I found a draft post I had written:
This past weekend James and I celebrated our one year anniversary. One year is a big deal. I’d wager to say one of the biggest deals in a relationship. It’s when you really find out if you can ‘tough it out’ with one person. Forever. In fact, ‘toughing it out’ isn’t really an option anymore for many marriages. I recently learned 50% of all marriages now end in divorce. Fifty-percent. That’s staggering. Mind boggling, really. See, I was raised in a family where divorce simply did not happen. My grandparents were married for about 51 years (my mom’s side) and 52 years (dad’s side). In their case, the term “death do us part” was a true promise carried out. And take a look at my sweet parents — They’ve been together for now 38 years. Back to James and me though: No one goes into a marriage expecting — or even thinking — about divorce. So that one year stands for something. It gives you an idea of the future — exactly what life may shape up to be. And with my husband and I, that one year was remarkable.
That one year was — without hesitation — the best year of my life. That was a draft post. Never published. Not complete, but a desire to return and finish. Never shared. Almost forgotten. Until now.
* * * * *
Back in the summer of 2008, James and I went to a small, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in the city. It was our first date but not really a date because I still hadn’t made up my mind about if we should date. So we called it, plain and simple, a lunch even though there were feelings and confusion and an eagerness so thick in the air that we should have been suffocated. We had the most amazing time together — I could not stop giggling and he, belly laughing until the waitress started checking in on us too often, not so secretly letting us know we had stayed too long. . . . That restaurant closed in 2013.
The same year . . . A little later, we made plans to go to Boston to see a Red Sox game. That was September 2008. At first I was leery to go with a guy I recently met, but I figured he was quiet at work, seemed sane enough when we watched a couple baseball games together, and had sweet, innocent light blue eyes that I trusted — that I really trusted — so I figured heck, if he was a creepy axe murder, I had nothing to lose because Boston is crowded and people would hear me scream. So we booked the trip . . . which was a disaster. A complete and total disaster. A hurricane reared its ugly hurricane head, and it rained and rained and rained so much that my peacoat was soaked through. At Fenway, we waited hours it felt for a game that was delayed . . . then cancelled, postponed the moment our plane took off. Oh, and speaking of planes, there was no AC in the airport or on the plane back because of the nasty hurricane which meant sweaty, wet-dog body odor in a tiny cabin with recycled air for hours. . . . Later that day, we learned Boston lost the game.
November 21, 2008.
James knocked on my front door holding an orchid that was trembling in a pot because his hands were shaking from nerves for our first date. He was wearing a tie and a button up shirt, tucked in, and his soft blue eyes looked like he may cry. Ever since that date, James gave me an orchid on every major occasion — birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and just because. . . . That first date orchid died. I killed it, over watering. The orchid people said females like to over-tend to something that recharges better when it’s left alone. That’s how James is, too, by the way. I recharge around him; he, by himself. Anyway, I killed our first date plant and soon put to death so many others that I became known as the “orchid serial killer.”
May 2009. James and I went to a fancy Italian restaurant to celebrate our six-month dating anniversary. We were so excited and had hearts in our eyes that our waiter knew why we were there. We ordered an appetizer and dinner and even dessert. It was a big deal. Then, in the middle of the meal, we started talking about our future. James said his future consisted of one thing. One thing. Children. I scoffed and said, “Really?! Because I would never date someone that wanted kids!” and he leaned back, surprised, and equally scoffed, “Really?! Because I would never date someone that did not want kids!” There we sat, in silence. For a long time. It felt like Doom had just pulled up a seat in the middle, and we were waiting to see what would happen. In the end, we made promises: To let the future play out because we had no idea what it would bring (still don’t). He promised me he would keep the door open to not having children, and I promised him I would keep it open to having kids. That’s how we left it . . . and Doom followed behind us for years, snapping at our heels ever since.
On November 1, 2010, he surprised me by proclaiming he wanted to go to a rural orchid greenhouse, a place I had been begging him to take me. James seemed calm but eager, focused on going, even asking me to bring my awesome new camera. He said he wanted a distraction because he knew I could talk to the orchid people for hours. We went . . . and he proposed, placing my ring on the stem of an orchid that was . . . so unattractive, so dying that I laughed and laugh-cried when he removed the plant from its shelf spot. See, we both thought it was much prettier because the one in front had massive beautiful blooms, covering this sickly one. It was was so dead-looking the orchid people asked if I wanted a different, more healthy, prettier orchid.
That ailing orchid is still with me . . . holding on with a neon red tag reading “RISK” in big bold letters.
