Take what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.

-Paulo Coelho

 I was recently having coffee with the lovely Naina, who is now 3 months single after a 3 year relationship. Men behaving badly! Sigh.  We were discussing (okay laughing) about different ways to handle anger management and bad break ups! (Are there many good break ups?). It make me think of some of the things I had done as therapy when my ex, The Taurus, left the marriage over three years ago. Hey, what ever gets you through I say!  Naina has taken up running and joined a running group. She thinks she’s becoming slightly obsessive about it…I think it’s probably a healthy outlet and running releases endorphins. I started power walking when the Taurus left and that’s a habit that continues to this day.

Now, I’m not one to hatch vengeful plans nor to hold grudges. It’s simply not in my nature but friends still laugh about the “Wine Collection therapy” as this has become affectionately called.

When I suddenly found myself alone and single after almost 2 decades, a lot of things changed. Some changes were bloody difficult and some were actually therapeutic and life changing. Change as we all know is inevitable, but it can be catastrophic or affirming depending on our ability to deal with it. We can fight against it, which to some degree is a base instinct, or we can place our faith in the universe and ourselves and try and ride the waves, knowing we will eventually find our way back to the shore.

One of the things that I was burdened with at the time was packing up the Taurus’s things when we sold the family home. He kept saying he would come and do it, but he simply didn’t and I needed to sort things out, de-clutter and get the house ready to sell. So, I embarked on the painful job of carefully packing my ex-partners things into clearly marked boxes. It felt savage against my soul. Was it not difficult and painful enough that he’d left me? Could he not comprehend that leaving me to pack his things was cruel and unusual. I’m not sure if you can imagine it, but here I was packing things for him that I had bought for him over our time together. It was gut wrenching.

I remember sitting on the floor packing up his books. There were many of them and I placed them carefully into sturdy boxes, stopping occasionally to flick through the pages and look at the covers of those books that had stared back at me from our shared book case for many years. I’d read many of them and they felt like old friends. My grief was so intense. My marriage had died and I was packing away the remnants of the shared time together. As I was taping up the box and labelling it with permanent marker, I noticed the wine collection in the corner.

The Taurus collected wine over the years. A lot of the bottles of red and expensive bottles of champagne, most had been gifts from friends and family. He rarely drank them, keeping them I suppose for a special occasion that he would deem worthy of their calibre. I eyed them curiously, those bottles that I had dusted religiously over many years, and decided that I would leave them until the house sold. 

Of course when the house did sell, I dutifully packed up the entire house.  What choice did I have – and although I tried to engage him in conversation about how we would fairly divide our possessions, in the end the decisions were left to me. In one more blow, I realised that the Taurus didn’t seem to care about anything from our time together. He seemed devoid of sentimentality. What he wanted, it seemed, was to erase all memories of his past and literally start again with new and shiny things. I was ridiculously fair I think now. I gave him things that meant a lot to me but felt he deserved or should have.

When I moved into a rental property he helped me move and all of the boxes neatly labelled with his name and their contents were piled into my garage. He said he’d collect them when he found a place of his own (he had been staying with him mother since he walked out).

I was forced into forging a life on my own and every time I walked into the bloody garage, there was a huge, neatly piled up collection of boxes to remind me that he’d left me. I was just too nice for my own good.

What I didn’t give him when he finally picked up his things was that wine collection.  I unpacked the wine placed it all neatly into the wine rack….I had an epiphany. I’d had those bottles of wine for so long that I decided to take ownership. It seemed like a small pay-off to be honest. After all I walked away from 17 years with no money, no home. What I got was my amazing kids, furniture…and a great wine collection. This is where some great therapy began.

It didn’t really start consciously but it seemed that any time the Taurus majorly upset me, I went home and drank a bottle of wine.

One big blow was when he told me he was seeing someone. By then I was having a life but he knew this person for a split second and was already telling me he loved her. What?! Oh, and why are you telling me this?  That night I plucked out a bottle of very nice aged Paringa Shiraz. I opened it and let it breath and then I sat down with a glass and the bottle and savoured every mouth full. By myself. I felt really empowered in that moment. Of course the next day I had a panic attack that he might notice the bottle was missing the next time he picked up the kids and I threw the bottle in the recycle bin to hide the evidence.

