December 28 would have been my eleven year wedding anniversary. Spending that date happily single wasn’t something I’d envisioned as a possibility years ago, but it’s my reality. With 11 years behind me since our wedding day, it means that over 10 have passed since he has been any real part of my life. But memories of my married life have a way of sticking around…
- The leftover “celebratory” bottles of champagne that we kept on our snowy Arlington, Virginia apartment balcony was my only company every night while my new husband obsessed over his current Playstation game.
- A city that was foreign to me, which would have provided an amazing backdrop to adventure and new experiences, stayed safely across a river only to be crossed together for work.
- Memories of pride when I secured my own (first) job after college outside of the congressional office and out from under his thumb are bloodied by constant questions about my intelligence, worth and abilities.
- As I tried to figure out recipes I could make a routine in our new family’s lifestyle, the only reaction I could depend upon was my husband’s crinkled nose, fork in hand constantly picking out the ingredients I’d had no idea he hated so much.
- When it turned out that onions and mushrooms weren’t nearly so despised as I was.
- Try as I might to have fun with the man I married, he was hell bent on maintaining indifference and control.
- The “I’m leaving you” conversations and exercises we went through too many times within a short year. And the paralyzing fear I experienced on Halloween, when he actually left his key behind.
10 years can feel like a long time, until you start to remember how the memories felt. Nothing snaps me back to 11 years ago quite like reliving the emotions tied to each of those memories. But in more than 10 years, I also understand that I’ve become someone I appreciate, and someone who wouldn’t accept my marriage’s version of half-assed “love.” I definitely would not choose to be friends with the girl I was eleven years ago. But that’s the great thing about life: it goes on, and if we’re wise, we grow with it.
My word for 2014 is “Release.” And it applies to so many parts of life. Mostly, I want to take the time to just BE this year. To work hard and enjoy as much of the time passing as possible, but to give up the need to be in control, feelings of guilt and all of the painful memories. Putting my memories out into the world – somewhere even he might stumble across them – is my first step in really owning, but more importantly: releasing it all.
In eleven years, I have also come to understand that the ways in which we all behave are rooted in our own pain and is the product of lessons that are still unlearned. I was a pretty terrible wife too. But letting all of it go is beautiful. And forgiveness is a mighty freedom that I never received when the divorce papers were signed. It requires much more of a person than a signature.