When I last left you, I had just experienced the first openly awkward encounter with one of the family members.
It was in the previously mentioned sea of bubbles that I was blindsided. I was expecting things to be (the closest to) normal with this person…but I was wrong. And it didn’t get better…we had another, and equally awkward, run-in at the reception.
At first I was a little miffed about the weirdness, but after some thought, I realized that it had to be equally as uncomfortable for this group to see me as it was for me to see them… I mean, I was supposed to be a part of the family and then I just… wasn’t…and even worse, I went off and married someone else! So… yeah, it was a weird situation.
Ben and I quickly moved on to a different part of the group and--after a flub-up on a relative’s name and a sideways glance after telling her that Ben was my husband– had a really nice chat with other people I knew. It was while standing in this group that I almost had a heart attack (numero uno).
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar face walking toward us.
“No. No. No. There is NO WAY that he’d come over here. NO WAY! Just… NO,” I thought.
But, he kept coming. Closer and closer. Everything slowed down to the point that I was a living instant replay….
“Nooo-oooo-oooo Waaa-aaaaay,” I screamed inwardly!
And then, standing right in front of me was the ex.
If the ground could have opened up and swallowed me whole, I wouldn’t have minded. As it was, I am pretty sure that my face changed three different colors and my legs almost gave out.
This had to be a joke, or a mirage? Something.
And yet, there he was. Still standing there.
It was the first time that we had seen each other since the day I left Virginia, just over two years ago. Except, this time, I was looking at a stranger.
“Hi! How’s it going?!” He asked, as if we were best friends.
After a pause to collect my thoughts and concentrate on my face not turning purple, I replied, “I’m doing very well, how are you?”
Now, I said in my previous post that I was more worried about seeing the family of the ex than the ex, himself. As I mentioned, we aren’t on bad terms but we also are not friends. We just… aren’t on any terms.
Needless to say, I hadn’t planned on him coming up and acting buddy-buddy. I figured he would do what any reasonable adult would do; ignore my existence unless we ran into each other getting a drink and then politely nod, exchange the obligatory, “nice to see you,” then go back to ignoring me. That’s what a normal person would do. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s what I had planned on doing.
I should have remembered that nothing I ever plan on actually happens… usually the exact opposite happens.
Instead of moving away from the group I was with, the ex continued to stand there and pry conversation out of me as I skillfully hid the fact that I was having a minor stroke.
I can’t imagine what was going through Ben’s head as he watched his wife, face changing colors, sweating and legs shaking, and her ex-fiance, standing there with a manic smile and equally red face, trying to make small talk. That Farmer Ben is a keeper. If he was nervous, he didn’t show it.
I eventually re-introduced the ex to Ben, proving that I am, in fact, the universal queen of all awkward situations on the planet. Let’s just say, it could have been a lot less weird, but I took care of it.
About 15 seconds after this awful re-introduction I saw another familiar face striding toward me.
“JAY!” I screamed as I practically jumped into his arms. I had never been happier to see my old roommate than I was at that exact second.
After a few more painful minutes, Ben and I headed back toward my car and started driving toward the reception site.
We decided that we both needed a beer.
I had been told by the ex that the reception site-the eagle’s club- had a giant eagle statue in front of it. I realized this was true after I sped past it. Of course I had someone following me, so I was pretty embarrassed when I had to slam on my brakes and pull into the next driveway to turn around. Oops. My bad.
Jay and his girlfriend, Ben and myself and another couple found a table in the middle of the reception hall. This seemed to be the safest place…at least that is what I had planned on, anyway.
We sat and chatted for a few minutes and watched as the rest of the wedding crowd trickled into the room.
The family and wedding party started to find their way into the building.
My heart sank as I watched something happen and knew there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Cue slow motion.
“Nooooo…No….Nooooo… No-ooooo Waaa-aaaay,” my inner warped voice screamed.
It was happening again. As I watched in horror, the ex and his date entered, he made eye contact, glanced hurriedly around the room (or in my mind, slowly around the room) and then made a beeline for a table. But not just any table. The exact table that Ben and I were sitting at.
The two sat down and everyone else at the table collectively stopped talking, exchanged looks of horror and then stared down at their laps. No one knew what to do.
I am pretty sure my face went from its normal pinkish-pale to bright red to paper white and my stomach went from its usual place, down to my butt, up to my throat and back. Twice.
Ben, noting my face color, asked “Are you okay?”
I heard the ex mutter to Jay, “I figured I would dispel some of the awkward-ness now. You know?”
I almost jumped on the table and yelled “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! How is this NOT AWKWARD?!” But I remembered that it wasn’t my day and that I was in a crowded room, so I didn’t. Instead I sat there, exchanged a dumbfounded look with a friend of mine and then got up to get a beer.
After that, the night was pretty calm. There were a few more awkward interactions and I somehow ended up having a really nice conversation with the ex’s date (she was a pretty cool lady, props! ). Go figure.
