I have written about my road to firstly accepting my divorce and finally flourishing after years of wallowing. My final hurdle is the billowing meringue of a 1980’s wedding dress that sits in its box at the top of a wardrobe. The last reminder. The piece I seem not to be able to let go. The past regrets, the guilt, the hurt and the disbelief have all faded into a not forgotten but a no longer badgering past. But this? This dress…it won’t let go.
I have decluttered that particular cupboard a number of times. It’s not as if it has any use. It is tragically out of fashion with a plunging V-neck, a backless back and layers of frothy white lace and super-puffy sleeves.
My daughter has already married. She doesn’t want it. She quipped “It’s not as if it’s going to bring good luck to anyone!” Ouch!
I could donate it to a charity but I fear it would end up as a fancy dress costume for a 80’s themed cruise or part of a zombie apocalypse parade.
The catch is not so much to do with my failed marriage but more with my Mum’s effort to make it. That and the five bridesmaids’ dresses.
That dress was a labour of my mother’s love. She was a seamstress and wedding dresses were her thing. We spent many hours designing it. We made visits to bridal stores where I tried on dresses and Mum secretly took notes and made sketches in the dressing room to copy the pattern. She had to make so many alterations because I wanted the front plunging and for it to have no back. Short of using sticky tape to keep it on, this was a major feat in engineering. On top of that, I kept on losing weight – as brides tend to do even though I was already quite thin.
But she did it. My dad cried as he walked past the room as Mum was tying the big wide sash around my tiny waist.
My wedding day was wet. The rain pelted down, the dress got dirty at the hem. I have never tried it on again after that day. Not even for an anniversary. These days I’m 12 kilos heavier than then and a very different shape.
It’s just gotta go….but I can’t make that step. It just needs to vanish without a trace.
Back in the dark ages, in the dim, distant past when I was married, my husband bought me a very luxurious black leather briefcase to celebrate my birthday the year I got a big promotion.
Thirty years later I still have that briefcase and while I no longer carry it around with my sales catalogues and business cards, it does hold some very special papers.
These days I call it Pandora’s Box. It’s filled with old journals and copies of letters and emails between my ex and I when we were going through the meaty part of the break up. All the gnashing and wailing. All the justifications and arguments. All the pitiful pleading.
Declarations of love on Sunday where superseded by obscenities by Wednesday. I have trawled through it a few times with different effects on my psyche. In the Wine and Wedges days, (circa 2012) when things were fresh and we were still in each others lives, I would dissolve into a heap of misery and have yet another glass of wine! I would look for clues as to when and where I could have ‘fixed things”. In more recent times, I have vowed to create a big bonfire on the beach and dance around the burning ashes with glee.
Recently, I went through the stack of double sided sheets again. I started to put them back into chronological order to make better sense of them, thinking to myself there must be some blog-able gold in here somewhere! I could write a very murky expose about the demise of a relationship over a long period of time with all the indelicacies that would conjure up. But no, I am not that type. This post is about as tacky as I am prepared to get.
I was pleased I could read all the wretchedness and despair with a dispassionate eye. I came away feeling vaguely amused and not at all sad. I did however tsk-tsk at the time it took us to take the final plunge. The time we both wasted trying to patch the hull of our Titanic. But still we came out the other side and I for one am stronger.
Much of the writing is over the top emotional dribble. Streaming consciousness on overload! But some is gold. Of course, most is contextual and obviously a reply to now forgotten conversations. The papers cover the time from November 2006 – late 2008. At that time, I was in the middle of completing a Masters degree and I must say my vocabulary was much wider than it is now. I seem to have gotten less eloquent!
Now, when I talk about my divorce and my ex, I report that it was a relatively amicable separation and that we can still talk to each other in a civil tone. Reading back over this huge body of work, reminds me that it was really a death by a thousand cuts but some of those were bloody big gashes.
I am not going to spill the proverbial beans. I am not going to write that tell-all expose, but here are a few of my favourite lines, some of the passages that amused me. They are all from my words not his.
...I had other things in my head but they are like shadows now and I keep losing them…
…as I read back over this, it is only part of what I wanted to say and I feel like I can never explain. It’s all the chicken and the egg story. I am not sure where the seed came from but our life has been covered in lantana. We are still underneath it somewhere but now it’s too late to clear it away. I stand here knocking on the door of your heart with the weed killer! …[oh dear!]
…I can not explain… once you get caught in the turning lane you just end up going with the flow….
Ten reasons why I like you…
…. 10. You like watching the same daggy TV shows, you don’t like John Howard, you have a compatible outlook on world politics, religion, the relative merits of free range chickens and social justice. [chickens were a theme even back then!]
