I left five years ago this month.
We were in Las Vegas, for his best friend’s wedding. But things had gotten so bad that he had convinced himself that he was the best man in his best friend’s wedding. Except he wasn’t. So we’d come to dusty Las Vegas in the start of April for a wedding that he wasn’t in, for a rehearsal dinner we weren’t invited to.
I was trying to find a job; trying to sort out my life; trying to stop secretly smoking when no one was looking. We landed at McCarran and I was instantly on the phone with my psychiatrist, who was just as crazy as I was. She was an ex-model, who had been photographed by Richard Avedon for Vogue, and who had been a Pantene girl in the ’80s, and who used to sit in our sessions and talk about her lawyer father with me, because I was a lawyer whose then-nonexistent practice reminded her of her father.
When we landed in Vegas that day, I’d immediately called and asked her to call in something to steady my nerves. She’d replied that most states didn’t let you call in that sort of thing, but she’d try. Thankfully Nevada was still the sort of state that let you take care of that kind of business by telephone.
A few years later, in the beginning of April, when the whole nonsense of leaving was said and done, within the span of one weekend, I found out Frederic was marrying someone I knew, rather unexpectedly; I got hit by a car; then I found out my then-significant other was cheating on me with my friend’s sister.
It was the sort-of 72 hours no one wants to live twice.
While I try very hard to think of this time of year in terms of the promise of rebirth, and new life, and all of the hopefulness of Spring, it all seems rather…dreamlike; rather…post-traumatic, now.
There are things you do when you have left that you might not do if you had stayed, or if you’ve never been in that position. I think you choose your battles more carefully. I think you learn to let go of things that you see others holding on to. You laugh/cry when people accuse you of “holding on to the past” or “dwelling on your divorce” because you wonder: Well then how the heck am I supposed to talk about that near decade of my life, if someone asks me about something I did in my 20s? Should I not reference him, or that, or those life events? Or what about Stuff and Things I used to have? Can I talk about those?
It seems weird, sometimes. Am I allowed to join conversations about being married, when the lunch table or dinner group is discussing it, because I once was married, but if I do, then I’ll have to explain I am divorced, but then I’m dwelling on it?
Or can I talk about having owned a car in Manhattan or having been the owner of small dogs, but if I do, then I have to explain that I no longer have those things because my ex took them?
It’s so dumb. So dumb.
April is when I physically left, and every year around this time, I think about it, because at the time, I’d never been on my own. August is when I legally left, and that was hard too, because when I filed those papers, I didn’t know any divorced people.
But my point is that it’s okay for me to mention that I had a life before the one I live now. It’s not disrespectful to Paul, and it’s not weird or strange to mention having been married when I bring up a story from my twenties. Talking about it doesn’t mean I dwell, it just means that I’m a whole and complete person who doesn’t cut out a part of her history because the present is very different from the past.
To acknowledge that the past exists is not necessarily to dwell.
The point is that it’s okay to have a Past.