Tag Archives: Wedding anniversary

The 4th Wedding Anniversary (That Wasn’t)

Lucky 13 carnival

(Image/Halloween Forum)

Yesterday would have been lucky-number 13.

My wife and I celebrating 13 years of marital bliss.

Only we didn’t. Because we stopped at 9. In large part because the final couple of years were anything but blissful.

Also, I didn’t remember.

I hadn’t noticed until I flipped a daily calendar to today.

And all joking aside about my totally suspect ADHD calendar management, it’s significant that I didn’t remember.

Maybe some people feel completely fine and normal after getting divorced. But other people feel shitty and want to die a little bit and cry a lot more than they’re proud of while feeling like the world’s biggest loser and binge-watching a lot of shows on Netflix and assuming they will spend the rest of their lives celibate and alone while their exes are having orgasm parties with some wildly successful entrepreneur ready to sell their tech startup for a billion dollars and pretty much guaranteeing a lifetime of their children respecting and wanting to be with the other parent more than them.

I was a member of the latter group.

Even my grandma (the sweetest, most-prayerful and non-judgmental person I know) was probably like: “My #1 grandson seems extra-losery lately. If he doesn’t get it together, he’s going to die alone, because no woman will ever want to kiss him on the mouth, let alone play fiddlesticks in his nether regions. I’m demoting him to, like, #4 in the grandson ranking.” It’s difficult to know for sure how she felt and/or whether I’ve reclaimed by spot atop the family grandson rankings.

It’s significant that I didn’t reflect on my wedding anniversary yesterday, because that’s exactly the kind of thing you tend to do when you feel broken and depressed after divorce.

Every major holiday.

Her birthday.

My birthday.

Our son’s birthday.

The Fourth of July (our “engagement anniversary”).

There were all of these things that triggered the most powerful and unexpected emotions for the first couple of years following the end of our marriage. If you’d told me some date on the calendar had the power to trigger something within me that would make my entire body revolt, I’d have called you crazy.

But then I lived it.

I felt in the most intense ways what a particular anniversary could remind you of. If it wasn’t something on the calendar, it was one of those asshole Facebook memories that seem to randomly pop up and try to ruin your day, or it was me driving by a particular building or location, or maybe hearing a certain song, and then I’d feel all the things rushing in again.

It wasn’t just hard because it hurt.

It was hard because it reminded me that I wasn’t fully back yet. I hadn’t recovered. I remained weak and fragile. It reminded me that I didn’t have control over emotions, which meant I didn’t have control over myself.

Once every day stops hurting after a major life trauma, the next phase involves unpredictable and intermittent flare-ups.

Rock-bottom has one perk. NOTHING scares you anymore, because (even if it isn’t true) it feels like it can’t get any worse.

But once the healing begins, some of the fear returns, because the ability to just behave normally during the day without all of the hurt and fear and anxiety becomes this really important and valuable thing that you had always taken for granted until you knew better.

So when something sneaky triggers us into a mini-relapse, it can shake you up because you don’t know if that’s ever going to stop happening.

It’s hard to feel like you don’t have any control about your baseline state-of-being. As if you don’t know which “you” you’ll be when you wake up tomorrow.

I often wondered when these triggers would finally go away.

And Then Something Funny Happens

You don’t really notice because you forget to look for it.

The same way that resentment and shit-festival rides and funnel cake booths sneak quietly into our relationships and go undetected until we finally bite into some funnel cake we overpaid for and it tastes like goat piss, and then we pop three balloons with our skilled dart throwing to win that awesome stuffed monkey, but instead of giving us the awesome stuffed monkey, the carnie gives us the middle finger and divorce papers…

The same way that happens, goodness and normalcy slowly creep in when life feels like it’s beating us down.

I wanted so badly to hack the process.

I researched whatever scientific studies I could find on happiness. I went to guided meditation classes. I drank a little more beer, tequila and vodka than usual.

I wanted a shortcut, and if I couldn’t find one, I at least wanted to know when the terrible pain and sadness might end.

What is the thing or the time I can look forward to because that’s when I’ll know this is mostly behind me?

I took comfort in some of the stories and experiences of other divorcees.

But still. When will it be my turn?

And then the funny thing happens. You wake up one day and realize you’d stopped counting. You’d stopped looking for signs. You’d stopped wondering when tomorrow will come because, holy shit, it’s ALREADY tomorrow and I didn’t even notice.

There was no magic to evoke.

There was no exorcism or major therapeutic breakthrough (not that there’s anything wrong with leaning on psych pros—I’d have done so if I was financially comfortable enough to shell out $250/hour).

There was no one thing I can point to that took me from the painful and debilitating shit-festival to today. The day AFTER a wedding anniversary (that wasn’t) that I never got around to noticing.

The path to today wasn’t complex or hard to explain even though I hadn’t realized I’d arrived here. The path wasn’t around. There were no shortcuts or helpful detours. There was only one straight path that could only be traveled at the speed with which I move.

There were unpleasant and difficult obstacles from the get-go. And it turns out, Life doesn’t magically remove all those obstacles to make the path easier to walk. Dealing with each obstacle by climbing over it, or blasting my way through simply made me good at navigating them.

