Sometimes I wake up and try to remember how I used to feel. Back when life had a shape, love had a focus, dreams a reality. I try to remember the feeling of my skin being touched, my heart being ignited like a fire catching the wind on a barren desert night. The electricity of a kiss. Storms of passion circle in my mind. I feel the pain rising to the surface and I sob bitter tears of regret, strong waves of shuddering emotion pulverize my shaking heart as I try to be a warrior in the face of negation. Grace under pressure. The courage to be is a lifeboat I cling to as the dark clouds swirl around my soul tearing away at the structures I have called home for years. The comforts of home, the basic necessities of heart and mind are turned inside out and I look at my world turned upside down.
The roof drips with the foundation I used to walk on, the dreams that had spread like glue through four individual lives, together called a family, is suddenly dripping down the walls like some ugly massive explosion in a microwave. That mess will take years to clean. Memories stuck to the glass door that has slammed shut between now and then. Yellowed with time, it is antique already. It’s been less than a year. Years of love, the moments of joy crash upon the shore of my definition of who I am. Huddled in front of a campfire my energy is fueled by my fear of a cold void. I feed the fire, throwing in the chunks of memory that defined my life for the past 20 years. The pile of memory wood is never ending, it in fact seems to grow by my selfish focus on grief. The crackling embers, the firewood still wet from tears. The rhythm of every single day, every single minute, every single second pound inside my head, like the sound of the water lapping on the shore. Constant, annoyingly cadenced, reassuringly present. I try to gain warmth and sustenance from the flames that lap around my eyes. My skin is pierced by pieces of flying debris, burning at an atomic level into my soul.
The wind is blue, dark and wet, and despite the knowledge that all this will pass, all we be well, the platitudes of recovery just bounce off the wall of my healing heart digging away at the shallow reassurance that wisdom comes from pain. I feel cold, empty daggers of ice shoving their way into the depth of my soul. All this will pass they all say, but the dark teal clouds that are rolling towards me, purple like a deep bruise, followed by black and only a glimmer of light in the very distant moon that dances in a playful teasing way. Come find me, its tiny annoying, yet all powerful voice calls out in a mocking way. Laughing at my feeble attempt to rebuild, restart and redefine. ‘ I dare you to come search’ it says, (teasing) for release, jump into your future feet first, heart last, but first you have to create your vehicle of transformation, the suicide car that will drive me from the old world where I live today and the carefree, sparkling world of dreams. Tuscan dreams at the movies speak of a fantasy rebirth, an illusion of Hollywood.
The world where I used to feel is running in a parallel universe to me. Colored by the reality that the man I called my husband for years is living a new life of passion, kisses and dreams with a woman he may love for another 18 years. Or 18 months. Who knows. The gods have other plans for him I say to myself, but the love I felt so deeply refuses to let me hate. It all comes back to love. The fire catches a gust of wind and my hair is caught in a shimmering explosion of multi colored light that I frantically reach out to capture. Instead, my hands are burned and the blood is sticky and warm with sharp glass fragments sticking out. The tears gush out of my heart and the fire is suddenly a cold and blue grey ash. The moment is one of clarity and death. I look into the sky and see a trail of sparkling colors from emerald to purple bliss, like a comet that comes once a century, I feel I have experienced a moment of true understanding and been blessed with a unique chance to view my life actually taking shape –past and future captured in a spark of hope. Just a tiny spark, but I take it to be a sign, a gift of possibility.
The world where I used to question the tiny moments of my life as if I were icing a cake. We had everything, everything sweet and light. The nourishing creation of my children’s lives, adding the ingredients of unconditional love and patience, hope and the magic of forgetfulness. The pain and mistakes are transmuted in the depth of a sequence of memories that, at the time, seemed so incredibly important, so amazingly real. The decisions, the day to day vision of a bigger, grander world. My children who will find joy in their moments, find blessings in the small things while focused on the big things in the world.
