Sometimes email is not my friend. The subject line read, “Congratulations! Your divorce has been granted.” It was from my attorney informing me that the divorce decree had been approved by the courts. This is a formality, but marks the end of my marriage legally. Still in a state of shock, I called my mother first and then casually told some friends. They asked if I cried, but I didn’t cry. I started working frantically that day. Then, by night, had reverted to my teenage self, looking for a distraction in all the wrong places.
When I was in High School, my friends and I would often take trips to South Street on the weekend. The drive from the Poconos to Philly was about 2 hours, and it was always a perfect escape. The excitement of seeing the South Street sign draping over the busy street made me feel like I was in a movie. Armed with my Marlboro Menthol lights and doc marten’s, I felt like I had the perfect costume.
We would often stop at Jon’s Bar and Grill and see if we could get served a beer, which usually was never a problem. We would linger outside the bars and listen to the live music. There always had to be a stop at Harry’s Occult Shop in order to buy one thing that would freak out our parents. Looking back, I think the reason that I loved South Street was because I grew up in a sheltered but wonderful town. Going to the city gave me an education. I learned about music, food, art, and most importantly, people. It sparked my love for adventure and filled me with a sense of freedom.
After college, I hit the road for a year and traveled. When it was time to settle down, there was only one place that I wanted to live, and that was South Street. I made it my home for nearly 15 years, but it could never duplicate the feeling that it gave me at 16. Most of my favorite businesses have closed their doors. The energy had changed, and now the street has become darker. This is one of the reasons we moved to Mt. Airy.
One of the businesses I miss the most is La Fourno. They shut their doors on what I think was the same day my divorce became official. Years ago, we stumbled across La Fourno, looking for a place to get pizza. It was right on South Street and close to our apartment. The restaurant had old school Italian food, brick oven pizza, and reasonable prices, so we ate there often. One day, as we were dining, the manager surprised us and said they had a plaque made with our names. It would be put at the table we ate at most often. We had always recommended this restaurant to friends and family, but when a plaque is put up with your name, you become an evangelist. We took everyone there, our parents, grandparents, colleagues. Chances are if you knew us, then you probably ate at La Fourno.
In an effort to curb my desire to get into trouble, I put on my PJ’s and fired up Netflix. “You should have a box of tissues in every room of the house,” my sister said. We are a family of sneezers and cryers, so tissues are essential. Sitting there that night, I wish I had listened. I was watching Queer Eye and drinking copious amounts of wine. That is a notoriously lousy combination. The current episode was about a married couple struggling to repair their marriage and desperate to find the “spark” again.
What is that “spark” that we long for? At the beginning of a relationship, I can identify it. It’s a force within you, making you think irrational thoughts and making you do things you wouldn’t normally do. You want the person to be near you so you can feel their energy exploding with yours. The way they laugh, look at you, smile; it all seems so perfect. What no one tells you is that laugh you loved so much will one day sound like nails on a chalkboard, probably for just a short period of time, but you will have no idea why. In the beginning, though, everything is magic.
Then you get into a relationship, and the spark becomes a flame, or at least that’s the hope. Passion becomes more sweet, and excitement turns to commitment. It’s a beautiful cycle, and everyone should experience it. One day that flame may burn out, but it is so worth having the heat warm your existence.
Why do we look for the spark when we have the flame? In the movie, “Why did I get married?” there is a great scene where they talk about the 80/20 rule. They say that at any time, you have 80% of what you want in a relationship, but people often trade in that 80% for the 20%, and quickly realize they are missing the 80%. Don’t trade in your flame for a spark.
I would like to believe that a marriage could be repaired with a makeover, yoga, and some open communication as it was on Queer Eye. The reality is that not all marriages should be fixed. I’ve been known to say that my marriage failed, but I’m not sure if that is true. If, when married, you get to a point where you know it no longer works, is leaving the marriage really failing? Perhaps it is just another way of finding success in a difficult situation.
Sometimes though, I can’t help feeling like a failure at being alone. I’ve developed some irrational fears that can be paralyzing. My new one is the fear of choking. I frantically watch YouTube videos of how to give yourself the Heimlich. I blame Miranda from “Sex and the City” for this one. There was an episode where she choked on Chinese food and was struck with the realization that she had no one to help her. The other fear, of course, is finding a mouse. By the way, I still haven’t seen any, but there is a crazy cat that haunts my back door so maybe that has something to do with it.
I like being alone most of the time, however. It has been time for self-reflection and time to organize my thoughts. You know how, when you are driving and listening to the radio and you can’t find a good station, so you just let the scan function do its magic? I liken my brain to that. One thought bleeding into the next without consistency. This time by myself has given me the opportunity to get some clarity around my likes and dislikes. Quinoa is gross, but Pinot Noir is delicious. I love french macarons, but I don’t like chocolate cake. I would rather wear jeans than anything else. T-shirts are best for sleeping. I adore sexy shoes. It’s been enlightening.
I’ve also leaned on social media quite a bit. Most of this has been intentional. Often posting poetry or quotes, I find while browsing. This, by the way, I think is a sign of someone in distress or confusion. Next time you see your friend sharing inspirational messages regularly, reach out and ask them how they are doing. I’ve embraced my emo social media status. It has sparked some wonderful conversations mixed with the occasional offer for – let’s call them services – in which I have no interest. The conversations, though? I’ll take those all day. I’ve bonded with unexpected people and rekindled lost friendships. That has been a beautiful part of this process.
I tried a social media fast for five days. Just five days where I didn’t pick up my phone. I even deleted the apps. After about two days, I started to feel disconnected. I wanted to see what my nieces and nephews were doing and read about the exciting things people had going on in their lives, even if it was exaggerated for social media purposes. The truth is that I enjoy social media because I have learned to filter out the bad stuff. You are all amazing people, and I want to see the good, the bad, and the ugly life you live. Your children are adorable, your food pics are swoon-worthy, and your pets literally get me through the day.
I’m clearly an over-sharer in life and on-line, but I’ve come to terms with that as well. Life is a long and arduous journey, and I like it when you all go through it with me. This week I even ventured out in public. Over a lovely dinner of apps and cocktails, a friend and I shared our stories of heartbreak and our recent independence. I have a full social calendar this month, and I’m really looking forward to it. The clouds are parting, and slowly I’m becoming whole again.
I do miss that excitement and energy of being 16. The fearlessness of my younger self and the wisdom I have now are fighting for top billing. South Street and my marriage will never be the same, but the memories still bring me joy. Sometimes I feel like I will never again feel the fun I had when I was younger. It just seemed like every sense was heightened, and now I move with more caution and reason. This is the gift and the curse of growing up. One day, I’ll find a new “South Street,” but for now I’ll take this broken mature version of myself and have some regular fun.