“Let It Go” has been the theme of 2016, and not just because my toddler daughter was late to the Frozen party. Every time I reject the message to let go, it is re-delivered to my doorstep.
Now that I finished all of Brené Brown’s books, and Maria Sirois’ A Short Course on Happiness After Loss, I’ve been reading a lot of Pema Chödrön, immersing myself in her perspective on Buddhist philosophies as an American Buddhist nun in the Tibetan lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. So much of her writing, as well as Sirois' and Brown's, speaks to and grounds me in this uncertain time.
For instance, the idea that life is not particularly good nor evil, neither in favor nor condemnation of any one person. It just is. Sometimes it just is up and sometimes it just is down. And the trick is to learn to ride the waves without attaching to the altitude.
I can dig that.
But letting go of attachment to people and things is where I have trouble. Because I don’t feel I chose this outcome, and I did not want to let go of My Ex in the first place, I am clinging to emotional memories of my family’s short lifespan and the few physical things that hold positive associations. What I’m failing to acknowledge — or perhaps painfully acknowledging, yet fighting against — is that the meaning that was once attached to these things has been taken away.
It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the dissolution of meaning.
The past year — at least since we left Jersey City — has been a continual process of letting go of physical things and any attachment to them, as we whittled down to the necessities that would fit into a 22’ trailer. It was a process that I welcomed and enjoyed, as our cross-country road trip was intended to give our family the space to reconnect and heal through shared experiences, rather than possessions.
As such, the list of things I find myself still attached to eight months later is short, but each of them was meaningful… to me, at least. I’m learning that I was the only one attaching meaning to anything.
If you remember (or have been reading that long), we had to divide and conquer in order to prepare for our voyage. My Ex painstakingly detailed the outside of our trailer, then designed an in-home (err, in-trailer) entertainment system that was no small feat to install, with a projector and mini-screen over our bed. I was proud of the shine he buffed into the looked-like-new trailer with his own hands, and every night that the two (or three!) of us snuggled up in bed to watch a movie — a pile of tangled arms, legs and torsos, our heads resting on each other — was a moment I treasured. It was just us.
Because I loved my partner with all of my heart, and wanted so badly for us to reconcile our problems and reconnect to our insane passion for each other and for life — and because I had such a hard time speaking these feelings through my pain, hurt and mistrust — I tried to show them by pouring my soul and the waning energy I had left into redecorating and packing the inside of our roving RV (remember the before and after, here?). I cared deeply about the energy of every item in our trailer, and wanted every thing that surrounded us to carry positive vibes or remind us of a special memory or time we shared.
Like the two white faux fox fur throws that I tossed on our bed or over our little trailer “couch.” We picked out those blankets for our first apartment while I was pregnant, imagining the day we’d hold our baby snuggled in their furry white folds. After improperly washing them (oops!), they looked more like lamb’s wool than fox fur, but they were snuggly just the same on the cold nights we drove cross-country wishing for better-than-propane heating.
Or, like the brightly-striped pillows that we bought in a tiny, magical seaside town in Spain while hiking and exploring its cobblestoned hills during a road trip with our six-week-old daughter. We schemed a return to Cadaques some day, ‘when we were writers,’ a shared dream we often returned to whenever we visited a beautiful spot that inspired us (which was often).
Some items in the trailer were added along our journey, like our ceramic coffee mugs, which we found in a pottery shop while driving Cape Breton's Cabot Trail. We had to drive the trail a second time to buy them, as the shop was closing the first time we stopped. But we returned and spent some time chatting with the sister of the owner and artist who made our mugs. I chose my green and white speckled mug from the “imperfect” box, and loved its imperfections. Each night I would fall asleep excited for the coffee I knew My-then-Love would make me the next morning. After three years of starving for his attention and affection, it was these moments on our road trip that slowly restored teeny tiny points of connection.
Sentimental items aside, I was thoughtful even about the basics that were placed inside: from knobs to hooks; shelves to kitchen utensils and appliances (we put our best everything in there); his-and-hers aprons to bright bathroom accessories; turquoise light fixtures to bedside cup holders. We had a certain quality of life and style that we wanted to maintain, even simply with very few things on the road. Every single thing that one would touch, lay on, sit on or use inside that trailer is a special memory of ours — his and mine — something that I deliberately placed into that space to create positive energy for my family.
It may be just a trailer, but it was “our” trailer and it was my home. After signing the papers that transferred ownership, My-then-Love turned to me excitedly and said, “We just bought our first house together!” We laughed, but it was, and it still is.
When it became clear that we needed to take some space before Christmas, there was only one obvious immediate solution: I would take my daughter to my parents’ home and he would continue on in the trailer toward a project in Los Angeles that we urgently needed to carry on our journey.
That was the last of our fatal mistakes.
When I left Austin that day, I didn’t realize that from that point forward he would not view the trailer as mine, too. “It’s the only place I have to live,” he defends, not acknowledging that by contrast, I have no home to call my own but my parents’ (thankfully!). Not even a trailer. I never wanted to let our little mobile home, and all that it represented for me, go. I just needed to breath. I just needed to let him breath. And we both needed to stop the fighting that our daughter was now witnessing.
After that first month of space, and just before my daughter and I left for Australia for a second month, My-then-Love and I looked each other in the eye and said we wanted to figure everything out and to get married once we found our peace and understanding.
However, after uttering such a huge prospect (well, the idea of marriage always was so to me), he was noticeably disconnected while I was Down Under, making me distraught and distracted from the experience of a lifetime. By the time I returned to California one month later, he had moved on to, and in with, a new lover who was naïvely swallowing every complimentary word he fed her. A new lover who seems never to have heard the saying, “Beware a man who needs something from you.”
Now he shares the only home I can claim on paper with her and others. My former “Space for Wellness” is used for special getaway weekends on the coast of California, where another woman wakes up on my side of the “World’s Most Comfortable Bed,” whose many layers of comfort I lovingly created to share with my partner, pulls back the curtains I sewed with my mom, drinks coffee from my special imperfect mug, and has breakfast at the table where my daughter, her Papa and I sat mere weeks ago, before snuggling up with my former partner on my Cadaques pillows and faux fox fur blankets… it’s all too much.
Worse, that she would be alone in my trailer waiting for him, using our things or rearranging anything the way she wants to set her own delusional stage.
But worst of all is the breach of intimacy. I would have loved nothing more than the opportunity to be alone and in tune with My-then-Love, making love freely across every surface of that trailer. But embracing the trip as a family, as a mother whose beloved toddler is permanently attached to her hip, I wasn’t afforded such opportunities. Instead, the opportunity was bestowed upon someone else to enjoy in the space I lovingly created for us.
It’s all too disrespectful of me. They are not just blankets and pillows and things. They are memories and meanings that she has shattered with her intrusive and assumptive presence.
If I had known that my space would be so quickly disrespected, I would have removed more of the few items in the world that meant something to me. I left them to ensure he was comfortable, and because it was all so murky and upsetting. I was hoping that some space would allow us to come back together and continue our trip. I was hoping that he would complete his project while I was in Australia, then we would carry on to finish what we started. I never thought we’d die along the way.
But I must let it all go. The pillows. The blankets. The mug. The trinkets. The things.
When you strip away the meaning, they’re just things.
“You get to have new things, and make new memories,” the optimists in my life reassure me, "It's him who must carry the old." Yes, that is true. With no other choice as I begrudgingly accept this reality, I am excited about what is to come. But I still miss what was.