It’s simply just another day now. But once upon a time, it meant something. It was the reminder of a wedding day which was far from the one I had always dreamed of many years prior as a young girl. At the time, not having nearly as much money as we had hoped to make it exactly what we wanted, coupled with the anxiety of trying to please family and friends. I told myself, and everyone else over and over it was the marriage that mattered and not the wedding itself.
I actually wonder, did I continually repeat this to convince myself?
Today would have marked 20 years of marriage. A date easy enough to remember, however, the date that my ex-husband filed for a divorce is a date I can't seem to remember. Then came the date that my divorce was finalised approximately 3 months after the filing. To be fair, no one seems to want to celebrate those anniversaries or the dates that mark the days we make major changes in our lives. Is it because we feel, secretly, like we are failures? After all, people seem to judge matrimonial longevity as a marker of success. Divorce is seen as a failure while staying inside a bad marriage can somehow be merited as an achievement.
What does it really achieve to stay stuck in a mistake, or something that is no longer serving you? What possible success can be measured by living a life that is so much less than it could be? For sure, relationships are not easy. Let's face it, not all relationships are healthy. Some are even toxic. Too many people stay, not because they are determined to make it work, but because they are afraid of making a change.
Honestly, change can be terrifying. It can be extremely intimidating looking at the possibility of a future that is different from the one that was originally planned. At the time of my divorce, I had 3 dependent children, no job and absolutely no idea what I was going to do next. Please don't underestimate that it was anything less than being courageous. I certainly was not giving up. I was actually choosing to make the best of a bad situation by taking the actual steps to make changes in my life.
The day my divorce was final, I didn't really know what to feel. Truth be told I had envisaged popping champagne with my girlfriends to celebrate. But it was nothing like that. Instead, I sat in my car staring at the piece of paper that freed me of the relationship. I felt sorry for the happy go lucky 26-year-old girl who had walked into the registry office towards it. At the same time, I also felt sad for the disappointment she would probably face, and that I was actually facing then.
Now when my old wedding anniversary comes around, it reminds me of the courage it took to free myself. I clearly remember how hard I tried to save the relationship, and then ultimately how hard I fought to save myself and to create a better life for my children. It doesn't make me sad to pass the wedding anniversary that has now just become another day in the calendar, and I definitely don't feel like a failure when I pass the date as it signifies the life changes I made.
I feel brave. I feel empowered. I feel free. And I know, in my heart I am stronger and capable of so much more than I could have ever imagined. I took a life I had carefully planned and burned it down to rebuild one that suited me better. I allowed that to give me strength and courage whenever I face any struggles now.
There was a wedding anniversary. A divorce anniversary, and then me. My life in dates and legal decisions does not define me, no more than it defines anyone else who has achieved a year in a relationship they would be better served by leaving.
We are so much more than that. And every year as those dates pass, I remember what was and what could be. I did not fail. I chose and I chose again, as you can now and as I will again. I don't let it hurt me. I let it remind me of how strong I have always been, just in case I ever allow myself to forget.
What will you do today to evoke that change?