So, even before my life became something resembling a soap opera, this has always been one of my favorites.
I can’t help it, I was an English major. I am a writer. I have a love of words that string themselves together, in the simplest of manners at the pen of one who’s mind can see and feel a bit more. Truth, Henry David. Because its not about what happened, and its not about what will happen.
Its not about factual events and its not about memories and its not about the status you will soon be holding, like an unearned participation trophy: single mom. Divorced. Ex. Cheated on. The club you never wanted to join.
What its about, is what lies within. Deep within, places I’m not really ready to open the hatch to, unbolt the locks and release the within. My whole life I’ve had a fear of rejection. So many things I didn’t pursue, even if it was from lack of encouragement, came down to one simple thing: it was easier to dream than to attempt something I might fail at. It’s easier to be comfortable than not. Its easier, so much easier, to put someone else before yourself and use that as a reason to stay in a safe little box.
Also, my whole life, if I were answering a Facebook quiz or a in deep, wine-fueled girls night talk: I would say my greatest fear is being alone. Physically alone. Actually alone. I know that I’m technically not because of course: friends, family. My kids. My gigantic dog. But yeah. I’m alone. Right now, in fact. In my old life, I would probably be alone too. Friday night in winter, soccer night. We’d go to the game. We’d come home, he’d go out for a bit. He’d come back, we might have a drink and analyze the game. Or I might have slumped off to bed, angry that he’d once again chosen the bar over me, completely clueless that before the bar, he was probably with her.
So, what lies within, you ask? If I’m being honest the answer is I don’t fucking know. I just don’t know. As each day goes by, and I fall further and further from my old life and this new, mad, weird, unpredictable, and painful life becomes more normal, I’m finding that I just don’t know. And, Thoreau says, it doesn’t matter what happened, and it doesn’t matter what’s going to happen…and I love that but yes, sorry, it does matter.
There was a time when I was young and I was in love. So yes, soon-to-be-ex-husband of mine, I’m aware of what that feeling is: your first love. The first person who made your stomach do flip-flops and tormented your heart. I know that. Everyone (mostly) knows that. The difference between us, you see, is that were my high school/college flame to walk back into my life…would I feel those flutters and elevator ice-cold stomach drops? Probably. Would I ditch 17 years and 2 kids and a home and a life? Probably not.
But the irony is that first love, that first relationship totally shaped me. I sort of get it when you say I never loved you the way I loved her. Of course you didn’t. She was a child when you “loved” her. You were a child. There isn’t anything real and concrete about someone who pulls you aside on a winter night in the mall parking lot and kisses you til your knees go weak. That isn’t real life. Real life, real love, is not two sweaty teenagers in a basement on a velour couch that came in 1970’s colors of red, orange, and brown. It is not an email you cut out and pasted into your journal (in the days when email was new) simply because it said that you were the love of his life.
That is not real love. Real love is standing by the person who has stood by you. Real love is having the balls to walk away without having someone in the wings. Real love is ugly, unromantic, and gritty. Real love is taking care of your wife after surgery. Real love is dealing with the ups and downs together. Real life is putting children first. Real life is loyalty and, well, maybe I thought I had that. But looking back…I had none of it.
And so I look way back. To when I, myself, was a child. To how it felt to be left for someone else…a friend, nonetheless. I distinctly remember a night, attending a party and pretending to be that super cool chick who could hang with her ex boyfriend and his new girlfriend. I played that role and when I could not do it anymore, I left. It was 2 a.m. and I walked and walked, blocks and blocks, back to wherever my car was. Knew that my mom was probably sleeping on the couch waiting for me to get home safely.
I remember sitting in my car, in the dead of winter and the dead of the night, and sobbing my guts out. Feeling a sense of desolation that I had never felt before. Just…pain. Longing. Loneliness. Wishing it was me instead of her. Knowing in my heart I deserved better but that alone was not enough to turn off the emptiness.
Its been 20 some years since that night, and I remember it like it was yesterday. And I can say, without a doubt, that being left for someone else…that feeling is the same. Only its as if it’s under a magnifying glass with infinite power and that power is so cutting the glass explodes and stabs my heart.
And that, my friends, is why my beloved quote of Thoreau’s is only partially true. What lies behind us does matter. And not just my little, baby, unknowing 19-year-old heart. But the girl who grieved that, and moved on, and was lonely, and met someone else, and grew to trust him, and fell in love with him, and married him, and had 2 babies with him, and put herself on hold for years for him, and had some low points with him but ultimately: 100% loved him. Loved him. And it just got ripped out from under my feet like a rug and I’m still crashed on the floor. Trying to stand, and getting knocked down again and again.
But. What lies within? There is something there. There is a piece of me that I didn’t let go. A piece of me that can rise above the ashes and claim truth and justice. A piece of me that cannot be destroyed by a cheating, lying narcissistic asshole.
It’s just that the piece. It’s buried so deep and I’m not even sure what it looks like anymore…