“There is a way to write that solidifies story lines–and a way to write that liberates you from them.”
– Susan Piver
I know it’s cliché to be sad at a wedding, but that’s just what I was; sad, plain ol’ sad. When I mention this to a friend days later, I’m reminded that yeah, weddings are funny like that; they trigger all sorts of stuff.
Still, I was surprised. I hadn’t been to a wedding in a while, and when I fell into something I can only call melancholy, I thought it was my own damn fault – some way in which I’d failed in love and was now on the other side of happiness, watching love from my own lone distance.
I was glad for the groom – my young cousin – and his bride. They’re good people and they’re primed for every happiness. But standing there on the dry, rocky cliffs of Malibu, overlooking the sea, I found myself fixating on the bride’s face as they stood under the chuppah, and she gazed up at my cousin, a look that seemed to say, “I’m yours, I’ll follow you everywhere, your breath is my breath.”
I was alternately worried for her and envious.
Worried because marriage is a brave and bold journey – a complex web of expectation and disappointment – a real ego buster – and everyone who’s ever been in a relationship of any length will tell you that. It takes more patience and more faith than most of us can imagine. We say “for better or for worse,” but better is always more fun than worse, though worse will show you what you’re made of.
And I was envious of her because it appeared that she was giving herself entirely to another person – something I’m sure I’ve never done, but something I’ve wondered about; If I had been more selfless, more understanding, more loving, would I still be married today?
And that was part of it – being at a wedding as a single woman of a certain age. I felt a little like a sitting duck, like I was wearing a sign, like I’d once had this beautiful thing that we’d all gathered here to celebrate – marriage – and then I’d let it go, I’d dropped it, I’d decided that I didn’t want it anymore.
And maybe I even started punishing myself a little, right there in the bright Malibu sun.
Something had been brewing in me for a few weeks. The lines around my eyes seemed deeper, more pronounced. When I saw my reflection in a mirror I was surprised at how old I looked, and that scared the shit out of me. Time was marching on and it was taking me with it.
I had also been weepy. Every time someone asked me about Mark, my husband of 23-years, I found myself getting choked up like I was going to cry. I couldn’t explain it. Everything about our divorce three years ago felt right then, and felt right still. If anything, our split had allowed us to become closer than we were when we were married, but now I was second-guessing myself, looking back and wondering what I’d done.
It was easier to get lost in the bride and groom as they stood under the chuppa overlooking the sea. They had so much living in front of them; the children they might have, the places they’d choose to live, the travel, the work, the friends they would make, the people they would become.
It was like watching a beautiful movie in the making. They hadn’t dropped anything yet. Their carpeting was still white.
“You’re in a transition phase of your life,” my friend Jeff kindly reminds me, lest I become too sad or strange or bitter.
I know where I’ve been – the children – the career – the marriage. I planned all of that. I made those choices quite intentionally, but now, on the other side of that big life, it’s hard to know where to locate myself. If anything, I need a new narrative, one that makes peace with the choices I’ve made, and one – like Susan Piver says in the quote above – that liberates and doesn’t trap me in some cultural story line where I go invisible right about now – a middle-aged woman who’s best years are behind her, and who is pulling the curtains on her sexuality, her vitality and her engagement in the world.
I’m not standing under a chuppah, I’m not embarking on the beginning of a shared domestic life with another, but I am standing somewhere, I know it, I just haven’t begun to string the words together yet.
*Thanks to Jill Salahub, who turned me onto the Susan Piver quote.
As.usual Laurie, you hit the nail on the head – I feel it in both. Cxxoooosuzi
This is fantastic …I mean this piece, this story of where you are in this life at this point. Transition. I get that space and though I am in a different phase of life, I find that feeling lost in the midst of transition feels the same. The societal or cultural norms do not fit anywhere in my life and I’m fighting them. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. I see your wings and you made me want to fly.
I hear every single word as if you are in my head and heart reporting how I feel. Thank you for your brave truth telling.
