It’s been one week since what would have been my 5th wedding anniversary. As was expected, the day, and the days that followed, came and went with no acknowledgement of that day or the 5 years since. Except for Facebook. Facebook is this really exceptional time keeper, reminding you exactly what you were doing on this day x many years ago. So basically every day this week, FB diligently reminded me about the tristate adventure that was my honeymoon 5 years ago. Since DDay, I haven’t been a big user of this social media platform. I’ve stayed clear of constant reminders of the life I was living. I did not want to catch glimpses of fun family outings, declarations of love made by adoring husbands, squishy new babies wrapped tightly in between two blissful parents, former family members who I now simply observed through social media and, of course, diet updates, weight loss photos and gym selfies. So basically Facebook is an asshole and one big trigger.
There have been other periods over the last couple of years where FB presented me with an adorable pic of The Girl crawling where I still had to turn away quickly. And not because I don’t love that little nugget or enjoy seeing flashbacks of her. But I somehow can’t manage to separate my little girl from the timeframe in which this picture was taken. In the background I see grass that needs to be mowed and an outdoor basketball standard where I used to play with my son. I’ll see my old tile floor that I spent sweeping and mopping every Saturday. I’ve caught glimpses of the new deck that I paid to have built along with my furnishings so properly placed in a home that I thought I’d spend my forever. And as I look past The Girl over differing months of her early life documented in these photos, I don’t just see inanimate artifacts from what used to be my environment, I see a lost life, forgotten hopes, and the second life of my former partner.
I remember when I was still determined to work past the initial Dday, #3 couldn’t understand why I could no longer look back over our marriage and life together and still see the good or happy times. He didn’t understand why a camping trip had been completely reimagined because I now integrated *that* time period’s mistress into it. He discredited my insistence that I could now properly point out when he started and ended certain relationships because I could very distinctly recall his mistreatment or indifference towards us at the time. I’m sure it’s common for anyone who’s lived through infidelity to be the recipient of increased anger, mistreatment, or even over exaggerated attempts at kindness and service based on whatever was currently happening in the affair. It sucks ass to be able to look back on when #3 was absolutely atrocious to us and know that it was because he was wishing he could pick up and move on with one of his mistresses. But anyway, during our attempts at recovering our lives, our marital counselor gave a perfect and disgusting analogy of why I am now unable to separate *our* life from *his* life:
The Poop Burrito
For weeks your coworkers have been raving about this new Mexican restaurant. All you seem to hear about is their burrito special; all meat and cheese and beans and rice, rolled up and smothered in awesome sauce. Daily they harass you because you’re missing out on the newest and best restaurant in town. Finally the planets align perfectly and you’re able to take yourself to dinner after work one night. You order the special and when this massive, steaming burrito arrives, you dive in. You are up to your shoulders in burrito heaven and start to harass yourself for waiting so long to partake in this splendor. It’s a big ol’ burrito but it’s too fantastic not to finish. You can’t wait to confirm to your friends that you finally partook and it is, indeed, what dreams are made of. You get to work the next day and see everyone gathered around the coffee pot. Ignoring your standard morning acknowledgments, you dive into your story about finally having this burrito. As you’re telling about the heavenly beans, you notice looks of disgust as opposed to happiness and envy. When you stop, a coworker says “Dude, didn’t you watch the news last night? A pissed off cook took a shit in the bean mixture and all the burritos were affected”. You are immediately disgusted and head for the bathroom where you force yourself to throw up. You gargle and brush your teeth but when you are still repulsed, you have to go home sick for the day. But what changed? Last night you loved the burrito. And you should have, I mean the pork was local and marinated, the salsa and guac were made with fresh ingredients and you’d never tasted better rice. I mean sure, turns out there was a little shit mixed in with it, which is totally nasty, but there were still those other really fantastic elements in there, right? And until you found out about the little bit of poop, you loved your burrito. So what changed?
For most of us, it’s obvious. No matter how many great things made up that life, now that we know the truth, it’s completely impossible to disentangle the good from the shit.
No matter how many great things made up that life, now that we know the truth, it’s completely impossible to disentangle the good from the shit.
And so it is in this same mindset that I seem to recall and reflect upon most things in my former life. Part of me mourns when I see pictures of The Girl’s first few days of life knowing that my delivery was delayed because #3 had potentially exposed me to an STD. And when I see pics of friends proudly displaying their new babes from a hospital bed I remind myself to send love to them and not feel sorrow at what I didn’t experience that day. I see photos from my beloved honeymoon and wonder when he was checking his emails from his Ashley Madison account. And while I know that there were good times, and that my focus should be on my beautiful daughter and not what I had to go through or what else was happening, science tells us that a woman’s mind does not naturally compartmentalize her thoughts, memories and emotions. So not only has this life called upon me to live through a completely abnormal, unnatural and traumatic experience, but my ability to actually come out of this stronger requires my brain to also do something unnatural and separate the two stories, the memories from the new truths, the perceived life and the reality.
There are places and things in my life that I have been successful at creating new associations for. Like taking my children on a solo vaca to a local resort town that used to be an annual family trip. Evolving former traditions in which #3 had previously led and guided to now make a place for our new, smaller family. And I feel like we’re doing ok. But then sometimes, Facebook reminds me of just how much grief I still have to process. But maybe I can use this grief to experience my good days with a little more gratitude and a whole lot more presence.