This morning I took some pictures of the stumps that remain after the tree removal I’d mentioned yesterday, when a local side-street was closed while crews cut down every single pine tree in a yard I walk past nearly every morning. It completely changes the look of this particular house and street corner to have bare sky where there used to be pine bough: a drastic change to the local landscape.
I have a picture of what once was: a shot I blogged back in November, when I looked back in retrospect on my first marriage. It’s a picture I particularly like, and one I’m now glad to have taken, given the fact that I’ll never be able to take it again.
How strange it feels to refer to “my first marriage,” but that’s what I’ll have to say now that I’m two months away from embarking on my second. One of the things that’s troubling about divorce, I’m finding, is the way it makes your life two rather than one. Instead of having one husband, one marriage, and one solemn vow of “forever,” you suddenly have two. You have those memories of then, and you have these soon-to-be memories of now. Most of the time, these two worlds keep cleanly separate–then vs. now–but sometimes the memories blur.
J insists, for instance, that we’ve gone together to a particular grocery store, but it’s a store I’ve never been to. J’s memories of shopping with his first wife–a completely mundane activity with no traumatic overtones–have blurred with his similarly sanguine memories of shopping with me. At times, my ability to separate this soon-to-be-husband from my first one is equally shaky. Is a particular inside joke something I shared with J or with C? Is a given memory from a years-ago hockey or basketball game something I did with Husband #1 or Soon-To-Be Husband #2?
“You can have this, or you can have that.” There is a car commercial right now featuring hip-hop hamsters dancing to that rap, a musical version of the classic choice of either/or. You can have this, or you can have that, but you can’t have both: you must decide. In the commercial, the hamsters point to the car being advertised–this–and then to some absurd alternative–a toaster, washing machine, or cardboard carton–as the obviously inferior that. Why would you want that when you can have this?
I’ve had that song in my head all day, ever since seeing these stumps this morning. Why would you choose stumps when you can trees? And yet, there must be some valid reason for clear-cutting your own yard: perhaps there is a tree disease or parasite spreading among local pine trees, and these homeowners decided to amputate just as their neighbors had previously?
You can have this, or you can have that. To have a second marriage, you have to lay waste to your first, leaving nothing but the emotional wreckage of a half dozen stumps. When I first announced my decision to divorce almost six years ago, the most difficult question people asked was the simplest: “Why?” Why clear-cut your own heart? Why leave a swath of devastation in your and your partner’s soul, dividing the emotional landscape into the either/or of Before and After?
Now, I have a clearer answer to that long-ago question of Why, but I needed six years of soul-searching and the unimaginable possibilities of new beginnings to come to that conclusion. In six years, who knows what sort of “that” will have sprouted from all of “this.”