Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In Which I Remember

I did something strange on Saturday. I've been wanting to do it all year, as a revisiting, stepping back over a past threshold.

I went back to the place where I was married five years ago. Diana was asleep in the car, so I couldn't wander too far, but I sat on a low stone wall and looked out over the small lake where we said our vows.

I didn't cry. It wasn't a great release or a terribly cathartic experience. It was quiet and sad and my hands shook a little. I closed my eyes and the memories rose like fog, shadow and ghost. That day five years ago became a part of me; it was a turning point, a great threshold, it is a memory that persists like longing.

It's good that I went back. I will probably go once more, this time alone, because there is so much I need to release. I am better, so much better, than I was a year ago, but I know that the healing is not finished (are we ever finished?), that there is still work to be done.  Part of that work is in the reliving, the task of going backwards, acknowledging the past, breathing it in and finally, breathing it out, releasing it.

My divorce, this painful chapter of my life, is begging for some ritual attention. I've thought about it a lot this past year, the fact that there is no formal ceremony, no commemoration, to mark the end of a marriage, the loss of love. It's a fraught desire, because no, I don't want a large gathering of people and a sermon and a funeral. But surely, there is something that can be done, a closure, an acknowledgment of grief, that something, although not a person, has died.

The going back to the place we said our vows was a part of that. It's why I will go back again.
How do you mark the beginnings and endings of the lifetimes that unfold within your life? How would you describe the different selves you've been across the years? Have you gone through or are you anticipating a change that could benefit from some ritual attention? How might you set aside a time, alone or with friends, in order to remember and to mark the passage; to name who you have been and who are becoming?
            -Jan L. Richardson, from In the Sanctuary of Women
When I read that passage last week, it validated much of what I have written in my own journals about this time period, about the expectations that have been disappointed in my life. There is tremendous value in remembering. Ritual validates our experiences, their importance in shaping our personhood, our past, present and future selves.

Part of my ritual will be dispelling the memories, acknowledging them. I just read A Severe Mercy, and for those of you that have read it, perhaps you too are reminded of Sheldon's "Illumination of the Past", his process of remembrance, dispelling memory, after his wife Davy dies. He goes through all of their old journals, travels back through the years, immerses himself in it. Will it look the same for me? I don't know. I do know that whatever it looks like, it will be essential for my wholeness, my peace, will hopefully prevent me from becoming a hardened, skeptical cynic. I fear I am well on my way.

So what I've kept rolled up tight, I'm feeling ready to let it all unfurl, to go there with Him. And you know, I'm thankful for all of it, for the story I carry, for what you carry, for the tremendous beauty of our ordinary lives. To live is a gift. To look at another human face, individual and distinct, so completely separate from me yet the result of the same great imagination, it is a miracle of the highest order, isn't it?

We each carry something. Every one of us, we are storytellers. I want to tell my own story well. I want to live this one life I'm given well, in whatever season, in darkness or in light. It's worth it, and I don't want to die a cynic.


  1. erika, you are a beautiful writer and so strong. you continue to inspire me, know that i am sending so much love your way everyday.


    1. Thank you for reading, Courtney, and for the kind words. They are so much appreciated, they are fresh water.

  2. you are beautiful, Erika. thank you for your wisdom.

    1. YOU are beautiful, Amanda. we need to hang out this summer!


I would love to hear your thoughts.