Saturday, 12 March 2016

A Time For Macaroni Cheese

I knew it was coming. My solicitor advised me last week that she’d applied for the Decree Absolute and it should come through any day. I got myself prepared. I went to my Storage King unit and extracted my wedding box. I wanted to be ready so that when it arrived I could, if I wanted to, spend some time looking through the wedding paraphernalia representing our coming together, and finally say goodbye to my marriage.

It was still a shock when the email arrived. And with the most unfortunate timing, I read it just as I was walking into school to collect the kids. Mask on. All the way home, with a stop off at my sister’s house, I held onto my façade and told no one. I just wasn’t ready to say it out loud. My marriage was over.

I decided to wait until the kids were in bed, then go through the wedding box, shed my tears, then package it all away to move on with life.

That was the plan. But when do things ever go to plan?

By the time we’d got home, eaten dinner and the kids had gone to bed I remembered I needed to make 24 dairy free, nut free chocolate cupcakes for my son to take to school for his birthday the next day. Except, I had no cocoa powder, and not enough eggs. I ended up with some rather unappetizing looking buns, for want of a better word. I squirted them with Dr Oetker’s chocolate icing (thankfully also dairy free) and shoved them in a tin, hoping I wouldn’t be judged too harshly by a precocious 9 year-old Mary Berry wannabe the next day.

So, to the wedding box.

Crap! I hadn’t wrapped his presents or set up the birthday banners! I raced around like a very silent mad woman trying not to wake the sleeping children upstairs. At last, I was finished.

Ok, time for the wedding box.

Double crap! I had a funeral the next day too and, for reasons I won’t bore you with, I had to pack a bag of suitable clothes to change into at my sister’s house after walking the dog. Having realized I looked 6 months pregnant in my classic funeral dress, I threw all the black items of clothing I owned into a bag and decided to worry about it the next day.

Finally, I had the time to sit down with my wedding box.

Except by that point, it was almost midnight and I was exhausted. I wasn’t feeling remotely sentimental and wouldn’t have done the task justice. I would have been doing it just to tick it off my to-do-list but, as much as that generally pleases me, it didn’t feel right. I went to bed instead. Although not for long…

Birthday presents, pancakes and Star Wars Top Trumps (strangely addictive by the way) began at 5.30am and I was in full on mummy mode! We partied, then I took the kids to school, walked the dog and got into my funeral clothes with 25 minutes to spare.

For those interested in my attire, I decided on black trousers with a slight floral imprint, a sheer black long sleeved top and a black over-top with a little fringe at the bottom, a black suit jacket and some rather sexy high-heeled suede boots. My team of dressers would have been proud (see Who’s Up For Some Zhooshing?!).

I debated with myself for quite some time about the suitability of the boots for such an occasion but I decided they worked with the outfit, made me feel happy and were the only footwear I’d packed anyway.

Sitting at my sister’s house while everyone else was getting ready, I realized I wasn’t used to having a 25 minute window with nothing urgent to do. So, I cut and painted my nails whilst listening to the radio. It was bliss. And if you think the sexy boots were disrespectful…my nail varnish was red!

I promise you that the deceased would have been quite happy with the whole thing. And when I say “the whole thing” I don’t just mean the raunchy boots and vampish nails. She had been ready to die for a long, long time. For her, this would have been a release. She was free of her failing body and in a happier place. It was her time.

This got me thinking. It was her time to go and here I was having time for me to paint my nails. There’s a time for everything and, despite the way I generally live, that doesn’t have to be dictated by the predetermined timetable of the day.

Sometimes, the time’s right for one thing and not another. And you don’t know until it happens what that thing is.

Time to be happy, time to grieve
Time to play, time to cry
Time to paint your nails, time to close your eyes and sleep
Time to wear high-heeled boots, time to snuggle in your PJs
Time to nibble a salad, time to devour macaroni cheese
Time to reflect
Time for the wedding box

So that evening, I didn’t rush it. I did what felt right at the time. I put the kids to bed, slipped into my PJs, ate a bowl of macaroni cheese, scoffed 2 chocolate éclairs, and then I was ready.

In the same way that you can’t plan when you’ll be ready to do these things, it seems you can’t prepare yourself for how you’ll feel either. My emotions weren’t what I’d expected.

Of course there were tears. I touched the boxes that had stored our wedding rings. I felt the feathered hearts glued with care to the front of each order of service. I read the index cards from my now ex-husband’s wedding speech and I was touched. He knew me so well and loved me so much then. When did that change?

But equally, I laughed at the comments in our wedding guest book including the competition between our two witnesses over who was best at the job and the wedding haiku written by a particularly lovely friend.

I smiled at myself in the mirror as I put on my wedding tiara. It didn’t really go with the PJs but the wedding dress is now 2 sizes too small with a gravy stain down the front so I wasn’t about to do the full bridal thing. Here’s a tip, choose your wedding breakfast carefully taking into account your clothing for the day!

But the most unexpected feeling was one of warmth. People’s comments about how happy we looked, the poem I wrote as one of our readings called My Best Friend, the laughter on people’s faces in the photos taken on the disposable cameras… what a day!

I remembered how happy I was, not just on that day, but also in my marriage.

I reflected on our time together. The nights out, nights in, holidays, arrival of our children, plans we made, homes we built, achievements, successes, crises we’d come through together, times we’d stood by each other despite feelings of betrayal, difficulties in our marriage we’d overcome, issues we were trying to resolve, then the separation and divorce.

Our marriage was more that just the end bits. With all the negativity and upset of more recent years, it’s so easy to forget the rest. A marriage is something that happens over time. And that reminded me of one of our readings...

By Margery Williams

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

So here I am.  My hair hasn’t quite been loved off, although the grey roots are in need of some attention. My joints are more stiff than loose due tennis elbow and now a cricked neck. I’m not too shabby, but perhaps a tiny bit overweight. Nothing that a few more running sessions and my new Nutribullet can’t fix.

Overall, I’m not as fit as I was 20 years ago, but I’m real (see A Different Sort Of Singleton). My life, my marriage, my baggage made me real, made me who I am today. And, on the whole, I like me.

This week, as my marriage has finally come to an end, I refuse to regret a single moment of it. This reflection has given me the space to see that there was a time for us to get married, there was a time for us to be happy together and there was a time for it to end. However much I didn’t want that to happen, that’s the way it was.

And now, it’s time for me to move forward, but without bitterness. Time to draw a line under the darkness that’s dominated recently and step back into the light. So, bring on the sexy boots and bright red nails – it’s my time now. Or, I could just pop my PJs back on and nibble some Green & Blacks chocolate. Just for now…



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