Ben and I enjoyed a few dances together and Jay, our friend Danielle, and I reminisced about our time in DC.
Everyone at the table enjoyed people watching and the awe that comes with being in such a rural town. I really loved seeing Laura and Ted enjoy their first few hours of wedded bliss. So much happiness.
As much as I hate to say it, I give the ex props for being the bigger adult in this situation… not saying that I would have been rude to him, but I probably would have handled the situation a little differently if the roles were reversed.
In short, I got through the night. Ben got through the night. We did it together. I couldn’t have asked for a better date…or a better husband for that matter.
Upon leaving, I sighed with relief. I knew that I had survived the collision of my past and present. I smiled to myself as I realized once again that I am truly blessed. Every ridiculous crazy things has happened for a reason, even if I have no idea what it is at the time.
We got in the car and drove back toward my sister’s house. The night was over. And I was leaving with my person. Thank God.
A Note from Noelle: I’ve actually had this post written for a couple of weeks now but I’ve been stewing as to whether or not I should post it… In the spirit of being overly honest, here you are!
A few weekends ago my past and present collided. Literally.
As I drove down and across New York State , my hands shook, my hair stood on end and I was sweating. A lot. It was hot, cold and everything in between. I think I put on and took off my hoodie about 37 times during the five-hour trip.
The only thing that kept me driving down the highway at slightly over the speed limit was Ben, offering an affectionate squeeze of my hand or an encouraging smile every few exits.
When we got off highway and made the turn toward my sister’s house, I knew there was no turning back… unless I suddenly came down with a nasty stomach bug… or my car broke down… or something, anything else.
As I tried on the first of the two dresses I brought, Ben smiled at me and my sister told me to wear it. I was fretting about wearing the right thing and not being too dressed up or down. My stomach was doing backflips and I was wondering if it would be too late to quietly back out.
Ben and I had a quick lunch together, consisting of a giant burger and french fries, then we rushed back to my sister’s house to get ready. Time was passing too quickly and before I knew it, I was hurrying Ben out the door and into the car.
I turned back on to the highway and headed west. As I drove, I wondered what I was thinking when I had RSVP’d yes.
It was a trip I’ve made several times but this time it was different. I was with my husband, who’d never traveled this road before and had no idea what to expect.
I was going to place I hadn’t expected to return to, and especially not under these circumstances. I was seeing people I’d never thought I’d see again… at least not on purpose.
We were quite literally traveling straight into my past life. The town where I grew up, with people I used to know, in a time where I didn’t even know who Ben was. As we got off the exit, we passed familiar fields and houses. I had forgotten how long it took to get into town and as we drove, Ben was surprised at how rural it was. The landscape had a few changes, but for the most part, all was the same.
We drove slowly down the street to the address mentioned on the invitation. Of course, I drove by it the first time. As we circled the block, we took in the sights of a small town that hadn’t changed in years.
I parked the car and realized that my hands were shaking, and I am pretty sure my legs were, too. As I opened the door, I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, knowing that I needed to jump off.
Again I wondered, “is it too late to just get back in the car and drive away?”
I looked over at Ben, who simply took my hand, and smiled as we walked toward the church. I’m still amazed about how cool and collected he was compared to me… if the roles were reversed, I wouldn’t have been able to speak, let alone keep encouraging him.
We climbed up the steps and hung a right into the sanctuary. My plan had been to sneak into the back of the church unnoticed, but I had forgotten where we were. Needless to say, it was a small enough church that no one walked in undetected. As I chose a pew in the back, I looked up and saw my ex’s father standing in front of me. Along with an uncle, aunt and some cousins.
At this point, my legs were shaking so badly that I am not quite sure how I made it down the row and returned their “hello’s,” but somehow I did and I introduced them to Ben. My husband. I felt like my stomach was going to leap out of my throat and my hands continued to shake as we finally sat down.
Another Aunt sat down behind us and, realizing it was me, continued to make small talk for the next few minutes. I was cursing my need to arrive at big social events early.
Luckily, another familiar face sat down behind us and I was able to switch conversations. An uncle smiled at me from across the room and mouthed a “nice to see you.”
Perhaps I should explain myself, before you think I’ve completely lost my mind.
My ex’s sister and I are still close. She even attended our wedding. And to be perfectly frank, I was fine with seeing the ex. We aren’t on “good” terms per say but we aren’t on bad terms either…we just…aren’t on any sort of terms. So I knew that we wouldn’t be having any in-depth conversations. I doubted that we would even speak.
I was, however, absolutely positively terrified of seeing the family.
I was not in a good place three years ago when we broke up. I was extremely scared and insecure. Completely uncomfortable in my own skin. I haven’t seen the family since the day the ex and I parted ways and I was unsure what to expect this time. Especially because I would be bringing a date (my husband-who isn’t their son/nephew/cousin) with me.
