Friday, August 8, 2014

In Time

A few weeks ago, I heard of a young woman about to take some time away for her wedding and honeymoon. Humorously, those of us in the conversation tried to talk her out of it, reminding her that she can just date, and the need to make things permanent with a marriage license was just so, well, permanent. Each one of the experienced women offered advice to the new bride, but upon my turn, I simply smiled and waved a hand in a gesture to move on. 

I am really not one who should offer marriage advice. My marriage was more of a cautionary tale.

How much could four years of marriage really teach a person anyway, especially in comparison to those who have been married 10, 20, 30 years or more? My experience with the institution was limited, though, not without its lessons. Upon the divorce, I was angry. In no uncertain terms, I was angry and hurt, while lashing out at everyone and everything in a two mile radius. Hellbent on placing all the blame on my ex, I was blind to any part I played in our demise. He was at fault. He was to blame. I was the innocent one. Right?

I told myself those lines for years, but all the while what I was really doing was making a miserable effort to keep from looking at myself, and moreover, to keep from understanding his behaviors. My narrow view was not able to see anything more than two things: I was right and he was wrong.

Over a few years the heavy anger subsided, but the pain still lingered, and resolution was something I could not imagine in my future. In the summer of 2009, though, simple walks with a friend saw unfathomable results.

My friend Danye* and I began walking in the local park every morning in the summer of 2009. We met at 5 a.m. each day and trod along the walking trail beside a creek, covering about two miles of ground and 30 minutes of conversation. Those predawn chats touched some of the deepest subjects for us, when we offered each other advice when we could and a tissue when we couldn't. The soft babble of Crooked Creek became the soundtrack to our retelling of life stories.

One Wednesday morning in July, I spoke of my divorce and how the emotional aftermath still weighed heavy on my mind. Danye, who held a degree in Psychology and once worked as a counselor, spoke from the perspective of my ex. Never before had I considered his thoughts or feelings, but through this exercise with Danye, a new world opened to me. We turned a corner on the path that led away from the creek, and Danye's eyes focused on the walkway while I quickly wiped away tears so she didn't see.

At that instance, I felt a weight lift from me. I understood his behavior. My heart was lighter, and I finally understood every reason my marriage failed. It was like I had been struck by a light that filled me with every answer I had ever wanted. Far more than emotional, I had a physical reaction in this moment, nearly breaking into a run on our way back to our cars. I felt 20 pounds lighter.

At that moment, I forgave. I let go of all the residual anger, the questions, the blame, the hurt -- all of it -- and finally moved beyond what kept my feet mired in emotional muck. Even as I write this post, I still remember clearly how it felt to be free from the weight of the burden I willingly bore for too long. 

The next morning, I learned that he had died. Only hours after my emotional release in the park, my ex-husband passed away, never hearing me speak any words of forgiveness to him. It was the one last mistake I made in our relationship -- waiting too long to resolve my feelings and missing any opportunity to look him in the eyes, no longer as an enemy, but as a friend. We had been divorced nine years, but over the next several months, I grieved like a widow.

Earlier this year, I received a strange envelope at work with a simple note inside. It was attached to a U.S. Savings Bond, purchased by my ex and listing my name as beneficiary. His family found it when taking care of his affairs after his death. The note was short, but thoughtful. I know they could have easily tossed the bond in the trash, and I would have never been the wiser. Instead, they took the time to send it to me, after we had had no contact since the divorce. 

I never knew Charlie* had this bond, but he purchased it the week after we were engaged. Monetarily, it wasn't much, but the idea of it touched me deeply and reminded me that our marriage wasn't all bad. There were good moments, moments to remember. There were moments when we were good to each other, before our war began.

Today, I received a package in the mail containing a wrist watch. I purchased it, ceremoniously using the funds from the savings bond, because I wanted something tangible to remember the unexpected gift from someone in my life. And so, I purchased time.

When I look at the watch, I will remember  . . . 
  • the time of our shared history
  • the time we laughed
  • the time we learned
  • the time we grew
  • the time I let go
  • the time I forgave.

*Names changed.

6 comments:

  1. Rita, I've never been a watch wearer but I love that watch of yours! A beautiful choice for your memories. I also believe that your ex-husband knew of your forgiveness. So, although I know you wish you could have spoken to him and looked him in the eyes as a friend, be reassured that perhaps that comfort you gave by forgiving him energetically, was what he needed to finally pass away in peace. I think you may have learned more in 4 years of marriage and the 9 years following, than many people learn or are brave enough to acknowledge in a whole lifetime! Wishing you a wonderful weekend. Xan

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    1. Thank you, Xan. Funny thing is, I haven't worn a watch in 10 or more years -- not since I began relying on the ever-present cell phone. Somehow, this seemed like the right choice and I never questioned whether I would wear it or not. Thanks for reading, and all the best to you :-)

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  2. You never cease to amaze me. You have a gift. Keep writing!!!

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  3. My comment must have disappeared:(

    Thank you!! I'll never forget those walks, especially the walk with the alligator and the walk in the sudden storm/downpour!!

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