Memory Triggers

Memory Triggers

Memories can be triggered anytime and by anything ….. a song, a date, an event. Sometimes you anticipate when a memory might be triggered and sometimes it can totally take you by surprise.

A couple weekends ago, I surprised my daughter by telling her about an upcoming birthday gift from her dad and I, a trip to NYC and tickets to see Serena and Venus Williams play tennis at Madison Square Garden. It’s something she’s been hinting about for weeks and she was very excited. The interesting part is, after I told her about the trip, I went to run errands with my younger daughter and in the car, tears came to my eyes and memories started flooding back about the last time we saw the Williams sisters play.

It was years ago in Cincinnati; the whole family had gone to a tennis tournament there. During the trip, there was an incident with my then husband that started me questioning what I was doing with my life and marriage. A week later, my older daughter and I went back to Cincinnati after her coach gave her a ticket to watch Serena Williams play in the semifinals. I normally didn’t like to travel alone, but I felt the need to take her instead of him taking her. Looking back, this was about a week or two before we decided to separate. The analytical side of me believes that the reason I fought to take her was because I needed to prove to myself that I could do it on my own; it was the encouragement I needed for what was to come in the near future.

For years before that, my husband would have discussions with me every couple of years about wanting to leave and “take a break” (Ross and Rachel, anyone?), but I always convinced him to stay and work through our issues. After the Cincinnati trip, he was away for a week on business and I started thinking about things differently. I used to be scared and nervous when he was away on business, but this time felt different. I was different. Instead of feeling fear, I started thinking about what it would be like to be on my own and feeling more confident in my abilities. When he came home from his trip, the same old discussion reared its ugly head again. But, this time, he was surprised by my response. If that’s what he wanted to do, then that’s what he needed to do. There was no convincing him to stay; I had had enough. I was 40 years old and I couldn’t keep having the same conversation all the time, with the same outcome.

About a month after this conversation, he moved out. The intention was that we would take a break and work on things, then he would come back. I think we both knew deep down even before he left, that this was most likely the end.

Everyone’s situation is different and what’s right for one person may not be right for another. In my case, although I never would have made the decision to divorce, I can say that it has changed my life for the better. It took me a long time to get to that way of thinking; maybe I stayed longer than I should have, but, for me, I needed to know that I had tried everything and my biggest concern was how it would impact my girls. It’s definitely not easy, but I feel more alive and confident than I have in years. To clarify, I am not one to take marriage lightly; divorce was not even in my vocabulary, but I do believe that both people have to be invested in making it work or it doesn’t have a chance.

I was shocked that this exciting surprise for my daughter brought up a wealth of negative memories from my past. Now, I have the opportunity to change that from a negative memory to something positive and exciting – a whole weekend experiencing NYC with my daughter for the first time.

As I said before, memories can come from anywhere. Like the song that my Zumba instructor sings sometimes at the end of the class during our cool-down that makes me cry every single time (maybe a little less now than before. Or the date that my dad died. Or the Super Bowl Sunday episode of “This is Us”. Or the date of my wedding anniversary. Or the date of my divorce.

It does get easier as time passes, but it continues to surprise me that even years later, the triggers, memories and emotions still keep appearing. I have to remind myself – it’s ok to feel whatever it is I’m feeling, as long as I don’t let myself wallow in it for too long. As I look back, the memories also help to remind me how much I’ve grown …. I can see the lessons that I’ve learned from my experiences, which can be hard to understand when you’re in the thick of things.




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