May 2011

I always forget that during Memorial Day weekend I’m supposed to be remembering and honoring fallen soldiers. It’s not that I’m not patriotic or that I don’t appreciate what the United States armed forces have done and sacrificed. It’s because Memorial Day was hijacked by my ex a few years ago, and I can’t help but spend my time and energy keeping those memories at bay. It wasn’t until last night, while reading through Facebook statuses of people thanking the military that I said to myself “oh yeah…”

Two years ago, while at a cemetery honoring the fallen military personnel buried there, my marriage fell apart in the blink of an eye. I use Memorial Day as my “anniversary” date of the end of my marriage because the following two weeks were a pathetic attempt to deny the obvious. Memorial Day was when things really ended, not June 12 when he moved out.

Last year, the one-year anniversary of the shit-storm, I spent an entire therapy session dealing with the memories of what had happened. It had finally been enough time that I could actually face and deal with everything that had happened. I try to joke about it now, playing it off as no big deal, when in fact it still traumatizes me. I don’t know if I have ever expressed to anyone just how completely life-shattering that day was. The only person who probably has any idea is my mom who had to come rescue me from the cemetery in the pouring rain.

On Memorial Day of 2009, my marriage ended. My husband proved to me that he did not love me or care about my well-being. The details of everything that happened that day become unimportant compared to the truth that was brought to light. It became infuriating, however, when I would tell people that me and Voldemort (how he is referred to now) were splitting and everyone was still convinced that he was a great guy, based on his charismatic, life-of-the-party personality he showed to everyone else. I wanted to scream at those people “HE FUCKING LEFT ME IN THE RAIN AT A CEMETERY WHILE HE STAYED AT A RESTAURANT TO EAT BREAKFAST! HOW IS THAT OKAY?!?!” I wanted to tell the world what a horrible, deceiving, narcissistic man he is– but all they could see were his jokes, his position as a worship pastor at our church, and the optimism that maybe… just maybe, he’ll change.

The frustration around the fact that no one saw the real Voldemort was probably the worst part about our breakup. I know some people were trying to be encouraging, but their attempts at talking about the possibility of change and his “good” qualities just made me want to yell and scream!

So every Memorial Day, I fight the images, emotional scars, and feelings of dread that come along with the recollection of what happened two years ago. It always takes me by surprise, too– I hardly ever think about Voldemort, but my subconscious finds a way to bring him forward in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day. And then I have to face the reality that something that sad and terrible– my marriage disintegrating before my eyes and the person I loved and had committed my life to showed me that I was not loved or valued by him– happened to me.

I know as more Memorial Days come and go, the less I’ll think about him, and the less I’ll have to deal with the lingering emotions that come with that day. When I “reclaim” the day by doing something amazing and awesome, in the back of my mind is the reality of why that day needs to be reclaimed in the first place.

I hope the Memorial Day comes soon that I don’t need to think about reclaiming it, that I don’t think about what happened on that day, and I can just enjoy the extra day off work and have the thankfulness of the sacrifice of military personnel at the forefront of my mind.

I’m sure you’re sitting on the edge of your seats, wondering: one, if I’m still alive, and two, how my trip went.

Because I’m posting this, I can assure you that I was not kidnapped, like in Taken, or murdered like in Hostel. I’ve never seen Hostel, but I’ve been told that it’s one of the goriest movies people have ever seen… I’ll take their word for it.

Anyway… my trip was FABULOUS! I loved the entire experience, even though there were some rough spots here and there. But those down moments were the ones that helped strengthen me and help me grow while on the trip. Overall, I am so immensely glad I took the trip– and took it alone. A lot of people, especially women, have told me they could never travel by themselves but I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I could possibly see a desire for constant/reliable companionship that comes with traveling with a friend/significant other, but even that can be fixed by staying in hostels where there are dozens of solo travelers wanting to meet new people as well.

My new friends in my Barcelona hostel

I learned a TON on my trip. When talking to my counselor about what I had learned, I listed three lessons I had learned:

1) There is no right answer to everything;

2) There is always an alternative solution to a problem; and

3) The only thing holding me back is me.

Of the three lessons, the first one is the one that has stuck out the most in my head– and will continue to have an impact on my life from here on out.

I strive to be “perfect” and always do everything right. I act as though it’s my purpose in life to be the “perfect girlfriend,” “perfect sister,” “perfect friend,” and “perfect daughter.” The way I see it, there is always a right way to be, right things to do, and right ways to live life (and alternately, clear wrong ways to do all of the above as well).

This trip helped me strip that mentality from my thought process. Going on this trip and being able to plan and do what I wanted, when I wanted helped me embrace “what do I want?” There was no one there to tell me that what I wanted to do was boring, stupid, a waste of time/money. I could do things just because I wanted to.

This idea finally solidified itself in my mind on my second day in Barcelona. I had just spent my morning wandering around the Picasso Museum– a “must-see” according to my guide-book. [It was definitely worth it, so if you’re ever in Barcelona, I highly recommend it] However, just a couple blocks up the road was a Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata). Rick Steve’s gave it a less-than-enthusiastic description and I had never heard anyone mention it’s existence when talking about what to see in Barcelona.

Chocolate Museum, Barcelona

But I love chocolate. And I wanted to go. So I went.

Simple as that. I went because I wanted to, and because I could. It ended up being not very interesting, but I didn’t really care because I wanted to see for myself what was in the museum dedicated to one of my favorite things on the planet. Plus, I had delicious chocolate at end of it while people-watching in the cafe. It was such a tangible example in my head, even as I sat, drinking my chocolate, that this is what I needed to do more of in my life.

I need to do what I want to do, and more importantly, not care what others think about those decisions. Going to some cheesy Chocolate Museum in Spain is very low on the “must-sees” of Barcelona, and I could have worried about what people would say about me having gone there, but I didn’t. I held my head high, paid for my ticket, and walked around learning the history of chocolate and marveling at chocolate sculptures.

There was no right answer as to whether or not I should go to that museum. There was no right answer about anything I went and saw in Spain. It was my trip, and I could see what I wanted to see, and what other people said or thought didn’t matter.

The desire to do “right” will probably always be a struggle, but I now have an experience to hold on to that shows me that it doesn’t matter what choices I make– they’re my choices and desires; and other people’s choices, desires, or opinions of my choices/desires are none of my concern. I need to live my life the way I want to live it.

And just because I want to share another picture, I will share a picture from my tour of the Alhambra in Granada. It was pouring rain my entire time in Granada, but the Alhambra was one of my favorite experiences of my entire trip!

The Alhambra, Granada