They say you’re never really an expert at something until you’ve been part of its epic failure – this way you know the real boundaries of its possibility.
This is precisely why I consider myself an expert on marriage.
Sparing you (and mostly me) a stroll through the chronology of gory details, let’s suffice it to say that I had a passionless marriage to a great friend, then a strange swerve and dramatic over-correction to a not-friend, until I finally got it right when I met and married my truest friend and partner for life, Jon.
I’ve always been a glutton for practice, and it finally made perfect.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the proverbial plunge again when Jon and I started getting serious. I knew I had a part in my poor track record, and felt at peace with that, but not necessarily ready to step up to that plate again. But, getting married was important to Jon, and what is important to Jon is important to me. So I said ‘yes’ (after he had to propose twice because I couldn’t hear him the first time over the sound of my own squeals of delight at the contents of that little velvet box).
We got married in downtown Troy, with our collection of kids acting up and friends and family there to giggle along with us at their antics. I was about 72 months pregnant, as evidenced by the emotional chop job I did to the dress the night before the wedding, making it into a mini- dress, and me into a caricature of an enormous Shirley Temple playing the actual Good Ship Lollipop.
Our reception was at a ‘pumpkin farm gone petting zoo,’ and it was so much fun, so happy and truly one of the best days of my life.
Over the past many years now, we have navigated the bumps and bruises of blending families. Luckily, the days of multiple parent drama are long behind us. Our next door neighbor, Naomi, who is a total delight and very patient with the raucous behavior so close to her eardrums, said to me soon after we moved in, “is your family as happy together on the inside as it looks from the outside?”
Yes, yes we are. And that doesn’t mean that our children don’t drive us nuts sometimes, or that Jon and I don’t get out of sorts with one another. I’m sure the older kids get upset with us about our rules and expectations, and I know Larry has a lot of feedback for us as parents (because she offers it freely), but all in all, we are a happy family, that started with two adults who wanted happiness in love, and came to believe we deserved another chance at having it.
Yes, divorce is awful. Yes, it is hard on children. Very hard. But, now that we are ‘here,’ our kids are seeing two adults in a respectful, passion-filled, fun and equal relationship. They make the requisite grossed out faces and noises when we kiss (still), and look forlorn when we leave the house alone together (as in, without them) on a mission to have some time alone for the two of us. Our kids know they are central to everything in our lives, but they also know that what holds us up, what knits that center together, was that choice Jon and I made nearly a decade ago to, quite literally, welcome love in through the front door.
Love, like most things in life, bears an element of choice. I could have let my divorce(s) hold me back, I could have disappeared into the shame of dragging my children through hard, painful experiences. I could have inhaled the outside-in stigma of a woman with a ‘track record’ of failed relationships. Instead, I chose to see myself as striving, imperfect, but willing to acknowledge and own mistakes, then move forward. And that admission cleared out space in my heart for courage to take root and grow this family.
Last night, on a rare and wonderful date night out to Tara’s Kitchen in Schenectady, we marveled that we will be 90 and 91 years old respectively on our 50th Wedding Anniversary. This is approximately the same age at which we will be Empty Nesters, given the age span from our oldest to youngest child.
To this, I said, “Bring it on, old man! And make sure the cake is really easy to chew, and that you buy me something really sparkly and big enough for my old eyes to see sitting on my finger (without glasses).”
I may be old by then, but I’ll never be too old to celebrate the best choice I ever made: To believe in the fundamental power of possibility, that I could be worthy of such happiness, and this amazing family, built from love.
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Remember: Lower the bar, and drop the guilt (today).
This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.