A Champagne Toast

I had it in my whimsical mind that beautiful, spring morning in New York City that one should dress up for such occasions. I wore this midi length, violet hued short sleeve dress with a high-waist belt and, of course, heels. David was equally as put together as we jauntily waltzed into 141 Worth Street in lower Manhattan to obtain our marriage license. And that night, after work, we excitedly made our way to 230 5th – the rooftop bar where we’d claimed to have fallen in love almost two years prior – in our fancier than usual attire to celebrate this momentous day. With champagne in hand, my husband to be and I toasted to us, to the life we were already creating together against a stunning backdrop of fake palm trees and the Manhattan skyline, the mesmerizing sunset easily stealing the show with the iconic Empire State Building coming in at a close second.

It was there, on that very rooftop, two years prior that I had asked this person before me, “Where did you come from?” as if he was some never before seen or experienced alien life form from Mars and by the entanglement of butterflies in my stomach and the way I kept losing my breath every time our eyes met, I might have actually speculated such. The truth, however, was that I didn’t expect to fall head over heels for someone as quickly as I did and my verbalized question was more of a million thoughts – “How did this happen? Why is this happening? Oh my God – No and Yes” – all in those five little words. My question was a simpler way of interrogating the Universe’s plan and the soundness of my own decisions in a city that wasn’t even my home yet, in a city that had inexplicably claimed my beating heart for so many years. When David responded, “The same place as you,” all of those questions, speculations, concerns and trepidations flew off the side of that skyscraper, on to the trash-lined sidewalk of Fifth Avenue. My only available transportation left was a leap of faith.

Our official meeting in July of 2010 was a serendipitous account of unrelated, idealistic circumstances that by even the most starry-eyed, hopeless romantic’s standards would be deemed a fictional story. It was so uncanny that our friends and family members would ask to hear a retelling of the account, intently listening to each of our perspectives with such palpable attention, it had the ability to recreate those butterflies in my stomach. Even I had vowed one day to write the story as if it were a young adult novel with fictitious characters based heavily upon what David and I were toasting atop that rooftop in early June of 2012, just a month shy of our wedding date.

I certainly didn’t anticipate this fairy tale’s ending to be anything less than a happily ever after with potential room for a sequel. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and while that fairy tale ended quite some time ago, its official and legal ending arrived today in the form of a large manila envelope addressed to Lindsay Taylor (insert my married surname), which is no longer my surname as of May 18th, 2016. After a tumultuous, seemingly unending, almost three-year process, that marriage license, that David and I were celebrating when he snapped my picture in my violet dress in the evening’s glow of the setting sun, is no longer valid.

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After all of the countless Mondays through Saturdays that I’ve patiently walked to my mailbox, anticipating that very envelope I found there today, one would expect me to be relieved, overjoyed, even jumping with sheer delight! And while relief is certainly profoundly present and I was clearly excited, shaking with overdue expectation as I ripped open the envelope – sadness is also a glaringly prominent emotion. So is a sense of failure. I suppose in layman’s terms, one could deem the surreal and somewhat shocking day as bittersweet. It tastes like dark chocolate mixed with fresh blood, the kind of blood from all the metaphorical punches thrown, the figurative scratch and bite marks that we leave upon another’s life that can act as an open wound at any given moment. Today, my wounds were gouged wide open as the date May 18, 2016 was repeatedly stamped all over the paperwork in front of me and the stupid legal description, “dissolution of marriage,” in its stupid serif font recurred along every other line. Today, I was reminded of all of the reasons why I married this person who had come from the same place I had and all of the reasons why I no longer am.

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Choices, Change, History and Tomorrow

Today marks exactly two year years since I decided to end my marriage and I’ve been so preoccupied with the joy that it is my only surviving grandparents’ 85th birthday that I didn’t remember this other significant date until just now as I type this.

Many would look upon such a day with sorrow and possibly some regret but I look upon this day as one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself – a difficult one, no less. As I retrospect on our life together, I do not for one second intend to play a victim as that time has long passed. When I dig a little deeper, I realize that if it weren’t for this decision, I have no clue where I might be today – desperately unhappy is the only certainty. Although, I can’t imagine my life getting much darker than it already was with David, I am sure that it was possible which is the whole reason we make choices toward change, right?

Making decisions to change an aspect of our lives that we find mundane, boring, unfulfilling, whatever it may be is difficult! Change is terrifying but if we don’t take that step or those steps to change whatever it is that is not serving our soul then we will remain in a perpetual cycle of displeasure and that’s an understatement. We have no one to point fingers at except ourselves if we do not work toward changing the part or parts of our lives that are unsatisfactory.

This past Sunday, I had the extreme honor of witnessing a ninety-one-year-old holocaust survivor deliver an inspiring speech on his extraordinary life during a visit to Los Angeles’ Museum of Tolerance.

Mr. William Harvey wasn’t even the scheduled speaker for that time slot. He happened to be visiting the museum just to say hello when the scheduled speaker could not make it due to illness. His compassionate response when asked if he could fill in: “I couldn’t let the public down.” Again, I hear you Universe.

This is the type of person our youth should be idolizing. This man is hero material,” I thought to myself. At the young age of twenty-two, Mr. Harvey was liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp weighing a mere seventy-two pounds. His harrowing tale sincerely altered my perspective on life.

He spoke of his mother and how hard she worked raising six children, as the motivation behind his will not to give up during his imprisonment. In so many of his ideals, his values and his morals, I heard an echo of myself while gaining immense encouragement from his anecdotes of extreme struggle and heart wrenching survival.

This is a man with incredible experience, courage and tenacity – a man who was given a choice between remaining a victim or making something of the life that he fortunately still had unlike so many of his loved ones. He chooses to live in such a way that he looks forward to every single day that he awakens for it’s an opportunity to do something good in the world, to give back to someone else.

In no way am I comparing my struggles to his – I am simply drawing the valuable perspective that I gained. How could I possibly justify not manifesting the changes that I see necessary to fit my desires and accomplish my goals, to better my character and further my self-awareness? I left the museum that day wondering how any of us could justify remaining in a complacent state of being, of merely existing and not living! It’s as if we have forgotten history or perhaps, some of us are just turning a blind eye because we fear the change is far greater than any we could manifest alone. If only each of us could understand that true, necessary change begins with a single human being. I think the moment we all start waking up looking forward to each day with the knowledge and power to do something good is the moment that change will be enacted.

But what will that take?

Thank You, Mr. Harvey, for dedicating your time, your energy and for giving back to humanity and to your community. This world needs more individuals like you.

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Photo by David Miller; http://www.jewishjournal.com/survivor/article/survivor_william_harvey