In my teens, discussing life goals, I was the cynic. I’d snort as only a know-it-all kid can and say, “I bet most janitors never said at our age, ‘when I grow up, I’m going to be a janitor.’”
With age my cynicism waned. Marriage. Children. I found the person with whom I’d spend the rest of my life. I didn’t just embrace the idea. I handcuffed myself to it and threw away the key.
When my marriage ended, I was stunned. Shockwaves the strength of which I had never imagined shook the ground where I stood.
The earthquake is over. An occasional after-tremor, fewer with time, but still every once in a while, I still feel them. Nonetheless, the rebuilding has begun. Through these experiences, I’ve come to recognize the fragility of structures I once imagined solid, unchanging. I’ve also come to savor the reality that in my rebuild, anything is possible.
So now I prepare for my first Thanksgiving in my new world.
Soon I will be surrounded by in-laws, my ex-wife Caroline, my children, my family.
My daughters will watch how I behave. They won’t notice indications of change. Instead, they’ll look for examples reinforcing their belief I, alone was the problem. I was the sole reason my marriage ended, upending their lives.
I can handle their scrutiny.
The Jon who fought losing battles against anxiety has left the building.
I won’t spend the day obsessing because the house isn’t perfect. I won’t spend the day avoiding meaningful conversations because I’m so distracted I cannot focus.
It won’t be a repeat of me resenting my wife and daughters for not understanding how overwrought I feel.
I will remember to take deep breaths. I will remember to respond, not react. This single practice will prevent me from saying things I don’t mean, preventing me from hearing what is actually said, not just that which catches my ear.
When I put so much blame on the end of my marriage upon myself, I became extremely defensive. I’d listen for perceived slights and react like a cornered, scared animal.
No longer defensive, when I hear echoes of the past, I now recall how difficult life was, for all of us. The echoes now fill me with the compassion I couldn’t find then.
For the first time in my life, I don’t feel broken. Scared at times, yes. Anxious? Most of the time. But I have the tools to deal with those feelings. Not to let them control me. It is a transformation that has changed how I perceive my world and is worth all the pain it took to get here.
That dear reader is what I am thankful for on this day of Thanksgiving.
I am also grateful for all of you who read my words. Through your reading, your likes, and comments, it is a remarkably comforting reminder I am not alone.
Stay in touch. Connect.