(Planet Me)
Monday, May 30, 2011

10 years ago last weekend, I got married to my first ex-wife. The photos here are the only ones still in my possession : probably the only ones left in existence. Ten years is a long time - it wasn't until late on Monday night, a full three days after the anniversary, that I twigged what weekend it was. I'm normally good with numbers. Dates, figures. Catalogue numbers for records. It's how I make sense of the world, through numbers and data and information. I think if I know everything I might just be able to understand how the world is constructed. We all look for our inner narrative, the plot that makes life make some kind of sense.

At the time I got married, I made a mistake. I knew it at the time. I knew it on the morning, when we were in the car, and the phone rang. I've always thought that if you want to make a decision you know in your heart that its right. It took me two marriages to realise that your heart has to agree completely. My first wedding there was a chink of doubt in the corner. And that doubt was right.

When I met my first ex-wife, I'd recently come out of a long and intense relationship, against my will. The story is old, but it goes on. The future I thought I had - and the plans that go with it - had been discarded. I thought I'd keep the job in Birmingham, grow old with someone. The relationship ended. I was left. And on Thursday the 4th February 2000, I became king of my unheated, two bedroom castle above a chip shop in Walsall. I flung myself into the future. I had no choice. It was happening wether I liked it or not. I had to rewrite completely the plot of my life after the then leading lady had jumped ship. Rightly, or wrongly.

The next 18 months I was in some good and brief relationships, and some unsuitable and brief relationships. I was out most nights. I was constantly dodging one step ahead of my credit limit. I was unafraid and brave, but terrified. Taking risks to see if I could win a princess. It took me many years to realize the best girl in my world was always there, waiting for me to pull myself out of my situation and patiently hoping. I wanted to have a companion, an accomplice. I wanted to have a sidekick, or be one, and be part of an emotional crimefighting superhero duo. A Batman looking for my Robin.

I left Birmingham for a promotion in London. The plan was to come back in a couple of years, having moved up the ladder, get a house or a flat, and live and work in Birmingham. And then, I fell. I fell for what I thought was love. I imagine my First Ex-Wife was, in some ways, similar to me. Looking for something, not finding it, and mistaking someone else equally lost, charging away into the future, for someone who looked like he knew where he was going.

I wanted to be in a brilliant, healthy relationship. I wanted to be in love. I wanted to know I was not alone in this world, but going towards a great destination, hand in hand, with someone amazing. I think. I was in love with love, so much more than I was in love with anyone else.

I made a mistake. We agreed to marry. And, two months and 11 days after we met, we did. I didn't know this person well enough. I knew what they were like when things were going well. But life doesn't always go well.

What happened next was a mistake. There are very few people I would say that I truly wish I had never met, and take my chances with whatever happened instead, but yes, my first Ex-wife is one of the few. Maybe she says the same. I have no idea. I haven’t seen her since the day her stuff moved out, and not had any type of dealing, apart from a court document, in over eight years. I somehow doubt I will ever meet or have any dealings with her.

How many times can one say the word “mistake”? After we married, things got worse. I was accused of things I didn’t do, would never do, things I couldn’t do, and things I couldn’t prove I didn’t do. There were times the phone rang at work, and I was in meetings. Apparently I was seeing women who didn’t exist when I was actually work. She lost her job, and sat at home drinking lager, playing “Diablo II”, and not looking for a job or signing on, whilst I burnt through my credit card limit to keep us in food. All the signs now scream a depressive episode, but I was too busy working and keeping the house afloat to care.

The final straw was when my Dad sent me a birthday card, and she suggested it was sent from some fancy woman. We broke. I sat an exam, on my birthday. She planned her escape.

One day I went to work – the day after my 29th birthday - and when I came back, she was gone, along with most of my stuff. When we separated, I lived in fear. The photographs from the wedding went away. Apparently I would be obsessing over them. As if. The wedding ring went to the pawn shop, in all probability.

Things went missing when I went to work. After a while, it became obvious that she was coming back to the flat and stealing stuff. I would find things missing months or years later.

My email has been cracked / hacked. Anyway, she was reading it all. How tedious these things were. In brief, and tense, emails during the divorce process, she said things I had never told her. I carefully dripfed slightly different stories to various people by various means to find the leak. She was reading my emails. Not quite sure how she did that. I changed the locks. I changed the email. I changed bank accounts, and tried just to get on with my life. I can’t say it was an amicable split. I just wanted out. I wanted to be separated. I wanted to unhook the tendrils and just get free. I never saw any reason for any acrimony. We tried something. It didn’t work. My crime was to carry on with my life. At least, that’s all I can think it was. I’m not sure what I did wrong to deserve such pointless, post-split acrimony. Whatever it was, I probably didn’t do it anyway.

Ten years is a long time. I look back on it now and understand, but don’t agree, with what I was thinking. Even were I in that situation now, I wouldn’t make that move. I’d wait.

When the phone rang, on the way to the ceremony, and it was the girl who I currently share my world with and mother of my child. She was asking – not in jealousy, but concern for a friend – wondering if I was sure. She was right. I wasn’t sure. I knew it. And by then, my world had become very small : either I left someone jilted at the altar, or lived with the risk and hoped it worked out. To be driven to a wedding knowing it will probably fail, for the cracks were plain for me to see, and to hope that it would work in spit of all sense and reason, was the second biggest mistake of my life.

Not my best idea. So sorry, to everyone involved. We can’t go back, only forward. To the future. I’m spending the rest of my life there. I went through hell. But sometimes the way to heaven is through hell.

(By the way, the exam? I passed it.)

turns out that the girl who you currently share your world with and the mother of your child was smarter than you.

they all are, damnit.

we get there in the end, if we're lucky.
Even so, better to regret the things you did do, than the things you didn't?

I think this is the first time I've seen a picture of you smiling.
Sometimes others are wiser about our own lives than we ever will be, and we don't even know it. Most of our time is spent being too busy living our existence to take one step back and look at things more with a different perspective...
oh, there are other pictures of me smiling! I do it all the time. I'm just not a fan of those teeth of mine.
this comment thread is quite zen, isn't it? Apart from the one about Mark's teeth, anyway.
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