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Victorian Mores For the Modern Age


Today around noon, I remembered that this is the day my divorce was finalized by the judge. Two years ago, a simple signature ended 26 years of marriage. My marriage. It was something I really cared about.

Last year at this time, I may have been a little wistful, I really don't remember. Today, when I recalled the date, I sat in stillness for a second, waiting to feel something. My co-worker walked up and I said, "Today is the anniversary of the divorce." She stopped and we were quiet for a second. She looked at me, searching my face for a clue. Finally I said, "I don't feel anything." She nodded approvingly and walked away.

Waves of guilt washed over me. How could I not feel anything?

I tried to reason myself into sorrow. Twenty-six years, hopes and dreams, c'mon. They're gone!

I tried to reason myself into remorse. Why didn't I change, why wasn't I better? Wasn't I to blame for it all? Nope. Nothing.

I tried to reason myself into anger. Twenty-six years, hopes and dreams. That jerk and jerkette. That was a little easier, but still not anything to write home about. It was more of a "meh."

I wouldn't say that I was wrong about not wanting a divorce. What I was definitely wrong about was my resilience level and about my willingness to jump on the train that was headed to the happiness station. Whoa! That is a false statement. You can't really jump on a train like that, and I didn't. It felt like I did because I had been living in a sort of self imposed off and on Scarlett-esque mourning period for the past few years of my marriage, every time that X would go into divorce mode. When you choose to stay in happiness after feeling forced to be periodically miserable for a few years, you really do notice.

Has anyone seen Gone With The Wind? Charles Hamilton, Scarlett's first husband has just died. She didn't love him, but she is forced into living out the socially acceptable role of sad widow, while she just wants to dance and have fun.

I really believe wholeheartedly in marriage- in the mystical aspect of oneness as well as the practical. Unconditional love is a magical place to be. I think that is the part I have struggled with the most during the healing process. I had to consciously separate out of a union and choose to put the love I have for myself over love of another. But I did choose to.

After really thinking about why I felt guilty, it became clear to me that I had imposed the same sort of rigidity on myself that Scarlett faced. I realized that part of the reason I fought for the marriage so strongly was that it didn't seem like I should ever be happy again- how could I enjoy my life and move on if I divorced? I cared about my marriage so much that I felt I would be dishonoring the memory of it by moving forward.

While I believed in marriage, fortunately, I also believed something else just as strongly: happiness is a choice and if you can't be happy right where you're at, you never will be. Like I said before, there is no train to the happiness depot- you're already on the train- you decide where to be.

In my heart of hearts, it does makes me sad when people seem flippant about their divorce, or refer to their ex as a big mistake. If you are divorced, whatever your situation, I hope there is something about your marriage that you treasure. For me, mine deserves more respect than some gratuitous ex bashing or selling the china on eBay.

It feels good to have finally found a balance between Downton Abbey and Melrose Place. I didn't do any of the "divorce party" or burning of my wedding album activities that some people do. It didn't feel right. But I also know that I tried and I cared and there is no guilt or shame in living my best life and moving on. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade and when Rhett Butler comes along and asks you to dance... start the music.

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