Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Good in Goodbye

Yesterday I quietly celebrated what would have been my 25th wedding anniversary. Would have been, but wasn't. Yes, celebrated. You'll see.

It would have been my 25th wedding anniversary had I not chosen to end my marriage after 8 years. There you have it - I was the one who did the leaving. It wasn't a decision I came to or made lightly. Five years into the marriage I realized that it wasn't working. At first I worked hard to ignore that sad little fact. Then I worked hard to fix it. Then I worked hard at being angry that nothing was working. Then I started working on myself and came to the realization that it just couldn't exist.

That's all there was to it, really. There was no affair, no deception, no violent fight, no real nastiness of any kind between us. Together we were going nowhere. Separately, perhaps, we could. I kissed him on the cheek and wished him all the very best the day I moved out. I had no idea what was in front of me; my only scope was what lay behind.

I read something a couple of months back that has been rattling around in my brain. The idea is that there are three basic ways that people deal with being lost. One is to immediately try to find a way out -- to find a way back to the safe, known zone. Another is to make a place -- to turn the lost place into something known, thereby rendering oneself no longer lost. The third is to venture deeper into the unknown -- to turn it into adventure and discovery.

If I had been as honest with myself back then as I am now, I would have known that what I was feeling through most of my marriage was lost. I was wandering in a not entirely uncomfortable fog. So, for a time, I made it a place that was known. When I thought about getting out, my first thought was of going back to Michigan where I grew up. But if there is anything I've consistently adhered to it's to not go backward. That left me with venturing deeper, discovering what else was in the fog and what might be beyond the fog.

I'm so glad I did, and that's why I was quietly celebrating. I'm not one of those who ever says, "I just should never have married him." It's sad and painful that it didn't work, but it also brought something to both of  us that we needed at the time. I needed that fog. For a while. I needed a safe, quiet place to land. And let's be honest here, even the best, most pristine moment is tinged with regret of some sort. It's what makes those moments so sweet.

Sometimes the thing we're trying so hard to fix isn't what's broken. Sometimes there's not even anything broken. You can't teach a goldfish to ride a bicycle. You can have fun watching the fish swim around. You can have fun riding the bicycle. But to try to amalgamate the two into something beautiful and productive... it doesn't work. Even so, it doesn't mean you stop appreciating either one.

Twenty-five years does a lot for a person. Forget what they tell you; you never stop growing up. You never stop learning about the world you live in, about yourself, about other people, about love, about forgiveness, about joy. Have I exited the fog? I'd like to think so. Has the adventure stopped? Nope. If you're awake and paying attention, every moment is a surprise. Every moment deserves its own celebration. Even if it's a quiet celebration.

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