Friday, October 19, 2012

The Only Gift I Can Give This Year

My wedding ring is on my finger tonight, because it's 3am, the night of October 19th. Three hours ago, it was my ninth wedding anniversary.
I have no idea what I want to write here. I know only that, I need to start writing again. Maybe just snippets. Maybe just the tiniest glimpses inward. But if I'm going to get over the end of my marriage-- really face it, really process it, and come to some kind of peace over it, I have to begin to write again.
So, I don't really know what to say here. All I know is that my ring is on my finger, and has been for the last five or six hours. And that it's the longest this hand has escaped from it's painfully unadorned state since july, when Zack and I, hesitantly, took the rings off, more or less for good.
And I know that soon, I need to take it off again.
I guess I fear that if I don't do that, it will stick. I fear that no amount of rational accounting of all the reasons that Zack and I can't be together, no amount of concentration on the visceral memory of what it felt like, so many nights, to find ourselves trapped in some unsurmountable misery, unable to move from amount of any of that can really top the way I feel right now: Like I was a woman who was married to a man. Like I am a woman who still loves him, more than anyone in the world. Like that really should be all that matters.
But it isn't.
As I write this, I feel my body starting to reject the familiar catch of skin on metal. Not, I suspect, because of the knowledge that I'm willing myself to focus on that Zack and I can't work, that we hurt each other more than we help each other, that our lives will likely be better if we have the grace to disentangle them. Maybe that's part of it, as I start to calm down.
Moreover, it's that this ring represents a promise I made, and a promise I broke. But it's a reminder to me that I am a girl who tries to keep her promises, tries very, very hard. And there is someone else that I  now owe more to, perhaps, than I owe to my husband, estranged as he is. Someone else whom I've woken up next to, too many times in the last year to allow myself to wake up tomorrow morning with this ring still on my finger.
I spent most of the night resenting that someone else for being so clearly a part of the downfall of Zack and I. It was, after all, nine years to the day after that afternoon that Zack and I cemented what has now come undone. I suppose I had the right to entertain some anger and righteousness and frustrated sense of the gravitas of it all: I was married. I was married to a man I loved for the better part of a decade, and he came in, despite all of that, and now I'm here with him, and my husband is across the continent. He played a significant, undeniable role in ending a marriage. Who does he think he is?
It's not so wrong to have spent October 18th wondering that. But it's October 19th now, and he is the man who loves me. So the ring is coming off.

He, Daniel Bridgman, is the man who makes me happiest. He's the man who felt stinging pain when he imagined me settling for a marriage that left me so empty, so often. He's the man who weighed that against the guilt he felt in falling for a woman that belonged to a man he respected, and wrestled with the realities of both, and, in the end, he wasn't proud of wanting what he wanted. And he might have stepped aside, anyway, if Zack had moved differently.
But Zack...spent so many years of our marriage with the very deep regret that he couldn't seem to make me happy. So many years being afraid that it seemed he made me worse. And when confronted, as he was, with the reality that Dan could do things for me that he couldn't-- music, and christmas, and communication, and so many instances of deep, laughing joy-- he couldn't really fight it. 
His worst fear had come true: there was a man who could make me happy, and it wasn't him.

The truth is, I still love Zack more than I do Dan. I don't know how significant the difference is, and I don't know how long it will last. But despite all that Dan gave me, I would have chosen Zack in a heartbeat if not for the reality that I couldn't escape: that doing so would mean trivializing Zack's pain in knowing someone else might be better for me. That doing so would dishonor Zack's most important wish: That I be happy.
A lot of the time-- tonight especially-- I think, fuck happiness. Fuck some bullshit emotion that would undermine all the things in the world I learned to value more than it, in the years when it was such a scarce commodity: loyalty and family and strength and steadfastness. Being there for someone. Giving yourself to someone in this complete way; telling them, being with you is more important to me than all of the alternatives combined. You are my partner, and I am more invested in this partnership than I am in myself.
All of that? All of that, and the sacrifice that goes along with it, that means something. Fuck. Happiness.
But if love is about loyalty and sacrifice, if my love was about being more concerned with Zachary and I than I was with just me, than how could I not notice that "Zachary and I" was killing Zachary, and I? If love is about sacrificing what you want for what someone else wants, then how could I look beyond the fact that what Zack wanted more than anything was something that had to be left on the table if we were staying together: for me to be happy?
I would have stayed with him, in a moment, if he'd asked me to. But what he's been asking, all along, if I would just listen, was for me to put him out of the pain of not being able to make me happy.

It's hard, because part of me still believes that he could have made me that happy...or, no. But happy enough. Part of me still believes that if he could have gone to therapy, journaled, learned to be more communicative, identified the problems that were causing so many of the other problems...and that one day, we would have been happy enough. I still believe that.
But as many times as I asked him for that, he wouldn't say what I wanted-- that he was willing to try, that he was willing to do what it took, to get me back. I guess, more than anything, it's because he wasn't willing to let me trade the sure thing for the risky bet. I guess he was being unselfish. Or he selfishly knew that he couldn't live with the aftermath of having his fear proven right. I guess I couldn't have, either.

Zachary Smith, if you're out there, if you're reading this: I still love you more than anything. I think, I hope, that my love for Dan will tie my love for you one of these days, if it never really surpasses it. And I'll try, I'll try like hell, to let it.

But I'm doing it for you. I'm making that promise as I slide the ring, which I once wore to remind me of another promise, off of my finger: I'll try. Because I won't ever be really happy until I do. And that's what you want for me. And I want that, for you.
Call it an anniversary gift. Happy ninth, Angel.
On with it.