20 Years

I’m not a terribly nostalgic person. I’m the last person who would choose to watch a tear-jerker as I find them manipulative. I don’t feel the need to hold on to remnants of my childhood or mementos of lives I’m no longer living.

But my 20th wedding anniversary would have been next Wednesday. The tense of that sentence confuses me because the anniversary is in the future, but the marriage is in the past.

I don’t want that relationship back — let’s get that straight now. I have moved on and do not care to step backwards in that history. This is not about me wondering “what if?” or moaning “if only…” I am not interested in recapturing illusions.

The failure of my marriage casts a long shadow. It picks at my seams, leaving them rough and threadbare. It increases the gravity around my parenting, staining my fingerprints. I leave streaks of shame on everything I touch, knowing that if I’d been a better spouse, I’d be a better mother.

Twenty years is a long time. And disassembling all of the structures I put in place over those years is tedious and aching and, at times, both repugnant and glorious.

I have come farther in the last three years than the 17 before. I am stronger, more confident, and freer than I have ever been. No longer playing a supporting character in my own life, I have stepped out of the wings and claimed the spotlight. I know who I am, what I expect, and what I want in my life to make it happy and fulfilling.

I don’t need anything. I can care for my kids, balancing their activities and my jobs and getting everyone everywhere they need to be. I’ve got that. i am killing it as a single mom.

But I miss… something. Maybe it’s knowing that, at the end of the day, no matter how sideways everything went, there is someone waiting to hear my stories, to laugh with me, to be my forever friend. Maybe it’s the idea that when I’m worried about a child or a parent, there’s someone there with a warm heart and a kind gesture. Maybe it’s laughing at silly inside jokes until joy squeezes from my eyes. Maybe it’s just a connection that I’m seeking. I don’t know.

But, even after 20 years, I probably have another 40 to get it figured out.

6 thoughts on “20 Years

  1. Streaks of shame. Yes! God you’re a good writer. I divorced nearly 17 years ago and I still, STILL, cart that oversized bag with me everywhere I go. We are convinced as a culture that marriage is supposed to be “forever” even though half of them haven’t worked out for a very long time. Hugs and applause, honey. Hugs and applause.

  2. Good for you for not reflecting on the what ifs and the maybes. They’re all so useless. Wonderful essay. I especially love the words you used throughout like “joy squeezes from my eyes!”

  3. I love the part about how you say the “failure of my marriage casts a long shadow. It picks at my seams, leaving them rough and threadbare.” How beautifully worded.

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