Seven years ago, I wrote about today being my 10th wedding anniversary.
At the time, I had been living in South Carolina for almost 6 months, my wife had been in Ohio during that time, but would be joining me, finally, in October, after finishing up her last work commitment by traveling to Greece. That wasn’t necessarily in the plans 10 years prior:
My point? Life’s an adventure. You never really know where you’ll end up, and if you’re open to it, life will surprise you. Ten years ago, I was getting married, something I swore I would never do again. Sometimes, you meet someone who you want to break all your rules for, and once you start breaking those rules, the adventure begins. I haven’t regretted any of the adventure, even the challenges of this past year. In fact, all of the challenges along the way in this adventure have only served to make me a better man, and made our relationship stronger than anything I could have imagined on our wedding day.
Since then, the adventure has only gotten weirder. In the seven years since that post, we’ve done the “move across the country and be apart for months at a time” two more times, from South Carolina to Oregon and on to Louisiana. We’ve both switched jobs a couple of times, I spent 5 years traveling a whole lot for my job, and now we’re together most every night. And through it all, our relationship has simply continued on, with love, trust, and that same sense of adventure.
As I looked back at that post, two things struck me:
1. Obviously, live will surprise you, if you let it. In 2001, there is no way I could have told you all of these things would have happened in 17 years of marriage.
2. As difficult as that move in 2011 was, it paved the way for subsequent adventures. This is important. Saying yes to that move, and going through that, only proved that we could do it. Once you know that, it opens up a world of possibilities. But how do you know whether you can do something new? You don’t, until you go out and do it. Without that time, would I have felt confident about our marriage surviving two more moves? Would I have felt comfortable taking a job that would leave me away from home more than 50% of the time? Of course not.
In fact, let me let you in on a little secret. Even as they were happening, I wasn’t 100% sure about them. But I had an experience that I could point to say and “We made it through that”. That was huge. Over the years, each new challenge is faced with increasing confidence, because of the things we’ve already been through. You don’t gain that confidence by not doing anything new. Confidence is like a muscle. If you aren’t exercising it by stretching yourself, it will atrophy. I’ve seen far too many survivors who’s confidence has atrophied. I was one. I had zero confidence in my ability to take on something new and make the best of it. I was sure not only that I would make mistakes, but that I’d be completely unable to recover from them. So, I stuck to what I knew I could do, and nothing else. That, of course, typically turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course I made mistakes, everyone does. But by not stretching myself, I had built zero resiliency in myself, and I truly was unable to overcome any of them. I had to step out and be willing to make mistakes in order to build that resiliency. It wasn’t always pretty, but it’s a vital step to being a grown up and overcoming my abuse.
The odd thing, looking back now? Survivors, of all people, should have a ton of resiliency. We’ve survived abusive childhoods and made it to adulthood. We all have a huge thing to look back on and say “I made it through that”. But, instead of it giving us confidence moving forward that we can survive, it somehow does the exact opposite. We see ourselves as weak, victims, unable to control anything around us, fearful of anything new.
There are a great many reasons for that, and they are valid. We were children, we had no control. Our entire understanding of the world around us was short-circuited by abuse. The challenge though, is to see through clear eyes that what we have already done, where we are today, took so much strength, so much resiliency. To go forward into life boldly instead of fearfully, because we’ve already survived worse things. To continue to stretch ourselves and grow in confidence, and to increase our ability to overcome even when things don’t turn out all that great.
My wish for each of you on my anniversary, is the ability to leave the house each day knowing that whatever happens today, you’ll still be here, and you’ll get through it. Because if you can believe that, there’s no first step that you should be afraid of.
Except skydiving, that’s just crazy. 😉