I wanted it to be easy and fast. But it didn’t feel that way. It felt torturously slow.

But as I look back today? Four wedding anniversaries (that weren’t) later? I don’t know where the time went.

But I’m here now. (Hi!)

The path was hard. But then it gets a little bit easier. Then a little bit easier. Then a little bit easier. Then you accidentally get so busy living again that you forget to measure the difficulty.

Hope is the carrot at the end of the stick, and it’s worth walking toward. When you’re emerging from divorce or some other awful life event, how much better tomorrow can be than today is so incremental, we’re unlikely to notice it. But it IS better.

And when you wake up and breathe enough times, you stop, look back, and really see how far you’ve come.

The only path was through.

Never easy. But always worth it.

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The 10-Year Anniversary That Isn’t

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I was really nervous because the moment felt so big.

Not because I was afraid to marry her.

But because there were all these people. People from every corner of my disjointed life. And they were all there, staring back at me.

There in the front row to my left were my mom and dad. And my stepparents. Both remarried for many years because they couldn’t get their marriage right and I didn’t want to be like them.

Just behind them? My grandparents. Married 50 years. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

To my right were her parents. They didn’t know me very well because we were living faraway in Florida. And there was her older brother I’d only just met. And all her many aunts and uncles, friends and extended family.

Everyone in the room was wondering: Are they going to make it?

I was thrilled to be marrying her. Gorgeous every day, but especially that day. They coined the term “marrying up” for guys just like me.

I wanted to get it right for my grandparents. Married all those years. Walking the walk.

I wanted to get it right for her father. Giving away his little girl to a guy he couldn’t possibly trust but treated like gold, anyway.

I wanted to get it right for me. To prove I’m good enough. Smart enough. Capable enough.

To prove I was up to the task of shedding the dysfunction of my past and creating a new life for myself with the person I chose. With the person who chose me.

The wedding is a blur in my memory bank.

Gorgeous church. Super-fun reception. All the right guests.

I smiled at her when I slid the ring onto her finger. Feeling the foreignness of cold metal for the first time on mine. My wedding band, which still is laying at the bottom of my sock drawer because I wouldn’t sell it. Not because I believe my life would be better if I was still wearing it. But because those years really mattered. No matter what, they mattered.

The ring stays.

I do remember one thing.

I spoke the words with purpose.

‘Til death do us part.

I meant that shit, babe. I hope you know that. I did a bad job. But I totally meant it.

Ten Years Later

My brain’s having a little trouble wrapping itself around the idea that it was 10 years ago today.

An entire lifetime, it feels like.

But one giant blur, too.

Time is constant. But it has a magical ability to feel excruciatingly slow and unfairly fast all at the same time.

As the clock keeps ticking, everyone keeps healing. Exactly 51 weeks ago today, we finalized our divorce, forever changing the course of several lives.

Everyone’s still just trying to figure out this new rhythm of life. It’s an awkward dance. You want to be a graceful dance partner, but now the steps are unfamiliar and there’s no touching allowed.

Everyone watching is still a little unsure, too. Her family has always treated me very well, but no one knew what to say when we saw each other for the first time in more than year at my son’s birthday party earlier this summer.

One of them was one of the best men I know. Her uncle.

When we lost my ex-wife’s father, this man, who just lost his brother, looked at me and said: “You take care of that little girl.”

I didn’t hesitate.

“I will,” I told him. “Promise.”

And then I didn’t. Because I didn’t know how to be selfless during my greatest test as a husband. As a father. As a man.

I thought I was putting her first. But I wasn’t. I just wanted her to get over it and treat me like the most important person in her life again without doing anything to earn it.

We’re in a good place now, I think. As good a place as we can possibly be considering all that’s been lost. Felt. Screamed. Cried. Written. Done.

We’re our son’s mom and dad. A job both of us take very seriously. And I think she’s exceptional at it. And I hope she at least considers me adequate.

My one final chance at redemption with her. That she can go to sleep at night when her son isn’t home with a peaceful heart. Knowing I’ve got her back. That our son is safe.

If time can be both fast and slow, then I think my marriage can be both the worst and best thing that’s ever happened to me.

I think I can choose to focus on the good.

I think I can take comfort in the fact that all these paths are leading somewhere, and when I reach that next trailhead in life and things start taking shape, I’m going to be able to look back on the journey with the benefit of hindsight and understand why things had to be the way they are.

Can you have massive regrets, and no regrets at the same time?

On my 10-year wedding anniversary that isn’t, I say I get to do whatever I want.

If I could, I’d go back and do many things differently.

But. I also wouldn’t change too much because of all the good things that came from these past 10 years.

All that beauty.

Because without the veil of pain hanging between now and the past, I can see so much good.

Lots of regrets.

But no regrets.

It doesn’t have to make sense. Because I understand.

So, here’s a toast: To the girl I married, and the woman I share a child with. A gorgeous child. My lifeblood. Thank you so much for him.

You’re going to have a beautiful life. And maybe I am, too.

Happy anniversary, sweetheart.

