I read a book this summer called “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty. It’s about a woman, Alice, who hits her head and wakes up with ten years of her memory gone. In the present, she’s 39 years old, has three children, and is in the middle of a nasty divorce. She’s also a control freak, exercise and coffee obsessed, uber-busy with her kids, their schools, and their activities, and generally unhappy. When she wakes up, she thinks she’s 29 years old, a time when she was an easy-going, tea drinking, happy woman, newly pregnant with her first child, and blissfully in love with her husband. While she waits for her memory to return, she examines the circus her life has become and tries to put the pieces of her marriage back together with the perspective of her 29-year-old self.
The book was paperback and pink, and I thought it was going to be an easy, summery, perhaps forgettable, “chick-lit” kind of a read. On the contrary, it rocked the ground on which I stood. It put me deep in thought about how my 26-year-old self would deal with stay-at-home motherhood, the chaos and insanity of parenting, a husband who works long hours, the fear and loathing of colonoscopies and varicose veins, and everything else that goes along with marriage, motherhood, and aging.
Whereas 39-year-old Alice was mired down in the muck of the small stuff, 29-year-old Alice was far better at seeing the forest from the trees, especially with her children. Since finishing the book, I’ve tried (tried is the key word) to keep this forest from the trees concept in mind as I navigate the challenges of parenthood each day without the fresh perspective of my younger self. (My 26-year-old self is currently unavailable. She’s probably at Bumble & Bumble in New York City getting a haircut she can’t afford.)
I won’t spoil the ending of the book about what ultimately happens with Alice’s marriage, but I’ll tell you this: it sure made me think about mine. Tomorrow is my tenth wedding anniversary. I’ve been married for ten years. How, in the course of these years filled with so much Life, have we not unraveled?
Of course, I’m flooded with gorgeous memories – first kisses, proposals, new jobs, births, and more – but I’m also reminded of the experiences that tested us – the circumstances that exposed our compatibility at the deepest level because the only other option would have been to come undone. Today, parenthood seems to pull us in every direction except toward each other, but we’re getting through it with the lesson we’ve learned throughout all of our time together – that nothing can disentangle us unless we let it.
Forgetting helped Alice put the pieces her life back together. As enticing as it would be to let go of all hard bits and live in the present through the eyes of my younger (and less wrinkled) self, I’ll stick with the memories because some of them are totally, completely, and deliciously unforgettable.
(This is a picture of a picture. Come on over and I’ll show you the whole album.)
Happy anniversary eve, MT.
p.s. Read this book!