When Z and I made the decision to get married we also earnestly made plans for our future. We talked about what we wanted-kids someday, but not some day soon. To live in New York forever. I’d been chasing that need to belong for my whole life. New York already felt like home, when I came back the city after being away something inside me relaxed, I breathed easy, it felt right.
It’s hard for me to look back at the kids we were nearly fourteen years ago when we got engaged and not feel distain for our hubris and naiveté Yes, we thought we knew marriage would be hard. We didn’t know anything.
Those kids we used to be could not have imagined that I would have a spectacular mental breakdown within in a few years. Hell, we would not have believed that the World Trade Center would be destroyed one year and eight days after our wedding. The thought that we’d be on the verge of divorce five years after our big day would have been ludicrous to us. And Z, who adored New York City would not have been able to wrap his brain around the fact that he would grow to despise his home in under a decade.
We wouldn’t have believed what life had in store for us, but our ignorance didn’t prevent any of it. Eight years after we met, six years after we wed I was presented with a choice-stay married and leave my other love, the city I’d called home for longer than anywhere else in my life, or stay in Brooklyn and get a divorce. There is no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice. Although I do think that marriage should be renamed Never-Ending Compromise. And I’m not trying to sell this like I made some huge sacrifice while Z just gets to do whatever he wants. Deciding to stay married to someone who struggles with mental illness means you are putting that person’s needs in front of your own with soul crushing regularity. I could write a novel outlining all the compromises he’s made for me.
I made the right choice. That doesn’t mean that I stopped loving New York. I just decided I loved Z more.
The trip this weekend excited the hell out of both of us. We know we need to be paying more attention to our marriage and this opportunity was the perfect break. So when we were driving down the highway on Saturday afternoon and the Manhattan skyline came into view I was horrified by the sudden and severe anxiety attack that took hold. And on top of the anxiety I was enraged. Suddenly I hated Z for making me choose between him and the city, even though that choice happened years ago. I hated him for not missing the city. I hated the city itself for changing, for leaving me behind. I didn’t belong there anymore. And I hated myself for feeling so betrayed by Z, by the city, by life, by myself. I hated that the vision of life my 22 year old self imagined didn’t come to pass. I hated that part of me still expected it to. I guess I’m still naive nearly a decade and a half later, or to be blunt I’ve failed to grow the fuck up.
But here is the good part. Z immediately recognized what was going on. He got me to take a chill pill. He went to his work event while I stayed in our room and calmed down. We were able to talk about my reaction and strategize about future visits. Next time before we get close enough to the city for me to see the skyline I’ll take a pill. We’ll talk about how hard it is for me not to be there anymore ahead of the trip so remembering won’t seem like such a slap in the face.
The rocky start did not ruin the trip. We met up with two of my favorite people on the planet. She is the chef of a new restaurant in Brooklyn. The first review kicked ass. If you are anywhere near Prospect Heights you should go and get the duck confit sandwich. It was criminally delicious. He’s the one that set up my wordpress account and moved over all the content from blogger. He’s smart like that because he is the Product Engineering Director of a cool news website. If I’m going to be honestly uncomfortable, and you know I am, I’m jealous of them. That doesn’t mean I’m not proud as hell of them or that I begrudge their success. I mean, I’m an asshole, but I’m not that big of an asshole.
But I look at them, and Z for that matter, and I see people who made intentional and thoughtful decisions about what they wanted from life and worked their asses off to get there. They didn’t magically become successful, they put in the sweat and tears, they had setbacks, but they persevered. They are in their mid to late 30s and their careers are blossoming. And I feel inadequate compared to them. I’m 36, a Stay At Home Mom without the skills to find a job that would cover the cost of day care for my boys.
But here’s the thing. Only I have the ability to change where I am in life. I can decide it’s too late for me and feel sorry for myself, or I can made decisions and do the hard work and open myself up to facing failure as I try to make something out of myself.
So it was an eye opening trip. It made me think about where I am and where I want to be. It reminded me that I’m the one standing in the way of my own dreams, dreams that scare the shit out of me so completely that I don’t acknowledge them. On top of all that I still managed to have an excellent time with friends who I love dearly and who somehow love me back. I continue to love New York while loving Z more. And speaking of Z, let’s just say it was a fantastic trip for our marriage.
This skyline never fails to break my heart, to exhilarate me, to make me feel like I’m coming home, to make me cry.
We were happy to get home and see our boys. Man, did it feel nice to miss the boys.
Hanging out on the porch for the first time this year.
And bonus dork points to anyone who knows who sings New York Groove…