Maybe one day I will get around to that bonfire. But for now I think I‘ll keep Pandora’s Box with it’s oversized memories to remind me of a once passionate time of my life. One that I don’t want to relive, but a time that changed the course of my life irrevocably.
You never know, when I am ninety I might just write that steamy expose!
The last 5 mL of rich golden liquid had been lingering in the bottom of that “parfum” bottle for a few years now. Chanel No 5, one of the last gifts the ex had given me. He had always been good with gifts. Much more thoughtful than me. I tended to buy very inappropriate ones at the last minute. His gifts were always something I had wanted. Something I had mentioned in passing and forgotten about.
I am not really a perfume sort of person so the Chanel, while lovely, and no doubt expensive, was not in the usual caliber of gifts. Probably hastily bought from the inflight duty free. Still it was a nice thought. I tried to wear it everyday to make it become part of my routine but I’d often forget. I don’t like women who leave a cloud of strong perfume behind them like a invisible marker. Of course, I don’t want to smell bad, but I don’t think I should leave a lingering cloud of esters and alcohols behind.
But here is it was, the last few squirts left. We’d been divorced close to 4 years and this wretched bottle still sat on my bathroom vanity like a beacon of the past. Why was I saving it? At first, when I was in the “we can fix this relationship stage”, I would wear it when he came around. Maybe he’d notice? Then it just stayed. I just let it sit and every time I’d use it there was a pang. A pang that got smaller and smaller and smaller. Mirroring the contents.
Somewhere along the line I bestowed magical properties on this elegant square glass bottle. It begun to represent my progress to an independent life. When the bottle was empty my life would be mine.
And it happened. Rather than using it less frequently I found I was wearing it everyday to get rid of it. I was ready. I had been ready for a while. That last squirt in December last year was a milestone even if only metaphorically.
These photos have nothing to do with Chanel. They represent part of my journey to get to here. They were taken on in Montana in 2012. Some on a tripod and some by my travelling companion Bec! (Thanks Bec)
All my planning was complete, and I was stepping on the final flight from Incheon to JFK International and it came to me in a thunderbolt that I had committed to spend three weeks in New York, in the house of someone I didn’t know very well. I didn’t have a Plan B if things went sour and that was an oversight.
My intended host and I had met in a bar on a rainy afternoon in Jasper in October 2016. We spent the afternoon and evening together, drinking, eating and chatting to other hikers who were also trying to keep dry. Did I mention the drinking part? To tell you the truth, we all got smashed together and had a fabulous time. After that RJB and I stayed in touch via Facebook. We had a lot in common.
It turned out that RJB lives near Central Park on 5th Avenue and she invited me to visit. Sensibly, I said yes and then we spent a few moths planning my visit.
My sudden concern arose from a fear that in the flesh and sober we might not be so compatible. What happened if she turned out to have some strange and dark secrets? Could she be a member of a weird, radical religious cult and I was destined to become a captive?
From her Facebook posts I knew our taste in music, politics and ethics aligned well. Still I had a niggle in the back of my mind. It still might be an elaborate hoax. My worries were of course in vain. RJB was a treasure and although a self-confessed crazy cat lady, everything went well. Her husband was a lovely fellow and we got on well too.
One of the downsides of being divorced is that your old friends find it hard to take sides and you tend to lose contact. I didn’t have many friends to start off with. The friends my ex and I did have, fell by the wayside as we spiralled down into a very unhealthy vortex of introspection as our marriage collapsed around us.
Since “getting my shit together” I have made a few really good friends. These friendships have in fact be an integral part of that renewal of my life.
As an adult it’s not that easy to make new friends. We are a little pickier and harder to please. We have much higher standards than we did as children. Even though it is hard, I think we make it harder than it needs to be. I think we disguise fear as pickiness. We are just a bit scared to bare our souls.
This blog, Science of People  has some really good tips on how to make friends, but I remember reading somewhere else that how you make friends and them keep them boils down to a few basic things.
1: You meet by being in the same pace at the same time, so you are already involved in some common pursuit.
2: You spend an intensive period of time with them participating in that common activity
3: You commit to staying in touch and
4: You actually do stay in touch.
It’s not rocket science. Of course, the most important factor is you need to trust and be open.
