Sometimes when I’m driving I see the most amazing things from my rear-view mirror. Sunsets, sunrises, unusual cloud patterns, drivers texting or yelling at their kids. It’s a handy mechanism that allows you to get a 360 view whether that’s really needed. Do I need to see the woman behind me applying lipstick as she merges on the freeway?
I read once that you should proceed in life as if driving in a car with the headlights on. You can see a bit down the road but you have to trust the unseen that lies ahead beyond the beam of the lights. That was a tough thing for me to accept at one point in my life. But later, and not sooner, I got it. Life wasn’t always going to go exactly as I planned and so, why sweat it?
The car I have now has a camera in it that allows me to back up while still facing forward. I can pull out of a garage or parking space without twisting my neck to look back. It makes a loud beeping sound if I am getting close to colliding with something. It took me a while to adapt to backing up without turning around, but with time, I’ve gotten used to it.
When I first knew my marriage was ending I could hardly stand not knowing what was beyond the beam of the headlights. Everything that I had known and all that I expected in the future had changed. Not knowing what lie ahead was tough but I spent a lot more of my time looking back at what had been. It was hard to avoid the rear-view mirror. Had I wasted more than 30 years of my life?
When I was younger I was a competitive swimmer and a fairly good one at that. I enjoyed the sport but was more in to the social aspects of the activity. It was easy for me. I worked kind of hard, not hard, and still came home with gold medals. I never really pushed myself to take it to the next level. I’ve regretted that. Could I have been more of a champion?
When I first married, it was easy. We had a good life together, started a family, launched careers. Then, around the 10-year mark of the marriage, a big wake-up call. We suffered through our first major crisis and survived. I chose to stay in the marriage when others would have left. Time passed. Life became easy again, we raised our children, enjoyed a “good life” but I can’t say either one of us really pushed to take the marriage to the next level. But we stayed together for 20 more years, until our children were grown. I do not regret it.
Certainly I have wondered–what if I had left him when I was younger? Would I have found a more suitable mate, fallen madly in love? Or, could I have used that wake-up call more effectively by changing patterns that had been established when we were so young and just starting our marriage? Could we have stayed together and been happy till death us do part? What if I we had worked harder at it, if I had pushed myself more….could we have taken it to the next level?
I’ve quit beating myself up. I have come to believe that my marriage was a gift and its finish an even greater gift. I believe relationships have a timeframe and that divorce is not failure, just a big change in the nature of the relationship. My world went upside down but with that new perspective of the world, I flourished. I learned to quit turning around to look back.
The gifts of my marriage include my children, of course, but also a lasting connection to a man who can still be my friend. And the many lessons learned as one works at raising children while being a couple have made me stronger, softer, and more whole. I do occasionally look to the past but I’m facing forward now. I use what I’ve learned in the past to build my future. So, no, it wasn’t wasted time.
My life today is quite different from what it used to be. I have never tried to replicate the life that I had. My home is different, my relationships different, the ways I spend my time are quite different. My today life has been far more consciously created than my past life. I’ve chosen how I want to live. My roundabout journey has given me the ability to do so.
Yes, I have ghosts in my past that keep trying to distract me and make me want to turn around and back up. But I’ve finally learned to keep my face forward while at the same time keeping an eye on what’s behind me. What’s behind is important but shouldn’t keep you from looking ahead. Even without a beeping sound to warn me of impending collision, I’m far better equipped to do that than I used to be. I’m keeping a 360 view of the past and the future as I go on down the road.