Stomach churning, trying to breathe through it, thinking and trying not to think. Imagining my ex-husband (number 2, baby!) and my recent ex-boyfriend (met him the day after my divorce!) meeting in a coffee shop. Conversation flowing or choppy? I connected them subsequent to my ex apologizing to me 5 months following our demise, for chronic, incessant lying throughout our courtship and marriage. I thought, in my undying optimism, that the two of them might be able to learn something from each other considering their bizarrely similar stories.
5 months earlier, I was walking down the sidewalk, giddy with anticipation of moving beyond my divorce, letting my optimism shine through to carry me once again. I opened the heavy door and glanced around. It has to be him, sitting at a table on my left with an ear piece, a stern forehead and a deep voice. The voice and intensity threw me off – aren’t we supposed to be on a date? He quickly pulls the piece out of his ear, puts a notebook in his workbag and turns his head and attention my way. I sit down. The conversation moves, not entirely smoothly, but rapidly as we fall over common acquaintances and then coincidences and then just wildly strange universal revelations. The president of the PTO at my school was his last girlfriend. The woman I am meeting up with after the date was his girlfriend before that. And then more. The organization he is volunteering for, that he needs to leave the date early for, is also familiar: Kids First (other women find cars and money sexy, I am wooed by volunteering).
He mentions that his volunteering relates to early trauma in his life so I wait patiently to see if he brings up his story. And then he begins. “My mom died in a car crash when I was 6.” What? “My dad got married about a year later and my stepmom died of cancer four years later” What? Silence, stunned silence. Stunned not for the obvious reason – the devastating tragedy laid out in front of me – but because I have heard this story before. I have lived, been married to, suffered with, suffered because of, a man with the same trauma. Well, not the “same” but pretty damn close. His dad died in a car crash when he was 8 and his mom married a year later and then his stepdad also died of cancer. This trauma, for which he claimed had no effect on him, just like his previous divorce had no effect on him. This trauma, which in my mind, was the reason he acted like a small boy, a 8 year old boy to be precise, egotistical, self-interested, pouty, devoid of adult acknowledgment of responsibilities and consequences. Pouting when I asked him to help with the dishes, suggesting pizza every time I asked him to please help me think about dinner, screaming phrases seemingly comprised only of curse words in the basement as he “worked” on one of his seven bikes (what the fuck do you need seven bikes for!?). So I am looking at a man, all of 2 years older than my ex but infinitely more mature and adult in his honesty and perspective, all shared during a two hour date. He stated he has moved from a scared 6 year old boy into a 35 year old man in the three years since his divorce through therapy, in-depth involvement with a men’s group, volunteering, yoga and meditation. Not quite up to his own chronological age but getting closer.
While the 35 going on 47 year old man and I didn’t make it through, he did leave me with hope as he described his journey toward self-awareness, his journey from an inescapable tragedy to a full life, well lived. I had begun to fear that we are all beholden to our pasts, can’t heal beyond a certain point. But he showed me you can be content with your past, aware of your present and excited for the future.
This is an installment in my writing series, “The Rebound Marriage”. Read about the series here. I’ll post a new installment every Saturday. I hope you enjoy it, and please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.