Living each day much muchier
Sometimes new events carry echoes of the past. We may think we’ve moved on, broken up, left behind our former hurts and laid them long to rest, but the past haunts us in ways that have nothing to do with sense or logic. A smell, a piece of music, a series of events that aren’t connected but seem familiar can launch you right back into your pain as though it was real and now and happening all over again.
I had a moment like that this week. I found myself suffocating under the fear that I was falling back into same abject misery I’d fled from ten years earlier. When I look at it calmly now, I can see that I overreacted and that my distress had everything to do with the past. The present was just a trigger, but as woke up alone in bed with the room unmistakably lit by a computer screen at 2am, it felt the same. Every fibre of my being was screaming no, no, no, not again!
I didn’t realise that I was still carrying that much pain. I didn’t realise how much it still hurt.
I got married very young. I was barely prepared for adult life, let alone marriage and in my entire dating career, I hadn’t held onto a boyfriend for more than a few weeks before deciding to take the forever train. I’d known him less than 6 months. We were in love. This kind of scenario is common for our parents and grandparents. I consoled myself with that at the time. The idea of 20 being too young to marry was historically very new and forged by a disenchanted, divorce-plagued society. Forged in true love and consecrated by God, my marriage would be different.
In reality, I barely knew him. Not really. He liked to play computer games. It helped him to relax and drop his burdens. He liked to stay cozy at home, exploring digital worlds and story lines. His favourite game was Diablo. At 20, all I wanted to do was go out and explore places and make friends. When we were dating, we did lots of things together. He promised that getting married didn’t mean we had to settle down. He promised we’d go travelling. We might even live overseas for a bit! When we were married, all this talk went out the window and the real world set in. A marriage isn’t vows, or plans, or romantic gestures, it’s how you are every day with one another.
It broke my heart to go everywhere without him. I found myself politely lying to people about why he wasn’t there. I’d come home to him sitting in the same spot I’d left him, bathed in the dim light of the screen. I made dinner for us. I cleaned the house and did some laundry. I went to bed alone with that blue light flickering in the next room. In the mornings, I was usually gone before he woke up since I had an hour’s commute and his work was five minutes down the road.
I was so alone. I felt more alone than a single woman, because she still has the hope of future love to hold on to. I was married now. This was it, my chosen forever train. This endless stretch of changeless days in the blue light of the computer screen was all I had to look forward to. I came to hate that computer more than I’d hated anything in my whole life.
The demise of a relationship is never simple or black and white. I didn’t have the maturity to communicate my needs and I did it badly when I tried. I didn’t really know how to be in a relationship and I suspect I did that very badly too. We were both lonely and dying inside. For lots of reasons that were the fault of us both, the marriage fell apart and became toxic early on, but we clung to it for six and a half years.
A decade has passed since then. After some arguing, we bravely gave each other the only thing we had left, another chance at happiness. He remarried and now has two beautiful children. The person I was and many of her feelings and memories have faded into little more than a story I tell myself about her.
Fast forward to the present and there I am huddled in bed, shaking, angry and afraid. Why? The political situation in the UK right now is in turmoil. With Brexit, mass resignation of the Labour Party and now the Chilcot report, my British partner has been up late at nights following the news (which breaks at inconvenient hours to Australia) and wondering what on earth is happening to his country. Of course, he had no idea what it means to me to wake up alone at 2am to that light. When I got up to explain it, he was baffled because the connection is absurd and tenuous. This isn’t a new trend that he’ll stay up late on the computer and be asleep when I leave for work. These are just extraordinary times.
I knew how deeply irrational it was, but it didn’t make the ache go away. It stayed as present and powerful as it was those countless times that I cried to God wondering why doing the right thing felt wrong. As my partner held me and professed his love and whispered comforting things in my ear, something inside me broke. An entire storm of weeping took over as I realised I never have to go back there. That time is over and I came out on the other side. I found happiness too with someone who adventures and shares his inner world and who, 99.9% of the time, sleeps next to me in our not-quite-dark-enough city bedroom to get up with me in the morning and make sure I take my multivitamins.
When echoes of the past come up, it’s easy to mistake them for personal insight into the truth based on past experience. It’s hard to look past the emotions, still screaming in places you didn’t think existed anymore, to see that moment for what it really is, the chance to exorcise an ancient demon. Not literally, of course, but to face fear and let it wrack its way out of your body is to expatriate something old that wedged itself into the curly parts of your mind.
The wounds of past hurts may be long scabbed over, but scar tissue is often still there. Real healing doesn’t always happen right away and that’s okay, as long as you can allow the present moment to teach you new lessons. Tears can wash away the past and new stories can overwrite the old ones. It’s hard but worth it, because from that point on, the story you tell yourself about the future changes and you have everything good to look forward to.
What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’