I married young. Some—okay, my mom—would say, too young. I was twenty. By the time I was twenty-six, I was a single mother of two, possessed of a far greater appreciation for the silver linings discovered when the tarnished brass aftermath of disintegrated dreams, is swept away.
My youngest is now twenty. And marriage is the furthest thing from his mind, right after retirement and funeral planning. He, and his elder brother (by nineteen months) gape at me in disbelieving horror when, on occasion—usually after one of them complains about some adult obligation, like going to work, or rinsing their beard hairs out of the sink—I point out that at their age, I was either married. Or married, and a mother. With a head shake, they wander off muttering about how they’re so much smarter than that. Maybe they are. Maybe they’re not.
Some of the best life lessons I’ve learned, were imparted during my tumultuous first marriage. Or rather, I learned a lot about what I didn’t want in life. From which, I gained greater clarity of what I did want. I also improved my understanding of human nature, and some of the inherent differences in male vs. female communication. More importantly, I discovered—with the help of a couple of wonderful counselors—that I wasn’t always right, and my now ex-husband, wasn’t always wrong. Even if it felt that way. Even if I wanted it to be that way.
It was so easy to blame him for my every unhappiness. So easy to cast shade whenever I felt undervalued. Far easier than taking responsibility for my part in the chaos our life together had become; far simpler to cry foul, than implement positive change. To a point.
Every person has a breaking point. I found mine when I witnessed an interaction between my two eldest children, a real-life, real-loud echo, of the vitriol and violence to which they’d been hapless captives, for all their young lives. I hit my knees, literally, overcome with the pain and exhaustion of trying to carry an emotional burden my inner-self could no longer tolerate, no matter how desperately I wanted to keep up outward appearances.
Sobbing, I crawled to the kitchen, hauled the phone off the counter, and dialed the Crisis Line. Within minutes, I was connected to a calm, reassuring, and maternal voice, who promised me help would be on my doorstep, first thing in the morning. Promptly at nine a.m. the following day, my tutelage in self-responsibility, and self-love, began. Shortly thereafter, my marriage dissolved. And with it, all my excuses. I had no one to blame but me, for whatever came next.
What came next, was a lot of hard work. On my, and my ex-husband’s, part.
For the first time in the history of our seven-year relationship, we tried to learn a better style of communicating. We started to listen to each other. Not just for what we wanted, or expected, to hear—but for what the other needed us to hear. Not for ourselves—not at first, anyway (that came later)—but for our children. Young as we were, we still recognized that our children were so much younger. And completely innocent. They deserved better than we’d given them to that point.
I’d be lying if I said those early, post-divorce years, were easy. Or that my ex and I didn’t mess up. We did. Individually. Together. And I wouldn’t trade a single brutal, or heart-wrenching minute.
The pain—and joy—we experienced together, and apart, helped shape who we are. And where I am—and who I am—now, makes me happy. Proud.
My collapse in that minefield of broken marital dreams was as much a tragedy, as it was a blessing. It set me on a path to self-care, and personal integrity. Which eventually led me to the man with whom I’ve spent the last twenty-five, amazing, and happy years; the man I hope to spend the rest of my life with, living, laughing, and loving as we create more happy memories. For ourselves. For our children. And grandchildren.
I touch on this in my novel, My Dear One, the need to heal what’s broken inside to be able to truly love—and be loved. The obligation we each have, to accept that a choice—no matter how unpalatable—is still a choice. That strength is gained, or wisdom earned, when we reap the rewards—or consequences—of our choices.
So, the next time one of my children shakes his (or her) oh, so smart head at me and my youthful nuptials, I’ll smile. And count my blessings. Without regret.
I gained more than I lost during that turbulent period of my life. For I learned to look for the good in the bad, the lesson in the loss; the glint of silver, in the scattered shards of broken dreams.
Thoughts have power; thoughts are energy. And you can make your world or break it by your own thinking. ~Susan Taylor