“The life you had is gone.”
I would tell myself as a lament and in an attempt to force acceptance.
“You now have the opportunity to create a new life.”
I would continue, in a hope that optimism also operated on the “fake it until you make it” principle.
“You can now build a life you want. A better life.”
I was desperately trying to see the good in the devastation that had become my existence.
“But I don’t want a new life! I want my old life. With my husband. I want our imagined and planned-for future. I want what I had!”
The pain of loss and the fear of starting over challenged my resolution to move forward with the energy of an obstinate child.
I didn’t want anything new. Anything else. Anything different.
I wanted what I had. Or at least, what I thought I had.
When I tried to picture a new life, a life without him, my brain responded with the muscle memory of a comic artist who has drawn only a single character. All I could picture was him. I would see myself older and he, changed as well by the years, would be by my side. Like watching a silent movie, I envisioned the life experiences we would daydream about on long car rides or late nights on the deck. I saw things changing around me – new jobs, new homes, new friends. But always, he was the constant.
Even as I reminded myself that it was gone, I resisted letting go. I wanted what was known. Comfortable. I railed against the unfairness of it. The theft of my dreams among the obliteration of his promises.
“But it’s gone,” I reminded myself throughout these visions. “You’re wasting your energy. Throwing good money after bad.” I became my own drill sergeant. “Move on! Drop it! Let it go!”
“But if I let it go, I have nothing,” I whispered back at myself.
I tried to force a new identity on the man in my life vision, but it was like trying to fit a child’s mask on a grown man – it couldn’t block it all. I tried to blur his face in my mind, to smudge him enough that he could be anyone. If my inner voice and I had been female characters in a movie, we would have surely failed the Bechdel Test because all we talked about was a man.
“It’s gone. It’s gone. It’s gone,” became the words that punctuated my footfalls as I ran countless miles in an attempt to purge him from my body. At night, I filled the pages of my journal with both memories and pleas.
I held no love for the man I battled in court. He was a stranger. A monster. I wept for the man that I thought I wed. I cried for the loss of an illusion. But damn, it sure felt real.
But illusions rarely stand the test of time. Like most apparitions, it began to lose it opacity with time. I started to accept the delusions inherent in the former life I pined for. The old existence with its new blemishes no longer held the familiar appeal.
“I can’t build anything new until I release the old,” I was mouthing as I woke up from a dream. A dream where I was alone. Alone and happy.
“The life you had is gone.”
I reminded myself again. Only this time the words had lost their dreadful weight and were infused with a sense of curiosity.