while purging the past.
We cannot tear out a single page of our life, but we can throw the whole book in the fire.
A note about the post that follows:
It’s not my intention to give the impression that the last 37 years of my life didn’t matter and that they were filled with bad memories. That simply wouldn’t be accurate, there were good times and we become the person that we are by the sum of the parts. I doubt that this story is unique, I’m fairly certain that there are others just like me out there; putting on a brave face and acting like their life is oh so normal. It’s easy to see now that the choices I made in my late teens were motivated by emotion and not a lot of practicality. I wonder if at some point in the future I will regret being so transparent about my divorce. The flip side of that is if my words could stop someone from making the same mistakes that I did, wouldn’t that be worth it? If I could share one piece of advice with another young person it would be to choose your partner wisely: it is one of the most important decisions that you can make. Don’t make a decision based on potential and never make excuses for behavior that you don’t like. Those behaviors are likely to never change and are more likely to get worse over time. The people in this story weren’t fundamentally bad, they just didn’t belong together and if you’re reading this and it hits too close to home, know that you can change the course of the rest of your life. Understand that, no matter how badly you want to change or help someone, some things are not fixable. I used to take pride not in the quality of my marriage, but in its length. Ending a long marriage is an invasive, unpredictable, expensive, and highly stressful event. Know that getting out will be one of the hardest things that you do but that it will be so worth it.
Fire has long been a method of purification and for me there is something deeply satisfying about watching flames dance and reduce an object to ash. As a photographer it’s important for me to have visual images: it’s how I process things.
Stepping back a few decades, I would never have envisioned that object would be my wedding gown.
Looking at my wedding photos I find it difficult connecting with the girl in that gown with the monstrous train. It’s not me and even as I try to reconcile myself with my wedding day it still feels like an event that I got caught up in.
The dress looked like something that could be replicated to top a wedding cake. The bridesmaid’s dresses were not the color that I wanted for my December wedding. The song sung by the groom’s sister at my wedding was not one that I had chosen. I spent the afternoon ignoring the voice that said you broke up five years into this relationship for a reason and marriage won’t change what hasn’t changed after getting back together. You know that right?
What occurs to me as I look at my wedding pictures now is that I don’t see the moments that I would capture today as a photographer who specializes in moments.
I write this not from the viewpoint of that young girl in the photos but from the viewpoint of a woman who finally got the courage to leave a dysfunctional marriage. That girl believed that with enough nurture the nature would change.
That girl had no idea that without the sacrifice of her own values and principles her marriage could never be a true partnership. That girl would never have imagined that she would one day read words that would chill her to the bone. Words describing how she would die because she dared to choose to move forward and live a life of love, honesty, and simplicity.
This girl after 31 years of marriage finally walked away and on a dark, snowy, December night, set fire to the dress that lingered at the bottom of her closet.
As the flames moved up the dress I exhaled and felt the beginning of closure.
There are many things that should be recycled and passed forward for someone else to make use of but for me it was important that the symbols of my marriage be laid to rest alongside my marriage.
A good friend once said to let go and that the universe will provide. Turns out it will and it has and today finds me in a relationship based on an old friendship and shared values and that has been the biggest surprise of all!
If there’s a young person in your life that may be struggling with a relationship or if you know someone who thinks that there is no way out…please share this post.