This year, while fireworks burned bright over Kansas City and friends & family gathered around the grill, I celebrated Independence Day in an usual and hopefully not-to-be-repeated fashion: I traveled to Costa Rica in order to sign the papers for my divorce.
This trip marked the last chapter of what has been a long, painful struggle around the question of what to do when love runs strong between two people whose lives are taking off in completely different directions.
I’ve avoided talking about the break up of my marriage, in part because I’m not one to air my private life in public forums, but also because in this case my private life was also the private life of someone I care for and respect very much.
There’s nothing quite like seeing seventeen years of love wrapped up and snipped off in the clean, cold language of lawyers and judges. It’s an experience that shakes you to the core; one that I would not wish on anyone.
Seventeen years ago this month, my then-to-be husband (and now-to-be-ex) asked me out for the first time. Not only did I accept; I was so certain something fundamentally important was about to happen that I called up another man I was dating at the time and told him, in no uncertain terms, that I was not going to see him again.
From that day forward, through all our years of dating and marriage, there was no one for me but this one person and the joy, passion, and adventure that we shared. If I’ve learned one lesson from the sum total of my experience with my marriage, it is this:
Always choose love.
In case you didn’t get that the first time around:
Always choose love.
My marriage may have come to an end, but no one can take away the years we shared, or the happiness we gave each other. And despite the pain I’ve suffered, despite the sadness I feel, if I were given the opportunity to go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t change any of it.
Except, perhaps, if I could find a way to make us last a little longer. That I would do. But if that opportunity ever existed, it passed us by, and this is something I am slowly learning to accept. At the end of the day, there is no going back. One life is given to us. We do the best we can with every precious moment, and then we move on.
Ironically, I’ve also learned that the one thing that makes heartbreak bearable is love itself. The memory of love, the presence of love, the promise of love, in all its forms. Even as the tears fall, even as I go through another box of tissue and reach for another bar of chocolate, I have no regrets. I feel sadness, at times deep and gut-wrenching melancholy, but that is not the same as regret.
Regret is when you’ve done something you wish you hadn’t done. I will never wish away the years of my marriage. I mourn their end, yes, but I am very grateful to have had them.
He and I made the brave choice, after all. We chose love. And our blessings have been many because of that.