Lingchi: translated variously as the slow process, the lingering death, or slow slicing, and also known as death by a thousand cuts.

I’ve become immobile in so many ways. So many things that existed before my marriage now seem off-limits to me. Good memories, favorite movies and songs, treasured poems and experiences, all brutally transmogrified into painful triggers.

I remember going to Sunday breakfasts. I remember both of us wanting ice cream and sitting in the parking lot while the sunsets to enjoy them. I remember breakfast sandwiches through a drive through when they first opened up after the initial Covid quarantine. I remember long drives when taking a vacation or driving to her family’s house. I remember Christmas with her mother, father, and brother, of looking at Christmas lights, and opening gifts and laughing together. I remember feeling how her family filled in the gaps of my family. I remember thinking, after my father passed, that maybe her father could help fill that void. I remember going to the movies, of eating dinner and watching shows, of knowing she was in the other room if I decided to go to my office.

What haunts me the most is when I had her, and our two dogs Jackson and Ollie. That’s when I felt like I had a family unit, and I’ll always remember those as the best days. After Jackson was gone, things changed, and after Ollie, it was pretty much over. When it was the four of us though, I felt complete, and things felt correct. Now, things feel like a horrid mutation, like I stepped into an alternate reality where they exist only in dreams, in cursed memories tainted by the brutality of the nature of my marriage’s end, the writhing deaths of my dogs, the horrendous words from my ex as she cut me down for simply being grief-stricken.

If I drive near the area where I live, I feel the trigger. If I see a movie that we watched when scrolling through Netflix, when I think about ice cream, or breakfast on Sunday, of Christmas, of her expressions, of her leaving me so easily, of her speaking so badly of me for no reason other than to justify her horrible actions. Triggers everywhere. Every day I think of these things, regardless of my therapy, and the practices I try so desperately to employ. The breathing, bringing my mind to “the now”, of focusing on projects and distractions. Nothing has worked to prevent me from returning from those pitfalls of despair and confusion and hurt. For 16 years I was in that relationship, and though ultimately I know it was best that we separated, I’m still fully institutionalized within the constructs of its comforts, warped as they may have been. My present, however, offers no such comforts. I’m isolated, I’m scared, and I’m desperately lonely. When I have a good day, something sets me back: I see something that we both loved, I visit a place where we’d been together, I think about going to a movie alone and missing her next to me, it never ends. How I can be so attached to things relating to someone who treated me so poorly is simply beyond my ability to understand. Let’s call it Stockholm’s syndrome, though even that fails to capture the complexity of where I am now with my feelings, of what’s left over.

Only time will heal, I know. And I know that to be true, but time is a glacial, cosmic thing which I can only imagine sees time measured in the billions of years. Here for us humans, a day is less than a spec of sand on a vast ocean’s beach when it comes to time. The trauma will scar over, become more distant, and one day far into the future, I’ll look back and feel perplexed as to how I could have felt such hurt. But time, well, takes its time. I can only hope to survive its schedule. Though then again, I suppose none of us ever will.

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