Though the issue of what others thought remained unresolved, Mike and I could not be separated very long. We got back together and continued to see each other without announcing it to anyone. We always had a great time. We talked on the phone almost nightly. However, if the subject of marriage came up, he persisted with his mantra that we would never get married. He finally asked what it would take to convince me of this. Very flippantly, I said, “You will either have to marry someone else or die.” I was becoming quite impatient with his logic now. Decision time was here for him.
Incredibly, Mike’s decision was to marry another woman he had known for exactly 3 months. He drove down from Los Angeles to tell me. This was one of the most difficult nights of my life. Later I learned it was very difficult for him as well.
He reasoned that this was the only solution, the only way for me to move forward and forget about ‘us.’ On some level that was true – in my heart I knew our love was strong and that he truly believed this was the only way for us to move on. However, I wanted some answers. I was very angry and hurt and did not understand. I asked many questions in rapid succession, giving him little time to answer. “Why was this happening? Do you love her? How can you possibly know you want to marry her in such a short time? I thought you were never getting married!” Everything he said sounded so trite and he knew it. Finally, I blurted out the hard question because I needed the answer. “Is this person easier for your parents to look at or accept into the family?” With his head hung, he hesitated briefly before saying, “Yes.” At least he was honest. I told him that was ludicrous and that he was making a huge mistake. On some level, he knew that too. Within the hour, he was on his way back to Los Angeles.
My world shattered. Everything I thought I knew was compromised. How could I have been so wrong? How could have I been so ignorant to think it was at all possible for me to find a husband? What else had I been ignorant in thinking? Devastation overwhelmed me.
Five weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, Mike got married. Several compassionate friends came over and sat with me on this tumultuous day. Once the tears started, they would not stop. I cried until I absolutely could cry no more. My friends joined my pity party, listened all day to my epiphany about the unfairness of the world, how stupid I had been, why me, poor me, etc. Every few minutes, I would place myself in Mike’s world and wonder what he was doing. My heart ached like it never had before.
Needless to say, my outlook on life took an abrupt downward turn. I no longer believed that my attempts to be “normal” mattered in the slightest or were worth any effort. After all, my missing limbs had already cost me a well-deserved promotion and the only man I ever loved. I could not muster any more fortitude, strength or determination to cope with ordinary daily struggles. My positive attitude had been gravely wounded. Pessimism was consuming me.
I thought about Mike every day, constantly. One day, I became obsessed with depressive thoughts during my drive down the Pacific coast. I envisioned driving into the ocean. I wondered if my van would get stuck in the sand. I wondered how long it would take for my van to sink. Was this suicidal ideation? I didn’t care. Still a faint voice in my head kept nagging at me, “If you change your mind, how will you get back to shore?”
So…just in case this dilemma presented itself again, I signed up for swimming lessons at the YMCA. I was so very deathly afraid of water so I reasoned that for at least 1 hour a week, my focus would go from ruminating about Mike to making sure I didn’t drown. It worked! I learned how to swim. The deep end, the shallow end – it didn’t matter. I could not reach the bottom of the pool at any depth. I was sure I would never float, but I was wrong. It took a while to turn from front to back and then back to front but eventually I got the hang of it. Swimming with one arm propelled me in a circle and it took some time to use force that matched the shorter arm so that I would go forward.
I began to look forward to my swimming lesson and the 1-hour break from the Mike heartache each week. Unfortunately, there were still many hours in the day.