So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

We received our divorce decree today.

Over the last six years I have, understandably, developed a number of strong opinions about marriage, and someday I’ll figure out how to express them. Not surprisingly, a number of them will not be as positive as I might wish.

So today, while I’m thinking about it, and before I loose those on the world, I want to go on record with all the things about my marriage I’ve enjoyed and am grateful for. In no particular order, then:

  • Having my very own taste-tester to let me know whether the salsa (etc.) was safe or too spicy for me to eat. And while we’re on the subject:
  • Being taught that I enjoy Mexican food (really, I can’t imagine how I ever thought I didn’t). And being introduced to pho, although I wish more places made it as well as the place we went to in Arkansas (go figure). Oh, and frozen yogurt. And street meat. And bourbon!! And discovering that my all-time favorite wine region is… Michigan. Yum.
  • Having a husband who’s a better cook than I am, and who has vastly improved my understanding of such subjects as seasoning. (This list isn’t all food, I promise!)
  • The best in-laws a girl could have. Their first and last words to me were expressions of love and support, and I am sad that they are no longer family I can look forward to visiting yearly, but I’m happy to have the memories of the time we did have.
  • The opportunity to experience different parts of the country in-depth. It was always funny when people tried to sympathize about our criss-crossing moves. No. I was thrilled to go to Maine and Vermont, places I’d always wanted to go but might not have made it to, and certainly wouldn’t have lived in, on my own. And even though Kansas wasn’t a place I would have chosen, I’m glad to have lived here, too.
  • Our long at-least-weekly walks in the first couple years. Having someone to walk with me – and distract me by talking about the houses we passed – was the essential component in finally getting my 3-year-long ankle sprain to heal. And also, the opportunity to learn at least a little more about health and fitness… and finally learning how to ride a bike.
  • Being introduced to a couple of handfuls of musicians I wouldn’t have discovered on my own, some of whom are already staples of my listening, some who are yet to be fully explored.
  • Having a car mechanic, a computer technician, a plumber, an electrician, a general contractor, and all around mechanically handy person in the family. I’m going to miss that.
  • Cross-country road trips. I grew up in a very flying-oriented family, so road trips weren’t really part of my vernacular. I found, somewhat to my surprise, that I enjoy the long-haul driving. And that there’s something very meditative about an overnight drive that means I really didn’t mind taking the 3 a.m. shift. And that the real joy is in the back roads.
  • Some of the nerdy cultural touchstones I can’t imagine not being familiar with – Lord of the Rings, HP, Eragon – were things I was first exposed to by my husband. When you’re planning to name your (hypothetical future) children after the characters you admire, it’s safe to say those things have made an impact.
  • When your sanity depends on proving that you can be loved, you get much better at identifying and cultivating the most likely sources – and cutting out those relationships that are harmful. For both of those reasons, but mostly the former, I will never again be as sad or as lonely as I was before my marriage. I learned that I already had more and better friends than I’d ever realized, and my ability to connect with new friends has increased exponentially. The effect this has had on my life cannot be overstated, and it is something I have not yet ceased to regard with wonder.
  • The opportunity to test – and prove – my childish hypothesis that I can survive anything.
  • Being forced to focus on and work through my issues, as fast as humanly possible, along with the crash course in how to consider others’ feelings and needs. I’ve said it a dozen times, I’ll say it hundreds more: I feel like I took the 5-year shortcut to 20 years of growth. And I value that enough that if given the chance to go back in time and change history… I might just sit back and let myself go through it anyway.
  • And I’m grateful, too, for the vast increase in love and patience that makes that acceptance possible. Don’t think letting yourself suffer sounds like love? I think it is. I think it’s a rare and powerful compassion that says, “I understand you, and I know that although it won’t be easy, you need this. And I know you can handle it, and I wouldn’t dream of holding you back and denying you what you need, just to give you the illusion of comfort.” Because as much as we might think we’d rather do without trials, our Before is never as easy or comfortable or happy as our After. Staying permanently in “Before” isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy. So I think that perhaps, if you aren’t grateful for the hard times you’ve had, you haven’t yet learned all there is to learn from them.

Considering all of this, there’s one thing that keeps echoing through my head, one thing that seems in a funny way to sum it up best, so I will say it: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

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Bravery & Honesty

I recently wrote and submitted an essay to a popular wedding-and-marriage themed website. It was the sort of post that gets praised as “honest” and “brave” and I was almost certain it would get published.

After a week of suspense, it did. I even received a kind note that the editorial staff “all really loved what you had to say.” Naturally, I was tickled pink. I was thinking to myself, “If what I have to say helps even one person, I will be so happy.”

On the appointed day the post was posted, I (naturally!) eagerly read the comments, and promptly realized why honesty is so often labeled as “brave.”

It was, surprisingly, something I had never thought about before. My approach to life is very much: let’s all be open with each other, without taking offense, so that we can all learn together. There are certainly people who think there are better ways of interacting and I have, in certain situations, given in to that advice… probably for the best. But in general I haven’t noticed any overtly negative reactions that would make me change my view. My honesty has almost never called for bravery; and it had never called for bravery after the courage to confess was mustered.

I wrote the post because I had felt alone, realized belatedly that I was not, and hoped to spare others the same shamed loneliness. And then all the comments up until lunchtime were about how others had exactly the opposite experience I did. They were perfectly happy. They had never had this problem. Though I have never seen a truly trollish comment on this site, one person did go so far as to say that perhaps her experience was different because her parents had provided a good example. (I didn’t mention my parents in the post, and as it happens, they were also a good example. But thanks for the implication, sweetie.)

I spent my lunch hour near tears.

In the afternoon, however, the tone changed. Several people thanked me for the post and said it was exactly what they needed to read.

So I stopped reading comments. I’m sure the post has acquired more, and perhaps the not-so-kind commenter, who was gently rebuked by others, has even backtracked. A part of me is curious. The bigger part of me knows that I don’t need to know. Whatever the sum of the reactions, what I said helped one person – more than one person – and that is enough.

It was a small experience but an important one. I can now be brave when I am honest. But it changes nothing else. The world needs more honesty. And perhaps more bravery too.