I’ve had two weddings, but only one marriage. My first wedding was to a man who kept the antique mirror I (painstakingly) had restored when I was nineteen years old, the one that belonged to my grandma whom I adored and lost long before I met him, and who also kept the vintage diamond necklace that belonged to my great-aunt, which I’ll never be able to pass along to my daughter. I call him Mirror Guy. I didn’t love him and I can’t tell you what I was doing with him because it feels like another lifetime and because I was in a fog fueled by outrageously painful migraines, percocet and a stubborn desire to cling to stories that didn’t serve me, to blame my parents and my childhood for my brokenness, and a general sense that I had no clue what I was doing here. I was coming off of some of the darkest times of my life and I was very young and totally lost. I’d been in that damaging victim mentality for too many years, blaming other people for my poor choices and behavior, numbing out, denying, running. I wasn’t an awful person or anything, I’ve always been kind, I was just a bit of a mess.
You know the syndrome, right? I am this way because this happened, and then that happened, and then this other thing happened, so when you leave the room, I think you’re leaving for good and that’s why I’m freaking out. As if that makes sense. This thing that should have happened did not, so I have fear that no one will love me and nothing good will happen, so I’m just going to sleepwalk, okay? Because I don’t know how to do the ‘awake, I’m-going-to-take-responsibility-for-the-way-my-life-unfolds-thing yet, so if you want to marry me, sure. Sounds good.’ Or something like that.
Of course I thought I loved him or I wouldn’t have worn the Cinderella tulle dress and gotten myself to the beach club on time. But you can’t love if you’re sleeping. You can stick your arms out in the darkness and hope you run into something good, but you probably won’t. If you’re in darkness, you’re most likely going to fall in a ditch and break something, like your heart or your ability to keep sleeping. Something will give, that’s for sure. Nor can you see that the person you’re about to marry is incapable of telling the truth in any form about anything or of being honorable or kind, or of loving you in any capacity at all. I should have known because he told me he was separated when we started dating, but actually he wasn’t and it took two years to sort it out. Somehow I became fixated on that and never realized I didn’t love him and it would have been just fine if he’d stayed married to that other woman, thanks very much. I should have known because my therapist at the time asked me what we did together that was fun, or what it was that I liked about being with him and I literally could not think of a single thing. I should have known because too many of the things he said to me did not make sense and often came back to bite him in the arse later. It’s not like there weren’t signs. I begged for signs. Do you realize if you’re asking for signs that’s a sign? I didn’t.
I have to share about the signs because it’s comical. I’m going to the store to try on wedding dresses with my mom weeks before the wedding and she has to wait in the car because I’m throwing up. I’m throwing up. Nauseated at the thought of buying a dress to marry the man who turned out to be Mirror Guy. I can’t get the song, “You Don’t Know Me” out of my head for weeks. The morning of the wedding it is sunny and gorgeous and I think, “At least that’s good,” because we are getting married on a deck overlooking the water in front of 250 people, most of whom I’ve never met. At 4pm the sky turns black. I’m not exaggerating. Black, and then the sky opens and there’s rain like I have never experienced in my life, not before, not since, not anywhere, even in the jungle of Costa Rica. Torrential rain so thick it sounded like someone was an inch over the roof of the minivan with a thousand power-hoses. Giant frogs dropping from the sky would not have surprised me. Oh, did you catch the part about a minivan? My wedding party left in the limo I was supposed to be in because the makeup artist wanted to do me last so my makeup was fresh, but she ran so late they had to take off, so I went to the beach club in a minivan with my parents and my little brother and his best friend.
More signs: Because there was a weather alert with a red stripe across the bottom of every television telling everyone to get home and stay indoors, the traffic on the highway from the hotel to the beach club was nuts. Like a parking lot, people racing out of the city to make it to their homes. This is in New York, mind you, where this kind of weather simply does not happen. So my step-dad drove on the shoulder of the highway for six miles. So pretty much, on my way to getting married to the very wrongest person, hundreds of people gave me the finger. How many signs do you need before you turn the minivan around? That’s like a punchline, isn’t it?
When I got to the beach club my mom and I raced to the bridal room, and my best friend and bridesmaids shoved me into my dress and someone handed me a glass of champagne because I said I thought I might pass out, and of course champagne is the answer when you feel faint and are about to make one of the worst decisions of your life. So I went down the aisle like a wind-up doll, done up like a princess, vacant eyes. Worse than that. Deer-in-the-headlight eyes. As if I hadn’t said yes to all of it. As if it were just happening to me. When the justice of the peace announced we were man and wife, there was a crack of thunder and lightning so loud you can hear it on the wedding video and everyone laughed nervously and I thought, “Well. You can’t ask for more signs than that.”
I say he didn’t love me and I know I didn’t love him, even though I believed I did and I believed he did in my sleepwalking state. But he didn’t want a wife, he wanted a mother. Someone to make dinner and read his screenplays and rewrite all the dialogue because people don’t speak like that. Who speaks like that?
Him: Hey, why don’t you leave your dog at the kennel this weekend, because actually, I don’t like dogs.
Him: I need to go shoot this commercial, so drop everything and come, okay? Even though it’s in Canada and you’d rather stay home since I’ll be shooting all day and sitting around a set isn’t all that fun, and I don’t want you off exploring by yourself because you’re too young to be off on your own like that in a foreign country.
Me: Um. Canada? I think I can get around because I speak English.
More signs: It was never consummated. I’m not saying we hadn’t had sex before the wedding. I’m saying there wasn’t any after, and there wasn’t much before because he preferred porn to an actual human. But I didn’t know that then, so I was busy thinking there must be something wrong with me and feeling rejected all the time. Anyway, I had the thing annulled. I should say, I woke up several weeks after this wedding and had it annulled. And Mirror Guy is actually the perfect name, because that’s what happened. I looked in the mirror and thought, How? How did I land myself in this mess? How did I not stop, at any of those burning red flags and turn myself around?
Maybe it was compounded by the fact that the much older guy I dated had come before Mirror Guy and by this point I was just wrecked, but I got the message. I got it hard and ugly and in the face. There was no one to blame but myself, because my mom didn’t like Mirror Guy and said as much, and my dad and step-dad didn’t think much of him, either. All my fingers pointed back at myself and I thought, I’d really better turn this sh&t around, now, or my life is going to be bleak and dark and very painful. No light. I’d been doing yoga for a couple of years at this point and that’s the light I used to find my way out of a nightmare of my own making, without the mirror or necklace, but you know what? Such a small price to pay. Because in the years after that I started planting the seeds that sprouted into the life I have today. I look at my life now and I’m blown away. Two amazing, healthy, happy kids. A man who is everything I ever could have hoped for and so, so much more. Friends who know how to show up, a few of whom have been there through everything with me. A community of yogis locally and around the globe because the internet is pretty amazing. And all of you.
You get to decide who you’re going to be, you really do. I’m not saying everyone has equal opportunities or that the playing field is level. I’m saying you have the power to decide how you’re going to do your life, and what you decide makes all the difference in the world. You get to decide what to dwell on, what to emphasize, what to cling to. You get to decide whether to forgive other people and forgive yourself and move forward. You get to decide whether the past is going to determine your future, or be something you grow from. You get to decide whether you’re going to blame and moan or get busy working. I hope you decide to be your best self. To own your story. To refuse to let your past dictate your future. To get your hands filthy with your pain so it doesn’t control your life, because there’s no need for that. Your life can be so beautiful. Even with heartache and tragedy, there’s still so much beauty to be found if you open to it. Wishing that for you, if it hasn’t happened already.
Sending a ton of love,