It’s the end of the year and time for the usual year end reflection. If you’re nearing forty, it’s probably a time to be doubly reflective. Today Rachel reflects on loving, losing love and how all of it is just a part of developing…
My parents divorced when I was seven years old. I remember the day that my mother, brothers and I moved; it was a cold and wet winter day. I cried as I said goodbye to my swing set and my climbing tree and wondered about the new school I’d attend and whether or not there would be children on my new block. I knew the word “divorce” and I knew from adults’ reactions that it was supposed to be a negative thing, so I decided at that moment that I would never get divorced. I knew that I would one day be married, but divorce was just not option.
My grandparents, parents and just about all of my aunts, uncles and older cousins smoked. I swore I’d never do that either—and happily, I’ve kept that promise. But the divorce thing…Well, like other things, divorce happens. I used to believe that if I loved someone enough to marry him, then I could never possibly hate him enough to divorce him. The love-hate extremes in that theory expose the immaturity and simplicity of it. Hindsight is truly 20/20 vision and knowing what I know now based on my experiences, hatred is often not even part of the equation.
My parents didn’t hate one another. I know this because they were always friendly and cooperative with each other once they were separated. They seemed like friends who met every other weekend and during family functions and holidays. We sometimes enjoyed family outings together and in later years, my parents enjoyed an occasional date. Even to this day, holiday dinners are attended and enjoyed by both of them simultaneously and without drama or weird rules about Mother being in the house for an hour, then Dad and then another rotation.
Neither fortunately nor unfortunately, my experience with divorce was quite a bit different. Thankfully, there were no children involved. However, there were threats, harassment and less-than-civil behavior that made that period of my life almost unbearable. Looking back, there still wasn’t hatred (at least not on my part), but there was a distinct lack of love between us. Despite the absence of love, there was still an overwhelming sense of failure and shame for me. I had expected better of myself and my life.
At some point in the middle of depositions and hearings, I realized that I hadn’t failed myself or my soon-to-be ex-husband. I realized that I hadn’t even been in the marriage. The part of Rachel in the marriage had been played by a hollow version of me who was afraid to speak her mind, show her talents or simply be herself—my desolate, depressed and disillusioned doppelganger. That person didn’t know joy, she didn’t know confidence, nor did she know peace. She had gotten married at a time in her life when she didn’t really know herself, let alone what she wanted, needed and deserved in a husband. The marriage was destined to fail.
I now realize that my failed marriage was an important part of my development was a person, a woman and a mate for a future man. At almost forty years old, I know not only what I want, need and deserve in a mate, but what I need to offer a mate. I also know what I don’t want or need and what I am not capable of giving. There are moments when it is tough to face my own reality—my strong points and my shortcomings. However, there is a certain triumph, a feeling of victory in accepting myself and having the courage and tenacity to be that person—warts and all. As the saying goes, “You can’t love another without loving yourself.” I found out the hard way that it helps to know yourself too. Most importantly, I’m confident that I will know and love myself even more at forty.
Rachel Dachel is a freelance writer and editor, and creator and author of the blog Rachel-y Motivated Incidents.