What Happened.

They say the body doesn’t forget. 

I’m not sure who “they” are, but I thought of this saying when I woke up in the middle of the night with a knot in my stomach and an urge to write. 

It’s possible that for the rest of my life, I’ll wake up with this stomach-knot-feeling on the day I didn’t get married – December 23. 

I’ve been asked (and have been asking myself) the “what happened?” question a lot over the past three years. I did a lot of drinking about this question in 2017. I did a lot of running about this question in 2018. I did less of both in 2019. I did less thinking about him and “it” altogether, thankfully, but on this day the mixed emotions of what this day was dreamt up to be and ended up being flood over me, still. 

I have done a lot of reflecting about my intentions around writing this post and I’m still not sure why/what I want to write and share. Part of me wonders if putting the words down will lighten me or this day in some way. Maybe sharing just even a bit will take away some lingering shame that I or a reader holds about an ended relationship. I wonder about the unconscious parts of me and what they’re motivated by/for. Maybe writing this post will magically stop those random “Happy Anniversary” emails or the occasional, “Hey, aren’t you married?” questions I still get. 

While the wantingness is unclear, two things are always certain when I write about this topic:

1) I don’t want to victimize myself

2) I don’t want to villainize my ex 

If I need to speak angrily or negatively about him – I’ll do so. At a bar. And with close friends, but not here and not now. 

When people ask me “what happened?” when they first learn I was once engaged, I now often reply, “everything and nothing.”

There was no white dress or exchanging of vows or Joy to the World or Etsy-inspired reception. There was just a human whom I loved very dearly, trusted, and believed-in completely who decided to leave. There are many stories about what that leaving process looked and felt like, much of which has to do with anger, confusion, and crying in closets – stories better and safer shared at that bar with those close friends. 

Sometimes I tell people how those were the hardest, most painful, I-will-never-survive-this kind of days. How hard it was to try to explain something that didn’t make sense.

“Did he cheat?” No, I don’t think so.

“What happened?” Again, everything and nothing.

“Had you been fighting?” No. 

“Did you see this coming?” No. 

“Well what were his reasons?” LOL. Wish I knew, homie.

He desperately searched for reasons as I tried to wring them out of him like a towel that had never met water; in this searching, he reached for the weakest, most insecure parts of me, himself, our pasts, and our relationship to extrapolate the “bad” to justify his decision. I’m not sure if he had any real concrete reasons for doing what he did, but as Cheryl Strayed says, “wanting to leave is enough.” However, when you’re on the receiving end of the leaving, acceptance of this statement doesn’t come easily or quickly – even if/when you know it to be true. The next time someone asks me what his reasons were, maybe I’ll quote Cheryl. 

On this third “noniversary,” I’m finding that the what-didn’t-happens don’t matter as much to me anymore as they once did. Don’t get me wrong – going back to that townhome, living together for two weeks, sending out wedding cancellation letters in neutral, vague language because it was the easiest thing to do at the time, and sorting through which wedding gifts were mine and which were his and which were to be returned – these were all very hard things. Walking into school to tell my students and coworkers that I wasn’t getting married anymore and that I needed a few days to “take care of things” before coming back to work – hard. Missing the two week deadline for wedding-related deposits – really not ideal. Losing the person you thought was your forever and not understanding why – the hardest.

I could list all of the things that didn’t happen, and some days that helps and feels right. I guess today isn’t one of those days, because my heart is stuck on what did happen. How my people showed up for me after he didn’t. How my bridal party and I gathered together at the lake and drank repurposed groom’s dinner wine with new labels – WTFK Cabernet, Kick His Ass Chardonnay, and Motherf*ckin’ Merlot. How my family still came to town. How my dad and I danced in the living room. That the sheet cakes were donated to a shelter. The wedding dress was picked up, hidden from me, and the honeymoon was still traveled. That my family wore party hats, decorated the wedding cake to be a Happy-Birthday-Jesus-Cake and posed for a picture. 

And after that picture, we tasted the cake and decided it wasn’t very good. So, my cousin and I got out the frosting again and wrote/drew obscenities on it, put plastic bags over our boots, and took the cake out to the yard to throw it in the air and stomp on it.

I can still feel my family gathering around me, skeptical of the party hats, but smiling and willing to do anything to help. I can still taste that WTFK Cabernet and hear my friends laughing while reading through poetry books. I can feel my feet stomping through that cake, the sun on my skin in Arizona, and the Rascal Flatts dance with my dad. I can see the kite I flew on Cannon Beach; I remember the wind, the melting ice cream dripping down my hand, and the smell of the ocean. 

They say the body doesn’t forget. 


  1. Swinged Cat

    Picking up the pieces is a lot easier when you take a healthy attitude toward the whole thing…which, clearly, you have done. It doesn’t get more cathartic than stomping on a wedding cake and drinking Motherf*ckin Merlot!


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