We were supposed to make it to the end. I believed that we would be married forever, just as I still believe that true love is eternal. Love does not go away when opinion is not agreeable or life gets hard. If you are married and it’s been awhile you may not be sure what you feel about love anymore. You may not even be sure if you want to still be married at all and when was the last time you had sex? When was the last time you felt alive in love and does he bring you flowers? What about her? Does she do anything nice for you anymore? I am writing interchangeably because I do not know who you are or what your experience has been. I only have mine to compare.
We were together for seventeen years before our end and I suppose that statistically we always knew that we were doomed. How could we possibly expect to be different when life is what it is and we are no better than the rest? Divorce is popular culture, but we were the Notebook. He was the soldier I wrote to in love without barely a letter back. I wrote him 365 letters, a letter for each day he was deployed in Korea and I waited because at eighteen years old I knew I would love him my whole life. I will love him my whole life. He did not feel the same way, but I wanted him to, I hoped he could, while knowing that it wasn’t possible. He didn’t know me to love me and he didn’t know love to have the vision to miss it.
(This video includes one of the first letters I ever wrote to my first husband. I was eighteen and he was in the field as a soldier, not quite deployed to Korea. I am chuckling because I clearly did not have a strong grasp for heartbeat. I watch the video and I scrutinize myself analytically. Why did I love him so much if he was mean to me when I was in the hospital?
I missed him terribly when he was away that year. He was on my mind and in my heart nearly every moment he was gone. I want you to imagine a girl of eighteen these days, with selfies and facebook and this Kardashian brand culture of #trendingnow and Snap Chat. We didn’t have all that twenty years ago, but I was free to be vivacious and I could have been the life of any party. Instead, I was nearly invisible to the world and I was young and most beautiful. The only vanity I have ever carried is that I should be loved. I expect it to be impossible not to. I am most beautiful by soul. I gave him that gift with each letter I wrote him. I gave him a piece of my soul.
While I was pouring out my heart devoted, I prayed to God that he would let me be loved in return, because I was most vulnerably invested by marriage, which we were not. We were not married before he deployed. We were young, too young, and I had only been seeing him for six months before he had gotten orders that he must go. It felt like death to know he would need to leave, but then I remembered how much life we both had to love. “I will wait for you.” I told him, “I love you, a year is nothing. I will wait because I love you.”
He did not feel the same way. He did not wait. He kissed me good-bye while telling me how much he loved me and then he told me to let go. “I do not want you to wait for me Amber. I will write to you sometimes, but do not wait. I love you.”
Why would he tell me not to wait if he loved me? Wouldn’t he wish upon all wishes to be as near as near can be? I thought about our last closeness as I wrote by every spare second. My letters to him sometimes spanned the length of an entire day because I was too busy to ever sit to write one from start to finish. I was in college and when I wasn’t there I was studying and when I wasn’t there I was working to pay for the college I needed to find more time to study for. Still he was the center of my world and my heart liked to imagine that I was his.
Silly girls imagine love like a fairy tale with a prince that is captivated. I am thirty-eight years old now and I will tell you with 100% unfailable truth that I have never in my entire life known a man to be captivated with more interest than sex in the beginning (and sometimes always).
He told me that he loved me before he went, but he didn’t really mean it. He tells the story of a man who was simple sad to be away and so he dated one girl to fix that and when she got on his nerves he found another until there were four. He was with four women while he was away that year and I know because he told me.
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
— Flannery O’Connor
He came back to me in the end and we got married soon after, rushing in like fools do, because love is a fool’s game. We told each other everything with open truth as our love evolved and it did. Love is not a magic spell. Lust is. Love is the devotion of studying another soul and then having the courage to forgive it for the darkness. I would have forgiven him any evil, but I could not forgive his unhappiness in me. I let him go when I realized I was no longer his joy. After seventeen years and my entire life I said good-bye and in doing so I welcomed the death of everything I hold dear.