So this became a bit of a ritual. Every time he did something that was particularly hurtful or completely insensitive,  or he said something to me that was upsetting – I didn’t retaliate. Instead, I responded in the most civilised way I could – by drinking a lovely glass or two of one of his prized wines. Now I am no wine expert and I don’t know a lot about wines per se, but I certainly know what I liked! With the exception of one bottle in that collection, all were incredible.

When he asked me to meet his new girlfriend prior to her meeting the kids – he’d known her for only 8 weeks – I actually drank a lovely bottle of Penfolds 389. I have to say that it went down a treat with some cheese and olives. I shared it with a girlfriend. Very nice. I raised the glass in the air and sent a silent salutation to the Taurus and his new woman. It was symbolic that I had let go.

Having told me when he left he simply didn’t want to be married anymore, and never would again, his marriage proposal to his girlfriend after 4 months of dating (and asking me for a quick divorce) called for a special something. A gorgeous bottle of Moet. I drank the chilled champagne and said a genuine toast to him and his new bride-to-be. In my heart I wished them all the best and I said a silent thank you to him for the amazing champagne. I also enjoyed a nice bottle of Dom Perignon (not on the same night!) that  I’d been saving…I think that one may have even been “ours”, but who can really say after years of merging.

Treat me like crap? That calls for a wine. Yell at me? Hmmm, that might call for a bottle.

I was privileged to try a 2001 Penfolds Grange and I considered keeping the bottle. I may never get to open another bottle of that calibre again! It certainly wasn’t a 1951 Grange Hermitage but damn it, it was a very nice drop and still probably the most expensive wine I will ever drink.

I took a few other bottles out to dinner or to parties and shared them. I can remember a really nice bottle of Hundred Acre Ancient Way. I had no idea at the time that its value was growing – I didn’t even know what Hundred Acre was, but it was a lovely drop nonetheless.

There were so many occasions that called for a glass, looking back!  He was often snappy, rude and occasionally he’d say things that were down right mean. He was adjusting to dealing with me on a whole new level I guess. Sometimes those moments warranted a glass or two. I’ve been lucky to drink some incredible wines since he left. When the Taurus and his fiancé moved into their home together, that was the last bottle in the rack and I enjoyed every drop. A full bodied 2006 Grant Burge Shiraz. That was an ouch moment. Not because they had moved in together. I was fine with that. It was because I had lost my home and my stability and it seemed just cruel and unfair that he had moved into a lovely home in the same area I’d wanted to be. It just stung a little.

I discovered a few things about wine along the way. I discovered that expensive wine is much easier to consume than cheaper varieties! I learnt that a pretty label isn’t always the best way to choose a bottle, but it helps!  After not drinking red wines for years, I have developed a taste for it. Expensive and aged reds are less likely to give you a hangover then young drink-right-now wines, that’s for sure!

I have also discovered this though – a $15 – $20 bottle of red in Australia is still highly drinkable. In fact, I’m not sure you can go wrong with Australian wines.  Thankfully!  This is more my budget these days!

Should I have possible kept them and sold them for cash? Probably,  but drinking the wine collection was incredibly therapeutic. Each bottle was symbolic of another hurdle I had survived with some sense of dignity and grace, or smiled about sweetly, or even celebrated. I sincerely enjoyed each bottle and I doubt the Taurus would have begrudged me one conciliatory drop. After all, he knows more than most what I went through. He left me with no cash or assets, sure, but the wine collection was fantastic while it lasted and by the time the last bottle was gone, I was already healed and had long moved on emotionally.

While I’m no advocating that every suddenly-single should drink a bottle every time their ex does something that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, but for me the wine collection was part of a healing process. I literally thanked him silently every time I drank a glass. That in itself was part of the forgiveness process. The wine rack may be empty, but I am not.

So, I guess the moral of the story is this. If you should leave anyone, take responsibility for packing your own things. If you choose to leave things in the possession of an ex for an extended period of time, consider those things gone.  

Oh, and if someone leaves you? Don’t get even…just drink the wine collection!