The ocean was tranquil and blue today, with waves like wrinkles in my blanket. I’d spent this morning running hard, pounding out memories and fantasies I didn’t want to dwell on and I went ocean-side wanting more pounding, angry waves. I wanted the white capped relentlessness that overwhelms any thought trying to surface. I wanted to cough and sputter and feel myself give up. But we got there after an afternoon rain and instead of punishing, the water was warm and embracing and calm. I almost turned around and went home.
Instead, I swam and thought and remembered. I think many people who have gone through divorce mourn the loss of a shared history. I hear that often, at least. Shared conversations and inside jokes and remembrances. That is not my experience. My version of history continually reveals itself to more accurately be HisStory… not mine. The version I know was a mirage, a manipulation sometimes even kindly devised to earn my cooperation. He was not always hateful… just too insecure to trust that if he allowed me my own take-away, it would go against his favor.
This is always most evident when I’m presented with someone else’s memory of a shared time. A little light goes on, a gut instinct finds validation. People he said disliked me actually found me affable. Something he said was invisible was actually quite realized. And on and on. The revelation is always at once jarring, unsettling, and thirst quenching. It’s an odd sensation.
Grandma Hazel (who wasn’t actually my Grandma and I hated calling her that) liked to warn me on summer days that drinking cold lemonade when one was overheated was dangerous; it could shock my system. So I would add ice and drink it in front of her just to make her mad. Who wants warm lemonade on a hot day?! But that feeling of burning cold against burning heat is kind of what it’s like, to hear someone offer a truth I hoped was possible but had no way of knowing. It’s a shock.
Last night a dear friend offered me a different perspective on a time in history/ourstory/mystory, and at the same time, a glimpse into a future that Could Have Been. We suddenly had a Robert Frost Moment, a road not taken, a moment of bereavement.
I was thinking of this when I went to sleep last night and when I woke this morning and when I pounded my feet hard against the pavement and when I laid languidly in the ocean watching an iridescent dragonfly skim the ripples nearby. I have been so accustomed to David’s reframe of my history that I can’t find the ground of true memory.
It turns out I wasn’t unwanted after all.
Waves that refuse to build and break do little to suffocate and drown unwanted memories. Unwillingly my mind brought back memories of hands upon me so focused on getting it all over with as quickly as possible that there was never time for eye contact or a kiss or sweet somethings in my ear. Of brutal pain and blindness. The persistence and depth of such a short span of minutes of my life makes me angry. The realization of how easily it could have all been avoided takes my breath away.
Which makes lifeguards nervous by the way. It turns out they don’t much like it when you stay under water too long. I doubt there is any place on this planet remote enough to scream and scream and scream and never be heard for one luxurious minute.
I stayed in the water until my skin wrinkled. I stayed there until I could feel the chill of deeper water pulling on my bones. I came out and looked for shards of sea glass and drove my babies home and made them dinner.
One beautiful thing about being alone is that there is no one around to distort the vision I have of my own life.
That sentiment is probably the exact thing driving my current ambivalence. I am in a strange relationship that is devoted yet uncommitted. And as I flutter (flounder?) in that free vulnerability, I become more aware of the benefits. I can practically feel the strands of my cocoon growing. Sometimes I tear it away and gladly fly, trusting and open. And other times I nest into a ball, knowing there is one place I am safe, or relatively so. I hesitate to let that go, to really let anyone in.
They might get out their pen and begin to rewrite. Or worse, erase.
On August 1 I was standing in church. Orthodox churches usually don’t have pews; we stand through the entire service. At the front, the place known as the iconostasis, there are large icons of Christ, the Theotokos, and a few saints. The icon of Christ is eye level with me where I stand. The feeling is often very penetrating, very knowing.
So on August 1 I had surrendered. I didn’t cry or complain of my burdens…I just kind of balled them up and threw them down and said, “enough”. I don’t want to carry them, I CAN’T carry them. I don’t think I was even really praying. Just talking to the air. And later in church, I met the gaze of that icon.
“40 Days. Give me 40 Days”. Yes, I know that is a cliche biblical number. But I swear I heard it. 40 days from August 1 is September 9. I have no idea what it means, no idea if there will really be any change in that bag of burdens. I feel the brunt of my solo-ness, which also seems a part of any significant 40 days in the bible. I only know that for now, my waves won’t break. And they probably won’t until there is a new tide. And that the only way forward is to keep taking steps ahead, one at a time.