have always loved love, and felt just a little undeserving of it. So I gave it out, like cheap candy, to friends, to an out-of-reach father, and to any man who was interested in me. I would fall gracelessly, heavily into the arms of charming Peter Pans who clearly needed me, my worldly opinions, and my never-failing support. I paid checks. I booked weekends away. I bought them classic cashmere navy blue sweaters. Then they’d get competitive, or bored, and I’d get obsessed; and then it would end.
Don’t worry, I’ve been in therapy for four years to dissect and disconnect the patterns of my life, romantic or otherwise. In fact, two and a half years ago, at thirty-six years old, I was single again, my career was on an upward swing, and I felt more confident than ever. I was actually being choosy about where I would plant my love flag next.
And then I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. The “best cancer you can get,” I was told. That nugget of medical insight didn’t manage to delete the word MALIGNANT from the top of my medical chart, but it was slightly reassuring. Nevertheless, all designs on a normal (air quotes) life came to a screeching halt. You could call it setback, of sorts.
After a successful hysterectomy (they even left me with one and a half ovaries), and a final diagnosis of Stage 1A Endometrial Cancer, I was free to live my life as I used to—except with quarterly ultrasounds and a wavy existence between low level and intense anxiety. Oh, and I wouldn’t be able to give birth to my own babies, ever.
Three weeks after my surgery, when I was feeling nearly one hundred percent thanks to amazing new laparoscopic techniques, my girlfriends took me out on the town. Or, really, to a few local bars just to get me out of the house. This may sound like an exaggeration, but I was suddenly attracting men like bees to honey. I was having a blast flirting and wearing my “normal life” mask. A few drinks in, I started bonding with one guy and decided it was totally appropriate to take my mask off and tell him the truth about my abnormal self: “I just had surgery for cancer and I can’t have children and I was probably too old to have children anyway.” I call that sexy talk. He drifted away pretty quickly. Good riddance—clearly he wasn’t mature enough to handle my horrible life story. We moved on to the next bar.
At bar number three—our final bar, it turned out—I rushed in, very high on booze and male-attention-getting-adrenalin, to get us some seats up front, as close to the karaoke stage as possible. I love to sing karaoke, even sober, so this seemed like the logical job for me to handle. My girlfriends took on getting us all some more drinks that we didn’t need. That’s when I met him. The man I would date for two years and then dump one month before our wedding. I’m now six months past the decision, and I’m still unpacking all the decisions and non-decisions that led me here. The logical bits are as follows:
- He was an alcoholic and we were in a slowly (but assuredly) accelerating cycle of emotional destruction, ultimatums and forgiveness, and it got worse as we got closer to the wedding date.
- He and I were not well matched in terms of interests or background, and as the alcohol cycles unraveled our life together I found myself more and more bored during the calm times in between.
Why was I with him in the first place?
- He was a super handsome, almost always kind (even when wildly out-of-control drunk), Midwestern man with a huge smile that radiated contentment, simplicity, and enthusiasm for life.
- I was scared of dying without ever getting married.
My fear of dying hasn’t gone away. My fear of dying without ever getting married hasn’t gone away either. I have new fears—that no one will want to marry me now that I can’t have children or am getting too old to. I know I’m not unique in this. I did make the correct decision to cancel my wedding, and I spend most days being grateful for dodging a bullet. But, I’m still angry at myself for wasting those two years clinging to the wrong partner, planning a wedding that would never come to be (God, it was going to be an awesome small wedding). I’m pretty good at creating and sustaining imaginary worlds, apparently.
How I’ll get fully past these last two and a half years of big life changes is beyond me (I forgot to mention I also lost a job about three months after getting back to work after my cancer surgery). Maybe I never will, but for now I’m focusing on staying cancer free and spending all my seemingly boundless creative energy imagining ways to enrich my single life with more singing, writing, and traveling. I’m also considering throwing myself a killer fortieth birthday party at the original wedding venue. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Photo by Corey Torpie (APW Sponsor)