We sat in the kitchen, miserable. We sorted through the detritus of more than a decade, argued over what was important and what was cared about and who would get custody of which things. We talked for the millionth time about why we ended up where we are and acknowledged one more time that we both would have done things differently Some people say that regret is a wasted emotion, and of course the past being a fixed path is unchangeable and inflexible. No, regret cannot change the course of water that has already flowed downstream. So often, because we are told that it is useless to regret, we shelve what we regret and move on. I believe that regret is worth at least a periodic sifting-through, if you will, because how else will we make better choices in the future if we learned nothing from our mistakes of the past?
We do not own the time that we are given, not the length and breadth of it, but the choices we make are ours and we must own them. I know that parts of this unraveling I own. I am trying to instill in myself, on a cellular level, that which I already intellectually know: I am responsible for my own emotions.
When I am hurt, when I am angry, it is not up to someone else to make those feelings go away. That is my job, mine alone. The actions of others might soothe me, momentarily, ultimately I am the person who must decide to move on from my anger and hurt. Forgive, never forget, but let it go. Dwelling on past hurts is one of the most certain ways that I know of to be miserable, unhappy and bitter. Someone hurt you? I'm sorry. Now LET IT GO. If I had understood this, in theory and in practice, life right now would look very different.
In the same vein, I am not responsible to someone just because they think I should be. When I buy into the philosophy that I owe another person something or that I must not do what I believe is right because it might make them feel bad, I am failing myself. This is a lesson for me, not for the other person. How many times do I have to let myself be swayed by imposed guilt into doing something that I don't want to do before I realize that I shouldn't be letting other people dictate my boundaries? How many times should I apologize to someone for how I feel before I realize that they don't have the right to tell me what my feelings on any certain subject should be? When I failed to honor my own feelings and boundaries, I created a landscape in which I continually felt used, misunderstood and ignored. *I* created it. I can't blame another person for doing what I allowed them to do.
So I learn and I move on. I watch the once churning riptide of a marriage subside and flow back into the deeps, examine the whorls and striations it has left behind in the sand of my soul. I study them well, seeking greater wisdom in the learning of how I hurt myself and others. I make promises to myself that I'm not sure I know how to keep, to not do this again. That Next Time I will be stronger. Next Time I will honor my boundaries. Next Time I will remember that in relationships one does well to wade in from the shallow end, not to dive into the deepest part too soon. Next Time I will limit my expectations of others, and increase my expectations of my self. Next Time, I will not let fear and insecurity erode my foundations.
And if there is no Next Time, I will still practice good relationship skills with my children, with my family, with my friends.
I am sad that we lost our way. I know that things could have been different, but we let ourself be drawn in ways that divided us. I hope that someday we can forgive each other for our hurts, that we can treat each other always in a way that honors the relationship we once had and that honors the children that we created together.
We grasp the opposite ends of the thread that held us together and together we tug. Bit by bit, the unraveling takes place. No stopping it now, no going back. The only thing to do is, the right thing to do, is to step over the pile of thread, look to the future and hold on to just enough of the past to help keep me on my path.