mourned many people; this is the worst. My grief is compounded by my sons’ tears.The first 36 hours were the worse. I cried hard and when the tears didn’t come, I walked through my house, looking. I have no idea what I was looking for, possibly you. Instead, I found reminders. These reminders were crippling. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think. I could only feel.
On the third day of this gut-wrenching pain, I asked my friends if they had Xanax or something that would dull the ache in my chest. No one had anything but kind words and sympathetic apologies. I called my doctor; she refused. She wasn’t sure what the side effects would be since the chemo and hormones would still be in my system. She said that sometimes mood-altering drugs make depression and emotional distress worse.
I laughed through the phone at such a ridiculous concern-nothing could be worse. I looked again in my kitchen cabinet; I found expired children’s Benadryl and drank the whole bottle. I reasoned that sleeping would be a respite for feeling. I slept for five hours. I woke up dreaming that you hadn’t really left. I was so convinced that when I walked to the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself, I sank to the floor.
The hell I had gone through was no ugly terrifying nightmare; it was real.
You say you are broken; I say I am equally or more so. Before you left, I had spent weeks consumed with anxiety, worry, and insecurity. With my tax return cut in half, I wouldn’t be able to provide what I promised: a bedroom for each one of our children and a bathroom for our only girl. I spent my free time trying to think of ways that I could make it all work. I went over numbers; I tried selling jewelry and plasma.
I begged my ex-husband to do some of the remodeling. I couldn’t give up. I’ve never been one who can hear the word “no” or “can’t”; these words reveal weakness and vulnerability and a lack of effort. And this isn’t who I am. I dug in, and in this inner turmoil, I became distracted, sullen, and distant. I began to feel like a failure. Most likely from years of feeling like a failure in my parents’ eyes, I became desperate to not return to this feeling. Thus, in my brokenness, I most likely hurt the very people, I wanted to love the most.
I didn’t trust that I was loved enough. I didn’t trust that I could share my worries, my insecurities, and my vulnerabilities. I didn’t listen to my mother who was always reminding me: “Worry doesn’t change tomorrow, but it may destroy today.” She was right. My worrying about our kids having silly squabbles about privacy and space, bedrooms and bathrooms, diminished my last days with you.
I was looking for the train wreck-a wreck that may have never happened- before we even left the station. I let my past: the pain, the traumas, the losses rob me of my self-love and the love I should have been freely giving to you. I believe the definition of broken is most likely something like this: a person who finds love, but losses it only 123 days, five hours, and 13 minutes later because she didn’t know what to count on. I bet on my past and lost on my future.
I let past trauma dictate how I would approach life- with self-doubt and loathing. Instead of believing that I might be enough for you and for our kids (even though you tried to tell me this), I assumed that you would leave-just like everyone else. Perhaps I was trying to be perfect or trying to build up some kind of collateral. Maybe I was aware that my struggle with being vulnerable might be mistaken for a lack of love. Possibly I was obsessing about all that might go wrong in the future. I suspect it was a combination of all of that.
It is no wonder that I turn to the stars; I often don’t believe in me. My overcompensating didn’t show you the depth of my love for you and your kids. It showed you a fool, who despite her college degrees, never thought this: I could have bought a fucking bunk bed and told the boys to pee outside when the bathroom was occupied. Let me tell you about broken. Broken means I get to think about how we could have been curled up together counting our lucky stars that at last two long lost lovers came together to be whole.
And then I would say…please come home.