Like a birthday cake with the candles blown out, there is a sense of hopefulness, that somehow the wish that rushed from the heart as the candles were blown out, flickering in the winds of change, defying the fact that dreams don’t come true all the time, that the chance that wish will come true is as remote as the distant vista of their past successes. As the icing starts to melt in the sun of time passing, grace under pressure allows an ignorance of the fact that the moment is passed, the wish has been declared, now the hope for just a small response from the god of dreams. My grief could devour an entire cake of dreams in a single setting. I am hungry so I consume the memories in a panic, as if they will dissolve and disappear if I take my attention off of them. I panic that eighteen years will vanish in a moment of cosmic negation if I don’t watch them every minute. A mantra of hope. I cling to the shapes, the words that nourished my soul, the places my body traveled in time seem an illusion, so I eat and eat and eat and eat. Still hungry for that one combination of thoughts that will secure something permanent. The wind is picking up again and I reach out for something to hold on to. The desert sand stings my face. The sky is churning, the darkness is overwhelming. I drink the poison of my anger in violent and bitter, sad and manic passion. One gulp of pain that fills my heart with a thousand painful calories. I feel heavy, overweight with grief. It is time to stop eating and start breathing again.
Where do I walk? How do I dream? I just don’t know anymore. Spinning in circles, I can hardly breathe. My life is a contradiction between the world of life that I know must be courageously declared and the inner pain of defeat and withdrawal that shouts priority. And so each day, one step after the other. One moment in time. Exhale.
Every act of kindness is heartbreaking. A lady call Felice, responds to my online auction for a treasured watch. I need the money but I also need the memory. She tells me that she would love to buy my watch, has always wanted one like it (just like I did years ago) but she understands the sentimental value. Reaching out across an anonymous online void, we connect. She understands. I cry.
Every memory now is like an overwhelming weight of emotion. I want to be lighter, to float over some of this drama. My heart is breaking. My head is hollow. I try to go on each day, making a cup of tea the water sizzles and steams and I go away somewhere in my head, remembering balconies with private mornings, Indian tea at the Raj Vilas in Jaipur, green tea in Shanghai, white tea at our favorite Thai restaurant. Coffee from a thermos on the beach. I get dressed and the memories of beaches and flowing saris and jeans on our summer trip to Yellowstone, the soft pink suit I wore for my wedding, the stark and sacred nakedness of our lovemaking. I wash my face, remembering the parties, the operas, the secrets and the nights where streaks of lipstick told of a wild kiss.
I hear my toothbrush like a drill reverberating in a void. My mind is empty of depth, I skim the surface, afraid to go towards the center of my grief. I circle it like a person gazing at a dead body, carefully waiting for it to jump back into life. Poking at it with fear and dread. Is it really dead? I look at my relationship with a morbid curiosity. Lifeless. I want to shake it, hug it, kiss it back to life. The scream is pounding in my chest and I almost can’t bear it. I want to go back in time and erase all the hurtful words, dilute the pain with the wisdom of time and understanding. I see it all so clearly now but it’s just too late. I have gained so much wisdom but at such a price. Then there is the loss of trust, the memory of love. I am tangled up in the mind numbing intimacy, the inexplicable contradiction of marriage.
They say all things will pass and of course this is true. Each day, my ex husband shrinks a little more. I have carefully placed him inside a little coffin, inside a tiny cage in a remote corner of my heart. He lives there in a kind of dream, quietly watching me spin in the memories of our time together. Most of the time he is quiet and the pulse of memories bounce off the painproof walls I have built. He watches me cry but doesn’t hear the pain. Some days he breaks out and gets into my blood, circulating through my body like a virus he infects every moment with his presence. I take the medicine of hope and like a lion tamer guide the screaming beast forcefully back inside his cage. Every time he shrinks a little more until I hardly feel him breathing anymore.
About the author
Resource Box: Margaret Manning is the author of *Life After Divorce,* a weblog offering resources, links and articles for women who find themselves in a ‘state of ex’ after the breakup of a relationship. Her articles are designed to empower newly single women to rebuild their lives with grace and passion. Dumped, deserted, divorced divas join the excitement at http://lifeafterdivorce.typepad.com/