After many years, I was finally able to positively transform my inner narrative around Husband Number One.  And, I’ve never felt better.

As a wellness architect, creating solid structural foundations based on nutrient-dense food and a nutrient-dense life, I am inevitably challenged with helping people “clear the land”: the emotional landscape of deep-seeded pain we carry from being born into the consequences of others, receiving programming that’s not our own. I love Jim Carrey’s quote, “Jim Carrey was an idea my parents gave me.” When we clear and rebuild, we have to decide: are we maintaining the historical integrity of great things, or are we trying to understand that there’s nothing of value to save?


I had been engaged in other people’s journey for so long that my own pain had gone dormant. It wasn’t until my ex-husband’s father died last year that my pain was slapped alive; a needy internal tantrum that changed my view on wellness, relationships, and divorce. I had to make a decision about how to step out of being an ex-wife to acknowledge an ex-husband’s loss. It was one simple act: I remembered how this stuff starts.


Vegas was hot, and loud, even in February. Roaming through valleys of darkness, rooms chiming and dinging, the buzz of change being released to the half-dead… everything a girl’s first wedding should be. At the time, Husband Number One — about whom my grandfather, J.A., when he met him, said, “Boy, I didn’t know they could pile manure that high” — was a fine choice for this sort of thing. We drove around looking for the perfect wedding venue, and to no surprise it was look-alike, fat Elvis who ended up marrying us.


I wore a brown, vintage skirt and a tight, floral, velvet, jacket, and Number One had on a vintage suit. He had a lot of curly hair, and mine was long and shiny. We walked through the maze of machines to greet our limo driver, who proceeded to give me creepy eyes in the rearview mirror all the way to the Little Chapel. Sitting under halos of Marlboro smoke, we were humored. Within that thirty-minute drive, behind tinted windows, was contained every possibility for a good outcome. When the door opened, a gust of desert wind mistook our hope for gum wrappers and blew us to the strip. We were twenty-something, arrogant; we knew that the bond between us was stronger than anything that could come between us.


The ceremony included the miniature, squeaky lady from Poltergeist, a video guy, and Fat Elvis who walked me down the aisle to “I can’t help falling in love with you…” and then moved to his position as minister. Number One was weepy by the time I reached him. I had white-knuckled the red plastic flower bouquet with the wax dewdrop, knowing that outside the chapel, spread all over the states, family was shaking their heads. After a short Fat Elvis concert, Creepy Eyes drove us back to the hotel and we stood in the lobby, commemorative VHS tape and plastic flowers in hand, dumbfounded and numb. Now that we were “one”, it seemed incomprehensible, a clanging trap.

record player gray sweater chill

The Vegas VHS came with us to dinner parties for a decade. People wanted to see the freeze-frame of Number One’s face in ugly cry. Even though we were slowly slipping out of oneness, we were funny and unique in that we had taken risks other people would never think of. It landed us as business owners in New York City, mingling with celebrities, writing films, chain-smoking: owning the city, in our time, in our Greenwich Village neighborhood. However, reality? People who marry in Vegas aren’t really married. Fat Elvis weddings don’t count. You can’t become “one” with Creepy Eyes undressing your wife in a rearview mirror, laughing it off because it’s cinematic. So eventually everything comes between you: my people, his people. 


And now, decades after our nasty, shameful, embarrassing divorce, Number One’s father had died.        

I wanted to reach out and acknowledge, but there was no way in for me anymore. Seeing my name on a text or email had come to mean opposition, confrontation, or a quote from Brené Brown, schooling Number One on being in the arena. 


Still, I had to write. My planned declaration about life, family, journeys, seemed inadequate. So, instead of a slur of quotes and chatter, I typed, “From an old friend…”


I still get choked up reading that because it was the moment that changed everything for me. Not choosing to be kind or take the high road, but the simple act: remember how all this stuff starts. For us New York City,1988. Friends, bonded together, on the run from childhood at the same time – protectors of the other’s details.


Number One never responded to my words, as a matter of fact he continues to express his disdain for me. But none of that changes the fact that we are old friends. And realizing that changed me. It allows me to call upon the crazy experiences, laughter, and dreams with fondness. It softens the intensity of loss and pain that spewed in courtrooms. Remembering how all this stuff starts humanizes and untangles me from a man I no longer know, letting me clear land with appreciation, and tenderness, maintaining the historical integrity of my life.


pretty lady in button down

Mikala Hammonds, owner of Thelō Home & Modern Wellness in Northampton, Massachusetts is an IIN Certified Holistic Health and Lifestyle Coach. She approaches her work as a wellness architect, empowering clients to build foundations on nutrient-dense food and a nutrient-dense life.  Mikala’s background in graphic design, and her rich, and humorous history as the daughter of a preacher from Lubbock, Texas, brings a refreshing perspective to her partnerships, both professionally and personally. Inquire to work with Mikala at

Mikala is currently working on her first book, Church and Dirt.

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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. 


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