Ten years of (sometimes reluctant) adventure

This post was inspired by BlogHer.com‘s year-long “Own Your Beauty” initiative and its January theme, “Adventure.” And sorry to disappoint those of you who would marvel at my speedy recovery, but it was written prior to my surgery last Friday.

If I were still married to my first husband, we would have celebrated our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary on January 7. (Hopefully, “celebrated” would have been the right word.) We would have been married to each other for almost 60% of our lives at that point. And if we were still the people we’d been for almost half that time, there would have been relatively little adventure in our lives. Our nest would have already been empty for a few years and we might have moved to a smaller house, but we’d both still be working (him significantly more than me), and…well, I’m honestly not sure what else, to be honest. I was able to see us being old together, but I had trouble seeing how we’d get there.

However, we didn’t stay the same people we were when we’d married at 20. (Hopefully, most of us don’t stay the same people we were at 20, married or not.) Adventure entered our lives…and ultimately sent us in different directions. Adventure is part of why we’re no longer married.

And yet, that doesn’t mean I begrudge adventure. While certain varieties of adventure – mostly those involving physical risk-taking – hold no allure for me, and I wouldn’t say I go out seeking adventure, I’ve found that it can be good for me. The last ten years of my life have been my most adventurous, and they’ve taken me to places I wouldn’t have imagined when I was 20. Still, at times I really haven’t seen my actions as even being all that adventurous; it’s other people’s reactions that make me see them that way.

One of my old friends back at the zoo gave me a sweet gift when I left there to move cross-country in 2002, along with a card wishing me well and telling me that she “admired my courage.” This was a woman I thought was pretty courageous herself – she left an abusive short-lived marriage, and pursued her master’s degree while coping with a full-time job and chronic fatigue syndrome (and eventually, a new relationship), so that meant a lot coming from her, but I didn’t think I was being especially brave. In fact, in some ways I felt like I was running away, but I sincerely believed that my post-divorce adjustment would go a little smoother if I were somewhere that I had family, and wasn’t likely to run into my ex (and future Wife 2.0) at the grocery store. But realistically, I guess that moving 1800 miles to a place you’ve never lived before, without a job waiting, and starting life on your own for the very first time – at age 38 – could be considered a pretty adventurous move.

But I feel that maybe it was a gutsy reaction to having been gutless for a long time. I’d known that my marriage hadn’t “felt” right for a while, and that I didn’t feel fully myself within it, but I was trying to downplay it and live with what I had until my ex started the adventure that led to our eventual divorce – a back-and-forth process that went on for well over two years, and in which I took a mostly passive role. Later, when I’d been away for awhile and was starting to see how I was changing, and coming to accept that maybe he and I hadn’t been the best match for each other, I was still struggling, and learning to live with a low-grade depression.

Yes, learning to “live with it,” and at times actively resisting doing anything about it – especially since I was pretty sure it would have been even worse if I hadn’t left Memphis. I’ve read that you have to accept yourself before you can change yourself, and in a perverse way, I may have felt that “living with” these feelings was a way of “accepting” my life. Change can be a big scary thing, and I’d been through some HUGE change in a few short years – but much of that was in the circumstances of my life, and not so much in me. The “normal” I’d come to live with might not have been the greatest, but at least I knew how it worked – or more accurately, didn’t want to know how it didn’t work. I’d built myself a little box and it kept adventure at bay for a couple of years – and it was my ex-husband’s next adventure that ultimately pushed me out of it. His announcement that he was getting married again was what finally pushed me into therapy – which even I have to acknowledge was a brave thing to do.

If you’ve ever been in therapy, you know just how much of an adventure it is. The work we did was eye-opening (and the meds helped too). I got some excellent tools that I’m still using, and about six months later I was ready for another adventurous step – into the dating pool, a place I’d truly never been before, having known my first husband since tenth grade and dated him since just after high-school graduation. But I wasn’t so adventurous as to be untrue to myself; I’m better able to express myself in writing, and so I made that step from behind the computer screen via an online-dating site. The communication with my “match” went so well in that setting that when we met in person, we felt like old friends already. We’ve been married for over four years now. We help each other embrace the daily adventures of life; even seeing life as “daily adventures” is an adventurous change of perspective for me – and I like it.

One tricky thing about self-image is that you can find yourself holding on to a picture that doesn’t square very well with your present reality – not letting yourself get confused by the facts, so to speak. That can be an obvious factor in matters like body-image issues – seeing yourself as fat when you’re really not, for example – but it comes into play in less physical “images” too. And despite being able to point to a few examples of adventurous actions during the last few years of my life, I still tend to see those times as anomalies that are out of character, rather than characteristic of the person I’ve grown to be. Maybe they’re not anomalies, though – these actions are prompted by thoughts and impulses which can only come from me, and I guess it’s about time I accept that my mind and heart are more adventurous places than they once were.

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