Loved this so much, Laurie! I’ve gone through the dissolving of two marriages, and with each one it felt as if there was a part of me that I had to shake off, to let the old self die. In hindsight I can see that the shedding of that old life, and the emotional pain I experienced, was the precursor to the new me that was wanting to be born. Some people get stuck thinking it’s all over–that the best years of our life are done. But it could also mean that huge personal expansion is going on. Martha Beck writes: “The grieving process is not warm and fuzzy, but it is a powerful and wonderful magic… because when something ‘terrible’ is happening to us, something wonderful is always being born…when we utterly and truly let go of the way we once thought things should be, the magic happens.“ Sending you BIG love for your BIG life.
Oh Laurie, you will never be invisible. Your words are the first ones I open in my e-mail every time. They always ring so true and keep resonating with me for days. Words endure, writers and writing gets richer with age, so many more experiences….and who says your best years are behind you?! Anything can happen, it happens all the time. (love that line)-I remind myself of that often from my early 60’s.
so raw and true as always. I’m having a mini version of this now, as I let go of full-time parenting, and as I realize I want to let go of this job that was supposed to be the answer to everything. Scared of “who will I be if I’m not x, anymore?” type stuff. Your words and honesty on the page give all of us courage and a sense of companionship as we carry on.
Oh Lulu. You are heard, deep and wise and true. And you are writing at the top of your game, my friend. That racket is fierce.
Beautiful. And painful … I felt exactly the same way, alone at Scoop’s daughter’s wedding last week. It’s even worse when there’s a photo booth! xo
Thank you for daring this intimate piece, this not-knowing. I love your vast heart and honest musing, even when they make me ache.
Love this piece. And what you have to say about requiring a new narrative. I’ve been inventing one that has to do with commitment without needs. Revolutionary this reinvention art. Dylan and I have been reading and talking about Rebecca Traister’s All The Single Ladies. Profound groundswell of single women changing everything. You might find you’re the center of a cultural moment.
“[A] middle-aged woman who’s best years are behind her, and who is pulling the curtains on her sexuality, her vitality and her engagement in the world.” WHO on earth are you talking about??!
This story is yours to write; this life is yours to create.
So be sure to choose your words carefully, my love. xoxoxo
Yes. Beautiful. You are the wisest one in your life.
Whenever you post, whatever you post, I’m right there with you/it. I just completed an art piece around this theme that I have mixed feelings about posting. But I know I’ll feel free once I do. I already feel freedom from creating it. Thank you again! <3
Beautiful writing…could be the beginning of a memoire or novel. Weddings are archetypal…they pull us in. We are exposed and feel generations. Once I took a gay friend to a family wedding. The relatives projected and I felt it. This was a time when I was told their ‘rules’. From one who left home…transitions are the only possibility… otherwise, life isn’t creative or owned. Thanks always for your depth and honesty!
Laurie you said it all. Just as we’ve all felt and thought but never put into such beautiful words with such clarity of feelings. You are wonderful with love Pat
Exquisitely beautiful and painful at the same time. Yes. I’ve been there, too. Standing in the middle of something and being brave enough to follow where that something led me. Just like where you are now. I love every word.
There is a wonderful poem by ma
Read Doris Lessing Summer before the Dark for a visceral experience of being invisible. And there is a poem that I cannot remember the poet or name or how it goes though I once had it memorized and repeated it each day because it so pleased me. It starts out “A middle aged woman quite plumb to be polite about it and somewhat stout to be more courteous still. But when she and the rather good looking much younger man she was with get up to dance…” Somewhere in the next few lines the word ” athwart”appears. Oh I love that word, a word I never knew before this poem. And just writing this now to all of you I have forgotten how miserable I am sitting in this house I’ve come to for the last 62 years that now is being sold. It’s mostly deserted one the island and very dark and there are deer walking around. and i have acid reflux and hives and the medicine comes by ferry. And it’s starting to get funny and i’m starting to get happy because I just finished writing all of you, a community of writers, so lucky to be together with our girl who we love, beckoning from the dance floor.
I’m here with you. Seeing kids in their teens, twenties, and thirties and thinking, “you’re building, creating, growing; I’m staring loss and mortality in the face.” Without a husband, partner, boss, co-workers, kids, I feel like the balloon let loose, string trailing in the wind, with fond memories of the parties. This phase is…. (to be continued….)
Brave, beautiful Laurie. You are loved.