Dedicated to the couples who would have made it, IF ONLY…
Dear Universe; how could this have happened? I'm asking myself, what do you do when everything you thought made sense, felt real, was the way it should be, was meant to be, was destiny, does a slow but steady about-face and turns into a rancid, burning, poisonous cauldron of disbelief, sadness, and heartache? Your heart had once been transported to a place so high and elevated that you found yourself driving through red lights because you had never been in such a headspace. You were outside yourself, suddenly in another tranche of life that you had never experienced before.
Once filled with such light and joy and bliss, this very same heart becomes so damaged, fragmented, and shattered, engulfing you in pain so deep that you can't keep from breaking down every day. The crying is so profound that no sound comes out. I've discovered that when you are in heartache, your mind and heart are in a constant battle for the pole position. The mind wants to survive while the heart wants to feel. Some days, your mind wins, but most days, your heart has a clear and unfair advantage and proclaims itself the winner.
Humans come in flavors of varying sensitivity. I happen to be one of those who are on the compassionate side of the spectrum. I'm an empath. I feel things more deeply than most; I feel others' pain. I wish I could temper this, but I can't. I'm an artist, singer, and writer. We feel things. I heard Mara Tremblay, a Québecois celebrity I recently discovered, say that people who create should be genuinely authentic - at least in their craft. It's unavoidable.
Just below is the beautiful classic French ballad "Quand on est en amour" by Patrick Norman. The lyrics capture perfectly the essence of this chapter I believe.
Quand on est en amour – Patrick Norman
This chapter is all about love and loss and how they have played out for me. When your previous life, your first marriage with wife and child, falls apart, and you suddenly discover another universe that you never knew existed in another woman, it's like riding on a wave that never breaks. Head over heels in love doesn't accurately describe it. You have grown a pair of wings, allowing you to float from here to there, as the albatross does, coasting effortlessly for hundreds of miles on an ocean breeze. Nothing can hold you down anymore. You've been set free. You feel more alive than ever before. And you begin again. You begin to live life as if you've been given a 2nd chance to get it right. So you give it everything you've got, yet somehow, it still slips right through your fingers.
Hindsight was 20/20 in 2021
When you have experienced what you thought was true love and lived life believing that you had been blessed with serendipity, you find yourself rowing your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, as if life were "but a dream." The dream feels so real that it blinds you until you wake up one day, and you find yourself looking back, wondering how you missed all the red flags along the way.
And in my case, having been through so much adversity with my health, having both hips replaced by the age of 31, and feeling like no one could ever love me because I was broken and had a child to look after and support, I never imagined that someone would love me again. But I was wrong. Someone did. Admittedly though, it took a lot of coaxing to get that to happen! But the love was there, it was real, and it was great.
Rewind 7 years. I was just married and attending someone else's wedding. It was a chance meeting where she was singing with the hired band; I left the party with her voice lessons business card and a phone number scribbled on it. It stayed neatly tucked away in my business card holder for seven years. I had flipped by it hundreds of times yet never dared to call. Then, 911 happens, and your life is shaken to the core. You question everything. You are awakened. So what did I do? I dug out the card, and I called the number. Seven years later, the number had not changed.
...I fell in love with this woman, this singing teacher, standing beside me. It was a force like nothing I'd ever felt before. But wait! I was married. I had a 2-year-old son. What was I going to do? I was spiraling. I could barely think straight. I was caught in a vortex.
I was calling to take singing lessons, something I had been dreaming of doing for years. After two singing classes, I invited her to join me and some friends to go see U2. I had an extra ticket my wife couldn't use because she was away on a business trip. The night of the show, I met up with her at her place for one more lesson, and from there, we went to dinner, and then to the concert - it was like being on a date for the first time; it was so exciting. And although something felt wrong, it also felt really right. That night, as U2 transported its audience to Another Time and Another Place, as they always do, I fell in love with this woman, this singing teacher, standing beside me. It was a force like nothing I'd ever felt before. But wait! I was married. I had a 2-year-old son. What was I going to do? I was spiraling. I could barely think straight. I was caught in a vortex. I wrote a letter to this girl, confessing my true feelings for her, and I dropped it into her mailbox. I followed up with a phone call, and we agreed to meet to talk. We did. It was hard, but I did the right thing and walked away.
Jump ahead a few months, and I find myself in a marriage that has fallen apart. I'm suddenly separated and about to go and live on my own for the first time in my life. This was, at that time, the most painful experience of my life. Especially when a two-year-old child was involved, it broke my heart, and I cried for months over the fact that I would never again see my son every day.
