Do you know what tomorrow is? Tomorrow is me and my husband’s 18th anniversary. And our last.
My husband and I were handfasted 18 years ago by my High Priest & Priestess, in a circle surrounded by our friends and loved ones.
Eighteen years ago, I didn’t think a marriage license that ‘legalized’ our union was necessary. We’d been living together for a few years already and I was content. And I was right– it wasn’t the marriage license or the seal from the State of New York that change anything. That handfasting, however, seemed to deepen our commitment more than I ever had imagined. That rite of passage, having our vows sanctified before family and loved ones in a meaningful ritual was an incredible experience.
We saw each other through poverty, job losses, new careers, the birth of children, the ups and downs of parenthood, moving across country, illnesses– especially that mysterious one that put me in a wheelchair for two years, recoveries– especially the wonderful one that got me out of the wheelchair, the loss of parents, loved ones and friends, disappointments, celebrations, lazy summer days and rainy, bleak nights. I thought it was going to last forever.
One of my favorite things in the world to do was just to cuddle up with my husband with some take-out, watch television and crack jokes about whatever we were watching. As I worked harder and harder to build a career in writing, he fueled me with coffee and back rubs. He left supportive messages at my desk. As he went back to school to gain trade skills, looked for a new career, I cheered him on. I tried to make up for his lack of confidence by showing him the confidence I had in him.
We talked about our plans for the future… backpacking through Europe as empty nesters. Buying a camper someday and living on the road. Or maybe just settling down so close to Disney World that we could pretend we lived there, and spend our evenings strolling down Main Street of the Magic Kingdom, hand in hand, watching fireworks burst above our heads, and forget the depressing things going on outside of the gates.
After our 15th anniversary, in October of 2015, we renewed our vows to each other, and took the honeymoon we never went on. In June of 2016, we went to the Florida Keys and watched the sunset, seemingly full of hope for the future. Last summer, were talking vigorously about our plans to move to Orlando in 2017. The future looked bright. We overcame a lot of struggles together.
Then life took a , major detour and our paths suddenly diverged.
Do you know what Friday is? Friday marks the 8-month anniversary of him telling me he didn’t want to be married anymore.
It came as a complete shock to me. I’d just gotten back from a weekend winter camping trip with the kids. He and I hadn’t been talking or spending much time together for months. He had taken more and more to his room, and busied himself with work.
He told me how exhausted he was. The overnight shift was killing him. I remember something nagging inside me, something was wrong. But I wanted to believe him, and it made sense. I thought when we moved, he would get a better job, better hours, and be better off. Things would go back to normal.
So I told him that night that we had only about two months to start seriously looking for a new place in Orlando, and that we had to sit down and make concrete plans. He had to start job hunting. We had to start house hunting. We had to start packing. The holidays were upon us, and as soon as the dust settled after New Year’s Day, I told him we needed to jump into action.
That’s when he dropped the bomb and told me he didn’t plan to come with me to Orlando. The whole conversation feels a bit surreal, like a dream, and I was confused. I couldn’t grasp it, so I asked something along the lines of, “Are you saying you’re leaving me?”
“Our marriage was over a long time ago,” he told me. I remember that line clearly. It’s burned into my memory forever. The tone of his voice. Him standing there near the front door as he headed outside. His his hands in his pocket. His hair a mess from just waking up. The stubble on his face. The piercing dark eyes with an unusually earnest expression. It’s like a short video meme clip that, if I let myself think about it, plays over and over in my head.
Was it over when we went to the Florida Keys for an anniversary weekend get-away just a few months earlier? Was it over last time we made love? Was it over in the last few months, in the countless hours I spent researching houses, neighborhoods and the job situation in Orlando? Was it over when we looked through home & garden magazines and pointed out the new styles and furnishings that we wanted to try out in our new home, in our new city?
If it was over so long ago, why was I only hearing about it on December 11th, 2016?
A LOT, and I mean A SHITLOAD LOT has happened in the last eight months. For a couple who tends to not like drama, our lives certainly did a remarkable job resembling a low-budget soap opera. I’ll go into that another time.
But tonight I sit here on the eve of my handfasting anniversary, planning a hand-parting ritual for tomorrow.
Tomorrow night, I will cast my circle and I will call my Gods and guides for comfort.
I will unknot our handfasting cord, which has sat in a prominent space on our bedroom shelf, unknotted, for 18 years. I will cut it and half. I’ll burn my half, along with a copy of my marriage vows.
We bought a special chalice for our wedding as well. It’s silver-plated with our names and wedding date engraved on it. It breaks into two separate cups. We liked the symbolism at the time: two individuals, but joined together, fitting each other perfectly, working together as a perfect team. It, too, sat on that shelf, along with a heart-shaped pillow that carried our wedding rings and an empty bottle of Chaucer’s Mead. The last edition to the shelf were our Mickey and Minnie Mouse wedding hats.
I plan to smash my half of the cup. I’ll take out a few frustrations on it, then later, after the ritual, I’ll bury it, along with the ashes of my vows and my handfasting cord. I’ll hold a little funeral for my marriage.
The divorce isn’t yet finalized; but it’ll be over to me. Dead and buried. It wasn’t the license or government seal that made me feel married; and it won’t be the signed divorce papers that make me feel my marriage is over. It was the ritual rite-of-passage that solidified my commitment and bound us together; and it will be a ritual rite-of-passage that unravels those ties.
And like all deaths and other transitions, I’ll get through it.
The musical mood of the moment: