If you looked into the windows of our first Thanksgiving you’d see us laughing.
About the turkey I let rot on the counter for a week. About what No-Shave-November had done to his face. About the fish at the restaurant with eyeballs.
Sweet, at first glance.
You’d see me panicking in the bathroom thinking I’d tracked my cycle wrong and we were going to be pregnant.
You’d see me praying at mass that I wouldn’t be, that it’d all be okay, that he’d be okay, that he’d still love me.
You’d see me leaving for Kroger, telling my parents I needed Midol, buying First Response. Hiding in the bathroom by the check-out, heart pounding in my ears watching the timer tick down.
A negative test washing the anxiety off.
Back to laughing.
I’m sorting through my life again, turning stories into essays for the never-ending ever-involved annulment questionnaire.
I put down paragraphs on the tangled mess of my marriage; it’s winding the strand of anxiety back around my heart.
Why was I so stupid
Why couldn’t I see
Why did I stay
I was young
Maybe love is just as blind as they say. Maybe it shouldn’t have been.
I read a book on annulment the other day, and as I type along I wonder why the author said I’d get through this process and see how I’d contributed to the divorce.
I certainly contributed the lawyer, so I guess there’s that.
I look again, but still, no, it wasn’t my flaws that fueled our demise. My error wasn’t in the end, but in the beginning. I’ll take responsibility for that- I knew what marriage was. I knew what marriage should be. I didn’t know enough about what it would be with him, and maybe I should have.
The rest is on him.
Leaving was the bravest thing I’d ever done, and that is the only part of this story I will take ownership of. Aside from picking poorly- I did not deserve the hell he put me through. I did not deserve the callous cold, the manipulation, the fear, the anxiety, the neglect, the rage. Those were not my mistakes.
I continue narrating my story, the list of questions stretching on like a bad dream.
I wonder why the process wasn’t this thorough before our wedding day.
I wonder how to explain the bits that need explaining without scandalizing the readers.
I wonder what to call it when you’ve been fighting with your husband because he’d lied about the strippers and later when you’d asked him what to do about the day you’d had sex – should you drink at the wedding in case you’d be pregnant in two weeks – his response was a laughing, “Better drink up!”
What do you call it when you’re so mad you make him a bed on the couch but he’s drunk and wakes you up from sleeping to have awkward clumsy uncomfortable sex you weren’t interested in and you were angry and it didn’t feel good but you don’t tell him to stop because good wives don’t deny their husbands?
What do I call that?
I’m writing it up for a committee to review and I’m not quite sure what else to say.
This whole thing sucks.
Except, a little bit, it doesn’t.
Begrudgingly, after my fuss about the Church’s encouragement to avoid dating, I find it’s possible the advice might be valid. I feel a bit like a harrumphing teenager, skulking off, too moody to admit she was wrong.
Eventually, though, I stop worrying about finding new men and start worrying about finding myself.
I suppose if I spent last year heart-broken this is a good a time as any for re-building.
Makes enough sense, so I reinvest in the things I used to love. Ever-so-gently my heart starts putting itself back together.
Instead of men, I’m dating words. I’m writing. I’m reading. I’m soaking up stories. Book after book, I’m eating them up, finishing the ones that’ve been half-done for years. I’m choosing a life of expansion over life with a man who thought he was good enough, who scoffed at self-improvement.
I date music. I realize this year alone I’ve been to more concerts than I’d gone to in years. I play classical at dinner, pop in the car, country in the shower; I soak in new albums and genres and pianos breath over me like a balm.
I plan to date the world. He didn’t want to travel. Didn’t like it, didn’t want it, angrily planted in America, uninterested in cultures or places or people or putting his feelings aside to invest time in his wife. To that I say – I’m going to Ireland this winter. To Italy this summer. To France next fall. I will see the world, I will see it’s people, and I will learn. I will explore. I will adventure. I will be a student of all this earth has to offer.
Most importantly, I spend time dating God. Where my husband made me choose between love of God and him, where he yelled when I chose God and put a hole in our bedroom wall, where he told me I was selfish for choosing my faith, I was uncompromising and hateful and made him feel unloved because I wanted a life with children in it-
Now I pray. And I pray and pray and pray. I go to holy hours without sneaking out of the house. I go to church events and confession and mass. I play Lauren Daigle and Audrey Assad and hymns and podcasts and there is no shame. I read about saints and philosophers and Scripture and faith. I rest.
There is no more fear.
I am free.
I am me.
I am thankful.