After that storm had passed, I picked up the phone and called the singing teacher. I told her that I was newly single and was hoping perhaps we could get together for coffee. And the rest wrote itself.
What The World Needs Now, Is Love, Sweet Love.
Ours was a one-of-a-kind fairytale romance. Two years into the relationship, I proposed to her on her 40th birthday in the restaurant where we'd had our first date. I had already taken care of all the wedding plans. We both had been talking about eloping to Memphis to get married. So that's exactly what we did. We got married at Elvis Presley's Graceland. And, we were the only ones ever to get married in a somewhat sacred space known as the Keyhole garden, which is located directly across from the front door to the mansion. It's a long story, but take my word for it, no one else had ever been married on the grounds of Graceland itself. We had to get clearance from the V.P. of operations at E.P.E. For us, it was just one more sign that our love was meant to be. We had our music, a mix of U2's "Grace" and Jackie De Shannon's "What The World Needs Now," which we played on a boom box as my bride-to-be gingerly approached me along Elvis' driveway.
It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that
It could change the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness
As far as we were concerned, we both believed that our destiny had been sealed with a Black Velvet kiss and a whisper from Elvis and U2. If you had not noticed by now, I'm the quintessential hopeless romantic. Sadly, our wedding book did not have the Hollywood ending that usually accompanies romantic fairytales.
As the years went by, cracks began to appear in the marriage. The fantasy started to evolve into reality. A reality that was not as palatable as the fantasy we had imagined for ourselves all this time. This is not the first or last love story to begin and end this way. However, I do feel that our story was unique enough to make it worth telling.
I'm writing this as a form of catharsis after having broken down again, pining for the life, the love, and the woman I once loved so much. She's gone now. She has been transformed by life, illness, and time. And so have I.
After almost 20 years together, we are now getting divorced. This breakup was even more painful than the one I lived through in 2001. I never knew it was possible to hurt and cry as much as I have. And when I think I'm all cried out, there is still more in there stuffed in the nooks and crannies.
My life has become insufferable. My chronic illnesses and chronic pain have taken such a toll that my entire days are spent managing my health and pain. I'm surviving, not thriving. I fear for my future. Everything is so uncertain.
And now, in an almost cruel form of irony, I find myself once again alone, feeling the same way I did in 2001 - asking myself: "Will I ever find someone to love me again?" Except for this time, I'm much more broken than in 2001. Since then, so much has happened to me, including hip revision surgery, foot fusion surgery, and cervical fusion surgery. I have been physically forever altered and even disabled. It makes it hard to imagine finding someone willing to take that on. It takes someone who can see past the limitations and recognize that a person in this broken body still has a lot to offer, like love, kindness, attention, affection, caring, understanding, and empathy—in other words, being appreciated for my mind, heart, and soul, not my body.
I'm Alone in this World, and a Fucked up World it is too.
It's hard to have this epiphany at 51 years old; that your life may have been one grand illusion. This is certainly not the outcome I was hoping for. I was staring at the sun, blinded by its brightness. I wanted for this so badly to be a romantic fairytale that I made myself believe it. When the luster and infatuation that glossed over everything fades away, suddenly revealed to you are the cracks and crevices that had been there all along. My heart and my good memories are directly juxtaposed with our current reality. Breakups and divorces leave collateral damage. They scar the heart forever, and you spend each day doing whatever you can to distract yourself not to feel the pain. But whether it's physical or emotional, scar tissue is scar tissue, and it stays with you for life.
They say time heals all things. Does it? I think time can heal some things, and I have experienced that. But for the most part, I think time, more than anything, softens things, but they nevertheless remain with you till you die. It softens things enough that you eventually start to have respite from what used to be daily torment going on inside your head. For a few days, you forget about the past. And then, eventually, it's a few weeks, then a few months. But it's always there, in the background. As we get older, we all accumulate life baggage, just some of us more than others.
"I felt everything I'll ever feel. So I'll never feel ever again." says Niles (Andy Samberg) in the movie "Palm Springs," and in the film, "Her" Joaquin Phoenix says: "Sometimes I think I have felt everything I'm ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I'm not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I've already felt."
All of those things I felt so deeply and passionately; they were all "firsts."And once you have a first, that's it. The 2nd and 3rd times can never be as good as the first one. That's how I feel; like my best years are behind me, I have lived the highest highs, and now, it's time to live the lowest lows.