I’m a very different person than I was back then and my life has changed in so many ways, it’s difficult for me to connect to my old self and seeing this family was going to force me to do so.
They are wonderful people, but I am sure they thought it was a little odd that I was going to the wedding. Most people would have just sent a nice gift. If they did think it was odd, they didn’t let on. All of them were wonderful, and-with the exception of a few sideways glances-everyone exchanged pleasantries and small talk.
I have to admit, I definitely made this a bigger deal than it actually was, but when you go from having people very much a part of your life to… not a part of your life, what can you expect? I had no idea. Neither did Ben.
The ceremony was short and sweet and I have never seen Laura look more beautiful than she did in those moments.
After the ceremony ended, the crowd made their way outside to enclose the bride and groom in a sea of bubbles.
It was in this mass exit that I had the first-and most unexpected-awkward exchange of the evening. I’m going to chalk it up to having too much going on and not being sure how to react in the bubbles, the people and the activity. There was one more sideways glance, but again, it was done with grace and barely detected.
And now…for a short break. Click here for Part Two.
When I left you earlier today (click here for part 1), I had just finished telling you about the grocery store incident. Eek. I apologize to everyone for that behavior. So unladylike.
To backtrack, it’s really hard to go from seeing someone everyday, calling them, having them know exactly what you’re thinking and feeling to having them completely cut out of your life. It’s like …death.
But sometimes it takes something really awful to realize how strong you are…and to find out that you need to make a change.
The weeks following the breakup, I was forced to face some cold hard truths.I had been so focused on him that I had forgotten who I was, what I wanted to do, and how to be happy…I had forgotten how to live on my own. I started a journal. I started making goals. And I started doing things that made me happy. I started going to church again, writing again, exploring the city again, and getting my life back on track. I am extremely thankful for the people who stuck by me and helped me through this time.
It was in November, that I finally started realizing I could be happy without the ex…that I could be happy alone. I was realizing that it wasn’t my fault, and though I still struggled with it, I knew that it was meant to be. And it was best for both of us…this was of course, after the scene in the grocery store.
I made the drive home for Thanksgiving shortly after. It was bitter-sweet. I hadn’t been home in a quite some time and I was nervous. I didn’t want people to ask questions. I didn’t want to deal with their surprised faces and their feeling sorry for me. I didn’t want to face my mother. I had waited a lot longer than I should have to tell my family about the breakup. I wasn’t ready to deal with it and I wasn’t ready to deal with their questions. My mother was one of the last people to know- She had found out from someone else and well…she wasn’t happy about it. We had gotten in a big fight about it and hadn’t really talked since, other than me telling her that I would be home.
I was happy to be home, to see my friends and be with family. My mom and I patched things up but she still pressed me for details, which I wasn’t ready to give. It was after a conversation like this, that I drove to a friend’s house to visit with her family and catch up with her on the latest gossip at home. I was still seething.
It was a day or two after Thanksgiving. My friend Ben stopped over to the Johnson House shortly after I did. I hadn’t seen Ben in a long time, we’d kind of lost touch while we were both away at school and …life. He was back in Plattsburgh. I hadn’t wanted to deal with questions, and I think he sensed that, but he listened while I talked to Vanessa and …let’s just say it was pretty obvious how angry I was. Poor Ben, he probably didn’t know what to think. I appeared to have lost my mind!
I left shortly after he had arrived and felt bad for my behavior. So I texted him, basically saying that I was sorry for how I acted and for running out, but it wasn’t a good time. He texted me back saying that “it was okay.” And if I ever needed to talk that I could call him. He’d been through a bad breakup too. And that was all he said, nothing more. He didn’t press me for details. He just left it at that.
I didn’t know what to think at that time, but I knew that I felt so much more at ease around him than other people. We both had damage. We didn’t need to talk about it, but it was also okay if we wanted to. That struck a chord with me.
A few weeks later I called Ben on his birthday. Shortly after, we started talking. Every single day. In January we went out on our first date…and became “exclusive” shortly after. In May, I moved back to Plattsburgh. The following March, we got engaged and we were married in August. And it never would have happened if I hadn’t been dumped two years prior.
So to The Ex, we had some good times and you taught me a lot, but it wasn’t meant to be. Thank you for being a part of my life for so long and thank you so much for breaking up with me. I am eternally grateful. No hard feelings, I wish you all the best.
It’s so funny to look back on how much my life has changed. 2 years ago, I never would have thought that I would be back home…much less married! But here we are today; I am married to an amazing man who understands me, accepts me and loves me each and every day. I am so thankful for this. I am also extremely thankful for the times of self-reflection, change and not knowing what will happen next. I am thankful for friends (old and new) and family who stuck by me and helped me through, whether it was a good time or a not-so-good time. And Ben, thank you so much for not writing me off as a crazy, woman scorned two years ago.
Like I said, no regrets.