I guess with RJB I should have just trusted my gut. If she was an axe murderer I think I would have guessed in that first meeting. Little bit crazy cat lady I can deal with! 🙂
Well the force was certainly with me on May the forth when my blog was featured as the Editor’s Pick on the Discover Page of WordPress’s own website. As a result I got 409 views on the first day and 175 likes. After four days on the “top of the pop” charts; I had 120 new people following my blog. I would really like to give my thanks to Krista and the team at WordPress for selecting my blog for special mention. I think it may have been the photo that caught their attention.
For those new followers I know not all of you will stick around, because quite frankly, not all of my posts are as good as the one that was featured. That post came after a very moving and emotionally disturbing visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.
There are a couple of other blog posts that I am really proud of and I have put links to them here. You might like to go and have a look at them and perhaps you will agree with me that they are some of my better ones.
According to the interwebs, a successful blog has a strong theme. Well I am afraid I am going to lose out there. My blog theme is very ‘fluid’. There are some major underlying currents but it’s basically whatever catches my attention at the time. It’s a blog about travel but more about the getting there. It’s about relationships and in particular surviving divorce. It’s about well being and living simply. Sometimes, it’s just about my hometown because Wollongong, Australia is a great place to live and I’d love people to visit and see that for themselves.
I’d like to thank those people who have recently joined my blog and also those of you that have been with me from the beginning. I hope that you will stick around and follow this woman’s journey to a more meaningful life.
(That featured image in the header is the Seacliff Bridge in Wollongong – now you gotta see that!)
My ex was a musician. Not professional and certainly not full time, he was in a few pub bands doing OzRock covers. He played drums and guitar, wrote songs and we would sit around and sing. I enjoyed being the musician’s wife and lugging drums and the vicarious fame. When a little chickkybabe in the crowd once asked me if I knew the drummer’s phone number I laughed and said “Yeah sure, it’s the same as mine!”
The music was a happy place. We had a vast record/CD collection. Our house was never silent with some form of music either being played or performed.
We went to lots of concerts, Elton John (twice), Bruce Springsteen (x3), Cold Chisel (at least 3 times if not more), Steely Dan, Dire Straits (x2) Mark Knoffler, Bowie (x2). The Eagles (x2) to name a few. We went to see Bob Dylan when my daughter was just 6 weeks old. We had a few hours on a “pass out” and had to co-ordinate everything between feeds including an hour drive there and back. I slept right through it! Bliss for a new mum!
The only day I jigged school was in Year 11 when we went to Rockarena, one of the first of the all day music festivals at the Sydney Showground back in November, 1977. I still remember the sun setting as Santana played Black Magic Woman – it was magic. They, along with Japan, Kevin Borich Express, and the Little River Band were back up for headliners, Fleetwood Mac.
One of the first items we purchased for our home after we got married in 1984 was a CD player with a remote! Imagine that! It was around $900 and the most expensive thing we owned. We progressed to a surround sound Bose system with the subwoofer under the lounge and the little speakers mounted on the ceiling 25 years later.
When we split, he took the physical artefacts of the music. I had already copied what I thought I wanted to my iTunes account. I had the music, the problem was it wasn’t my music. It was his. Every time I played something it would bring back memories of him. I needed to find my own playlist. My own music that didn’t come with memories.
In the raw days of the wine and wedges phase (see my previous post) I had a list I called “single girl anthems” which consisted tunes like Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough”; Dixie Chicks – “Not Ready to Make Nice” and a favourite “If I could turn back time” by Cher. You know, the one where she wore the gown-less evening strap on the battleship.
I would crank it up on my little iphone dock and belt out the songs in my finest style. It was a combination of angry, strident songs of independence and weepy wailers. By the end of the 2 hours and 32 minutes (if I made it till the end) I would be either crying or punching the air depending on how it got shuffled.
But still it was mostly stuff we had had in the “ours” collection.
After giving it some thought and analyzing my favourite tunes, I came to the shocking conclusion that I liked country rock. Shocking because this was a genre essentially ignored and at times even vilified by my ex.
I borrowed CDs when I could and added Johnny Cash and downloaded the likes of Morgan Evans to the collection. OMG I even bookmarked all of Keith Urban’s anthology on Spotify. Now I sing and dance along to Kasey Chambers or Catherine Brit while I am cooking and on road trips Busby Marou and John Mayer keep me company. I have since moved on and I have expanded into other genres enjoying some new talent like Fanny Lumsden, The Audreys and Aoife O’Donovan.
Now that I am more settled and confident and “have my shit together” I have been able to return to my old favourites without the tears and regrets. The memories are still there but I have come to terms with them and they have a different edge. No longer so sharp or harsh, they are like glass that’s been washed up on the beach. The edges have been polished and worn by time and I can hold them in my hand without them hurting.