End Of A Marriage
This is the most difficult post I have shared to date. First, because of how personal this story is, and second, because of its format and style. In 2013 I took some evening courses at UCLA to improve my writing skills. I didn't realize that I signed up for autobiographical writing until I got to class the first night. The sinking feeling in my stomach pushed all the blood to my cheeks.
How vain! Haughty! How dare I?! That was my companion speaking - the critical voice that reminds me to shrink, to stand back, and to play small. It's favorite saying is, "Who do you think you are?"
Once I recovered from the shock and discomfort of knowing I had to write about myself, the real challenge was actually doing the coursework. Getting into the memories - detailed memories, observations, impressions, sounds, smells, scenes ... I don't think I ever had to recall my past so vividly. To literally re-live it. And it was hard.
My resistance was fierce. I didn't like the experience. I didn't want to recall memories. I didn't want to relive feelings. I didn't want to recollect impressions. I was suppressing all of it - unconsciously and consciously. On purpose.
SHARING MY WRITING
This short story describes the moments leading up to my realization that I had been in a marriage - and living a life - that was not right for me. There is still so much missing from these few paragraphs. The assignment was limited by word count. Despite that, I can tell how much I did not want to say when I first wrote this - two years after leaving. In my words, I see that I was still resisting my intuition, my truths, and how much I was still not ready to face about myself.
Other than a few stylistic and grammatical edits, the story below is unchanged from the original I wrote in the Spring of 2013.
Even going back to find this piece of writing and re-reading it after so many years was uncomfortable. I hesitated for weeks. I agonized over it. But, I'm leaping. Because that's what it takes to learn and to grow: facing discomfort, rising above limiting beliefs, brushing away negative self-talk and believing that anything done with the right intent and intentions will be graciously received by those who need it.
Part of my journey of growth and self-development is to share my personal stories in the hope that they will help others in some way. We are more alike than we may realize. Our stories, tragedies and triumphs are archetypal. We are all on a hero's journey.
This is the first public presentation of my autobiographical writing.
STORY: THE MOMENT I KNEW
We were headed to the newly opened mega-hospital on the outskirts of Como, just off the freeway that led to Switzerland around the lake by the same name. It was famously beautiful with its small towns rising up from the shores, houses built on top of each other, seemingly asphyxiating the natural environment and the inhabitants who lived there. And yet, without the towns, it would be like any other dark green, pine tree covered mountain flanking a Northern Italian lake.
I always enjoyed that drive, as it wound through the mountains, through the short tunnels that would open up to show the vertical mountains dropping into Lake Como, which sat very still with it's narrow, deep blue waters that had no natural run-off. You wouldn't know the waters were stagnant, given its post-card picture beauty.
Today I wouldn't get to enjoy that drive because of our destination - the hospital - was right before the first of those tunnels. I didn't even catch a glimpse of the lake. Instead, we pulled into the enormous, modern, and semi-vacant hospital on this Saturday afternoon. We were going to visit our friends, Anna and Michele, who just had their third baby. Like everyone I knew in Como since moving there 9 years before, they were his friends and became mine too. I loved them. We spent fun times together and I watched them change from "ragazzi" - as the Italians call anyone under the age of 40 - into parents of their two girls, now 4 and 2. We didn't see them very much anymore, as was the case with many other couples who got married, like us. They all had kids now, unlike us.
This should have been a happy visit to friends, like many similar ones before. But I didn't want to be there, and I couldn't figure out why. Maybe it was my intense dislike of hospitals, I told myself. All I could pinpoint was this sense of heaviness. Darkness. I could feel it - a deep heat from my belly that slowly ran through my veins like an oil spill. My mind even felt heavy, like it was under a storm cloud. No rational thoughts were coming to me. Just this feeling. Familiar. I've felt this before.
I didn't give any indication of my internal struggles or discomfort. I carried on, as I always do. We walked from the grey, cement underground parking garage to the elevator. The brightness in the elevator was harsh and unnatural. A false sense of light and lightness.
As soon as the elevator doors opened to our designated floor, I was hit by the smell. That hospital smell. Is it ammonia? Bleach? Dead organs? Whatever it was, it went into my body and into my brain, and I instantly got a headache and felt physically uncomfortable. A sense of panic set in.
We walked to the room where Anna and Michele's family were gathered. They all seemed to be there: grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins chatting happily, and half a dozen children of all ages running, laughing, playing. It was a joyful family scene.
After saying our hello's to the family members, admiring the newborn baby boy, who was genuinely angelic, talking to the elated third-time parents - though Anna looked tired as hell - I left the room to take a break from all the noise. As I was trying, in vain, to breathe any particle of fresh oxygen I could find, I saw another new mother walk out of her room. Her swollen ankles were the only thing I could see under her hospital robe as she slowly, painfully walked towards the end of the large, barren hallway.
That's when it hit me. The panic now turned to nausea as a tightly strung cable in my mind snapped. My stomach hit my diaphragm, knocking the air out of me. Everything I knew but had tried to dismiss, to bury - since before I had said yes, before I had made my career-altering decisions, before I had mysteriously stopped having my period just months after the wedding, 8 years ago.
I can't do this anymore.