“Everything changes, nothing remains without change.” – Buddha
As we stood cutting the cake to the band’s rendition of “The Two of Us” by the Beatles on August 25, 2006, neither my husband nor I saw the foreboding in the lyrics: “You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.” Despite the negative odds and a long-standing friendship that could possibly be jeopardized, we were compelled to take the leap of faith that afternoon and commit to loving each other until death did us part. Six good years and a tremendous amount of love later, we’re both still alive, but our divorce will become final this week.
While traveling in Montreal on a Saturday last October, I happened across three different brides on the street. After a couple of glasses of Italian Pinot Nero, I told my friend, Rob, and committed to myself that by the time my divorce was final, I would write a blog post with my best advice on marriage to these street brides. In the moment, we both thought it was a good idea, so long as I was in a better frame of mind while writing it, and then the conversation drifted to another topic, as it is apt to do. A month later while strolling the streets of Paris with my friend, Su, I saw another bride on the street and then I knew that this post had to become a reality.
“Everything dies baby that’s a fact. Maybe everything that dies someday comes back” – Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City”
Separating was a mutual and amicable decision, and I did everything I could to come to a place of acceptance with it. Our relationship just wasn’t serving either of us anymore. Still, I couldn’t shake the sobering truth that I had failed, failed big and somewhat publicly. I cycled through every stage of grief that Kubler Ross developed, lingering in the “I’m fine” denial phase and the “Meh – I don’t really feel like leaving my apartment until March” depression phase. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love became my lighthouse, illuminating my night crossing, not exactly sure where I would land on the other side of this journey. Despite the pain and vulnerability, I tried to capitalize on my openness, trying to go deep inside in order to understand my own truths, as well as the conflicting and competing expectations of who I’m supposed to be that I felt bound to. My hope was that in figuring all of this out, I could apply some of this hard-earned wisdom in my extraordinary future that was I going to create now that I had a do-over. I have spent the last few weeks reflecting on these gains so I could write this all while navigating my heartache and clumsily trying to find my way on this new, not-exactly-planned-for-path.
While there were many insights and some productive and some not so productive moments of self-flagellation, I guess what I have come to realize is that I know nothing for certain. Despite it’s elusiveness, there is no “one right way.” The things that I held as given, black and white certainties, like “until death do us part,” which provided me comfort, seemed to fade away upon careful inspection and once applied through a more complicated filter of life’s realities. Ultimately, this newly discovered strategy of not taking such a rigid view of the world and working to lessen my stringent expectations for myself, has helped to open up many exciting possibilities for my future. I hope that what lies ahead will afford me the opportunity to have the type of life that more closely resembles the one that I want for myself. And, maybe, someday, I will ultimately feel as if I’m “doing it just right” no matter how it appears from the outside.
“Come on sweetheart, let’s adore one another, before there is no more of you and me” – Rumi
My beautiful street brides probably wouldn’t be able to hear much advice anyway right now. I know that if someone tried to share his or her wisdom with me on the day of my wedding, I don’t think I would have really gotten it because I was too busy dancing. But maybe there is one thing that might be helpful, not just to these brides, but also to everyone: Be present. Enjoy every second of your life and your time together with your loved ones — husband, wife, kids, parents, family and friends. In looking back, I wish I had squeezed his hand just a little tighter, kissed him more passionately every morning, and felt even more gratitude during the difficult moments, because life is in a constant state of flux. Unbeknown to us, the world was shifting beneath our feet even as we stood perfectly still. But in retrospect, it is clear that our tough times didn’t last forever, nor did the good times. Like the old saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute,” thus is life – a constant state of change and impermanence. My advice is simple: Embrace it. Welcome it. Learn from it. While we cannot always live in this realm of heightened consciousness, it is important to visit it from time to time so we can appreciate the small, quiet moments, like the fragrant smell of pork chops and couscous wafting from the stove while cooking together, as well as the big audacious ones, like waking up together at dawn, feeling gutted and remorseful after a blowout fight in Aruba. Because, as my mom wisely says, “This too shall pass,” and the present moment shifts and gives way to what lies ahead.
I have now joined this long black line of people who have lived through love and loss and divorce. There are many who have experienced this process before me, and there will be many more who follow. I have appreciated the teachers who have generously shared their stories, expressed compassion, coached me on forgiving myself, and vowed that the days of hope, happiness, and feeling like a better version of myself would arrive shortly. My friend, Daniel, who has been a Sherpa during this time, has assured me that I will come to miss these bittersweet days of vulnerability and transformation, feeling alive and awake again for eventually they too will pass. While this certainly feels hard to believe from where I sit today, I’m keeping it in the realm of possibilities because, hey, what do I know anyway?
In the end, the answer is yes, I would have done it over again and taken that leap of faith, despite the outcome and the associated pain. And, I probably wouldn’t have changed all that much about my experience. Our time together was just about perfect – it just wasn’t built for a lifetime. I have finally come to accept our relationship as an important and pivotal bridge leading to me to wherever I’m heading next. And, I’m very optimistic about my future. These street brides should be as well, for the best is yet to come. To them I raise a glass and say, “Congratulations. I wish you a lifetime (or however long it continues to honor you both) of joy, happiness, and learning!”
“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst, and then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry, you will someday.” - Lester Burnham, American Beauty