So, when I started my Facebook account, I decided that I would use it to post a daily gratitude. I had a friend who did them and I always enjoyed that about her; I thought FB was a perfect format for it. I was right; my practice has continued for years now and it makes a real difference in my life. But that's not what today's post is about. Today, I'm moving my gratitude here because I need just a bit more room and a bit more permanence for this one.
For much of the last couple of weeks, our life felt a like the inside of a pinball machine. My husband severely sprained his ankle while on a business trip to the other side of the world and developed a clot (also known as a DVT) on the flight home. We were in and out of the hospital several times over a matter of days. It was not fun. While I am slightly worried about jinxing myself, things have finally calmed down. My husband is stable enough to return to work, although he can't drive yet, so I drove him to work this morning. Yes, this is all backstory, and, yes, there are many gratitudes in there that I haven't mentioned, but I have thought of them!
On my trip back home, I found myself listening to a song that was, gently and soulfully, expressing dismay about the frequency of divorce these days. As I listened, I felt for the artist's pain in watching marriage after marriage fail. And then I had a thought and today's gratitude was born.
I am grateful for divorce.
"What?!", I expect some of you are thinking. The thought even passed through my mind for a split second till I began to explain to myself and things started making sense, so keep reading and we'll see how well I get this out of my head.
It is important to know some things about me. My parents were happily married till the day my father died (so it's not because I'm a damaged or bitter child of divorce). I am, as I mentioned, happily married myself. It is our first marriage; no divorce in my history or his. We have, in fact, been married for almost 18 years. It is generally observed that we are a pretty inseparable couple; people have even been known to do that thing where they squish our names together because we are such a unit. That didn't come naturally, by the way; it was a conscious and deliberate choice on both our parts to shape our lives so that we always came towards each other rather than away. This was in part because we are very different people in a lot of ways. The most compelling aspect of our early relationship was our off-the-charts chemistry; just the sort of thing that usually spells disaster (I was even fresh out of another relationship!), and we knew it. Our courtship was passionate, brief, and tumultuous. My husband-to-be was sure I was The One; I was...dramatically more skeptical. But down the aisle we went and, unlike the fairy tales, things just got more complicated from there.
In the course of our eighteen year relationship (I told you it was a brief courtship), we have been through many, many things that are often cited as a cause of divorce; infertility, infidelity, dishonesty, a child with a disability, major financial problems. I've walked out on him, he's walked out on me. There were a couple of times where our relationship held on by the slenderest thread. That said, we have never not loved each other deeply and passionately; we've only been reduced to wishing we didn't a time or a two. Everything we have been through has made us better and stronger.
So when I say I'm grateful for divorce, you can be sure it's not because I think marriage should be easy or because I don't appreciate that going through the hard stuff can deepen your relationship.
I'm grateful for divorce because everyone should be able to have a marriage like mine.
My husband was in China for nine days. Two months ago, he was there for two weeks. That's a lot of time apart for us and, while we endured the first one with relative equanimity, this second time was pretty much pure agony. We were on fire to be reunited, only to end up in an emergency room with barely time for one kiss.
In the last several days, I have been reminded again and again just how deep and passionate our relationship is, and seen it grow even deeper and more passionate as my husband (who is generally a very healthy person) gets a look into what it's like to live with pain and limitation, which I do on a daily basis. He keeps saying he doesn't know how I be me. That makes me smile and love him more, of course, because, in all these years, he's never given me a hard time because of my limitations, even though I know they frustrated him sometimes.
I could go on, but what I'm trying to say is that we have a love for the ages; the kind of thing books are written and movies are filmed about; a sweep you off your feet epic kind of thing. Not because we are particularly special, but because we got lucky and found each other and knew we had something worth keeping.
Divorce allows people who have made a mistake the freedom to correct it.
While my husband came from a relatively quiet dating history, I had, in fact, been engaged twice before. In both cases, a slightly different series of events could have led to me being stuck in a marriage that would, at best, be mediocre and probably miserable, especially if I didn't live in a time and place where divorce was a feasible option.
I am glad I didn't have to go through a divorce to learn what not to do, but there are plenty of people who aren't so lucky. I think of my own children, who aren't even on the cusp of puberty yet, and I imagine how I would feel if either of them were stuck in a marriage that was not even bad, but just meh. My heart would break for them. No one should have to settle for "meh"; this is not to say that one never should; sometimes that just the thing for someone, but they shouldn't have to.
I am grateful for divorce because it opens the door to a better, brighter future in ways we haven't even begun to imagine.
I empathize with the song I was listening to; it is sad when marriages end, even when you are just observing it, because relationships are complex and far reaching in many ways and because people of good heart always root for true love.
But I think we are in a transitional period. I think human beings are learning, as a species, what it is that makes a relationship worth keeping. It may take us as long as a couple of centuries, but we are finding our way to the place where everyone ends up in the relationship (or relationships) that are right for them. Imagine what a world would be like where that was true; where everyone, everyone, was in a relationship as deep, as passionate, as beautiful as mine (and maybe yours). Imagine the magnitude of joy that would permeate the world. Imagine how fulfilled and at peace we would be in our hearts. Imagine the gift that divorce could ultimately bring to us as a species.
I am grateful that I got to start imagining that gift, that future this morning.
P.S. I am also grateful for the mind-bendingly awesome marriage that my husband and I have worked hard to build and maintain and will, all things being equal, enjoy till our (hopefully far in the future) dying day; inexpressibly grateful.