16 February 2008

Love's Recovery

This post is a day late and a dollar short, which is perfect, considering the subject. Yesterday, February 15th, was Singles Awareness Day. It was also my former anniversary. I know, right? We didn't have rain on our wedding day, but really, one's former anniversary falling on Singles Awareness Day is even better. We were supposed to be married on Valentine's Day, but had to wait a day for the license. Every year people asked, "Why didn't you just get married on Valentine's Day?"

I think it worked out perfectly. Single's Awareness Day was just waiting to amuse me.

Lots of single folks bemoan the existence of Valentine's Day. The flowers, the chocolates, the jewelry, the surprise dinners, the chipped teeth from hidden rings in cakes and champagne. Even partnered people hate Valentine's Day. The pressure to think of something unique with which to prove your unflagging love. The unspoken competition to outdo your girlfriend's girlfriends' boyfriends. The whole thing seems a cunning conspiracy meant to torture partnered and single people alike, stamped with the Hallmark gold seal of approval.

Whatever. Valentine's Day does not find me tracing the tracks of my tears to the strains of old love songs. It does not find me lamenting lost relationships through the sad filter of a lone wine glass. Valentine's Day, these days, is just another day. If anything, it reminds me that I am strong, that I have choice, that there are many things worse than not having a partner. It reminds me that being alone does not have to mean being lonely. Singles Awareness Day falling on my former anniversary is just a deliciously ironic twist.

And you all know I love some twisted humor.

Back in the 80s, the ex and I -- soldiers both, in the service of Uncle Sam -- were dating. We met in communications school, after basic training, through a convoluted course of mistaken identities, which is another tale altogether. After a few months, our class came down on orders. His orders were for Germany; mine, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Now those of you familiar with my sun addiction know that Arizona could've well been the best thing to ever happen to me. Being embroiled in the throes of young lust, however, we were devastated. So we made the only choice that kids who think they know everything could make: "Let's get married! Then we can apply for the Army married couples program and be together! Forever!" So we did.

My orders to Arizona were changed to Germany, and the course of my life was changed forever.

Three years later, the Bohemian was born, and not long after, Teen Demon made her raucous entry into the world. After a suitable time of recovery, the Male Offspring finished off the fruits of my labors. These are the positives I took away from 10 years of marriage, and the reason I can't regret the choice made on a long-ago February 15th.

The 11th year found me back in the States after discovering that the "forsaking all others" bit had fallen by the wayside along about the time I'd been laboring with Male Offspring. February 15th of that 11th year brought, not an anniversary, but a legal summons, informing me that the ex had changed his mind about our signed agreement. He now wanted full custody.

I came away with custody and a load of legal debt that took years to repay. The ex and I got past our differences, I went back to Europe, and we had a great co-parenting relationship for about eight years there. That was actually a best-of-both-worlds deal: the kids had both parents, and we each had a built-in babysitter for hot date nights or weekend trips. Those of you who know the rest of the story are aware that this, unfortunately, did not continue. The ex now lives 12 time zones away rather than across town, co-parenting has gone the way of the dodo, and he brings the follow-up wife, whom no one gets on with, along for his annual week with our kids.

All of this leading to the point that things change, and we get through. The Valentine's Day - February 15th combo has run the emotional gamut for me, over the years. From new love and happiness, to security, to devastation, to fury, to bitterness, to indifference, to wry humor. I came out the other side, and can laugh now, because time allows me to see that what I once believed was the worst thing that could happen to me, was, in actuality, the best. Once, I was devastated to the point of being unable to function. I couldn't comprehend how my heart could continue to beat, how my lungs could continue to draw breath, how my organs could continue to function minute by minute in the face of such unimaginable pain.

Seriously. I wondered how my body didn't just die.

But it didn't. These days, what seems unimaginable to me is the thought of not going through that, of not knowing myself. We made a damn good go of it; we were 18-year-old, foolish kids from different cultures, from opposite ends of the country, who'd known each other three months. We made it 10 years and three fantastic kids on that platform, far from friends and family, with minimal support. We had a good run, and the kids, the lasting proof of that erstwhile union, are already making a positive impact on society. But the marriage was not the right place for me to be.

So Valentine's Day and February 15th aren't much more than a blip on the calendar for me these days. A toast to choices made. No regrets.

Hindsight is a clear-sighted bitch, y'all.

Happy love yourself day.

There I am in younger days, star gazing
Painting picture-perfect maps
Of how my life and love would be,
Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection,
My compass, faith in love's perfection,
I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen

Indigo Girls, Love's Recovery

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. This seems like a really nice way to think about a past relationship: "But the marriage was not the right place for me to be." I wish some of my brokenhearted friends had that kind of distance and perspective.


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