Too many exes this week popping up here and there. I love them but…that is precisely the problem. I still love them, which is why they need to go away so I can learn to love somebody who is not them.
The old cliche states that the truth will set you free. Seeing my exes, hearing about them, may be a little too much truth for me to bear.
For instance, how do I process the new wedding ring gleaming on Ex Number One’s finger when we meet for lunch. How do I take in his unmistakeable afterglow? All I can feel is an extreme sense of tension and heaviness, as if I were carrying a bowling ball in the pit of my stomach.
Then, through the grapevine, comes news of Ex Number Two. I learn the name of the woman he’s living with. She’s someone I know vaguely. For months I have suspected she was the one. Alas, I get no pleasure from being right. I have a mental picture of her that is too fuzzy to deconstruct, so I envision her vaguely: a slim angular brunette cloaked in a kind of misty glow, wrapping her smooth slender limbs around My Ex. I shudder. I am so distracted I unload paper towels and shampoo into the refrigerator. Did he tell me once that she resembled Audrey Hepburn?
There must be some way outta here…But what? There is the masochistic approach: Put Lucinda Williams’s twangy sexual confessions on the CD player, peruse old smoochy photographs of me and my formers, and take a deep pulsating jacuzzi soak in pain. Pour into the bath a gallon of fantasies about my old flames and their nouvelles amours having smiley fun times and striking pretzel poses in the sack, complete with lovey dovey cooing and groaning. If I want to start drinking again, this will surely get me going.
Then there is the stoic I Will Survive strategy. I go about my business, pursue all the things I had planned to do, and ignore what I have seen and heard, however searing. I shove the feelings down, stick out one foot and then the other. While this is an admirable thing to attempt, I usually find after encountering an Ex that I have little or no energy for any of the projects or social engagements that are on my calendar. All I want to do is sink into something soft, listen to power ballads and feel sorry for myself.
Clearly it doesn’t work to drown in the memories but ignoring them appears to be equally ineffectual. So what is the good ole middle path here?
I put in a call to my Higher Power and think it over. After a while the Universe sends me a memo that goes something like this:
First of all, when the dreaded brush with the defunct beloved takes place, it’s important to acknowledge the feelings that are stirred up. It’s OK to put on Coldplay, Snow Patrol or Journey and sing along with all one’s lonely loser’s heart. Then it’s even more important to return to what one was doing prior to the traumatic sighting.
I Must Remember This: My relationships with these former lovers exist largely in my mind. My exes are like ghosts, even if they can call me or grin infuriatingly at me across a bistro table. They are almost entirely a piece of the past, a part of memory. So maybe I mourn for awhile, perhaps deeply, punch the hell out of the old sofa, eat too many sour gummy worms, turn up Lady Gaga and sob to the thumping beat of Bad Romance. After that, I need to emerge from my self-flogging coma and set myself free, step back into my life–into the beautiful, liberating present.
EPILOGUE, TWO NIGHTS LATER: Could the Answer Be…Polygamy?
It is wonderful how you can send a prayer out into the Universe and, whoosh, back comes an answer. Just two days ago I was wringing my hands about how to meet and greet the men in my life who have moved on. Now tonight I turn on the television and I see a real-life couple, Christian fundamentalists Kody and Meri Brown from Utah, who will never face this problem. Kody doesn’t move on. He just adds another wife. Kody doesn’t stray. He does his philandering inside the enormous compound containing separate apartments for each of his four wives. He stays at home, the family stays together, the women get romanced every four days on rotation and sixteen children grow up in a big fun house with four moms and a very happy Dad.
The women call each other Sister Mom, and appear quite happy with the arrangement. They seem not so much jealous as relieved to be sharing a husband. They love the help with child raising and chores provided by the other wives, the camaraderie, the support. Indeed one of them says she only wanted to be part of a polygamous family. She dispatched any bachelor who was on his own. Some of the women grew up in polygamous households. All seem completely at ease with the system. They have never known anything different. On the rare occasions when jealousy surfaces, they treat it as something unpleasant to be cured and overcome, like a sudden cold or stomach virus.
As I watch this program I am not horrified, as I thought I might be. Not at all. In fact I find myself thinking, ya know, these people are on to something. They could teach the East Coast city slickers a thing or two about love and romance.