A Time to Keep and a Time to Throw Away

I’ve lost so much. It pisses me off every time I think about it.

First, I’ve lost the original purpose for this blog, since all I can manage to write about is this incomprehensible plot twist that sidelined my story two months ago. I’m undoubtedly losing potential readers, who come here expecting talk of creative reuse and upcycling projects, but find whatever this is, instead. And with this I’ve lost a large part of my identity that I spent the last five years finding, cultivating and nurturing, following a humiliating job loss and career change.

I’m losing valuable time. I turn 50 next August and never dreaded that milestone, until this happened. How do I move confidently past the mid-century mark after seeing my 20-year marriage crumble in less than a week? Isn’t this the age when I stand a better chance of being struck by lightning than just about anything I’ll be seeking (love, career, retirement)?

So, I spend my days wishing time would move faster (as if I have time to spare) or begging time to stop, so December doesn’t come. We would have celebrated 21 years on December 21. He let me talk about renewing our vows and buying new rings, right up to a few days before he left. I’m sure part of him thought he was sparing me, by letting me look forward to it a little longer, but all he did was make the loss that much greater. Meanwhile, tomorrow I’ll start pulling out the Christmas decorations that we’ve collected over the last two decades and try to make this season feel “normal” for my boys.

I can’t begin to tell you how many treasured possessions I’ve lost – art, jewelry, photos – boxed up or sold, because looking at them hurt too much. And I, who believes everything has potential, have thrown away more obtainium in the last two months than I’ve thrown away in the last 10 years. Projects we were going to do together; I couldn’t even look at them. Materials that got in my way while I was boxing and sorting what’s his and what’s mine, got tossed in the trash. Some choices were irrational, others were a kind of kinesthetic therapy, acting out what it felt like he’d done to me. I didn’t even bother to sort what was recyclable, I just chucked things.

This week, I finally lost my ability to fake it ’til I make it. This loss is bittersweet (or is it ironic?) because he never liked that quality in me. He said I was disingenuous when what I expressed on the outside didn’t match what I felt on the inside. I always believed what I projected on the outside could affect how I felt on the inside and kept a pretty tight emotional filter in front of almost everyone, except him. One of the first friends I called when my life imploded, said to me, “Wow. You always looked like you had everything together.” I was that good.

But now my filter is soggy from tears and shredded by the waves of emotion that keep catching me by surprise. The result is posts like this one, which, on the scale of angst and heartache, is about one rhyme away from becoming a country song. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what he had in mind when he mocked the disconnect between my internal and external selves, but I’d still enjoy asking him, “How do you like me now?”

If I were a better writer, I could turn all this drama into a psalm of lament or a poem that alludes to the source of my pain, without all the oversharing. Since I can’t write that way, I’ve settled for reading those things. A friend loaned me her copy of A Short Guide to a Happy Life, by Anna Quindlen, and when I was writing my first funeral sermon I discovered The Cure for Sorrow by Jan L. Richardson. Lately, I’ve had verses from Ecclesiastes stuck in my head. It’s supposed to be comforting, knowing there’s a time for everything. I’ve been a keeper all my life, but apparently now is a time to throw away.

So much potential lost. So much time wasted. A future I must toss aside. Love I must throw away. All to make room for new things. I know. But new isn’t always better. That was his excuse for leaving. He could not see our potential and chose to throw it all away, because it was time for something new.

And it pisses me off every time I think about it.

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