Reparations / Reclamations

I met G for the first time on October 4, 2003. Our first date — arranged via as an early-afternoon coffee at a downtown cafe — ended 9½ hours later, when waitstaff at the nearby Thai restaurant we had relocated to, The Happy Smile, finally shooed us out the door.

Although he and I did not get married until the following December, we decided to use Oct 4, 2003 as the date engraved inside our wedding rings. This was our “true anniversary,” G and I agreed.

I sold that ring yesterday.

“Married in black / You will wish yourself back.”

[Quick tip for any would-be Not-Abused Spouses: if someone ever says to you, “I feel as though we’ve been married since the first day we met,” run away. Run as far and as fast as you can.

If any part of you thinks of saying, “Aww, I feel the exact same way!” — run instead straight to the nearest therapist’s office, plonk yourself down on their couch, and refuse to leave until they’ve helped you get the inside of your head thoroughly rebuilt.]

♦ ♦ ♦

Since October 4 was also the day before my birthday, G and I used to do one big, joint celebration each year.

Which is a polite way of saying: I made extravagant events out of our anniversary — flying us to Paris (or London or Vienna), springing for dinner at local 4-star restaurants the times we stayed in the country — and he sometimes wished me “happy birthday” on the correct day. In seven years, he never got me so much as a card.

The birthday omission might have been a power play, or he perhaps never did bother to learn which day it was. I know he would check the inscribed date on his wedding band and add one, anytime he needed to remember my DOB for completing some form or other.

His birthday I never forgot — and probably never will. It’s the same day as Hitler’s. 

♦ ♦ ♦

The first week of this month has become quite dense with associations for me.

There’s October 4 and 5, of course.

And October 1st. Two years ago — just after 7pm on Oct 1, 2013, to be precise — I jolted back to myself for the first time since mid-August. In the process of explaining to therapists about my “lost time,” or the random bouts of paralyzing anxiety and memory gaps I had endured throughout my adult life, usually lasting for periods of one to two months, I learned a new name for this experience: dissociation.

In going back through memory to uncover the first time I dissociated, I acquired another applicable word: trauma.

It astounds me today, recognizing that it has only been two short years — that it has already been two long years — since I began unravelling the snarled knots at the core of my mind. And just over one year since I began writing it out in earnest.

Then there’s October 7, which is. . . another story. For another day.

♦ ♦ ♦

Despite how eagerly I agreed with G during our marriage that most widely-celebrated occasions were rubbish, I really do love celebrating special days. Birthdays, anniversaries, memorable events. Even holidays, though I prefer to keep my own invented traditions. This is perhaps why my litany of early October dates stays so fresh in my mind.

That, and the fact that I have been systematically rewriting their significance. I want to own these dates again, all to myself. All with my own meanings.

I started with that October 1. A month later, almost to the day, I got a new ear piercing. As I said at the time, I felt “deep organic need to mark my body as my home” — and a frantic prayerful wish, as well. May my mind never again leave my body so alone and bereft. (A prayer now answered. I no longer lose time.)

Last year I began a new birthday tradition for October 5, which I am continuing with this year.

And now October 4 feels ripe for rewriting, as well. Which is why I sold my wedding ring yesterday — and tucked the cash into an envelope marked “my next tattoo.”

I will take my time planning what ink to get, though I have already begun collecting inspiration. Something that feels bright and exuberant, I think — with celebration dancing in every line.

And if you have any ideas? I’d love it if you’d share.

LIBRA = BALANCE: the tatt I got one week after leaving G.
LIBRA = BALANCE: the tatt I got one week after leaving G.

41 thoughts on “Reparations / Reclamations

  1. Happy Birthday! Way to reclaim yourself – what a powerful message this is. I look forward to seeing your tattoo – your inspiration board is fantastic (yes, I may have pinned some of those). I can relate to the bird/feathers/flowers themes. Be well today – do something to honor yourself. xoxo Eat some cake!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I haven’t been able to decide on just ONE cake I want to make…so I may end up baking and feeding my friends for much of the week!

      I suspect they’ll all be up to the challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’ll be white chocolate, you good with that? Specifically, two layers of orange-cardamom cake topped with a white chocolate ganache and candied pistachios.

          The second option is looking like lavender cake with a goat cheese-cream cheese frosting…


  2. I love the idea of reclaiming birthdays and anniversaries – and I especially love the idea of getting a tattoo. Definitely show us pics of whatever you decide to get. It takes me years to decide on tattoos so I am definitely of no help!


  3. It’s so important to reclaim our lives in whatever way we want/need. My dad died a few hours before my birthday, so in my family there was no way to celebrate me without dredging up his last, awful hours. I gave up, erased my birthday from the calendar, and made sure I was far from family when that day rolled around. It’s taken me a few years plant my flag back on Oct. 16. Party hard, fellow Libran!


    1. Hard partying wishes headed back your way!

      I am sorry for your loss — and for all the concomitant losses that your words hint at — and I am glad you are planting yourself again in a way that you can feel good about.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How good of you to reclaim your birthday and to take such a negative experience and turn it into a better one. Wishing you many happy birthdays to come.


  5. I look forward to seeing what you come up with. I have a few tattoos myself and am trying to think of the next tattoo, which I also want to be colorful. I’ve seen a few cool colorful mandala tattoos recently, but not sure since I’d be choosing it just based on how cool I think it is (rather than meaning).


    1. Ooh, there sure are some big colorful colorwheel tattoos out there, aren’t there? (As you can see, my attraction is based on a highly decontextualized “how COOL!” assessment as well.)

