Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again …
You get to a certain age and you’re bound to have regrets. Maybe more than just a few. And you can try to sugar-coat it all you want with with platitudes like “learning experiences” and “life lessons” and you can tell yourself (and the world) that you wouldn’t be the person you are today without blah blah blah.
But the cold truth is that, when we (read: I) look back at life, there are some things that we just plain old regret. Decisions. Choices. Actions. Non-actions. Words.
It’s not that I’m desperate for a do-over. It’s just that if I could go back in time I probably would. Do over.
So what tops my list?
Well … after I finished University (where majored in Drama) I did some summer stock theatre and via that was introduced to a very successful theatrical producer in Toronto. She told me to be patient. She had the perfect vehicle for me on the horizon. Ha!
Patience has never been a horse in my stable so I joined a touring pop band. I wanted to be the next Carole King and I also had a little thing for the guitar player. Fast forward a few months and the producer called me. I say No thanks, I’m in a band (earning about a hundred bucks a week if memory serves). She says Vickie, this is crazy – you were meant for the musical theatre stage. I say (cause I’m so damn smart) No M’am, I’m meant to be a singer/songwriter with this fabulous guitar player. The conversation went on and on as I held my ground whilst this dear woman attempted to convince my (ridiculous) 21 year old brain that I was making a mistake. I would have none of it though, smarty pants that I was.
Ten years later I quit the road (I had quit the guitar player years earlier) and eventually got into radio. I never did become the next Carole King and damn, did I ever miss musical theatre. Still do for that matter. I love radio and my life ain’t half bad but do I regret that fateful 21 year old decision? You bet I do. I regret the guitar player too (but that’s another story).
But that one is small potatoes compared to my BIG regret. The BIG whopper of a life-altering, history-changing, heart-smashing regret, the one that haunts me to this day. Ready?
I wish that I had worked harder on my marriage. There. I said it. I wish that I had worked harder on my marriage.
Not necessarily for my own sake or my ex-husband’s sake but for the sake of my one and only son. Because the simple reality is this: the demise of his parents’ union denied him his family. Mom and Dad under the same roof when he comes home from college. Christmas morning with both parents in their PJs. Summer holidays at the cottage together. These are all delights he has already been denied. And when I look down the road the list becomes even more heartbreaking. His wedding? The birth of his first child? When he wins his first Grammy? Oh yes we shall both be there, smiling and proud with our significant others in tow. And he most assuredly will never kick up a fuss. He is deeply loved and he knows it. But I will know that is it not the picture he would choose. And I will regret that I did not choose to work harder on my marriage.
That’s not to say that more hard work could have solved our problems. We tried for years to muddle through. Or ignore and bury. Or confront and battle it out. We just didn’t try hard enough. Or honestly enough. And then at some point I lost sight of the end-game. The “family” and my son’s roll in it. All I could see was MY happiness (or lack thereof). MY future. MY life.
I reasoned (to anyone who would listen) that children are resilient. I argued that it was my responsibility to show my child “true love”. I maintained that humans aren’t meant to spend fifty years with the same person and I proclaimed that it was my “right” to be fulfilled romantically and emotionally and that just wasn’t happening with my husband.
It had happened. There was a time when he and I worked. The problem was we did not evolve together as our lives progressed and then one day we were just friends – or to be completely honest – I felt like were just friends. And then that old wandering eye got me into trouble. And I’ll tell you, that horse Trouble has been a frequent guest in my stable and once he started galloping there was no reigning him in.
So here we are, almost ten years later. My Ex and I are poster parents for amicable divorces. We’re not best buddies or anything but we still co-parent (as much as you can co-parent a 20 year old) and we are quite cordial. For the sake of our son we have even, with our significant others, socialized on a few special occasions.
My Ex found love soon after our union’s demise and it has lasted. I found love, and then like, dabbled in lust, different love and more love again. At this point in my life I’ve thrown away all crystal balls and I just do my best. Really. Day to day.
But if I’d had a crystal ball ten years ago I would have looked at it every day and I know the picture would have never budged. I would have seen FAMILY. My son’s family. Together.
We all know that getting together takes very little work. Staying together takes work. And trust me, I don’t bandy that word around lightly. Work on a marriage is fucking WORK. It’s not passionate and it’s not romantic and it is sometimes gruesome, gut-churning, soul-destroying work. I tell ya it is way easier to start over with someone else. Because getting together takes very little work.
But if you have a child then you know it’s not just about precious little you anymore. It’s about precious little them. Don’t get me wrong – if there is abuse, violence, cruelty or any other inalterable, get the hell out (and bring your child with you). But if you are leaving because the marriage just isn’t working anymore, I suggest with all my heart that you DO THE WORK. Do it as hard and as long as you can. Do it until you are absolutely sure there is no chance for your family. Do it for your child and do it for yourself. Do it harder than you’ve ever worked at anything and do it even when you’re positive there is nothing left. Trust me – there is.
And then, even if there is ultimately no resolve, you will walk away with confidence. Hopefully that confidence will follow you through the years. So that ten years from now you can say “Regrets, I’ve had a few …”
And you will know with complete clarity that walking away from your marriage – and your family (I know we can argue semantics but take this from someone who has lived it – family is best served together) was the right choice. For you, your partner and most importantly – your child.
They (anonymous cowards that they are) say you should never stay together for the kids. Agreed. If the circumstances are truly beyond repair. I say however, with ten years hindsight in my pocket, that you should NOT give up too soon. You should NOT take the easy road and you should NOT expect pots of gold. Not if the real gold is your family.
Stay. Do the work. Do ALL the work for as long as it takes. Do it for your kid. Do it for yourself. Do it brutally and honestly in all its bloody glory.
You’ll have one less regret. Trust me.
There is definitely a lesson there Vickie. A marriage can be worth fighting for. But regrets? Those pesky things! Don’t pay attention to them! Regrets are a kind of mental hairshirt worn as contrition for choices judged against what might have been, Yet we can never really know what might have been (had we made different choices). Things could have been better, or far far worse, or just different from anything we can image. 😉