The title is true. Today was supposed to be my 23rd anniversary.
Twenty-three years ago, just about now, at 12:21 p.m., my beauty genies were putting the finishing touches on my hair and makeup. I was full of jittery excitement as I prepared to don my gigantic confection of a dress and reveal myself in all of my bridal glory to my soon-to-be husband.
Twenty-three years ago I was a 24-year-old novice at life and love. I was full of hope and optimism for my future. I couldn’t wait to change my name, to call myself wife and to call him husband. We had so much to look forward to: the blending of two families, children, travel, a new home, a new life together.
Twenty-three years ago I would have scoffed in disbelief if my future self had shown up to tell me that today, on my 23rd anniversary, I’d be writing this instead of exchanging cards and flowers and sweet nothings.
But you know what? Life is full of surprises. Good ones, and bad ones too.
I’ve been separated now for almost 2 1/2 months. And over these 11 weeks I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want and what I need and what I deserve.
If you’d asked me on March 8th how I’d be today, the answer would have been catatonic.
But I’m not. I’m the opposite, in fact. I’m content. Happy. Hopeful. And much, much smarter.
I’ve learned a lot during this time, other than knowing that above all I must listen to my gut, and respect myself, my needs and my feelings.
What wisdom have I gained?
That true happiness comes from within, and that I can choose to be happy and unabashedly go after what will make it so.
That I don’t regret the years I spent being wife to him. From that union I was given 3 of the greatest gifts. Because of him my life has been rich with experiences that wouldn’t trade for the world, and I was lucky to have had them.
That I can do what I want and I don’t have to listen to anyone’s advice if I don’t want to.
That I don’t have to be baited into conflict or confrontation. And that that I’d be fine with living the rest of my life without experiencing either of those ever again.
That inner peace and living in the moment is a gift. That I don’t have to let my emotions rule my behaviour and that holding my temper feels so much better than losing it.
That there is immeasurable value to be found in deep and abiding friendships and open and honest communication with my children.
That I have a lot more good in my life than the bad that I’ve lost.
That beautiful things, wonderful people, and the possibilities life has to offer can enter my life when I open my heart to them and let them in.
Last week my therapist pointed out that the Chinese word for crisis is composed of two characters, one that represents danger and the other opportunity. I find this duality especially meaningful as I reflect and write this.
I’ve taken my crisis and instead of dwelling in a land of danger, I’ve instead allowed it to be an opportunity for self-awareness and change. I find myself to be calmer and more at peace. I speak more slowly and quietly. I listen better. I appreciate the amazing people in my life. I smile more. I speak up for myself. My anxiety rarely surfaces. I find simple pleasures— like breathing in fresh air or looking into someone’s eyes—joyful.
Sometimes a journey you think is going to be short is so very long. And sometimes a journey you believe will take forever instead turns out to be brief. The speed at which I have picked up the pieces of what I thought was a shattered life has surprised even me.
I knew I was resilient, but what I didn’t know was that I was also pragmatic and wise.
And fun. Really, really fun.