“Dad don’t cry! You’re gonna make me cry! Oh no, my make up!” I flapped my hands in front of my mascara drenched eyelashes.
I took one final glance in the mirror. I looked like a bride. I looked exactly how I had pictured I would look, ethereal and glowing. My bridesmaids had gone ahead with my Mum and the anticipation was becoming to much to bare. Was everyone in the church already? What would he think when he saw me?
My dad and I made our way outside to the pristine classic car that was waiting to take me to the church. We were greeted by old friends and neighbours who had come to wave me off. Their well wishes shone through their smiles, which brought a sudden lump to my throat. I felt like that there was a tangiable electricity in the air. Like I was radiating. My mouth was dry with nerves but I kept giggling and waving at people as we drove away.
I wondered if he was nervous too. My heart was beating so hard as I tried to catch my breath. I fidgeted as a thousand thoughts flew through my mind. It was like all of my life had been leading up to this moment. As we neared the church my mind went into overdrive. I’m actually about to get married!
We got ourselves into position outside the church, flower girl first, bridesmaids second, then me and my dad. My hand shook as I clinched the bouquet of silky white roses and wove my other arm firmly into my dad’s. Suddenly, I could hear the music begin, my familiar cue to enter. I floated into the sunlit church and, with a smile so wide it hurt, I nervously looked about the sea of people. I turned the corner and our eyes met. There he was.
Every thought, every fear melted away and all I saw was him. It was the happiest moment of my life.
Recently I experienced a day I have been more than dreading. Our first wedding anniversary since my husband left me.
In the weeks that led up to it, I would repeat the date in my head. It was like the numbers themselves held a great power over me. There are actually two dates ingrained into my mind for all time now and both equally make my stomach uneasy when I think of them, the date of our wedding and the date I found out about my husband’s affair with another woman.
I would anxiously think about what experiencing the anniversary of our wedding would do to me. I had been just about keeping my head above the rising tide and by this point I was totally and utterly exhausted. I’d been trying to carry on clinging blindly to the belief that so many had for me, that one day time would heal and it would get easier. With my anniversary fast approaching I couldn’t help but worry that it would be the thing that would smack me off my feet and drag me back into the initial desperation, despair and torment. I just didn’t know.
I felt that when this sacred day finally arrived it would have the power to finally destroy me.
I imagined myself alone and staring into nothingness, reliving in detail those bitter sweet moments that I had treasured all these years. I imagined torturing myself with those memories and then being consumed by them. I saw myself sinking further into the abyss of depression I was wading through.
I decided to book the day off from work. I danced back and forth with this for a while. Distraction can be good but I was so worried that I might end up being a total mess on the day and couldn’t face sitting at my desk all day, pretending to smile, pretending my heart wasn’t torn in two.
I decided that taking the day off was the best option.
The night before my anniversary I went to see my parents and decided to stay at their house so I was not alone when I woke up. There were no plans made for the day but I did have one very clear objective in my mind. Just to get through it.
I slumped into the middle of the bed and remembered the way I had spent the evening before my wedding and, with warm tears running down my cheeks, I closed my eyes.
Just get through it.
As soon as I opened my eyes I had an overwhelming sense of fear. It’s here, it’s happening, the dreaded day. I lay in bed and prepared myself to feel the onslaught of brutal emotion that I was about to experience. After a while I pulled on some baggy jogging bottoms and a t-shirt. I was on autopilot. I swept my hair into a ponytail, brushed my teeth and made my way downstairs.
I felt like I needed to be on guard, like something was coming.
My family, as always, were like pillars of strength. At times during the day I would speak and my voice would become strained and fragile. At times during the day I simply couldn’t find any words. But my family, they talked to me, they listened to me. They were there for me in a simple way that has been this constant and unending source of love and hope.
The day dragged, boy did it drag. It was slow and it was unnerving me.
At times throughout the day, my mind would drift to memories of what were we doing at that point. Were we in the car on the way to the venue after the ceremony, laughing together with relief and excitement. Were we gathering for our photographs in that glorious sunshine. Were we enjoying our first meal as husband and wife. To be honest, I couldn’t process everything. The stark difference between the then and the now.
Each time I travelled back to that day, oddly, I saw myself, rather than him. I saw myself laughing, dancing, shining with love and naivety and I began to feel more and more sad for that girl. I felt more and more devastated for her. For me.
My thoughts would at times be interrupted by the monotonous voices on the television, an uncomfortable white noise in the background that made my brain feel even more overloaded. I would take myself away from everything, sit in my old room, and allow myself to be alone with the stream of memories and thoughts that were pouring into and out of my mind. I continued to wait. Something was definitely coming.
As the sun set and the evening arrived, I sat and pondered the strange feeling of anticipation I had been experiencing throughout the day. What was I waiting for? I was waiting for the day to be over of course but there was something else. I eventually realised that I was in fact actually waiting to feel more than what I did.
I felt so sad and soaked in bittersweet memories but I also felt strangely, well, numb. I had felt it all day. Like I had an invisible screen around me that wasn’t allowing the full brute force of the pain and loss to fully penetrate through. Even when I forced myself to think of those memories, I still didn’t feel what I had expected to.
I think that sometimes our minds can numb our feelings in response to those powerful experiences that we feel have the potential to break us. I like to think that God has hardwired us in this way. He wants to help cushion us in those painful moments in life.
In the end I got through the day. The day I had been bracing for and dreading. It came and it went.
For me, our wedding day remains a beautiful moment in my life, that still shines so brightly in my heart because it was filled with so much happiness, love and hope. Even the sordid, hateful and shocking nature in which my marriage ended doesn’t have be power to change that, which does give me comfort.
I know that there are still so many hurdles to face on this journey. I know that so many of you are making your way through your own difficult journeys, overcoming the hurdles that you face.
I am happy that this particular “first” is over. I wonder whether it will feel any easier next year. At the moment, I find it hard still to imagine that it will but I hope it does.