In May 2012, I woke up blind in one eye and diagnosed with a disease that gradually deteriorates your insides (my interpretation, not scientific of course). Then I got sick, James got a sprained ankle, and I added to it with a disgusting blistery rash on my face — all a few days before our wedding. (Sidenote: I now know I stuffed my face into an oleander bush, the most poisonous garden plant, so toxic that simply touching its leaves will burn your skin.) I honestly wondered if James would get married and dance in crutches, and if I would have to be wheeled down the aisle in a hospital bed; yet, we would get married no matter what . . . fate told us . . . June 2012, we went on our honeymoon and almost died before even getting there. I’m not joking, and I know I stressed that earlier in The Stuff of Dreams, but that boat ride to the Belize island was hell. No, torture. No; death. It was death, and we are lucky to be alive. It was as if fate kept swooshing in, trying to tell us something . . .
On August 2013 and after a large amount of support, I became a teacher. It capped off the life perfect — James and I were amazing together, living our married lives the best we could, plans to have children in the future, buy a house, have two dogs! When I went to teach, I loved it. It was everything I truly needed and all I hoped. I had about seventy faces looking at me, listening to me — genuinely taking in what I was saying and wanting to please me, get-to-know me. That’s when I realized: I had kids, many many many kids. Kids that needed me, relied on me. Kids that I could praise, kids I could shape into better human beings, kids! And the longer I taught, the more firmly planted I was in not having children. I wanted to pour my heart and energy into the kids at school but leave, go home, and not have to worry about changing diapers or hearing crying or constant yapping or having to pay pay paypaypay for everything beyond what my husband and I wanted to do. I realized I did not want a life living for a life. I wanted a life living with my husband. James and I talked about my decision to not have children. We talked extensively. And the more extensively we talked, the more firmly planted he became in wanting them.
So in November 2014, our four year engagement anniversary . . . we split up. He moved into a beautiful one-bedroom apartment at one end of the city . . . and I moved into a one-bedroom apartment at the other end of the same city. Separate. For . . . almost eight months now.
Foreshadowing? In all of the above moments? I cannot stop asking myself this . . .
Today. We talk every day, more than once a day. We try to see each other twice a week. Then, we talk more. And I cry more. And get frustrated more. And wish we could would redefine what a “family” means. To him, the word “family” means children, not just “husband and wife and dog.”
What I have learned about marriage is overflowing, like my tears. Yet, I am thankful for James. He has taught me so much — sososo much — that I have grown, maybe become stronger (although it doesn’t feel like I’m strong now). I did have a huge long list of what I learned typed here, but I gave James the courtesy of reading this post first, and he said it was “too much.” So. I deleted it. And chopped up my words on this post more and more until I feel it no longer resembles me. I know I have happiest in my life when I am with James. Yet, I also know we have drastically different paths in front of us: I want to travel and move out of state and not be tied down with children. I want to roam and experience all there is and can be experienced with someone. I want lots of land and a garden to grow my own food, and I want to want to leave everything behind and start over, just us. I want life. He wants the absolute opposite: A suburb house near his family and friends. A family — a husband, wife, children, and dog or two. He wants top schools for his kids, and grocery stores and hospitals near by. He wants happiness in the form of safety and security. . . . We do not agree. The one and only thing we agree on is that we love each other.
Before our separation, we saw a therapist together, and I am not embarrassed admitting this or anything else I have told you in this too-long-of-a-post. Another thing I learned: My story comes from love, and there is nothing embarrassing about love; only truth. The therapist had us write down any and all possible future conflicts from money to jobs to parents to religion and more. It was about twenty different topics. And we filled in practically all of them. The therapist was patient, listening to everything we said. When we exhausted ourselves — when words filled the air around us so thick that we could not see each other — the therapist said this, “What I am going to tell you is cliche, I know, but listen. Think about it. You have heard the saying, ‘Sometimes, when you love something . . . you have to let it go.’ This is what that saying may mean.” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and it made sense. It was as if all those words that we huffed and puffed and teared out . . . dropped — like stone — to the floor. We understood. We love each other so much that we cannot force the other person to live the life they cannot imagine, have never wanted, or could never fit into. We love each other so much that we need to let go. It was then that my image of “divorce” and “separation” spanned far beyond what you read or see or hear. I thought it had to end in arguments, slamming doors, breaking dishes, yelling, hating. The reality is it isn’t like that at all.
Relationships can end because of love. And that is what is so fucking hard to understand. I thought, “Love would be enough” and that “love with get us through” because “love conquers all.” But it doesn’t. It doesn’t. We are left in this floating mass — unable to move forward and unable to move backward — because we don’t understand how people can say those quotes, mean those things, and lie. That’s what I feel; life is a lie. And maybe I’m just confused; okay, I already admitted I am confused. But I do not know what to do. Life is not easy; that was never a lie.