I sit on the floor of my closet, sifting through a decade’s worth of souvenirs from my failed marriage. I sunder precious memories from the chaff as quickly and efficiently as I can, placing them carefully in a pretty wooden box. To stop is to dwell, is to sink in the swamp of sadness.
Someday, when my life isn’t blowing up around me, when I’m not so fucking fragile, I’ll open Pandora’s box of nostalgia and pain and examine each relic inside.
—Wedding vows, printed on 5×7 paper and assembled in a small binder.
—Cards from flowers Husband sent me, because it was a Wednesday and he felt like it, not because it was Valentine’s Day and he was obligated.
—The shoes I wore on one of our first dates, shoes that strolled down the street as I reached out, tucking my arm in the crook of his elbow. Everything changed on that date.
Tears well in my eyes. (Quickly, into the box with you, shoes.)
—A picture of us from that first heady year, both lighter in body and spirit, yet to be burdened or crushed under life’s weight.
—A love note, typed, printed, and signed. A note professing love so monumental and fierce that when I received it my heart swelled, pained and pushing against the cage of my chest. The culmination of the note is nothing more or less than one soaring, devastating declaration.
You are all I need.
A note now and forever sullied with the pain of hindsight. The sentiment rings through our past with its sincerity and pulses now with its falsehood. Remembering we once felt this way almost breaks me again. I’m choked by the everything and the nothing between us now.
You are all I need.
Of course this is the moment Husband walks into the bedroom, intruding on my memories. He doesn’t notice my tears, my hunched shoulders, my shaking hand holding the printed note. Instead, he talks (and talks and talks) over the details of the separate lives we are now building. True to form, he has so very many words and I shrink away from them all.
I am having a fucking moment here and he can’t shut up long enough to allow me to experience it. I push the note into the box and throb with anger and frustration. Even now, when all the dust hangs between us and there’s nothing left to settle, I can’t have this. I can’t get what I need.
You are all I need.
How strange, to have so many disparate feelings coexisting within this battered heart. I am astonished at my capacity for it all. It’s a marvel that I’m still standing amidst the conflicting feelings—all swirling, biting, attacking.
Love and loss and anger, all vying for the spotlight. I long for him and want to push him away.
I am devastated, the remnants of our love story mocking me at every turn. What fools, our past selves—beautiful fools full of passion and devotion. The sheer scale of loss overwhelms me.
I am heartbroken, I am feeble.
I am grief so profound death is its only comparison.
I am full of anger that leaves my muscles sore, anger that ignites and burns its way out of me like nuclear missiles, seeking targets for destruction. All the words and choices and slights of our marriage play over in a loop in my mind.
I’m pressing on, like a damn soldier.
I am hope—the future is a blank slate, a great adventure, wide-open and free, waiting to be explored.
I am fear—the future is an endless, unknown void. The comfort of our couplehood disintegrated in front of me, taking with it a chink of my identity.
I am strong. The power in making a decision for myself, without consulting Husband, zings through my veins.
I am scared.
I am brave.
I am all of these and I am none of these.
Emotions saturate me like a washcloth, until the fibers hold no more and everything drips, drips, drips. I am bursting, my feelings wrung out, pouring down the drain.
I’m empty, void.
Love finds me again, hesitant and bright, pouring from friends and family, felt all the more keenly in the tangle of darkness. Fierce joy wells up within me and suddenly, I’m full.