All that’s faded into memory.
I feel like somebody I don’t know,
Are we really who we used to be?
Am I really who I was?”
Five years ago today at this time, I was about to be married in a small civil ceremony that would last about three minutes in front of a Chicago judge. I remember filling a water bottle with champagne at 10 am, sipping on it as my mom and dad drove me to the ceremony. My dad said, “Maybe you shouldn’t be doing this if you feel like you need to have that right now.” Five years later and looking back now, my dad really nailed it. Maybe I shouldn't have been doing any of it.
There were a lot of circumstances that happened leading up to that moment. I had gone about our love all wrong. I wasn’t okay with myself, and the only thing I knew to fill that void was someone else. We loved one another, and that was a fact. But it was only in the way two incomplete people could love: selfishly, shortsighted, and greedily. There was no real understanding of what it was to be married. There was no concept of what it was like to be 100% selfless. To be giving, compassionate, and kind were foreign concepts. All I knew then was that I was not okay by myself, and I needed someone else to plug that hole. It wasn't about my partner at all. It was, at all times, about me. What was he doing for me? How was he making me feel? What else should he be doing? At no time did it ever cross my mind that quite possibly, he had not been put on this earth to sacrifice himself for me.
Am I really who I was back then? Or was I who I am now, and did I just not even know yet? I don’t recognize that person anymore. The things I valued then, the way I needed it to be . . . those things seem so silly, trite, and immature. In no way shape or form was I ready to be a wife. I didn’t know what a wife does. I didn’t even know how to be a good person. Five years ago feels like five lifetimes ago. Sometimes, when I remember those times, I feel like a stranger, peering in at myself. I know it was physically me, but I feel reincarnated. I feel like somebody I don’t know.
I got married and I thought that things would not change. We were living together, we had dogs, and we had carefully, and yet recklessly, crafted a life. Nothing could change that or take that away as far as I was concerned. People say marriage changes things, and in my ever present immaturity, I scoffed at them. Those people, I know now that they . . . well, they are right. There is no telling when or where it changes. But somewhere on the road, when you are busy, life happens. You might lose a job, a house, or a pregnancy. You might not be able to get pregnant at all. A parent might fall ill, complacency may set in. You might gain a few pounds, or become obsessed with your career, or even send the kids off to college. Or, one day your husband could wake up and tell you that he wants to kill himself. And then he could spend a year trying.
It’s easy to be married in principle, but it’s extremely hard when you suddenly have to put your money where your mouth is. “In sickness and in health.” It’s not “until it gets hard.” Or “until I get bored.” Or “until I don’t want to anymore.” It’s “until death do us part.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying anything about divorce. I understand it and why it happens. I believe if this series of events had not unfolded, I could be there myself, because I was not equipped to be in any relationship for the long haul. I was always half in and half out, making sure that I had an exit strategy in order to protect and serve one person – myself. I know it could happen to any of us if the circumstances are right. It could still happen to me, but not because of lack of care, consideration, and support. In this instance, Jeff wasn’t doing anything TO me. He was sick. In these moments, I had a choice. I could wash my hands of it and walk away, or I could be the person and partner that deep down, I was capable of being. I made a vow that I would be there for him when it was easy, and when it was tough; for better and for worse.
The good news is that while five years ago, I had absolutely no fucking clue, I do now. I’ve said this before, and I will say it again, we all have the chance to start over whenever we want. The reset button is always there, as long as we are willing to use it. I’m thankful for my reset. It’s allowed me to TRY to be the person I always have wanted to be, and is helping me to create the partnership I know we can have. I get the chance to rebuild this relationship, with two strong and whole people at the foundation. It doesn’t look like what I thought it would, and for that I am so grateful. It’s so much greater now, and I would, in a split second, do it all over again.