This is the first winter, in a long while, that I haven’t escaped to a southern hot spot for a seasonal respite. I hadn’t thought that a week in a warmer destination had really made that much of a difference in my ability to get though the winter with a modicum of optimism intact – in fact, I have been sorely mistaken. This has been the winter of faking it until I am making it (I’ll let you know when the making it part commences.)
Last spring, the estranged one and I had travelled to California to attend the Coachella Music Festival. We had spent a week in Palm Desert . It was warm, it was dry and it was a much-needed oasis in a relationship that was showing its deep fissures more readily day to day. Mostly, we managed to get on quite well. Except when we didn’t.
Although, I love live music, I hate large crowds. There were roughly 70,000 people in attendance at the Festival. I had told my husband earlier in the day that I would appreciate it if he could slow down his pace a little, so that we didn’t become separated (in fact, I was slightly terrified of being lost in a crowd of that size.) Our cell service was sketchy at best, and every hour or so, we ended up drifting from each other in the chaos. In fact, anytime that I had stopped for even a moments pause (to appreciate an art installation, or even to use the washroom) when I had turned around (still chattering away as though he was within hearing distance) he was often gone.
I had started to feel like his single-minded determination, to see every band that he had highlighted in his Coachella phone app, had all but erased my ability to enjoy myself. I resented being held to his strict schedule. I had wanted to have my version of enjoyment incorporated into our holiday. I wanted to spend time as a couple- holding hands, meandering through the crowds at a leisurely pace, maybe even making out in the shade by the tents, like we would have in our younger years. The version of PDA that I was forced to accept, mostly involved me grabbing onto a pocket on his back pack, and holding on for dear life, as he raced through the crowds.
After much frustration over this lost and found adventure holiday, I had yelled at him to slow down. Loudly and angrily. He had screamed at me to stop embarrassing him.
I was taken aback. All I could think was, There is a twenty-something girl vomiting next to you on ground that is blanketed in plastic bottles and glow sticks, and the girl who is holding her hair back is wearing pasties, but I am embarrassing you? In the most passive aggressive gesture that I could have managed, I reached over to pat his middle aged belly (intending fully to draw attention to his least favourite body part) and said, “Awe, poor guy, did your little wifey make you look silly in front of the drunk kids?”
What I really wanted to say, had escaped me. I had become so enraged with him. I was angry that he was incapable of holding my hand and walking though the crowds at a reasonable pace. I was angry that he didn’t want to take any of my suggestions over which music to see and that when he did, he would impatiently tap his foot and sigh until the artist in question was through their set. I was angry that he had left me repeatedly- even on holidays he seemed incapable of considering my feelings.
He had looked at me with abject disgust post buddha belly pat. He then turned on his heel and disappeared within seconds into the dense, drunken crowd. I had thought of Moses parting the Red Sea, as it was with great indignation and righteousness that my husband had divided himself from my presence.
I had called out after him a long string of swear words, impressive enough to grab the attention of the vomiting girl – who momentarily looked up from her purge – seemingly to nod her head in agreement.
It was now dark out. I tried texting him. Nothing would go through, each text immediately returned with a failed message.
Throughout the hour that I was lost ( was I the losee or the loser?) I was marinating in anger, resentment and hate toward my husband. This vacation was his idea. He was always leaving me. Why the fuck was I still married to someone who had no interest in spending time with me, anyway? In our home life, we rarely had a moment to spend as a couple. The demands of raising four children often left us both drained and exhausted – intimacy occurring in fleeting moments, with so little to sustain us as a couple. There we were, child free, and yet he still couldn’t make the effort to see me.
We were indeed hanging by a thread as my therapist had recently said. The animosity that I felt toward my husband, and his ability to sporadically disappear from my life for days at a time, had only recently, before this holiday, been brought to a head again. A few months before, he had, out of the blue, disappeared for four days. I was still raw and wanting to avoid a simple truth. He would always leave. I had come back to him after a lengthy separation, ready to immerse myself in our relationship again and he had smeared my face in the shit that was the impetus for our breaking.
He found me. Sitting by the fence, still fuming. He apologized with slight sincerity. I accepted with little forgiveness. If I had the car keys with me earlier, I would have left him at the festival. Every little thing between us had begun to feel so big. Equally, I had no idea how to differentiate between what should be a big deal and what I should make allowances for, as his partner.
We stayed on that night until the festival closed down (funny how we didn’t get separated again, when we gave up on trying to stay together.) We made it back to the rental condo without speaking, mostly. The next morning, he got up early and made eggs and bacon for breakfast. He had cut up strawberries and served them with fresh orange juice. He had tried to make amends. We agreed to disagree over the night before – in the sense that neither of us could concede over fault or cause.
I cannot say that I did not act inappropriately and with child like abandon at points in our marriage. I too, behaved in ways that I regret. I was often punitive in my actions. I want to see my way to this truth; because without it, I become someone that I don’t believe that I am – a victim of a man and his mercurial moods. There were good times too. So many. These are the memories, that hurt the most in their recall. They make me question where I am right now. They make a voice in my head whisper; Am I doing the right thing?
In the periods that he was well, I felt safe enough to unleash my anger. A vicious cycle was often perpetuated in these moments. I behaved with the air of a martyr. I regret this, deeply. Allowing resentment to colour one’s actions is never a stepping stone toward growth.
He called me a few weeks back to let me know that he would be on vacation the last week of April and unable to take the children. He is going to Arizona. He told me he wished that he could’ve gotten tickets to Coachella again.
“We had a great time, didn’t we?”
“Yes. We did.” I had replied.
Because, although the trip had many low points (it would require a five-part blog series to adequately address them all) it was like most of our marriage – there was a lot of good in there too. And in that moment, it didn’t pain me to admit it.