The two of us wept, clinging to each other in a hug that we didn’t want to let go of on the day we went to court to make our good-bye final. The day our divorce. The day of the dead. “I love you,” he said as he kissed my forehead.
“I know.” I said as I squeezed his hand, stepping back and kicking pavement with my shoe. “I love you too.
“I wouldn’t have let you go.” He admitted.
“I know,” I said crying harder. “I’ve spent my whole life realizing that and I would stay with you forever if I didn’t realize what it’s taken me these seventeen years to know. I don’t make you happy and I never will. Go. Go be happy. That is the measure of my love.”
It is 9:33am the Tuesday of St. Patrick’s Day. I woke up to another day of tears and it’s not because I am still crying over what was. I am crying for what is. I did not simply lose the love of my first life. I lost the child who was born from it at the very same time. Our daughter came into this world with a preference for her dad and she is right to have the distinction. He is the greatest dad there is.
When I started writing this morning’s blog I will tell you that it was with the heaviest of heart. I intended for this to be the letter I submit to court when I relinquish any custody I have of her now. Sapphire Rain, my greatest gift of life, born the same day of my 25th year, my own birthday.
I am at a place where I am considering giving up my own daughter, just like I let him go. I will let her go if it the right thing to do. I will always do what is best for those I love and it is not their place to tell me what it is. I am the mother and I will always know what is best for my family. I am the heart of it.
Let me speak my heart. I can not face another day having my daughter be here when she would rather be there. That is exactly what I told her when I let her know that I can not allow what is happening to continue. “First I am going to send a letter to your school, because you are going to need counceling.” I told her this as I admitted, “I do not want to see you anymore. I am closing the door. I am done.”
She knew that today is a day of reckoning. We spoke at great length after that and this is what she told me about the whole truth that she is not ready for. My daughter is thirteen years old. She said, “How do you know what I can handle and who are you to tell me what I want? I do not prefer one place over the other. I can deal with what I am given.”
“I do not want you to deal with anything Sapphire,” I implored her to see that I only want the best life for her. “If I am not at a place in life where you can be proud enough to at the very least be respectful that I am doing my absolute best by you, then I do not want you in this place. I will not allow it. You are mean to me. You treat me like I am trash and I will tell you that I don’t care if the entire world thinks I am garbage. I will not let anyone make it real. Not even you. I will not let you be here to hurt me. If that is how you are going to be to me I do not want to see you anymore.”
I can say this to my own child because she needs to understand that life does not need to be continuous pain, just as love hurts, but it always heals with time. It is perfectly fine to set boundaries for yourself and it is especially fine to let love go if it is right. I will give myself enough space to heal past wanting to end things because the end I imagine without her in my life is always suicide and she does her best to make me want to quit.
She is angry at me, but also reverent. She continued, “I am sorry. I didn’t know. I didn’t know everything you have been going through and the way I see things between you and me is that we are pretty normal mom. I just got off the phone with one of my friends and she was so mean to her mom this morning that I don’t know if she will even be at school. She was being so terrible. I think that it’s just a normal part of this age that I am in. It’s just the way kids are to their parents these days.”
I was crying when I implored her to understand. “Sapphire, I am not every parent. I am your mom and I am telling you that the thought of you angry or unhappy is torture to me. You are the only one in this entire world that can destroy me and I am begging you to know it is because of the measure of love I have for you. You can not do this to me. You can not treat me like I am nothing because I need to be someone strong for you. Do not be the reason I am defeated. Help me win so I can help you win.”
I dropped her off to tell her when I would be back to pick her up. She got out and stood to face the car. “I will not be going to the court house today,” I said knowing that there are still custody issues to sort out.
“I’m glad.” She said with a tender smile. “I do want you in my life mom. I love you.”
“I love you too,” I whispered as she closed a door that will always remain open. Any door with us standing on the wrong side is that. I will only have open doors so that we can meet each other in the middle of what is right.