Aging. It really gives you some perspective. It changes the way you see the world and your former, younger self.
Now approaching my 40s, I think back to my first marriage and I can feel the grimace forming on my face. It's like looking back at a car accident you almost can't bear to watch.
What on earth was I thinking??
The fearlessness of youth took me to traveling. I traveled pretty darn far at the age of 20. I left beautiful autumn days and snowy winters behind for a smoldering heat and dancing palm trees. I went to a different country. I worked. I danced. I hopped on buses not knowing my destination. I wrote in my journals obsessively, relishing every new adventure and experience.
Looking back, I must have been out of my mind.
And then I did in fact go out of my mind. For a man. A man who was a mess. A man who was much older (over a decade). A man I married and shouldn't have.
Everyone knew it. My family, my best friends. Even me.
But I did it anyway. And thus began my journey into adulthood -- the hard way. I experienced love, lust, excitement -- and then abuse. Emotional, verbal, physical.
The man I married had issues that went way back. He couldn't control his temper. He had drug problems. He never had steady employment or money. He already had one failed marriage and two estranged children whom he never saw.
Life constantly seemed to be difficult for him and I thought I could help. I thought I could change him. The classic old story. We went to therapy. I worked hard every day to bring home money because there was always some reason why he couldn't hold down a job. I took care of him as he floundered.
The irony of course was that I was barely in my mid-twenties and he was middle-aged. How we must have looked to everyone on the outside. Preposterous, I imagine.
And so the story unfolded, getting worse with every year. His behavior never improved -- in fact it got worse. I lived in fear and dread, not knowing how to extract myself.
But there are things I learned.
I learned how to be resourceful. I learned how to earn an honest living. I learned that I was a caring and loyal wife, even though I may have chosen the wrong partner. I learned that there was an immensely fierce and independent woman being created. That free spirit who had left home seeking experience was still inside me.
I also learned that I was stubborn enough to hold on to my bad choices for far too long.
And after the whole sordid mess was over by my late twenties, when I finally escaped and clawed my way back to myself, I was closer to the person I was destined to be. I started to form into the human being, mother, stepmother and wife I am today.
I still had a long way to go of course. My 30s taught me even more profound lessons that I've just begun to explore.
But that first marriage gave me a lot. My first husband taught me that you can't succeed in life by blaming others for your actions and choices. He taught me that the more you run away from your problems, the more they shadow you and manifest into every part of your existence until you either deal with them or become eaten alive by them.
And now that I'm almost the age my first husband was when we were married, I marvel at how I have survived and flourished. I'm glad we didn't have children together. I realized 2 years into the marriage that would be a mistake.
I wouldn't say that there's a reason for everything that happens, but I would say that there's a method to the madness at times. I believe the subconscious knows things we may not be aware of. I think that we all go through the hell we need to go through in order to stand the test of time and life.
So, here I am. Married to a fantastic partner raising two lovely children. We're both flawed, but we both love each other and have a vision of our future together.
Will it last?
I think so and I hope so.
Originally a Vancouver Island native, Michelle now resides in California where she is an ex-corporate slave, writer, artist, mother, stepmother, & wife.
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