It’s Saturday, I’m single, and love is not what I expected.
I was spending time with my “valentine” last evening – a single dad who has proven to be a wonderful shepherd into the world of divorce, parenting, healing – and this Alan Jackson song came on the radio. We paused in our conversation as he turned up the radio, because he likes the song so much.
It’s called “Remember When,” and this song encapsulates what I once upon a time expected of love. My friend likes the nostalgia and good old fashioned “country” sound of it, but listening to it makes me feel sad.
I expected everything in this song. I expected that “my first” would also be my “last and only.” I expected that when life threw curves and we broke each other’s hearts, we’d learn to trust each other again. I expected co-creating new life would bring us closer together. I expected that on any given day, if you’d asked me, I would say I would do it all again. And unfortunately, none of that was my reality.
My reality was that on our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, I boycotted the holiday without telling my spouse. Which is kind of a metaphor for the rest of our marriage, when I think about it. My reality was working through my anger and resentment until there was only love left, which meant loving him enough to stop wasting his time with my unrealistic expectations, and letting go of the fantasy.
Yesterday, he posted a picture on his Facebook page from his recent remarriage. He and “Wife 2.0” as I affectionately refer to her were kissing in front of crossed Star Wars lightsabers. I love Star Wars, but there’s no way I’d have had a Star Wars themed wedding. Whatever regrets or sadness I may have about my divorce, when I look at that picture, I know in my heart that I did the right thing, freeing him to find his match. I was SO not “the one.” Love was having the courage to admit that and hurt him in the short term so that he could be free to find happiness in the long term. Love is not at all what I expected.
“Sometimes we forget the difference between symbols and substance when Valentine’s Day rolls around,” according to these wise words from the 12-step book Believing In Myself. “Romantic tokens are flattering and fun–but tokens aren’t love itself. Many of the valentine tokens being given today are inspired by a sense of obligation–because old Hubert or Billy or Sam knows what’s good for him! Some are even given to reduce guilt or to show off. Love itself costs a lot more than long-stemmed roses or even diamonds.
“Real love is measured out in steadiness, commitment, and unselfishness over the long haul. It has to do with willingness and forgiveness and just plain fortitude. It means being consistently mindful of someone else’s welfare. If we are engaged in such relationships, we are fortunate indeed, whether or not we have someone on hand today to tell us how wonderful we are. It’s love itself that’s wonderful, not the tokens.”
That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It’s Saturday, I’m single, and I’m living that kind of love. It may not look like a marriage that withstood the test of time. But it’s in failing at marriage that I found the ability to love unselfishly, consistently reminded of another’s welfare.
I’m still sad, but I’m also glad for all the life I’ve had, when I remember when.