It never ceases to amaze me how perception, memory, and reality affect dates. This once was my favorite day of the year, but now it has taken on a different meaning altogether. 13 years ago, the man who would be my husband and father of my three kids stood in front of hundreds of people on a live broadcast and proposed to me. He is diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. I don’t need letters to tell you the terror he experiences interacting with people. My ex would freeze from fear and anxiety. I knew the hell he went through to ask for my hand. Most of my friends and family got to hear it on the radio, and any time I tell the story of my engagement, “Holy shit, that is so cool!!” is the reaction. I agree, it was freaking cool. It’s funny, too, my ex (kind of?) boyfriend was at the venue and actually helped my future fiance by distracting me with alcohol so he could sneak off and get everything handled with the DJ’s. (Elle King’s Ex’s and Oh’s seems to be a personal anthem…) Every year, my ex and I celebrated St. Paddy’s day. One year, we went to a strip club and our friends bought us a hot seat and I gave him a welt on his ass. Ah, man. Good times. We’ve thrown massive parties, and on and on.
Last year, I had triumphantly posted about losing 25 pounds. This was a result of me going back to purging and anorexia for 2 months straight. I have a picture of me grinning and showing the room between my stomach and my pants. I was still drinking pretty heavily on empty stomachs. The year prior, I had just moved in to my apartment and was still struggling to wrap my head around the fact that my marriage had ended. Most of my time was spent sleeping and trying my damnedest to not cry every second of the day.
I’m not going to put air behind the words of what happened to my marriage again. I believe that if you stay in the bad shit of your past, you can’t get anywhere. To me, the past feels more like quicksand more than anything. Sometimes, you stumble in to it, and as long as you take what you need to know from it and get out, you’re cool. I picture Wesley from Princess Bridge grabbing on the tree trunk and pulling him and Buttercup out. Until this year, however, I’m usually the flaming rat running around screaming and biting people.
The question that has nagged me for too long is “How did we love each other so much, and how did it all go away?” I don’t have useful words to describe how much I love my ex. I remember a poem I wrote him, where one line was “If I died tomorrow, my only wish would be to reincarnate as a butterfly. I’d spend my life happily watching you from your windowsill” When people saw my ex and I together, complaints were typically, “They kiss each other way too much” or “They are the same person, it’s freaky.” I remember when I met him – I was at Ozzfest, and my friend and I had been partying pretty intensely. I had just seen a man get taken out in the pit by a shopping cart, met Dave Draiman from Disturbed, and Dave Williams from Drowning Pool (Dave W. died the next week, so I literally saw one of his last shows…) I stumbled in to my ex as a result of seeing my, then, boyfriend’s friend. As soon as I laid eyes on him, (ya know what, from here on out, I just go back to calling him Jack like I used to), I was entranced.
With my mad pick up skills, I offered him some soft pretzel, and gestured manically at my breasts, where Dave Draiman’s signature was. After Jack went to his seat, I gushed to my friend that he was the “Hottest Dude I have Ever Fucking SEEN IN MY LIFE!!1eleven” Flash forward approximately one year. In that span, Jack had confessed to friends what a crush he had to me, but he did nothing, because I was dating 1 dude, then I “hooked up” with his friend, and I had completely decided Jack did not like me. I am obtuse. I went away to school, and I was still dating the same guy (for sake of pronouns, just call him A, because I have a complicated love-line). I am in college, I am with A and every guy on campus, it seems like. I am madly “in love” with A, I get accidentally pregnant with A’s child, and I drop out of college (much to my college’s pleasure, seeing as I was flunking and getting disciplinary action resulting in community service…oh man) I saw Jack again when I was 8 months pregnant and smoothly attempted another pick up line, “hey…this air conditioner feels really good!” (after fighting off his friend from pulling me in the bathroom to make out with me….my life is SO FUCKING ODD) Jack did not take my bait and drunkenly passed out in his room. I decided there was no future for Jack and I, who would want to date a chick who was pregnant with someone else’s kid, anyway?
I’ve written previously, but for continuity, I gave me and A’s child up for adoption. As I’m immersed in a pain and personal hell that few people can relate to, I find myself sitting on my deck chain-smoking and staring at the sky, asking the clouds, birds, and so forth what the fuck to do. Instinctively, I wanted to give my daughter up for adoption because I knew that A was not a father for her, and I felt I was not the mother for her. I felt that I could not provide her the life she deserved. (Maybe I’ll write in more detail about this another time…) Anyway, 2 weeks after I gave birth, I randomly bumped in to Jack again through a friend. When I had sat staring at the sky, I projected one simple hope – “Help. Me. Smile.” We became a couple on September 2nd (ironically, our youngest’s birthday 9 years later!) On March 17th, 2004, he asked me to be his wife, and 2 years later, I became his wife. At our wedding, the pastor said, “Jack and Daina’s lives were brought together through music. Their story is one of love, healing, and music. They have always brought a perfect balance to each other.” Our vows said, “Today, I marry my best friend.”