I’m sorry I couldn’t buy you anything.

I totally mean that shit, too.

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The Final Wedding Anniversary

Here's to seven semi-happy years, and two shitty ones.

Here’s to seven semi-happy years, and two shitty ones.

Don’t roll your eyes.

I’m not gonna do what everyone thinks I’m gonna do.

Today does feel heavy, though. And not just because of what’s going on inside my brain.

I have a friend and co-worker who has been walking this walk with me. His divorce hearing is today.

He’s a very good man. The kind of person I want to be. And with all due respect Married People, if this can happen to him, then none of us are safe. Ever.

My divorce hearing is one week from today.

So this is it. My final legally wedded anniversary. And taking a look back feels like the right thing to do.

Delayed Embarrassment

Ever been drunk and thought something was a good idea that wasn’t?

Yeah, me too. One of those times was at my wedding reception.

There’s a movie called Frequency. It’s neither great nor shitty. But my wife and I liked it.

We watched it a few times. And there’s a cute scene where Dennis Quaid comes home from the fire station to his wife in the kitchen. Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” is on the radio.

They dance in the kitchen while Quaid serenades her.

We’re caught in a trap.

I can’t walk out.

Because I love you too much baby.

I think maybe that scene represented how we thought our marriage would be. A collection of priceless moments just like that.

Because I was often drunk, high and stupid when I was in my early 20s, I didn’t know what the song “Suspicious Minds” was about.

In fact, I didn’t even know that song was called “Suspicious Minds” until that very day. Nine years ago.

I seriously used to smoke a lot of marijuana.

I remember telling the deejay: “I want to dance with my wife to the Elvis song where he sings ‘Because I love you too much baby.’ I don’t know the name of it.”

“Ahh, Suspicious Minds,” he said, without warning me that it was a song about mistrust in relationships. I should write him a negative review on Yelp.

But I think he may have covered for me, because when he got on the mic, he told the crowd exactly what I’d told him.

But for all the attendees that maybe didn’t hear that or catch its meaning, they saw me and my wife dancing on our wedding day to “Suspicious Minds.”

They must have thought we were retarded. And doomed.

I feel embarrassment every time I recall that moment.

That was a good day, though.

It was 2004.

My SUPER-conservative short and round grandmother who is almost certainly in the top 1% of People Jesus Loves was old-lady dancing to Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba.”

A bunch of guys in their early 20s are jumping around like idiots. And my sweet grandmother who says things like “Heavens to Betsy!” was on the dance floor doing this.

Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy.

And my great uncle Jim. My grandfather’s brother. He owned a furniture store in a small Ohio town most of his adult life. One time, he was shot and mugged outside of his store. He survived and always carried a loaded gun in his briefcase after that.

He developed Parkinson’s Disease over the past decade. His hands shook a lot when I’d see him at family get-togethers.

At my wedding reception, he was dancing his ass off to whatever Usher song was popular then.

Uncle Jim died this year and I didn’t go to his funeral because I didn’t want to talk about my marriage.

Our First Wedding

In my post about being invited to The Bruno Mars Wedding, I told the story of how I was just minding my own business one summer when my future ex wife called me out of nowhere and made me believe I was living a Hollywood-style fairy tale.

During her visit to Illinois, my stepmom’s youngest sister got married. My future ex wife went with me. It was the first time she had met any of my family.

Our first couple photo was taken at the wedding. It was a cute one. I still have it somewhere.

My defining memory of that day is that she wore a dress she made herself. She’s crafty like that. Black and white patterned. The front section crisscrossed across her chest.

She looked very pretty.

The downside was, if she leaned forward a certain way, one of her bra-covered breasts would peek out more than she was comfortable with. The front side of the crisscross would stick out and reveal a little too much.

I invented a sign-language symbol to let her know when this was happening. The Boob Symbol.

I probably didn’t actually invent it. But whatever.

Using my two pointer fingers and thumbs, I would make a circle, and then I would hold it in front of where my left boob would be if I had man boobs. My dad caught on and did it once, too. She was embarrassed. I thought it was hilarious.

We drank beer. Danced. Laughed. Had a great time.

There will come a day, I hope, where that’s the stuff I remember.

The good times. Because there were some.

My Final Anniversary Gift

And he’s the gift that keeps on giving.

My five-year-old son. My anniversary dinner date tonight.

He brings me joy. In my worst moments, he can do or say something that makes everything else in life seem unimportant.

I don’t know what we’ll have for dinner. Probably pepperoni pizza. It’s his favorite.

And he’ll probably watch one of his favorite shows and ignore me. And that’s okay.

I won’t ignore him. I’ll just watch him. All 44 inches of him, of which he’s so proud.

“You know how tall I am, dad? I’m 44!” he told me yesterday.

And I’ll concentrate on feeling grateful for all of the blessings in my life.

My health.

My home.

My job.

My family.

My friends.

My fancy new Jeep.

You.

But mostly I’ll be feeling grateful for my son.

Because he, without question, has made this entire nine-year exercise totally worth it.

He’s the perfect gift.

So, thank you, sweetheart. Happy anniversary to you, too.

See you at the hearing.

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