Last Saturday I took a long train ride through the valley. It was August 10, the same date my favorite author, Virginia Woolf, had married her husband Leonard so many years ago. As the wheels turned over the tracks, I imagined Virginia's wedding, and the years she had spent with Leonard. I also thought of my own wedding day, and all the time that has passed between then and now. Time is very much like a train lurching forward, without brakes to slow it down. And time changes everything.
In 1912, the year she wed, Virginia had taken a train from her home in the countryside to London, and I had taken one bound for New York the year of my wedding. I wonder if she had also sat staring out a window at green hills rushing past, contemplating married life. When I was a newlywed, much like her I assumed I would be married until death should due us part. I bought heavy furniture made of Oak, and filled a kitchen drawer with silver. I hung a photograph on the wall from our honeymoon in Tuscany that said love always on the back. We had taken a train back home together that June, my husband and I, through verdant hills that seemed to go on without end, and I closed my eyes and wished that we would stay in that moment forever.
But the wheels of time kept rolling forward, and I opened my eyes again only to discover our train had derailed from its tracks. We were forced to disembark, and look for a new ride at a foreign station. One of us let go of the other's hand, and in the chaos, we lost sight of each other. I guess we didn't pay close enough attention. He must have looked at one map, and I at another. So we each set out on a different path. That is what divorce does - it sends you out on separate paths, and no matter how long and hard you search, you will never find a train home again.
Travelling Alone With No Direction
Eight years after my wedding, I am alone. This isn't the outcome I expected, and this journey is not the one I mapped out for myself as a young bride years ago. As a young woman of twenty-seven, I had envisioned more than silverware and a wedding album. I had hoped for a life-long partner, a family tree deeply rooted, and a myriad of memories we hadn’t even begun to make. I foresaw a life of adventure with him, and a house we would dream up together and fill with photographs that I would look at as an old lady in my chair, smiling. The photographs would fade, but not the love in the eyes of the person I always imagined would be by my side, on any voyage, even into eternity. But somewhere along the way, everything went wrong. And everything feels wrong.
It's as though I have boarded the wrong train, and realizing it too late, all I can do is watch from behind the window as life reels by. In the distance I can make out the figure of a man waving, warning me of my mistake. He calls out, but I can't hear what he's saying from inside the car. No one else has boarded with me, and I take my place alone. My burdensome baggage fills the remaining seats around me. I have no idea where I'm going.
Arriving Where You’re Meant to Be
You can buy a ticket to your chosen destination, but there is no guarantee the train will take you there. Like everything in life, the outcome of your choices is part will, and part chance. There is a chance that you will arrive in a place far from home, where you had no intention of going when you began your journey. I certainly never expected to end up in a divorce, or be single in my thirties. I never thought I would have to hurt this much, or regret this much. None of this was what I had in mind when I bought my ticket. But I am on this train now, and there is no way to stop it, just as there is no way to stop time. There is no metaphorical train home, just many rail lines, zig-zagging all over the place. None of them go in reverse, or turn around. They just keep going. The most I can hope for is to enjoy the many stops along the way, and hope that when the ride is over, I'll arrive where I'm meant to be.
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