Today is my wedding anniversary.
Except I’m no longer married.
What do you call an anniversary that is no longer?
Was-a-versary? Once-upon-a-time-a-versary? Just plain shitty?
Are there traditional gifts for it like for a wedding anniversary? Paper for the first year?
Yes, of course. Divorce papers.
And cotton for the second? According to the wedding website, The Nest, cotton represents durability and the ability to adapt.
Yes. This is so. Even on days when I feel really fragile.
I don’t remember this day last year. The first. Perhaps it was just too painful and my brain protected me, blocking it out. Like it does, I am told, with the pain of childbirth – this “amnesia” being necessary for the perpetuation of the species.
The amnesia has cleared. And this year I am more than present for the pain.
It hit me out of nowhere, or so it seemed – arriving Wednesday and continuing to linger like a low-grade cold that lasts all winter long.
I arrived home from my cousin’s wedding, the second in less than 30 days, and was riding my bike when I felt a rush of energy shoot through my body. It centered in my heart and moved out to my extremities. Coursing, over and again. Sharp heat.
I pedaled as hard as I could – trying to force flush this poison from my system. It didn’t budge.
My eyes welled up behind my oversized Old Navy sunglasses. My nose flared and felt hot. But I couldn’t quite squeak out a cry.
I needed more than a cry. I needed a wail.
This is the feeling I used to drink over.
I should have seen it coming. The weddings. The short-lived sex with a boy 12 years my junior. It was great fun, but as so often has been the case in my history, over practically before it began. Over before I was done.
He told me up front he was in no place for a relationship. But “a little sex won’t kill me,” he said. Funny, I told him it might kill me. I knew that somehow my heart would hurt, but I couldn’t help myself.
And then I cut a cord that tethered my ex and I together. I told him I could not be his best friend.
Our divorce was about as amicable as they get. We lived together through it all. Used a mediator. Never went to court. The whole thing was done in less than six months.
The night before I left Seattle we sat on his bed waxing nostalgic – remembering him calling me and asking me out for the first time, and me asking “Why?”
He said I was pretty and I had cool shoes. And then he looked in my eyes and told me I was still pretty. That I still had cool shoes. The next morning, I was gone before he woke.
We were close for a while. And then we weren’t. I began to heal. I leaned into the people about me. Into my art, my writing, my dance. He noticed the change in me. In the dwindling frequency of our conversations and commented on it.
“I guess you need space,” he remarked. I did. But I was so afraid of losing him in my life that I asked for it in a wishy-washy sort of way. Backpedaling often.
When he said it again, a week or so ago, I replied in the affirmative. This time with a little more backbone, adding, “I cannot be your best friend.” He immediately, expectedly, retreated.
On Wednesday, home from my travels, and the whirlwind that has been my life for the past few weeks, I felt the culmination of the days and of my experiences. Grief. Sadness. It crashed over me like a wave, and all I could do was feel the incredible force of it.
It reminded me of body surfing in Punta Mita with my ex – the Pacific Ocean as warm as bath water. I got caught by a rip tide and was thrust down into the sand beneath me, head first. Terrifying. I began to flail, unsure which way was up. Until I remembered what I had been taught.
Don’t fight. Stay still. That my body would naturally float to the surface. And it did.
I never told my ex, or anyone else, about the experience. Until now.
I’ve been back in the ocean many times since then. The experience remains with me. A shadow. A teaching. A reminder, like all of my experiences – especially the most recent ones –I am durable. Adaptable. Like cotton.