Posted by: shelliejelly | September 13, 2009

Swing Low

I don’t remember when things changed for O. and I. I can’t quite put my finger on the moment when air seemed to start whistling through the crack in our foundation. There are large, overarching feelings that I can tap into—the anger that seemed to always be hissing just below the surface; the emotional and physical wall I seemed to keep adding bricks to at a record pace; the indifference.

Though I never would have imagined what was just around the corner, I remember a visit from my mother where she asked, a little concern in her voice: Do you still love, O., Michelle? Complicated feelings rushed out of my mouth, stumbling over one another as they all hurried to the exit. Yes. He’s a good man. I don’t like some of what he does. I don’t know. Yes, but I think I’m going to lose him. Tears rolled down my face as I tried to explain to her that I loved my husband but something was holding me back, my feelings only allowed to grow so big before I’d cut them back, the shadow of my fear cooling their warmth, stunting their progress. Loss. You’ll always lose. How can you ever put everything on the line again, knowing that eventually you’ll be left alone? NO! Don’t!

After K. died, I subconsciously trained myself to only feel so deeply. I’d slap back any emotion that got too daring, like an overbearing mother who can’t think of letting her favorite child gain independence. I didn’t ever want to hurt the way I hurt when K. died, and perhaps I thought I only had one survival story in me. So continually holding something back seemed the safest route. You can love, but not LOVE. The part I seemed to keep behind locked doors was, perhaps, the most essential part of myself, however. I thought it was just myself I didn’t trust, but experience seems to tell a completely different story: I didn’t trust anyone, most of all the people who said they loved me. I honestly believed the universe would always and forever get the last laugh. I was a marked woman, and the arrogance and innocence of that statement still shock me.

Shortly after my mother asked me that question O. told me our marriage was in serious jeopardy. We were eating and, over appetizers, he began telling me all the ways I wasn’t who he wanted anymore. No fewer than five plates of food were in front of me, but my stomach quickly plummeted to my feet and all I could think about was wanting to stand up, to walk, to move. I excused myself to the bathroom where I hid in a stall, feeling dizzy, unsure if I was going to be sick or if I just needed some space to breath more freely.

After dinner we went for coffee, talking about our next move. I felt like my words and actions had to be precise. Too far one way or another and the building would start to shake, a rumble filling my ears as huge chunks of my life fell before my eyes, shattering. The difference between what O. and I were feeling was substantial, the gap we would need to fill to repair our marriage wide and chaotic. HELLO hello hello hello hello we seemed to be shouting, our own voices the only sound echoing back to us.

When we got home my mom asked how the evening was, but I didn’t have any words and O. simply answered, “It was a night out.” That night in bed we huddled close, face to face, each mulling over the inevitable question: Is this marriage over? In turn we would ease both our fears. No, I don’t think so. Let’s just see. I think we need counseling, and maybe then we’ll get to a better place. There was no doubt there was a lot of love between us. We had an intimacy and knowledge of one another that necessitated authentic, deep love. But where had it gone? When had it silently slipped away, closing the door so softly that neither O. or myself looked up and grabbed it by the shirt collar or tackled it in the street?

“I told you so,” my bruised heart sneered, “Dumbass.” But the difference this time was that I was determined to deal with this loss differently. I wanted to heal, not just get by.


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