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Pete Martin ¦ Transformational Journeys

Once Bitten Twice Shy

USA | Tuesday, 29 May 2018 | Views [229]

2014 04 03 Key West (3)

2014 04 03 Key West (3)

Coming to terms with divorce and remarriage in Key West


In Key West:

I stop the car somewhere on the Keys. I’m not quite at Key West yet. I’m apprehensive about getting to my destination. I thought it was a good idea to complete a full coast to coast from Seattle to Key West, from the north-west to the south-east, but Key West is where many years ago I got married. It’s weird to think I will be back here after such a sham of a marriage. Looking back, it seemed so easy to get hitched and yet it was so difficult to get out of it. The unwinding of the relationship, the abuse and lies, that games that were played have taken their toll. Why was all that necessary?

It’s 18 years since I was here. In that time, Key West has been damaged by many hurricanes, such as Wilma in 2005 for example, and the city has had to be rebuilt. This is a good metaphor, I think, for my journey too. I was completely flattened emotionally and financially and it’s taken some rebuilding. Maybe I’m a different person altogether now. Perhaps then I should be thankful for the enormous kick in the balls that life gave me. Whilst getting a gentler shove may have been easier to take, maybe a shake-up is what we all need. A very wise counsellor, rightly or wrongly, described my ex-wife as bi-polar and told me to treat such personalities just like hurricanes - find a piece of dry land or get as far away as possible to avoid the devastation. Will this visit exorcise some demons for me?

Standing outside the Courthouse, I do feel emotional. I wondered how I would feel, but it’s the elation of completing the coast to coast, from sea to shining sea, that makes me shiver. Two weeks from the Straits of Juan de Fuca - from Seattle - to the Southernmost Point - to Key West - makes me feel good indeed. I stand on a small pier and gaze out to the vast Atlantic Ocean. It really is amazing to have actually been on the Pacific Ocean only two weeks ago. Looking eastwards at the Atlantic, I appreciate the timelessness of the turbulent waters that I will cross in a couple of days’ time. The endless rhythm of the waves soothes my emotions.

Before sunset, I wander along Duval Street. I love this place. It’s not really my thing, but there is something about this town. It’s certainly not as full-on as Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I have a quiet beer in Capt. Tony's. An acoustic guitarist sings softly to the half full pub. The roof has dollar bills, bras and licence plates pinned to it, giving it a unique feel.

I wander further, to Mallory Square, for the daily sundown celebrations. I don't remember doing this last time I was here. (Why not?) Magicians and musicians gather as the sun begins its decent. There is a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere. Soon I find myself at the Sunset Bar. A band is playing. With perfect timing, a seat becomes available for me. The sun has left a dark red sky across the waterfront. The band is good, really laid back: The Happy Dogs. They choose the songs as they go and they get better and better as the set progresses: "Come Together", "Spanish Moon", "Exodus", "Miss You", "Cross-eyed and Painless" and "Iko Iko". It’s a wonderful evening.

I walk back, retracing my steps along Duval. I really do feel great. I pass one bar and listen to a punk guitarist destroy Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Tipsy women, old enough to know better, dance on the bar of Coyote Ugly. Yet nothing can affect my mood thanks to Key West and the Happy Dogs. I pick up a bottle of wine and, back in my hotel room, I pour just one glass and watch an episode of HBO’s “Blue Bloods” contentedly and alone. It seems I do not have to get wasted to get rid of the memories; perhaps it was my last visit here that was wasted. My journey is complete in many ways.


In Miami:

After my drive here from Key West, I had planned to see more of Miami but I have settled in my hotel room. I have a top floor suite and the views across the bay will suffice for today. After the temptations of New Orleans and Key West, I think I need the peace and tranquillity of my own company. Tomorrow I cruise across the Atlantic Ocean back to Europe with people.

I’m watching “Blue Bloods” again. It is standard police detective fare but I dig the way the storylines allow the Irish-Catholic family to do the right things and to do things right. I love the values the show portrays. They accord with mine. I wish everybody could live by these rules. (“Some may say I’m a dreamer but I’m sure I’m not the only one”). During one of the family dinner scenes, the challenging conversation ends with Danny Reagan commenting cynically that, in the compromise of marriage, it just seems that both parties are unhappy. I laugh out loud at this.

It makes me wonder. Marriage is such a peculiar concept to me now. I appreciate that other people have had bad marriages and bad divorces but mine has left scars so deep. For me, divorce was the most difficult, but yet, the best decision I have ever made in my life. I cannot compare the happiness I feel now to how I felt at the end of my marriage. The three years it took to get out caused me so much pain. In the end, I would have paid double what I did to be free.

Perhaps, it’s only now, with some distance, that I can guess at the reasons why my pain is so deep and so raw. Being used by my ex-wife was bad enough but being taken for a ride by my oldest daughter left scars that I do not think will ever heal. Maybe wounds that can never be unwound. I put everything into my marriage, even when it was over, and into being a father. I was there holding the reigns and keeping it together way beyond the call of duty. I did not do it for any kind of reward, but I certainly did not do it to be stabbed in the back so many times. So how can I believe in the sanctity of marriage anymore?

The problem is that I still I want to believe in marriage, but I have no evidence to say that it’s a good thing. I believed in it once and it let me down - big time. Almost half of all marriages end in divorce (over 40% in the US and the UK and in Sweden as high as 55%), so why is so difficult to get out of a marriage when it’s so easy get in? If divorce is so common, why are there so many exploiting it without recourse? I guess marriage is like religion, we all want to believe, but there is no damn evidence to show that it works.

Yet I’ve now found my perfect soul mate. Would it make my angel happy to get married? What is the right thing to do? Life has a habit of repeating itself and so is marriage the death of a fantastic relationship, does it signal the end? My relationship with my angel is wonderful, so why mess with it? Why follow rules made by others? Why not just put the effort into nurturing and growing and appreciating what we have instead of conforming. But I did like wearing a wedding ring and belonging to someone. My angel is the one for me. There are no doubts as there were the last time.

At my age, saying “my girlfriend” sounds stupid and, at its worst, sounds Mick Jagger-ish. When I say “my girlfriend”, it does not convey the love I have for my angel, but then, to be honest, neither does saying “my wife”. Is there a short version of “wonderful woman who has changed my life in so many ways and given me the strength and humbleness to get through so many life changing events, who I love so much and who makes me laugh and smile and enjoy my life” (or words to that effect)? It makes me think of Neil Peart’s self-effacing use of the ‘Guys at Work’ to refer to his bandmates in Rush.

These are all wonderings and musings for another day. I look at the skin that is peeling on my hands from the sunshine of Florida as I try to reconcile my thoughts of Key West and of marriage. There is a wonderful quote from the author Chuck Palahuik: “Your past is just a story and, once you realise this, it has no hold on you.”

Tags: divorce, key west, marriage, miami, transformation

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