As I slept on my parents' couch Christmas Eve, I dreamed I was resting my head on a man's chest. I don't remember if it was my ex, one of guys I'm seeing, or someone else entirely. But my head curled up under his collar bone, comfortably fitting with his arm wrapped around me. I enjoyed feeling his bare skin on mine and the smell of his hair...These are the moments I miss about relationships... I slept uneasy that night and was happy to be woken up at 6 in the morning when my mom brought my nephew into the room and he snuggled up tight to me.
It was my first Christmas on my own in 8 years. I mean, of course I wasn't really on my own. But it was my first Christmas without him. 8 years. That's practically a third of my lifetime. With so many years tangled up together, it's hard to remember a time before. All my Christmas traditions are now muddled with him. I wonder how long it will take to replace those memories with new ones. I know I can only take it one year at a time, but this certainly wasn't an easy one.
First is all the questions from family:
"How is he?"
I don't know, I haven't seen him since before Thanksgiving.
"Is he still in recovery?"
He doesn't text me with updates, I usually have to text him if I need any sort of information.
"You sure you want to sell the house? It's such a great investment."
No, I really hate being responsible for cleaning such a huge space and taking care of 4 animals and dealing with things like the dogs escaping and the fence falling down in the backyard and the Internet going out almost every day and...
Why is it that, when someone is going through a rough patch, people ask you all sorts of blunt, unwarranted questions? As if I hadn't already run through a million different ways to try to keep my house and save me the hassle of having to move. It's like people assume that I'm so overcome with emotion that I can't make logical decisions. Trust me, I've had more time than I like to think about all possible choices and outcomes, yet here I am.
Then it's all the unspoken awkwardness. It was especially tough with my brother-in-law. He's been so supportive about the separation. But let's be real, my ex was his brother too. He lost a friend, a partner in crime. Christmas Eve was always spent with the two of them being inseparable. They'd come up with creative hijinks for our gingerbread house, make holiday cocktails, open their matching pajamas, and stay up way too late. This year, everything was uncomfortably quiet. I could tell he was lonely. Or maybe I was projecting my own loneliness. Or maybe we all felt it. After a couple glasses of wine, I hugged my brother-in-law and apologized for ruining Christmas. Then I sat on the couch for 15 minutes and cried.
Because that's how it feels at times. That's why I stayed in my marriage for so long; I felt like leaving him would ruin things for everyone else in my life. It would be my fault that my ex no longer had a relationship with my family. It would be my fault he'd never be an uncle to my nephew. It would be my fault that my parents lost a son-in-law. It's so much easier to blame myself than to admit the kind of man I was married to was selfish. That his choices brought us to where we are today. He chose alcohol over me and my family time and time again. And that hurts. And it's okay that it hurts. And I need to let that pain sting so that I remember that I can only make choices for myself. And this is the right choice for me.
Still, I left almost immediately after dinner on Christmas. I drove with the radio off, crying. I bought myself a bottle of champagne, and sat on the couch watching Netflix. It wasn't the best start when it comes to Christmases as a newly single woman, but it's a start. Thankfully, I didn't dream that night.