When asked about how I got through the adoption, I have said, it’s simple. All the pain from A was necessary for me to meet Jack. When I brought our first child into the world, I sobbed uncontrollably when we left the hospital. Jack cradled me as I said, “It’s the baby I can take home, Jack! It’s the baby I can take home!” Together, we brought three of the most amazing people in this galaxy into the world, together we raised them, and together, we made each other more miserable than I could ever adequately describe. It takes a lot of pain to be able to look anyone in the eyes and say that in all seriousness, getting knocked unconscious was the best thing that could ever happen to you. I do to this day. The past few years have brought me to lows I never thought possible.
If you want to ascribe it to my bipolar, feel free. I am hot or cold, there is no in between for me, or at least there wasn’t. I’d like to say, I try to see the world in rainbows instead of gray or my black and white nature, but that too is another day to write. In our marriage, I felt my soul rot and decay in my own self-imprisoned hell. In the ending of our marriage, I felt the pain of realizing that part of my soul was gone from me. I’ve realized that he is my perfect mirror. We bring out the absolute best and absolute worst in each other. As I raced through college, personal growth, career aspirations to achieve “perfection” then plummeted into a nervous breakdown, he tried to keep up.
After the initial anger with each other died down, we tried to get along. We both realized that the people truly hurting were the kids. We got our shit together. I realize our path is not one everyone can walk, so please don’t take me as preaching. This past Christmas, we celebrated it as a family, because Jack and I have remained so committed to being a family, even if we live apart. We both stay away from blame, because what the hell would that serve? We both say we screwed up, and we both say with pride that we have worked very hard to become better people. It’s not easy to get where we are, and I’m proud of it. On this day, though, I feel that sadness. I close my eyes and see a woman who literally described her boyfriend/fiancé/husband as “The answer to my prayers” and I feel the tears cascading down as I type, “Our marriage ending was the answer to my prayers, too.”
I spent two years trying to escape that reality – alcohol, self-abuse, manipulating others, letting others manipulate me, and on and on. There it is, black and white. Yet, I type it with love. Do I still love Jack? Of course I do. I am not trying to be pretty when I describe him as a part of my soul. I have had to accept losses of my soul and heart – giving a child up for adoption, my marriage, exes who I loved madly and were either unrequited or abusive, and, of course, the fact that love to tell myself it’s my fault regardless. Today, I looked at the sky this morning and I gave another plea. “Help me smile today.”
I realized something very simple. Love is not currency. It’s not a transaction. Love isn’t mine to keep or give. Zen and Tao perspectives recommend against “I love you” because it makes it separate from you, as if it is a thing, something that can be passed around. Love is not something you can possess, because you are love. Those who have suffered abuse, mental illness, addiction, I think, know exactly what it feels like to not be in a state of love. I think all three hold hands and sing a sad song, because the very root of them all is, “I am not loved.” Maybe I’m wrong, maybe that’s just my story. I know, at least, in my corner of the world, I’m not alone singing that song. My mirror, my Jack, told me the same. His words gave me the last jarring shatter of my broken heart. “Daina, I am not strong enough to love you. I’ve failed you too many times to think otherwise.” Those words have echoed in my heart, as I’ve kept myself smiling and focusing on the beauty of nature instead of the pain of my heart. I finally understand what he is saying. He is my best friend, he was my husband, and he will always be there for me, but nobody can love someone when she won’t love herself.
I smile and write that as I feel the sun streaming in the window right now, I did not need to ask help to smile. How can I not smile? I’m here. I’m alive, and despite all of the awfulness of the last few years of my life, I see beauty and love. Not in a hippie way. In a very simple, inhale love, exhale love. I see now that I had to go through A, feel the pain of loving and losing Jack to understand that love is useless if it doesn’t come to yourself first. There is no greater lesson I could learn (and re-learn), because it is the very thing that has saved my life more times than I can count.
In case you are wondering, my small but mighty itchy ass is ½ irish, so I certainly should be cheeky today.
This is me and Jack’s song – I can rarely listen to it, but today I have to 🙂