It’s just a day now. But once, it meant something. It was the reminder of a wedding day that neither of us enjoyed- having had far too little money to make it what we wanted and being inundated with the anxieties caused by difficult relatives and a sudden storm at the start of an outdoor ceremony. We told each other, and everyone else, that it was the marriage and not the wedding that counted.
I wonder sometimes if we kept repeating it to convince ourselves.
Now another anniversary rolls around. The date that I filed for divorce, an easy enough date to remember. Then, the date that my divorce was finalized, 9 months to the day of the filing.
No one seems to celebrate those anniversaries, the dates that marked the days we changed our lives. Do we feel, secretly, like it’s a failing? After all, people tend to judge marital longevity as a marker of success. Divorce is seen as a failure while staying inside of a bad marriage can be merited as an achievement.
But what does it achieve to stay stuck in a mistake? What possible success can be measured in living a life that is so much less than what it could be? Sure, relationships are tough. But not all relationships are healthy. Some are even toxic. And too many people stay, not because they are determined to make it work, but because they are afraid of change.
Let’s face it: change is terrifying. It can be intimidating to look at the possibility of a future that is different from the one we planned. I pushed a double stroller into the clerk’s office to file for my divorce with no job and no idea of what I would do next. Don’t think that it was anything less than brave. I wasn’t quitting. I wasn’t giving up. I was choosing to make the best of a bad situation by taking actual steps to change my life.
I thought I would pop champagne the moment my divorce was final, but I sat there staring at the one piece of paper that freed me of that relationship. I felt sorry for the happy girl that walked down the aisle toward it once. I felt sad for the disappointment she would face, that I was facing then.
Now when that date rolls around, that divorce anniversary, I remember the courage it took to free myself. I remember how hard I fought to save that relationship and then how hard I fought to save myself and create a better life for my children. It doesn’t make me sad to pass the wedding anniversary that has become just another day on the calendar, and I don’t feel like a failure when I pass the dates that signify the life changes I made.
I feel brave. I feel empowered. I feel free. And I know, in my bones, that I am stronger and capable of so much more than I ever imagined. I took a life I had carefully planned and burned it down to build one that better suited me. I let that give me strength and courage as I face struggles now.
There was a wedding anniversary, a divorce anniversary, and me. My life in legal papers. And it does not define me. No more than it defines someone else who achieved another year in a relationship they would be better served to leave.
We are more than that. And every year as those dates pass, I remember what was and what could be. I did not fail. I chose and chose again. As you can now. As I will again. I don’t let it hurt me. I let it remind me of how very strong I’ve always been, just in case I’ve allowed myself to forget.
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