It’s called marriage. The fairy tale with a happy ending. The 365 days of happiness and there’s only 365 of them in a year. The talks, the walks, the trips, the house, the kids, the smell of apple pie and the ever-present sunshine. Life at its finest. You know that romantic scene from the movies played out in real life every day. Perfection.
That’s the grandiose picture of marriage that is painted for all of us. We wed, we prosper, and we ride off into the sunset hand in hand. For better or worse with a lot more betters than worse. A 90% success rate with the other 10% who fail an anomaly. It sounds good, looks great on paper, but let’s hit play.
Let me just say that marriage is a beautiful thing in its purest form. A man and woman meeting, falling in love, deciding they want to spend the rest of their days on this earth with each other. A heavy, deep and beautiful commitment in its infancy; a heavier burden when it spawns heartache. That’s where my story begins.
You see, traditionally the woman is seen as that symbol of true love whether she’s the giver or receiver. The man, the macho figure who is capable of great love but also who is capable of love lapses. We dream and build together a home, a future, a family and a legacy. Then life and its realism hits you like a hail storm raining down on your new roof. How do you react? Do you react? How does she react? How do you react together?
The simple truth is marriage is taking the lives of two people and combining them into one. It’s like taking two houses that are packed to capacity and trying to put those items into one house. It’s a lot of baggage and everything is not going to fit. Some things are going to have to be discarded in order for the one house to be livable. In the movies, such individualism and sacrifices are completed in two hours or less. Off screen such sacrifices and humility can be fleeting. In real life, those sacrifices can be people, locations, memories, egos and so much more.
I was married for some 20 years when my divorce became final in the beginning of this year. To say it’s a blow to be divorced is an understatement. It’s the worst case of heartburn you’ll ever have. It’s a mental crutch that you carry with you every day. It takes you a minute to even learn how to say the word, “Divorce”. Then when you do, you have to separate it from the word failure because they link up so easily. What could I have done? What happened? How did we get here? The wedding day, the anniversaries, the birthdays, the graduations and celebrations. How did it collapse to this point?
What effect will it have on the children is usually a focal point of emphasis. Then BOOM it hits you. What’s the effect on me? On your ex? Yep that person who carried your name for so long but now goes by another name on Facebook for all to see. Yeah then there’s that public embarrassment or acknowledgement of you all not being able to work out your differences. And then there’s always those people, lifelong failed relationshipers is what I call them, who want to point out the divorce stats and tell you, “Don’t worry, it happens.” And they always exaggerate the stat, too. Usually it moves from a number (50% and up) to “everybody” is getting divorced. Bullshit. Remember misery loves company and failure loves misery.
What do you mean it happens? Well it wasn’t supposed to happen to us or to me. Now what do I do? Moving on is easier said and maybe never done. We are only given so much time on this earth, and if you spend half of that existence with one person then is there ever a move on? Or does move on simply manifest itself into managing. Managing your days, your emotions, your memories and your thoughts. Something always reminding you whether it’s visually, audibly or spiritually. I don’t really know how my ex feels or if she gives a damn. She’s been adamant that she doesn’t want to reconcile and that she loves someone else. Another story for another day. She’s no longer in love with me but she’ll always love me. You know the traditional break-up speech when the grass looks greener on the other side.
So as a man, there’s a funny feeling lingering. As a divorcee, the humor is fleeting. You grapple with the loss of your marriage, your home, your family and that which has defined you for so long. The holiday season is fast approaching and it doesn’t get any more family oriented than the months of November and December. That holiday music, the lights and decorations, the family bonding time and the memories. Now you have the vision of other families enjoying what you once had. Every year my daughter and I would go Christmas tree shopping and pick out a good one for the house. My wife (or ex), oops I’m still adjusting, would get the ornaments and everyone would join in decorating the tree and the house. Memories.
I have no idea where the next 6 months or even 6 years will take me but I know what I had and lost and I don’t know that time ever heals that. The book of marriage comes in its natural, rawest form as an incomplete story. The opening chapter is usually the same for everybody save for a few tweaks. It’s after that opening chapter that each marriage takes on its own persona and writes its own ending. And then you might have to write a post-marriage journey. That part was just added to my book.
In essence I’m a king without a queen. A hand with no glove. A soul with no mate. But each day is a climb back up that mountain of peace and happiness that we all desire. I’ve spent some of the best years of my life helping others. Now I’m in a position where I need to help myself. Student, teacher and mentor all sharing the same name and space. A support system with me as the core entity. A day-by-day approach.
I’m a divorcee who is learning to walk again after riding with a partner for the last 20 years. Imagine riding to work for 20 years and you come out of the house one morning and the car/ride is gone. But you still got to get there. So you start walking, not knowing what lies ahead because the landscape looks different when you’re whizzing by it. Now as you begin your walk you see every blade of grass, you read every sign, you see how fortunate you were to be riding, and you see acquaintances ride by not offering even a bus token. More importantly, you see your new existence and it’s still clouded with visions of some 20 years of having been married. You mad walk a bit, you slow walk some, you stop walking, you laugh, and you cry, you take a break, you pray, you eat and drink and you start anew a lot. You tell yourself, “It isn’t easy but it’s necessary.”
To those who have overcome divorce, and I use overcome lightly, may you share your journey with those of us who are beginning the walk.
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