I made the mistake of listening to Tim McGraw as I started this blog entry.
My respect to Tim, he’s a fantastic singer and songwriter, and I hear he puts on a great stage show, too (haven’t made it to one yet, but they’re reportedly worth the price, at the least). The problem is, I gravitate to his more thoughtful (otherwise known as “sad”) music. It’s not entirely my fault, or so I’ll insist—it’s temperament, too. As a college freshman, I was required to take a personality inventory, and was told that I was strongly lodged in the “melancholy” category. Five years later, preparing to graduate (yes, I took five years—curse you, Western Civilization class!) and taking the test again, I was told I was so melancholic as to be unable to relate to other people in normal ways. Good thing THAT turned out to be wrong! Still, it makes for a handy excuse when Mr. McGraw is on the radio.
Unsuspecting, I wandered straight into a land mine of a song called “Everywhere”, a morose and wistful (can those two feelings go together?) ballad about the relationship that might have been, that old staple of country music. Everybody has that one that didn’t last, so we can all identify. But if that isn’t enough to prompt tears, I crashed from there straight into “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” a real tearjerker. I held it together, don’t worry. But it makes me think.
By this time next week, my divorce should be final. If anyone who knows me reads this and is surprised to hear about this, I have one of two answers for you: one, I didn’t talk about it on Facebook, other than changing my relationship status; and two, where have you been? I practically blasted this news in every other way. I’ve never been able to keep my business to myself, or so I’m told.
I’ll talk some other time, perhaps, about how the divorce came about. Right now, it’s too new, too fresh, to want to rehash all of those details; and on top of that, I have to consider that my nearly-ex-wife may not want it displayed. After all, it’s her business too. But for now, I can say how I feel about the situation, at least as much as I KNOW how I feel. You would be surprised how little I do know about that. I never expected that—never expected this much confusion about it—but there it is.
I labored over this decision for a long time before I filed the divorce documents. It was complicated for me by the fact that the issues dividing us were not about how we feel about each other; there were other issues, things outside of our own relationship, that made our marriage unsustainable. I still love my wife, even now, although that love has certainly changed over the years—and I believe that in a way, she still loves me. At the very least, she still feels an attachment to me. So, yes, it makes me sad to see our marriage of ten years—fifteen, if you add our dating years—fall apart. I don’t regret making this choice, but I regret the terrible things that led up to it.
The thing I regret most is that it seems so short. I remember, years ago, doing the mental equivalent of sitting myself down for a talk. It happened on more than one occasion, and had it been a real dialogue, it might have gone like this:
ME: You know, time is racing by.
MYSELF: Really? I hadn’t noticed. Huh.
ME: Yes. Look around you, idiot. (I called myself idiot—it’s good to have pet names.) You have a good girlfriend. You have good friends. You’re having experiences that you’ll never get back again.
MYSELF: …I’m not following.
ME: Slow down! Pay attention! Start being grateful for this time in your life. You’ll miss it when you’re older!
MYSELF: Oh. Yeah. Yeah! That makes sense. I’ll do that!
And you know…I did. I have taken time to appreciate the good things in my life. I enjoyed every minute of those early years, and as much as I could of the later years, even when things started to go badly. The sad truth? It was enough…but it wasn’t enough. Time still flew by. The early days passed. The kids grew up…one day they were infants, the next they were in school. One minute, we were a family of four—the next minute, we live miles apart. I can’t say I don’t know how it happened, but I don’t know how it happened so FAST. Where did the years go?
That’s my nod to “Everywhere”. But as I said, it was followed with “Grown Men Don’t Cry”, a song about tragedies and regrets—and blessings. The third verse says this:
I sit here with my kids and my wife and everything that I hold dear in my life.
We say grace and thank the Lord, got so much to be thankful for,
Then it’s up the stairs and off to bed, and my little girl says, “I haven’t had my story yet!”
Everything weighing on my mind disappears just like that,
When she lifts her head off the pillow and says, “I love you, Dad.”
And I don’t know why they say grown men don’t cry,
I don’t know why they say grown men don’t cry…
I’ll admit, it isn’t perfectly us. My wife, though still a part of our lives, isn’t there with us anymore. When we say grace, it’s just three of us at the table, not four. But we still have so much to be thankful for. I know that I do, because I still have two little people who don’t just depend on me, but love me, and look to me to be there for them. And yes, when they say “I love you, Dad,” this grown man still cries.
Sadness. Yes, I have that. Regret—it’s with me all the time. But there are answers to those feelings, better answers, better feelings.
To sadness, I offer gratitude. I can’t be sad and thankful for what I have at the same time.
To regret, I offer determination. I may not have made all the mistakes, but those I made, I don’t have to repeat.
Now, let’s find some happier music!