I went to work out on Monday, trying to take my husband up on his 100 days of fitness challenge. I turned on the treadmill to do my 20 minutes and settled in for a bit of mind-wandering ease. My townhouse complex has a gym with flat screen TVs, that morning it was tuned in to one of the morning news shows.
The news shows were all reporting about the upcoming nuptials for the crown prince in England. This automatically led the next segment to talk about romance, regrets, and a survey between men and women. Not surprisingly, women had more regrets in the romance department and men had more regrets in the career department. I think the respondents were of varying age, but the ones interviewed looked to be in my age bracket - those that sit between late baby boomer (born in 1964) and early gen x (born in 1965). We are just old enough to have lived through some regrets and just young enough to make some changes.
My legs were doing all the work and since I was the only one in the gym, I was free from other distractions except a walk down memory lane.
The first stop was back in the town of my youth. There was a guy I deeply cared about, loved even, who rescued my heart after my firstborn son was killed and nurtured me back to myself with his unconditional love, acceptance, and protection. He stood as a barrier against the beast of a step-mother who still wanted to destroy me, even as I was a grieving mother myself and aspiring college student at 19 and 20. This young man covered me in a way I had never known, his love was complete and total.
I broke up with him when he gave me a promise ring, a pretty little diamond. Everyone at the university assumed we would get married, no other guy would talk to me because I was spoken for. His sister was also at the university I attended and was a little too close to our relationship. My parents and his aunt & uncle were also in that same town, a downfall of going to school were you graduated from high school. My step-mother was already thinking about how our families could be connected. I saw myself stuck in that town with its provincial ways forever. I broke up with him.
Regrets? Perhaps, but no, it was the right decision for me, I have lived and achieved more than I would have been free to do had I remained there.
Years later I found myself married with two young sons and a husband who was a little too immature at the time. After a big fight and his enormous hands on my toothpick thin frame, I got divorced post haste! I had lived through my step-mother and the terror of my step-sister, there was no way I was going to let some dude, husband or not, church or not, put his hands on me, I kicked him out the first time he did that, spent the weekend with a trusted family friend and her husband, found a new apartment across town, filed for protection, sent my older son back home to be safe, and filed for divorce.
Regrets? Some. Not divorcing him, no, that was the right thing to do. I just regret sending my older son back to my home state while I was processing through everything, he was too young to understand. But no, and I do not regret staying in my new state either.
I remained up north in my adopted big city and thrived, kept going to school in the evening, trying to finish that illusive last year of college and raise sons. I devoted myself to my left and right arm buddies, my sons, and just living when I was on the train and met a man who would change my life.
It was a little over five years that I had been divorced with my two boys, making it on my own, without even the benefit of child support, but was making it and pretty proud of my achievements when my world changed.
Perhaps it is one of the reasons I do not trust "the church" and their paternalistic proclamations that a woman can not be both chaste and raise sons alone, that she needed a "covering" to guide her, what exactly had I been doing all those years by myself.
Haste, stubbornness, and tired of waiting, I made the only regret of my life, a one-year mistake, a turning away from what I really wanted, I do regret, except for the beautifully wonderful son, the gift of that year, who lights up my life with his music and mesmerizes me with his performances.
My three sons and I moved back to our home state, into the sanctuary of my dad and step-mother while my apartment was being prepared, a job waiting for me at the end of that summer, another divorce under my belt, and hope in my heart.
It was several years of being back in my home state, making my way in state government, taking classes, and hoping that there was still live and love for me, that I realized that perhaps I didn't trust my own heart, didn't tell those church know-it-alls to mind their own business and not try to hitch up every woman they saw with some man who was still finding his own way, who abandoned his family and infant son not even two months old for some dream he had off in the distance, did those church elders see that in their matchmaking?
Fast forward years of being single again, devoted to my sons, working full-time, going to school full-time, attending yet another church all the time (I just couldn't bring myself to attend my father's church, I felt it was too provincial for me, being as it was back in the town of my youth, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps) when I encountered a wanna be prophet pastor who was more controlling than leading. It was one of those all encompassing churches like you'd see on TV except the congregation wasn't in the hundreds, the church did some great teaching, I did learn alot, just that the man who lead it was just that, a man, and not the mini-god he wanted to be.
Then one day a man walked into my office at the university where I now called home, far enough away from my childhood city to feel like I could breathe, close enough to still see my dad when I wanted. This man changed the path and trajectory of my life for years to come, a change I am still living every day.
We talked, traveled, got-to-know, encouraged, and four years later, married when we were both holding graduate degrees in hand (doctorate for him, masters for me). We moved to a city neither of us ever lived in, bought a huge house, prepared to raise three boys, and settle into more money than either of us had ever earned before.
Years later, jobs gained, jobs lost, some disappointments, some hurts, sons moved on into their lives, we have the added joy of two daughters who turned our worlds upside down with their laughter, inventiveness, and sheer presence that we often wonder how did we get to be so blessed with so many olive plants around our table.
It has not all been easy, in fact, some of it has been really hard and painful, no live is a bed-of-roses, especially when that life is trying to be lived with two adults well in their forties (and fifties), yet, I can not say I regret everything, for if I did, I would not be able to count my blessings of being able to nurture the lives I touch every day, to be able to sit here and write my muses, to be able to teach college students and still take my daughter to guitar lessons, to bring my leadership skills to a non-profit, to be able to take my son to a college visit during spring break and not worry about some corporate culture that demands 24/7 work.
The walk on the treadmill took me down the many paths of my life. There are things I would say I'd do differently, however, I know that for now, this moment, I am on the road I was meant to be on, guided by the God I still love and adore, knowing more about relationship with Him and less reliance on a church to lead, knowing that His presence is everywhere and His purpose is sure.
The news report spoke also about the opportunity in life, in still doing what you want. I take those opportunities to have what I want in life. I have friendships I would never trade and would never have found had I not moved to the other side of the state. My kids have opportunities that may not have come their way had they not been in a place that celebrates the arts. The show mentioned people changing careers, leaving marriages, searching for lost loves, going back to school, taking up a craft, getting healthier, making decisions to live simple lives, things that will add to the second half of their lives.
Regrets are part of the memory stone of living, there will always be the woulda, coulda, shoulda. In my life, in writing my own epithet, I know that my life holds many lessons for my children. None of my sons are parents, my daughters are taking life by the reins and dreaming about being a write, photographer, world traveler, wealthy fashion designer, and guitarist, they have possibilities in their life rainbows. My son is standing at the doorway of a promising stage career, my other son is ending years of military service and preparing to take his place at the foot of knowledge so he can lead a new generation, my other son is crafting his own path with his words and arts, and my heartsong son lives on in my soul. I have no regrets about the jewels that surround my crown.
It was worth it all.