When my husband left just days after the new year in January of 2012, we had already planned a family vacation to Cabo San Lucas for that coming April.
Not comfortable traveling on my own to Mexico with three little ones in tow (at the time they were 11, 10, and seven), I canceled that trip and booked another at an all-inclusive family resort in Turks and Caicos for the sake of simplicity. My mother and stepfather joined us at the last minute for some much needed moral support.
Amidst blue skies, topaz water, and white sandy beaches, we (especially me) were anything but smiles, even in such a beautiful setting.
Beginning on day one, I mentally checked out as I lay by the pool with my iPod on at full blast watching my kids play by themselves in the water. Their attention span was shorter than normal as was my own during those early days after my separation, and they were fighting with each other nonstop.
It didn’t take a genius to understand why. The kids missed their dad and were expressing themselves the only way they knew how.
I did nothing to intervene. I simply could not.
As the week wore on, so, too, did their irritation. And mine. Adding insult to injury, my son’s iTouch was stolen off a restaurant table when he accidentally left it behind.
On our second to last day there, my eldest daughter verbalized what we had all been thinking: “This vacation stinks.”
She was right.
As I stood in the suite I had paid for with money I should have been saving, my heart ached. I had failed. I had failed at my marriage and, as a result, had failed at parenthood.
Feeling defeated, I sat on my bed as my children, in the middle of the afternoon, retreated to theirs and reflected on my own childhood.
For the first part of my life, I was raised in what I now recognize was an abusive home. In between brief periods of mania, my father consistently berated my mother and treated her badly. Then, when I was 13, he suddenly died, leaving my mother $26 in his wallet and a mountain of debt. If not for the house my parents owned together, I am afraid to even imagine what would have become of us.
I think I can speak for most parents when I say it is our sincerest hope that we give our kids a childhood akin to the one we had (if it was a memorable one) or a childhood that is even better.
Having spent more than 24 years with a man who did not respect me, today claims he never loved me, displayed (and continues to display) affection almost entirely through gift giving, and who thought nothing of making his life 8,000 miles from our three children, I should have known better than to think a week away would be the quick fix I was looking for.
I do not recall many happy memories from my childhood. But the few I do include those moments when my father would spontaneously grab my mother, her apron still tied tightly around her waist, and dance to their old records from the 60s that I played over and over again while my mother cooked dinner.
Excitedly, I would scramble to a corner in our family room and look up at them from where I sat with my legs crisscrossed on the floor as they danced to the songs of Dion, The Supremes, and The Byrds. The expression on their faces harkened to another time — a happier one — and served as a beacon of hope that someday life would again be calm.
Emerging from my reverie back in our island hotel room, I reached for the iPod that had carried me away all week and placed it in the docking station on my nightstand. With the same music from my past, I beckoned my children from their beds. Within minutes, my kids and I were dancing, laughing, and singing without a care in the world about how we looked or sounded.
As it has during my entire life, music has followed me through the last four years since my marriage ended, guiding me over hurdles and around obstacles I have encountered, including the most recent.
Earlier this month, my ex-husband became a father for the fourth time with his once mistress and now second wife, making what was at first a painful possibility a new reality for us all.
I was away for the weekend when my children first received the news and, much to my surprise, was more detached than I initially anticipated I would be. My kids, on the other hand, felt sad and conflicted as their father excitedly described the new baby he would be raising an ocean away as he spoke to them over FaceTime.
While preparing dinner later that week for my family like my mother had done so many years ago for my younger brother and me, my son, now 10, sat at our kitchen counter playing music from his iPod. As we sang along to Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber my two other children walked in, the older of whom stared at me incredulously.
“What?” I asked her as I danced around the room, gesticulating to the music for added effect.
“How can you act this way after so many bad things have happened to you?” she replied.
I stopped to catch my breath. It was a question I had never before considered but a question to which I now know I always had the answer.
"Because," I told her, "there is 'a time to mourn, and a time to dance.'" (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
Which brings me to present day.
I have spent the past four years mourning the end of my 16-year marriage, a relationship that began with a first date on New Year’s Eve back in 1987 and ended exactly 24 years later with what would become our last.
Since then, I have commemorated New Year’s Eve with my family, using it as a time to reflect and, mistakenly, focus on what I have lost instead of what I have gained.
In keeping with this mentality, for the past two years I have written about my longing for a New Year’s Eve kiss, something I have missed since first becoming separated.
This year, I will not be making such a pronouncement. There will be no sorrowful blog post written that night nor any self-defeating rituals in which I will partake. And not because I have someone to kiss me this New Year’s Eve.
I do not.
But what I do know is this: wherever I am and whoever I am with, even if it is no one at all, what I will do is dance. Because “[t]o every thing there is a season,” and that season is now. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
After more than two years (how time flies!), I am putting MiddleAgedMan-ia to rest, at least for a while, so I can spend more time focusing on my expanding business as well as on other creative projects. Thank you to all of my devoted readers who have stuck with me through my 'divorce, dating (adventures), and (self-)discovery,' making this journey a much less lonely one than it could have been. Your words of support, as well as criticism, have equally meant more to me than any of you can possibly imagine. Please keep in contact until we meet again. And, in the meantime, whenever you are feeling down, stand up. And dance.
How has your life changed for the better since your divorce?