A few months ago, I experienced, for the first time, my first birthday without my husband. It was very strange. If I’m being totally honest, it broke my heart, not waking up to his smile, not getting his card or being wished happy birthday by him. It felt totally alien. My family did all they could to make it a lovely day for me and I was lifted up by their love and kindness. They changed it into a day to be grateful for again.
What I didn’t expect to be so hard, was when my husband’s birthday came around. For some reason this day impacted me so much more than my own birthday did.
Every single year I would make my husband a birthday cake. Now, I am not a professional, I’m definitely not a fancy chef but I would make the cake I knew he loved. I knew the recipe like the back of my hand. It became apart of his birthday ritual. I would dress our home with banners and balloons and try my best to make him feel loved and appreciated. Year after year, I wove myself into the traditions of his birthday celebrations.
It is several months since he left me and I find myself not able to talk with him or to communicate on any level. I am totally disattached from his life. I form no part of his world, apart from our joint involvement in the divorce proceedings.
For some reason, that day, his birthday, I couldn’t stop looking at my phone. I kept it with me at my side all day. My mind would keep drifting. What was he doing? I kept wondering. Who had been in touch to wish him happy birthday? What were his plans for the day?
I wondered if he had thought of me at all.
I felt the cruel sting of reality each time I looked at that phone and saw no text, no call, no nothing from him.
All day I felt at a loose end. I felt on edge and undone. Why did I feel like this?
I realised that his birthday magnified something within me. It highlighted my isolation from him, the loss of connection with him. I realised that what also felt very strange, was the loss of the small rituals that had formed apart of his birthday; not making his cake, not dressing the home, not writing kisses in his card.
For so many years I had been firmly in the inner circle of his life and now I was well and truly an outsider to it. Someone else was a part of his inner circle now and it wasn’t me. The pain of this seared me to the core.
I think that somewhere deep down, I expected him to feel that feeling too, that he would feel what I felt – that this isn’t right.
I imagined him in a crowed of happy people but isolated somehow, showered with gifts but missing something. I imagined him leaving the confines of his inner circle and maybe reaching out to me, breaking down that contact barrier, but no contact was made.
I will probably never know how his day was spent, the feelings he felt. My husband leaving my life means being left in the dark about so much that I once took as a given.
I had to remind myself that, much like I am an outsider to his life, he too is now an outsider to mine. For some reason this offered some relief as I quietly hoped that he would feel as empty as I did on my birthday.
So many times throughout this divorce, the occasions that I have dreaded have come and gone. However, it is the days that creep up on you and hit you like a frieght train that really set you reeling. Reeling into bewilderement, despair and pain. His birthday was one such day.
I have written before about my first anniversary, my first Christmas, his birthday is another of these loaded ‘firsts’ that I have been navigating my way through.
Each of these experiences have an impact on who I am becoming and sometimes they test every fibre within me but I know I can’t hide from them. Time is relentless, it waits for no one, it doesn’t soften the blows and all we can do is brace ourselves and face what it unfolds.
There is one notion that does help me when I face these calendar landmarks that used to form apart of our lives together. I am coming to see that being on the inner circle of his life ultimately brought with it so much pain and hearbtreak, so much disappointment and sadness. He made the choices he did when I was an insider.
Being an outsider means we are looking in. I am looking in from a place that is better and safe from his betrayal and deciet. Nostalgia can be dangerous as it skews the truth of a situation and can make us long for things to go back to the way they were and in that moment, we can forget the reality we are now in.
Each year the date of his birthday will roll around. Each year I might think of him and each year I may feel the sharp sting of pain as I consider the loss of our marriage. I pray that as time moves on, those pangs of nostalgia will lesson and that being an outsider will become easier.