[“Elizabeth” – Frank Sinatra]
So a dream has to end
When it’s real
Dressed in memories
You are what you used to be
Sometimes Life Gets You Down
It’s done. I have been struggling with how exactly to write this. I have been trying to find the words to describe how I feel. In three days it will be exactly six months since the day we separated. Meanwhile, three days ago, the final paperwork came through confirming our divorce. I am Elizabeth Taylor no longer. So, this is a funeral of sorts, or at least a farewell. For a year and a half, life was spectacular. I lived as an individual, in name, who was larger than life; featured on a metaphorical silver screen of happiness. I was married to my best friend in the entire world and I had it all. Then suddenly, the film had a staggering plot twist and I wasn’t even given a heads up that the script was going to change.
I will now put my fame aside, along with my co-star of seven years, and be Liz Campbell again, or maybe for the first time.
Sometimes It’s Just Confusing
Given the news I received three days ago, I have experienced a wide range of emotions this week. I have been fairly low, to say the least. I know, I filed the papers, I knew what was coming. I expected it. Hell, I wanted it. This was not a surprise. But the finality that comes with that one, last, piece of paper is not something I was prepared for. This has been a process for six months and now it’s done. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to no longer have this hanging over my head but this is not where I envisioned myself to be in my 28th year of life. I imagined a different future for myself.
So this week has been an amalgam of good and bad emotions coalescing into confusion and pain. Until today.
And Sometimes There is Magic
As I have said, my overall intention for the year is to allow myself to be vulnerable, specifically by doing one thing per month that scares me. In my path through depression coping strategies I have allowed myself too many days “off.” Days where I will do noting more than watch TV and tell myself that I am healing. Within that strategy there has also been the assumption that in such an unproductive state of mind it is likely that I would not be a presentable or productive member of society, so why bother anyway?
Well, my January effort has been to work through that fear of society during these down times. This month, I am forcing myself to go out in public even when it feels like it may be too much for my current state of mind. I may not be in the best of places, mentally, but I will make myself be vulnerable by going out into the world even without the armor of total emotional stability. Despite what I have been feeling, I have forced myself out of the house to do something I know I have the potential to enjoy if I just give it a chance. Last week, despite the 14 degree temperatures, I wandered down to the Perkiomen Trail and crunched my way through the frozen underbrush and snow, following little bunny butt prints and deer tracks down to the river for photos during the golden hour. It was lovely and despite the fact that I could not get warm for the rest of the day, I am proud of the effort I made.
Today was much the same. I didn’t want to do anything but that just doesn’t fly with my vulnerability goal. Yes, there is something to be said for relaxation but not for sheer laziness and wallowing in self-pity. So I started the day with some unnecessary but fun retail therapy at an absolutely amazing plant store in Schwenksville, Ott’s Exotic Plants. This place is a version of heaven that, until today, I thought only existed in my imagination. I had no idea such a place could actually exist. Ancient cacti, succulents, palms, ferns, and monstera have become part of the actual structural foundation of this green house. Potted plants have begun to overtake their own pots and grow right into their raised beds; lemons hang from trees suspended on stilts near the ceiling; a vast ball of green frizz (the word fern just doesn’t even do it justice) hangs low over a walkway and is wider than my arm span; and in the middle of the overgrown displays, a waterfall footed with a pond full of Koi sits and lends to the air a beautiful humidity, necessary to further the life all around it. The spacious greenhouse is a cacophony of sights and smells, an entirely visceral experience. I loved it.
After exploring the plants to my heart’s content, and to maintain momentum, I drove across town to Phoenixville so that I could sit in a cafe and read for a while (still Jane Eyre, part of my other intentions for 2018). While I was driving, I caught sight of the Schuylkill River and pulled off into a park because the sight was too spectacular to miss.
Now, I know that the park pictured below is beautiful. It’s actually where said person and I took some of our wedding pictures. I have not been back since, first because I was never near it and then, since I have been back, because I couldn’t bring myself to go. One of my favorite photos ever taken of me was in this park. A photo taken when I was full of love, joy, and hope for the future. So, pulling into this park, in and of itself, was a challenge for me today, but a challenge well worth the magic I found.
Because the weather went from extremely cold to unseasonably warm so quickly, the previously surface-frozen Schuylkill has broken into sheets of ice. These sheets have begun to flow with the river underneath to create, what this video and the images below show you, essentially a log jam of ice. Pieces of ice in sizes varying from what Buddy the Elf sailed off on, down to the size of Post-it notes were flowing together and getting stuck along the banks, stacking up together and refreezing into new and rough glacier-like formations. The sound was like wooden wind chimes on a windy day together with coffee beans being poured into a grinder, delicate but all encompassing. The cold air whipped around my face and all I could do was watch amazed as the groaning river of ice soldiered forward. I had never seen anything like this before.
I think this ice-plosion came at the perfect time; and not only because this jagged majesty only lasted for about 20 minutes after I arrived at the park (the river was largely free flowing after that):
I have had various forms of closure over the past six months but none so spectacularly beautiful and cathartic as today. The river was a metaphor for my very existence. I have been frozen in place, physically and emotionally, for a period of time and now I am beginning to slowly break free. Those final papers have allowed me to chip away at the solid sheet of heartache that has become my new normal and slowly set some of the larger pieces adrift, letting the current take them away.
You see the corner of that dock? That’s where I stood on October 17, 2015. I stood, I spun, I danced a jig (let’s be honest, not a real one, just a dance of happiness) I laughed, and kissed my favorite person in the world because life was beautiful and I was in love.
Well, life is starting to be beautiful again and I may not have had a perfect dress for spinning, or the guy at my side, but I smiled today and the ice around my heart began to melt with the river. I carry the sight and sound with me now, along with just a bit of magic. I intend to hold those things close and move forward with their help.
Photos: E. Campbell (2017/2018)
Camden Town, London