January marked the 27th year of meeting my ex-husband. I was a junior in high school, dating an older man I dreamed of marrying, and couldn’t wait to rush through college to do so. I knew everything. Just ask me. I remember thinking life felt like watching water boil – forever! Now 27 years, one divorce and three kids later, it’s unreal how fast the water boils and unreal the things I didn't know before my marriage and divorce.
6 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Marriage and Divorce
1. I wish I would have figured out how to be alone and not feel lonely. I overthink, I over-do, I over-react, I over-worry, and I over-stress. I over-everything. I do all of this to avoid being alone. I got married to avoid being alone. I surrounded myself with food, booze, and friends who thought the same. I never talked about what I was really feeling because being real meant feeling alone. Sometimes life is lonely. Sometimes it’s not easy and you end up divorced. Accepting this and learning to cope and live alone is invigorating.
2. I wish I would have watched more sunrises and sunsets. I slept through the sunrise usually because I was too hung over. I planned early get-my-drink-on start times and calculated how fast I could get drunk. I wish I would have taken the time to watch more wake-up calls from God. The seconds it takes the sun to come over the horizon is breathtaking. The evening sunset calms nerves so quickly that there’s no choice but to feel grateful. My oldest daughter says the best thing about sunsets is the sky never looks the same way twice. I sure pay attention now.
3. I wish I would have appreciated rocks. My 10-year-old finds the coolest rocks. We have a jar of random colors, textures, and sizes. I’m not really sure why she picks them up and, before I got divorced, I wouldn’t have even cared. What I know now is that when she hands me a rock, I take the time to see it. I think about the carefulness her little set of eyes took to find it. I wonder what made her pick it up. I'm so much better at paying attention and valuing differences and experiences.
4. I wish I would have prayed more. Talking to God is something I do in the shower. I thank God that in a sea of voices, He hears mine. The difference between my pre and post-divorce praying is being selfish. If I prayed, I assumed prayers were answered as I intended and messiness was punishment. Praying now is simply a way for me to talk out loud about the things important to me. I have my kids throw a coin with their birth year in the ocean when we go on vacation. I tell them to make a wish. It’s my way of teaching them to pray. To think big and wish big so they’re thinking out loud about what they need and what they’re thankful for.
5. I wish I would have enjoyed car rides. I hate driving long distances. I hated riding with my three younger brothers to the grocery store and I hated silent car rides with my ex-husband. I still hate driving, but now I choose to make it count. I drive through small towns on long trips just to see how many people are walking around. I stop at random gas stations to buy snacks and create stories about no-door bathrooms and creepy truckers. I’ve enjoyed 10 years of long drives to softball games, swim meets and basketball games. I put 25,000 miles a year on my vehicle. I don’t track the price of gas, the miles per gallon or the oil changes I get every 45 days instead of 90. I just drive and enjoy.
6. I wish I would have listened and learned. I’m so quick to interrupt. I’m always thinking of my next sentence. It’s one of the downfalls of my marriage. Now, I try asking more questions and watching. I listened to a co-worker talk about her rude daughter and told her our kids know they can be rude because we’ll love them no matter what. Another co-worker asked me how I was doing and when I asked the same, she told me about this wonderful man she recently married after her terrible divorce. She talked about what finding happiness had been like for her. There are lessons in every experience. It’s my choice to listen and find them.
I suspect the burner will stay hot enough to boil for the next 27 years. My plan is to watch the sun shine and set, to find my rock and to be a rock for those who need it and most of all to listen.