Today would have been my thirteenth wedding anniversary. Thirteen years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart on an empty beach in Florida. The photos from that day capture the love we had. The youth. The innocence. The promise.
What would have been our tenth anniversary was the hardest. He has left five months prior and we were still legally married. I used a psychiatrist’s appointment as an excuse for a sick day off work (the last day before winter break and a planned trip to San Antonio). After the morning appointment, I took a Xanax (one of three I took during the whole experience) and spent the day in my bed in my friend’s guest room. I distinctly remember not wanting to be alone and feeling reassured that her husband and then her father were going to be there throughout the day. I couldn’t muster up the energy to be social. I don’t think I ever made it down stairs, but I remember listening to the sounds coming in my door. I spent the day in a fugue state – not awake and not asleep. I tried to read, but couldn’t. I tried to sleep, but that eluded me too. I cried. A lot. I wrote. I cried some more. I could not face that anniversary that wasn’t.
By the would-have-been eleventh anniversary, I was in a much better place. I was situated in my own apartment and in the early stages of a new relationship. It was still a very difficult day. A sad day. I went to work. I functioned. But I also broke down and cried a few times. I was afraid to be alone that evening and spent the night at Brock’s. I still mourned what had been lost, but I also saw hope for the future.
Last year, on would be anniversary number twelve, I felt okay. I didn’t feel like I was a damn holding back a wall of sadness that was waiting to crush me. I felt okay. But I didn’t trust it. I remember tiptoeing through the day, as if I might release the pain if I tread too hard. The pain didn’t come. I spent a normal (as normal as a middle school can be) day at work and spent a quiet evening on the couch with Brock.
And today? On lucky number thirteen? I’m alone at the moment and I okay. No, I’m more than okay. I’ve been aware of the date but it hasn’t hurt. I left a note for Brock this morning as this same date is a difficult anniversary for him for different reasons) and I received an image with the following quote from him on my Facebook:
Good relationships don’t just happen. They take time, patience, and people who truly want to be together.
That definitely helps keep any demons at bay:) I came home to Brock and his friend, who just had knee surgery, on the couch laughing and playing Call of Duty. It was a scene that made me smile – two friends helping each other and laughing while doing it. By the time I got back from the gym, Brock was at ju jitsu, where he will be until after I’m asleep (I’m pitiful in the evening). I’m alone on December 18, but I’m not alone. I’ve let people into my heart and they are with me even now. Oh, and Tiger and Maddy too:) It’s hard to feel alone when you have a 90 lb pit bull on your lap!
Anniversaries that aren’t are strange things. They are meaningless and yet we mark them. It’s a time when we used to reflect upon the past years of the relationship. Now that the relationship is over, we find ourselves playing a game of “what if?,” wondering what this day might have looked like otherwise. These anniversaries are so piercing at first, the loss overwhelming and threatening to undo a year’s worth of work. But they don’t have to stay that way. We can let them soften, let them become mere curiosities on the calendar. I see it like a number line. I used to count the positive numbers away from my wedding day. Now, I am on the other side of zero, counting away from my divorce date. I can see today as would-have-been thirteen or I can celebrate it as it-is-three. I bet you can guess which view I choose:)
So, I am wishing myself a happy anniversary. And I am celebrating three years of loving and laughing and learning. That’s an anniversary I can celebrate every year!