I don’t really love the 4th of July. I feel like it’s the summer version of New Years Eve. There’s like some weird pressure to have come up with fabulous plans to celebrate our nation’s independence, when all I really want to do is power wash my pool deck and read a book.
There’s also a cloud that hangs over all the barbecues and fireworks for me, kind of the way the new movie “Inside Out” shows how happy core memories can be colored by sadness.
I found out my parents were getting a divorce on July 5, 1978, a month shy of my 12th birthday, and it marked the beginning of a long period of feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under me. It took a long time for me to find solid ground.
And then about 30 years later, this happened (originally posted here last year).
My ex-husband and I finally and completely called it quits on our marriage on July 4, 2009. Afterwards, even though he was the one who pushed me off the steep cliff of indecision, he sent me a text wishing me a “Happy Independence Day.” And while that was kind of snarky thing to write, it was also kind of true.
I was finally free.
We had initially separated about seven months earlier and then agreed we would go to counseling together and try to find a way to make things work. But honestly, I don’t think I ever really thought that was going to happen. Neither of us ever got what we needed from the other.
And I keep going back to the notion of things we want versus things that we need. Because even though I initially wanted to stay married and keep our family intact at all costs, a divorce was the one thing I really needed.
I remember standing in the foyer of our house after he’d rushed over early that July 4 morning to confront me about something that had happened the night before. Something pretty stupid and not something you’d end your almost 18-year marriage over. But we were at the end stage where you didn’t really need much to snuff out whatever life was left in the relationship. It was like the bad fall that beats cancer to the punch.
As we stood there by the front door and he asked me if I was sure I wanted to end things, I remember thinking about how good his arms looked. He was wearing a sleeveless grey workout top and his biceps looked pretty great after months of living on his own during our separation and working out twice a day. It was hot out and he was kind of worked up from the heat and the situation and his tanned arms kind of glistened from the exertion of it all and I stood and admired how good he looked and thought how much I’d miss those biceps.
And then I looked into those beautiful blue eyes of his – the ones I looked into that rainy day all those years ago when we said “I do” and the ones I kissed, between and over his perfect brows countless times – and told him that, yes, our marriage was over.
And he walked out the door.
At the time, I didn’t even shed a tear. I was more terrified than sad about the rapid turn of events. It would take at least another year and countless hours on my therapist’s couch to really start feeling the sadness of what happened. To start burrowing a tunnel through the fortress I had built around my heart.
But over time, I’ve learned that the takeaway from my marriage is that being a part of a relationship shouldn’t cost you anything. Sure, you might have to barter and trade for certain things – you need to be willing to compromise – but you shouldn’t have to pony up, like, your dignity or self-respect just to be a part of a couple. That is a steep price to pay just so that you don’t have to be alone.
This revelation came in handy recently when I found myself seeing somebody who just couldn’t give me what I needed and my options were to go along with it but feel yucky about myself, or cut bait.
And because I can no longer compromise what I need out of a relationship or the way I have to be treated, I had to cool things off. We didn’t totally close the door, but we’re taking a break.
But I’m just not willing to sacrifice the freedom I’ve tasted to be a part of a couple. I’ve worked too hard trying to be true to who I am for that shizz.
I still miss the barbecues and fireworks we shared as a family and of course, those really nice biceps, but not how much it all cost me. I really want to be in a relationship – I know that now – but not at any price.
Freedom is too expensive to waste.