If you have ever endured a loss—of a loved one, a relationship, your health—you have one: An Anniversary. You might even call it The Anniversary if you have a really big one. It is the unforgettable date etched into your brain that marks when you made the decision, got the news, knew it was over or received the diagnosis.
One of mine is today.
Thirty years ago, on June 1, 1985, I became an entrepreneur. I joined forces with someone I also had a romantic relationship with and we became, by every measure, very successful. I ultimately chronicled the painful decision for that relationship—and the business—to end in another post, but my thoughts today are not about the actual closing of Sayles Graphic Design. Today I am thinking more about how the process of closure—of letting go and moving on—is indeed, a process. And it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
My former life and business partner John and I have remained cool-but-cordial over the past five years since the business split. We are friendly and respectful but don’t go out of our way to see each other. That’s part of why what happened last night—on the eve of today’s Anniversary—was particularly hard. Here’s the story:
I was outside on my second floor deck reading a book. My Maine coon kitten, Lotus, was at my side. I decided that it was a good time to perform the final chore on my weekend list, so I went inside to clean the bathroom. I let Lotus stay out on the deck.
Then I heard it. The thud. The I-know-that-sound noise made by a cat leaping onto a spot on my rooftop that is humanly inaccessible, except by an extension ladder. I knew the sound because while we lived together, John had retrieved three previous felines from the same exact place. My heart dropped as I raced to the deck for a confirmation. Sure enough, there was Lotus, a good six feet from my grasp, and two stories above the concrete driveway.
So I called John, and I’ll admit that in the back of my head I was thinking about what I would do when he turned down my request to come over and help. But he didn’t turn me down. He was there in less than five minutes.
Lotus had never met John, and while the cat was not afraid, he was nonetheless aloof. When John got to the top of the ladder, Lotus was not convinced he wanted to join the descent. Long story short: John took Lotus’ carrier up to the rooftop ledge and left it there. It was then up to me to climb the ladder and corral the cat into the carrier, which I did. But my not-so-great upper body strength, combined with a lack of ladder confidence, meant John needed to re-ascend and actually bring Lotus down. He did it and I was—am—grateful, although not happy to feel indebted to an ex.
After John left and I had Lotus cleaned up (and scolded!), I sat down on the sofa and began to cry. As any Mom (cat or otherwise) knows, once the sheer adrenalin-fueled terror of the moment has passed, a wave of relief, tinged with every other emotion from anger to guilt sets in. And my emotional furnace was already stoked by the timing of the event and the fact that, the very day prior, I had cleaned out all the old photographs and records I had remaining from the now-closed business. So, honestly, the tears were about 15% because of the cat. The rest was the all other stuff.
My usual method of handling this sort of a situation would have been to suck it up and get back to work. Finish cleaning the bathroom. “Forget it, ignore it, get over it,” I’d likely have said to myself as recently as last year. Instead I honored The Anniversary and that important part of my life and my history. I let myself have a good cry and then I cleaned the bathroom. And then I took a long, lavender-infused soak. I stayed with it: the pain, the memories. I asked myself if I was romanticizing the past. And in that process, I realized that much of my anxiety from the experience was rooted in the past—and as a result I was missing the joy of the present.
By the end of the bath I had concluded that An Anniversary doesn’t have to mark a negative chapter or event in your life. It can also commemorate the beginning of something new: Something as simple as a new way of framing or experiencing emotions. Something you don’t have to wait a whole year to do again.
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