At some point, you discover that how you thought it would be isn’t how it is. Whether it’s work-related (dream job not all it’s cracked up to be?) or personal (not nearly where you thought you’d be at 30?), it’s tough and you have to mourn.
My personal fairy tale was that when I found the right person, all of my b*llshit would go away. With the right person, I thought, everything would be easy. I’d cease being too much ”” too loud, too emotional, too intense ”” even for myself, and I’d settle happily into the stability that a partnership would bring.
When my first marriage ended, I let myself believe that it was because he wasn’t the right person. Through our divorce, through living alone in a city where I knew nobody, through moving across the country alone and discovering that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for, I still believed in my fairy tale. I mourned every dream I shared with my ex-husband, every future vacation, every lost opportunity to do what we’d planned. I mourned the fact that I’d grown up with him and would never again be with a man who understood my roots as well as he did. I lost a lot in that divorce ”” relatives-in-law, a great man, our future ”” but I held on to my fairy tale.
Marriage is a rite of passage, a transition from one phase of your life to another, a closing of one chapter in order to begin the next, and mourning the past is a natural part of that process. As our wedding approaches, and with it all of the requisite stress and tension, I’m mourning the loss of my fairy tale”¦ because as hard as it is to accept, my reality is myself and no relationship is going to save me from the hard stuff.
With every fight, I mourn a little more. With every swallowed scream, every awkward silence, every unmet need, I wave a sad goodbye to any hope of miraculous ease. I wonder why I chose to spend the rest of my life with a man who, hard as he might try, just isn’t as verbal as I am, why I’ve essentially condemned myself to leaning on friends, acquaintances, and the internet to get my words fix. I wonder why I wasn’t smart enough, aware enough, determined enough to find a man more like me.
Then I remember. I’ve had that, and I didn’t like it. Yes, those relationships were stimulating and intellectually satisfying. They were also exhausting, a constant struggle to come up with the best words, the clearest words, the words that would fix it all. We’d endlessly debated what we were, how we were, what we should be, and had no time left to become anything. And there’s an innate danger to relationships built on words because words can be so easily said.
I remember my relief upon meeting my man because he could just be – be happy, be content, be with me without needing to narrate. With him, words weren’t necessary. His life just was, unencumbered by a compelling need to be affirmed, and that life was so unlike the frantic mess of words my life had been.
He was my beacon, guiding me to a calmer, simpler, truer place that I’d forgotten existed. And he did all that just by being himself.
The poem by George Eliot describes all I’ve ever wanted in a mate: the ability to be myself without having to edit. Somewhere along the line I started to believe that to be accepted was to be reciprocated, but that’s just part of the fairy tale. To be accepted to is be accepted, nothing more, and when he asks me if I need to talk and listens patiently while I do, I have all I’ve ever wished for. If I happen to want a debate, I’ll call a friend.
So while I mourn my fairy tale – and the last hope that with my one true love I’d become someone different – I will soon celebrate a new story, a non-fiction epic where I don’t need to be anyone but myself, and when I need a break from my frantic, foggy wordy world, I can look at the man with whom I’ve intertwined my life and we can just be.
What’s your fairy tale?