Friday, May 1, 2015

Pulling The Plug

Marriages don't just die.

They aren't here one second, and then gone the next, like when someone drops dead of a heart attack, or a plane crash.

It feels like a death, though.  All around me are the shattered remnants of the life I thought I would have.  I'm aching for an answer - like a doctor doing a post-mortem.  I want a body - a victim - to pull apart until I figure out the exact cause of all this pain.

But the source of the pain isn't dead.  It lives on, everywhere.  It shines out from the faces of my children, the little upwards smirk in Finn's smile that he got from my husband.  It grins out at me from photographs.  It slithers into bed next to me every night as I stare at the cold, empty space where the man I thought I would love forever used to lie.

The end of a marriage is like standing at the bedside of someone on life support.  They are there, but they aren't.  You don't want to let them go, but you ache for it to just be over, already.

And then there is the anger.  At him, at myself, at life.  As I madly search for answers, all I come up with are more questions.  A lot of them start with:  what if?

What if I weren't an alcoholic?  What if I had worked full time instead of raising kids?  What if we had gone to more counseling?  What if he hadn't met her?

It's a pointless question, what if. Because the death of my marriage resulted in thousands of tiny events, minuscule decisions I had no way of knowing were nudging me down this path.

What if I had paid more attention? What if I had been a better housekeeper?  Thinner?  Prettier?  Better with money?  More organized? Less preoccupied with the causes I'm so passionate about?

In other words, what if I had been, well, less ME?

That's the heart of it; the thing that is so hard to look at, but that lies at the root of everything.  In a marriage someone has to love you for who you are, not who they thought you would become, or the ways they thought they could change you.  In the end, he didn't love my Ellie-ness enough.

I look at myself in the mirror and listen to those voices having a tug-of-war in my head:  you're not good enough, you're better than this, you didn't do enough, there is nothing more you could do, you are a bad person, you are a good person.  You aren't lovable, yes you are.

I slip on the white gloves, don a mask and apron and root around in the dead body of our marriage.

I play this game with myself.  This "I should have left him when...." game.  I think: it should have been when he started criticizing my housekeeping.  He's neat, I'm not.  Or when he would call me a teenager, tell me I can't handle money like a responsible adult.  Or when he said I was fat, when I was newly sober and had had two of his babies. When I got hurt and angry he told me he was just telling me what everyone was thinking, it's just that he had the guts to say it.  After that fight, I packed a bag.  I even drove down the road, before of course I turned the car around and came back, remorseful that I wasn't skinny enough for him.

So I lost weight.  I cleaned more. I tried to be better with money.  I scrambled to be the person he wanted, and of course in the long run it didn't work.

It would feel really good to paint him as the bad guy. As someone who was too demanding, too unreasonable, too much of a perfectionist.

But, of course, he has is own version of this game.  He could play the "I should have left her when...." game all day with me, and when the sun went down there would be no winner.

So I'm left with me, in the mirror.  I stand with my regret, anger and hurt, and I stare at my own eyes, looking for answers that don't exist.

If I am to survive this with my sanity intact, I have to love my own Ellie-ness.  For so many years, I identified myself as the other half of him.  For twenty four years, in fact. Half my life.  The body on life support isn't really our marriage, it's the version of me that was tied to him.

It's time to pull the plug.  If I don't, I will go crazy.   I will lose myself in the what-if versions of who I was, not who I am becoming.

I don't want to bring a broken person to the next phase of my life. So instead of doing a post mortem on the marriage, I'm doing one on myself.  I have spent the past year getting in touch with my Ellie-ness. This is a first for me.  I have always been someone's other half.

One of the realizations I have had is that it is exhausting to believe that I am omnipotent.  Not in an arrogant way - like I have all the answers if only you would listen to me - but in a self-involved way.  Spending so much time thinking I am somehow flawed, or wrong, is as ego-driven as thinking that I am somehow better than anyone else.  I don't get to be best, but I don't get to be worst, either.

I am embracing my humanity, that sometimes things do not go they way I expect, but that I am not the sole cause all my own heartache anymore than I am the sole cause my own joy.

There are things that just aren't fair.  Or right. Or just.  I have been wronged, and betrayed, and my path has veered sharply in a direction I didn't choose.

But, so what, really?  Who am I to say it's the wrong direction?  If I ask that body on the table, the one who didn't know who she was without seeking someone else's approval, she would tell me I am not going to be okay on my own.  All the voices in her head, the ones that belonged to people who didn't love her Ellie-ness enough - they killed her.

So I am not going to listen to what she would tell me.

I pulled the plug on her. She did the best she could, but it's time to move on.