Tomorrow I get on an airplane to visit my ex-husband, to take on the role of being his Healthcare Proxy. That means that, in the event of his being unconscious or incompetent to make his own decisions, I will step up and advocate for his wishes about his health care to be followed. It seems a fitting final chapter for a relationship that left no stone of dysfunctionality unturned, in which both principals did and endured massive damage, and which, in the end, proved unsalvageable. Now, a couple of years later, we have a chance to tip our hats to the love and trust that we shared briefly, and to make a small official gesture to the triumph of middle age and patience over insanity and misery.
This would have boggled my mind a decade ago, and been absolutely unthinkable to my 25 year-old self. But now it makes sense. We never set out to destroy one another, we were stupid and cruel and hyperbolic by turns, but never wicked or evil. Now that we are out of each other’s orbit, free to move and live as we choose without the quagmire of old baggage dragging at our ankles, we can acknowledge that for a time we were central in each other’s lives, and that we owe something of our present hopes and happiness to the lessons we taught each other.
Middle age indeed. Halfway (generously speaking) between youth and being old. This seems to be the time that we forgive but stop short of repeating our old mistakes. This is where we are able to steer a course informed by history but not defeated or overwhelmed by it. Instead of bitterness and resentment towards friendships lost and broken hearts, we see them as the instruments we needed to carve the recalcitrant marble of our souls. As my mother told me after my father’s untimely death, we are made of our experiences, three-dimensional and intentional as spheres…when experiences end and life changes direction, we are no less entire than we were. We may be torn or chipped on the surface, but the depth and weight of us are still intact. Nothing can tear away our history from us, no assault on the outer surfaces of our souls can destroy who we already are. Our sorrow and losses are simply more layers, at first open and raw but then sheltered and wrapped by healing until they become part of the whole.
I’m nervous about the process of seeing this person again, the one in whose presence I saw myself at my very worst. But at the same time, I am pleased to see myself moving beyond that. Letting go of all that pain and guilt feels awfully good. As I build a new marriage and learn to trust the love and resonating energy of a healthy connection, it feels good to me to close the old chapter on gentle terms. Long ago I loved as a child—greedily, dangerously, without thought or reason. Now I have learned to love with a little sense, with an appreciation of the joys and blessings that come along with mindfulness, patience and devotion. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to say goodbye to the old craziness and to celebrate its passing. When I fly home two days from now, I will be glad beyond words to step back into the burgeoning hope and happiness that has become my lot. Who knew that middle age could contain room for such gestures, such small but important gateways from one chapter to the next? Life just gets more and more interesting as the years go by—and as we walk our paths, there seems to be more and more room for kindness and peace as we go along.
©Mary Braden 2013