Life Goes On

Setbacks are bound to happen, but they should never stop you from moving forward with your life.

Over the past two days, I spent a bunch of time with some friends of mine from Wickenburg. These folks were incredibly supportive last autumn, winter, and spring, while I lived in the house I’d previously shared with my husband (when he was around), waiting for him to get reasonable and settle out of court so we could move forward with our lives apart. It was a long wait. I finally left the house at the end of May, right after the second of two court dates. He never did get reasonable and the judge made the settlement decisions for us in late July.

These friends saw me at my very worst, including one of the two times that I came close to what might have been a nervous breakdown. All through those months, these friends gave me some of the moral support I needed and assured me, over and over, that I’d be fine and that I was better off without him.

Oddly, it was also these two friends who, just yesterday, voiced their amazement at just how well I’ve been doing since those dark days.

Because it’s true: I have been doing incredibly well. My business had a very profitable summer and I was able to replenish all of the savings spent on a too-lengthy legal battle — and then some. After the long wait for the judge’s decision, I was finally able to move forward and buy the land I’d wanted for nearly a year. And because I didn’t have to wait for another party’s input on my decision-making processes, I was able to immediately move forward to get the water turned on, install and activate the temporary power pole that brings electrical power to my lot, and even get a septic system installed and approved by the county. I did all of this in just 40 days.

The Problem with the Last Land Purchase

I think back on the last raw land purchase I made. It was 40 acres of “ranch land” in northern Arizona, an escape from the oppressive heat of summers in Wickenburg. I’d been part of a “team” back then, partnered with a man who researched everything to death before making a decision. Often, he’d spend so much time researching an option that the option was no longer available when he’d finally decided. Although we got a fence installed relatively quickly — my accounting records show that it was installed within 6 months of the property purchase — it was two years before the septic system was installed and six years before he finally agreed to put some sort of building on the land. The building was especially frustrating for me. We blew $800 on plans with one builder and $400 on plans with an architect and looked at more than a handful of prefabricated buildings before he grudgingly agreed to the “camping shed” we wound up with. Although we managed to turn it into a year-round cabin and spent several holidays up there — including Thanksgiving and Christmas — he apparently hated it there, later referring to it as “Maria’s white elephant” to his friends. Of course, he never said anything like that to me.

And that was part of the problem. He’d agree to something he didn’t believe in — like the purchase of this land — and then get bitter about it. Or he’d like something one day and hate it a month or year or more later. But throughout this process, he never communicated what he really thought or felt. He just went along with the general idea, but stalled when it came to moving forward with anything of substance. And he never communicated what he was really thinking — or he waited until we’d come too far down a path to go back.

He created dead ends.

And that’s why I’m so much better off without him. I don’t have to deal with his indecision or stalling tactics or change of heart. I can just look at a situation, think about it for as long (or short) as I like, and make a decision. I can act — immediately if I like — and get the benefits of the results as soon as possible.

A Sad Flashback

Yesterday, I was feeling melancholy. It was the 29 year anniversary of the day my ex-husband proposed to me.

I remember the moment perfectly. We were in our bedroom at our Bayside apartment. It was after work. He’d gone to New York to pick up the ring that afternoon. It was the 10th of the month — back in those days we celebrated the 10th of every month to mark the anniversary of the day we met (July 10, 1983).

Engagement Ring
My engagement ring.

I knew it was coming; I’d gone with him a few days before to pick out the diamond. After being spooked by the diamond sellers on 47th Street, we’d would up at his mother’s jeweler on 57th Street. The diamond was beautiful — a one-caret solitaire, white with just a tiny “feather” imperfection. It cost him $3,000, which was a lot of money in those days — but then again, he made a lot of money back then. The setting would be a simple four prongs. It wasn’t as large as the diamonds my friends at work had been getting, but it was infinitely more beautiful, almost perfect.

On the afternoon of September 10, 1984, he got down on one knee in front of me, showed me the ring, and asked me to marry him. I said yes.

I later changed my mind.

Months ago, when I was packing up my things, I found an old journal that dated from 1991. In it, I found numerous entries that reminded me of the problems we were having, even back then. Him belittling me in front of my friends and family members — which he never stopped doing, even after we were finally married. Him putting me down, telling me that I’d never accomplish various things I set out to do. Him basically making me feel like crap — the exact feeling I shouldn’t get from a future husband.

So I didn’t marry him. For a while, I even stopped wearing the ring. The only reason I started wearing it again was because I was getting tired of creepy guys hitting on me.

And then, after 23 years together and an unfortunate sequence of events, when I thought we really were “life partners,” I married him.

Out of all the mistakes I’ve made in my life, that was, by far, the worst.

I had legally tied myself to the man I’d later refer to as my ball and chain — a man who held me back from so many things I wanted to do with my life, a man who made promises he broke, a man who made excuses rather than take action, a man who attempted to communicate his constant disapproval of my actions with sour looks instead of words.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved him. I still do — although the man I loved is long gone, dead to this world.

It frustrated me to no end that a man who had once been strong and ambitious had turned into a weak old man, afraid to communicate his true thoughts and feelings to both his mother and wife, more likely to make excuses about why he couldn’t do something than just step away from the television and do it. The frustration turned to sadness when he gave up on our relationship. It turned to pity when I saw what he’d replaced me with: a desperate old woman who sold herself online, a mommy who would lead him by the hand through our divorce proceedings, feeding him bad advice all along the way and costing him tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

How could I not pity him?

Although the pain of his betrayal is still sharp a year later, I do have to thank him for cutting our marriage short. Yes, I was tired of waiting for him to get his act together and start living life. But I would not have left him. I loved him too much.

By leaving me, he set me free. He put me back on track for a good and fulfilling life.

And while it’s sad that I have to move forward without the man I loved, that old man is dead and gone for good. Fortunately, there are other stronger men out there. Men who know how to have fun and make the most of life. Those are the men I’m meeting now. One of them will surely take that man’s place in my life — possibly a lot sooner than I expected.

Life Goes On

“You can’t move forward when you’re looking back.” Another friend of mine gave me that priceless piece of advice sometime within the past year or so. He was right.

So I’m moving forward — and I’m doing it at my typical fast pace. Life’s short — why wait to achieve the things you want?

The divorce proceedings were a time-consuming, costly setback, but nothing more. It was as if I took a year off from life. I’m back now and moving full speed ahead.

Thanks, honey, for setting me free and making me a stronger person.

What do you think?