      I looked into a lot of variations on that visual imagery for a nape of the neck piece, before deciding on the very simple Libra symbol I have now. Don’t know about you, but I can sometimes (or, uh, always?) take YEARS of contemplating before I settle on a tattoo.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was 29 (two years ago), and it was my son’s name in Tengwar, the LOTR language. I now have 5 and an awfully impulsive about them! Being pregnant during that stretch did slow things down though 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I can feel the reclamation of not just the specific dates-which I just love-but also the potency of the journey you’ve been on the last few years. And I have to say, if I had been drinking anything at the time I’d read this line- “It’s the same day as Hitler’s.”- BAM. I might have spit it out. Point made, my friend.

    Look forward to celebrating your birthday with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never gotten a tat so I have no idea what you should get. I’d take the money and buy another piece of jewelry that has meaning to you– and only you. It’d be my way of saying: us, not so much; but me, forever.


  8. Here’s to the reclamation of dates! And figs. No, sorry. My mother died on January 6. It took me several years to realize that that happens to be Epiphany, which she used to regale us with stories of how she loved celebrating it with the French traditions growing up. We did none of that growing up, but we do now, with my kids – for grandma. My little reclamation. I struggle with other dates, too (Mother’s Day is a personal landmine for me).

    Finally, oooohhhh! I’ve been saving up for a tattoo myself! Hm, why? I guess I feel like I am walking around … in disguise in this world. And I want to proclaim more of me more loudly. So, here is to tatttoos that have far too long in the waiting. Their time has come!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HERE’S TO FIGS! I only recently discovered the joy that is figs. Figs all ways: fresh, dried, jammed and smeared on a pizza dough instead of sauce. Mmmmm…

      And also: HERE’S TO TATTOOS! I spent my 20s piercing my ears (which now look a bit like the binding of a spiral notebook, just a long row of little silver rings), before I moved on to tattoos in my 30s. I like to reeeeaally think through every tatt before i get it — sometimes for years! — which just extends the pleasure, in my book. And by the time I actually get each one, I am also absolutely absolute about how absolutely sure I am about absolutely wanting that design.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. There are some strange little cosmicidences (yes, I just made that up) going on. October 5 is my oldest son’s birthday. He will be 11 on Monday. So while we fete him with chocolate cake and buttercream icing, I shall send birthday greetings your way. April 20th is my wedding anniversary (long story, but rest assured, there is no Hitler association). And as soon as I read your statement of marking your body as your own, I wondered if you had any tattoos and was going to suggest it. Then you beat me to it with your next sentence. I have no ideas for you as I think tattoos are deeply personal, but no doubt you will find the right inspiration. I can however leave you with an older post of mine about tattoos, The title of that of course is from the Jeanette Winterson book, which in turn we used an excerpt from at our wedding, which was on April the 20th, which led the birth of our first son on October 5th ;-). Happy early birthday. I’ll save you a cupcake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Two things first:

      1) I have long considered Jeannette Winterson the primary of my Hearth Goddesses. [Or, yknow, she TOTALLY would be…if I only lived in the seclusion of an ancient Greek household, the wealthy kind with a firepit in the middle of the home and all the ladies gathered around it morning to night: baking bread, wielding our distaffs, doing other matronly occupations. Probably sudoku too. I’m sure it got dull.]

      2) This:

      Now, about that tattoo story: yes. So much yes. My own feminist rage didn’t get quite as well read as yours until much later [see above link re. that], but I understand that silent thrum. And the ragged edges of lifetimes of darkness? This blog has been my own clawed journey out [‘s why “decisions about next permanently-inked body mods” have been deferred until now]. I love your art, and I love the stories about your art! Thank you for sharing!!


      1. I need to go back and read Jeanette again. I saw her read her work once and it was humbling to me at the time and then somewhere between Gut Symmetries and Art & Lies, I stopped reading her. But I always come back to Written on the Body when I need to replenish my soul. I’ve since had another tattoo done, more sentimental, as my life seems to be getting. Love Always in my late father’s script, his signature from the pages of my wedding guestbook. It’s on the inside of my right wrist, where I can see it as a constant reminder–not just of him, but of what to value.


        1. My experience with her work has followed a similar trajectory, though the book I always come back to is The Passion. I am forever buying new copies because I keep giving mine away to friends. I recently learned that she has published a memoir about her childhood, a new telling of the experiences that she turned into Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Must track that down!

          What is it with aging into the sentimental? I don’t get that — and it’s happening to me too. I’m feeling more spiritual as well [in the “spiritual but not religious” sense, that’s become all the rage in responses on surveys of faith in the US], the longer I get in the tooth.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. Missed the reference the first time, thanks! (That’s one of those quotes I am always forgetting the provenance of, for some reason.)


  10. What sort of horrible joke is being perpetrated on those who miss the warning signs. Who or what speaks from on high, picking and choosing the intelligent, strong woman who must be blinded to the abuser, or the patriarchal misogynist, or the narcissistic jerk. No woman, no ONE, deserves to be shattered into a million pieces because they didn’t see, or somehow chose to believe and hope. I dance with you in spirit dear Alice, now- and when the next tattoo is emblazoned on your body.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. At this point, I could probably write a full dissertation about family conditioning, narcissists vs. sociopaths, and why exactly my ex felt like SUCH A GOOD THING in comparison to what I experienced growing up.

      I think I’ll spare us both that, though, and just say instead: here’s to much dancing and joy for you and for me, in our years yet to come!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. After coming off a really bad relationship many years ago, I pawned his gifted jewelry (all of which came with a huge price) for groceries and rent. For weeks, every time I thought about it, it made me laugh just a little bit. Hopefully, when you’ve got that next tat, you’ll find some humor in it as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe not from the tatt — but I can guarantee you I find humor in the Hitler’s birthday coincidence!

      I totally understand about the “huge price” of your gifted jewelry. I bought both our wedding rings myself, and the non-jewelry-related price I paid for them was far too high as well.


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