Saturday, April 16, 2011

"It's Just a Piece of Paper."

"It's just a piece of paper.", I said.

"I'm the one who said that. When we were getting married. I said it because that piece of paper wouldn't change how I felt about you. Do you remember?"

We were standing outside our lawyer's office, and I remembered exactly what he was talking about. I remembered hearing those words almost ten years ago and the pain they had caused. After all, that's not how you want your fiance to refer to your pending marriage. Nor do you want to hear that he actually doesn't believe in marriage, but prefers 'concubinage', despite the fact that he met you through an elaborate scheme between your parents, family members and assorted strangers. I wanted to ask him why he had been sending me wedding dress pictures and encouraging me to plan a wedding if he was going to tell me he didn't want a wedding, nor did he want to be married to me. I had a lot of questions in that moment, but I remember staring at him blankly and just asking, "What do you mean, 'It's just a piece of paper?'"

At the end of the day we got married, in front of a justice of the peace, with none of our family members present, and just two of my friends who had made it to the courthouse before the judge gave up and went home. Looking back, I remember the fear and loneliness as I repeated what I was told to repeat, said what I was instructed to say and worried that I would not be able to make this man realize that marrying me was not a bad idea.

Now, I was telling him--without malice--what he had told me. The papers we had signed were just papers. Nothing would change from the way they were right now. We had officially separated months ago, unofficially, we had drifted apart years and years back. Nothing would change because of those papers...

I stopped writing almost a year ago. Writing on this blog had become an exercise in self-censorship that was just another exhausting effort in my life. As it was, I was hiding the unhappiness and stress of my life from everyone in my real life. I had been for so long that I still don't know what it feels like to be open about anything. Of the nine years of my marriage, the last seven were officially in trouble. There were moments of happiness, I would be lying if I denied that. But those were all too short moments in the ocean I was drowning in. I stopped thinking of all of the things I wanted, hoping to bring happiness to my husband's life. I failed at every turn, and that failure began to define how I saw myself. It was not what I wanted for my life, it is not what I wanted to leave my husband with if I got hit by a car and died. Every time I asked him, "Are you happy in this relationship?", he would respond, "There is no other option."
Knowing my husband, I knew I had to be the one to act. And finally, I did.

I try not to look back on the last 10 years of my life--almost a quarter of my time on earth. When I do, I try to quickly focus on what was good. My now ex-husband was and is a kind man, who always cared for me in his own way--even if he couldn't express it. I learned things about myself and had to face things that I would have preferred to look past. It taught me my limits and reminded me of my strengths. It taught me that I have to take responsibility and action for my happiness--something that I have failed to do for most of my life. These days, I do my best to look ahead and plan my future. In moments like this, as I write again, I have to admit that the future looks rocky and lonely. I worry about all the things that I won't be able to fix. Then,
I go back to making lists and goals again--something I hadn't done for years. I try to only look back to reclaim things I liked about myself. Why else would I go back to the wreckage of the past decade?

And so, that is where I have been for the past year. I'm not sure what I will do with this space, and how honest I can be about the peaks and valleys. I want to come back and try to be funny and interesting, not quite sure if I will succeed. But this is where I am right now, on the side of a mountain trying to regain my footing.

How YOU doin'?