I remember all the details of my wedding: the soft lace dress I’d loved instantly before I’d ever tried it on; the red roses that were so important to me to include; the reception hall I stayed up all night decorating the evening before. But mostly, I remember the unbearably cold March wind that left myself and all my bridesmaids shivering violently during our outside, lakeside photos.
I think that coldness stayed with me that whole day, beyond the pictures and all through our distant and unaffectionate reception that my husband and I cut out of early. It stayed with me even as I slipped under the scalding bath water when we arrived home later that night, our car full of gifts but our hearts strangely empty. I cried in the tub then; maybe it was the hormones my unexpected twin pregnancy was firing off in my system, but it felt more like a massive sense of uncertainty and disappointment.
I loved my husband then, and I love him even more now as my friend and the father of my children. I don’t blame him for things happening the way that they did—how could I, when I think of all those nights he slept on a hospital floor during my pre-term labor, or how he held a vomit tray for me during my cesarean or the fact that he embraced fatherhood better than any other dad I have known? I was so scared of breaking my tiny babies that for a while after they were born I rarely touched them. My husband, on the other hand, changed every hospital diaper for at least the first month that we were in the NICU. He was the primary bath-giver to our girls, tenderly soaping their skin folds that were limp and wrinkled rather than plump, and taped the palm-sized preemie diapers over their fragile forms.
He is such a good man, full of warmth, and kindness, and patience, and loves our children unconditionally. But he’s not The One.
I wish he could have been. I tried for years to make him into my person or to make myself his. He was my best friend, but as a romantic partner it was always so hard. However, I couldn’t give up, so instead I gave up the things that I believed in. I tried to change myself to fit the marriage, but my mind and body resisted so fiercely; I found that I was at war with my instincts, fighting against my very being. Depression sunk in, and while I smiled so hard on the outside, on the inside I was drowning. I asked myself endlessly, “Is this all there is?”
Though I went back to school, spent more time with friends and family, exercised, endlessly tried to self-improve, and read and read and read and prayed and prayed and prayed, nothing could prevent my slow slide into misery and monotony. I began to have anxiety attacks of which I could never properly identify the origin. My marriage felt like a tumor, slowly but surely suffocating me, a snuffer closing in on my flame. Or maybe it was consuming me a bit at a time—it’s hard to say really, except that I was undeniably disappearing.
At first I thought this was because I got married when I was twenty-two, but age is just a number. The root cause really breaks down to the fact that I had almost no schooling, no real work experience, no travel experience, no real life experience to speak of when I decided who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. When I got married, I didn’t even know how to drive—my independence was an illusion, and I was happy to accept it. But I’ve grown since then, grown so much that for years I’ve been pushing the binds of my marriage, constantly rearranging myself to find a comfortable position (and never really succeeding).
And even though we’ve finally decided to end it, that doesn’t mean I’m relieved of the pain. I’m heartbroken, and especially disillusioned, a feeling that drives like a freight train right into your guts and keeps coming, each car a new and separate blow.
But I see the light. Or more specifically, I see this rainbow explosion of happy emojis bursting and firing sparkly joy shrapnel all over my future. I know it’s coming, and I know one day I’ll wake up and feel like I’m finally in the right place at the right time, exactly where I’m intended to be.
A day where instead of wondering, “Is this all there is?” I’ll think, “This is what it’s all about.”