About an hour ago I got hit with a full-on blast of sadness.
I don't know why. I don't know what brought this on, except that it has been 13 years since my divorce and I am going to be 50 this fall and, while that got here very quickly and it doesn't feel any different than 35 or 40, it still is a milestone. It's a milestone that I never...not in a million years...thought I'd reach alone.
13 years ago, my three-year marriage ended. I had an 18 month old daughter and a struggling career in the mortgage industry. In the 13 years since that dreadful day, I achieved success, owned two homes, made a nice amount of money, lost it all when the industry collapsed, fought through four years of homelessness, graduated from college while still homeless, wrote four books, started a small carpentry business, recently started my fifth book, began a Divorced Dad's life coaching service, and more than anything...refused to leave Nashville to rebuild somewhere else so I could stay in my daughter's life. I managed to be a great dad in the teeth of the worst period of my life.
But tonight it really hurt me that I have gone through so much...so very very much...without anyone else to share the good times and the bad. I met my father for the first and only time 6 years ago, and I would have loved to have had someone to talk my way through that with. Maybe I would have survived the mortgage turbulence if I had remarried. Maybe I would have had more children. Maybe I would not be so afraid now.
What am I afraid of? Failure mostly. I am dreadfully afraid of ever going through the horrible pain of divorce ever again. I am afraid that there really is no unconditional love in this world outside of that which our children give us and God gives us, and if I have to perform for even one more person to love me I am going to be sick. Parents, spouses, churches...people never love us just because we are lovable. Almost never anyway. There is always an end game, always an agenda. If you can't benefit them somehow they don't want to love you. Not really love you the way we all need and desire.
Now I've been blessed by some folks back home...folks who aren't even my family by birth but who became my family...who love me unconditionally. But they are 850 miles away and it's hard to remain in touch. I needed that here. I thought I had it when I got married but as it turns out...I did not. To know in your heart that your spouse's love for you is directly proportionate to what you are capable of providing and what kind of lifestyle you can offer is heartbreaking.
It cuts deeply and once you get over the pain it causes, you never want to go back to that sort of relationship again. Not ever. The problem is somehow not becoming cynical and somehow believing that there is someone out there...anyone out there...who would ever just love you because you ought to be loved. Someone who recognizes a good man and who wants a good man simply because he is good. Love is hard enough the first time around...when you are older, and wounded, and cynical, and doubt that an honest and true heart exists in the world...good luck finding real, deep, true love again.
The other thing is...I was always a romantic. I only ever asked one person to marry me and I was very much in love back then and it felt like it was supposed to. Giddy, reckless, innocent. Can that ever be recaptured? Can you fall madly and passionately and recklessly in love a second time with someone different? Can you ever be a hopeless romantic more than once in your life? Can innocence and wonder ever come twice in a lifetime? As I've wondered about that, and thought about my once-romantic-now-cynical heart...I've had my doubts. And then that made me hurt even more. Because I want to love again but I want to be in love again. I want to be crazy about someone and find myself daydreaming about them and carving their name and mine in a heart on a tree somewhere.
If that can't be...what is the point? I don't want a merger, I want a marriage. After 13 years I don't know if it's coming. And I feel like maybe it's because I waited too long. I grieved first my wife, then my marriage. I still grieve my interrupted fatherhood and always will. Maybe all that time spent grieving was wasted and I should have found someone else. But the truth is one does not find love...love finds us. And if our receptors are damaged, maybe we miss it as it flits by us like a feather on a breeze and we never know how close we were to it until we look back and see where it almost found us.
I am afraid I will look back one day and see the last time I had a near-miss with love and realize it really was just that...the last time.