I met him when I was 9 or 10. Dad had just remarried and shortly after I moved in with him and began going to church with them. I loved my church. I felt I belonged there. ‘He’ attended the church and I instantly developed a crush. I would swoon and daydream about him for years until about 21 when we began dating seriously. He was fantastic, doted on me – always wanting to spend time with me. So funny, we would laugh till we cried, over anything and everything. We went dancing every week, had drinks and partied throughout the blooming beginnings of our relationship. We shared a love for the bar scene. Darts, music, friends, shooting pool, greasy junk food, the whole bit. It was our “niche”. We went fishing and swimming, the summer romance took off like a rocket and I couldn’t have been happier.
Being a child of divorced parents, it was paramount to me that once I married I did whatever I could to make it last. To first and foremost be SURE I was marrying the right person, I developed “the checklist”. Something I wouldn’t actually knew existed until months into my separation years later. Growing up I never wanted to be a princess or doctor; I wanted to be a wife and mother. Take everything I learned from my mother and father, and through my faith as well, funnel it all into being the best I could be. I envisioned play dates with other mommies, girls nights out while the husband built forts and read to the children, date nights with him where we’d gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes – grateful to be out but missing the beautiful life we had at home. I wanted nothing more than to know the love and experiences of what it meant to be a wife and mother.
Slowly, our relationship grew routine. Less love, more acceptance. Still best friends though, never a doubt that as friends we were irreplaceable to each other. After 5 short months he proposed. Of course I said yes! I had “loved” him since I was 10. And, of course – the checklist. Was he moral & Christian? Check. Wants kids, and has same visions and goals for parenthood and their growth in life? Check. It went on and on and I checked it all off. Where there were red flags (I see now, though I didn’t then) I’d merely waved a wand and said cheekily “opposites attract” or thought our differences would somehow improve the relationship. Once I was sure he met the requirements I based all my plans and decisions on, it was all auto-pilot. I remember planning the wedding as if it were a job, or business transaction. Person after person told me I’d cry on my wedding day, but I laughed and assured them I would not. And I didn’t, it was just a grand event. A following through of what I knew was supposed to happen chronologically in my relationship with him. Everything was good according to the checklist, so it was perfect right? Instead I shared smiles, giggly winks and silly faces with the wedding party and people seated. I thought about the future and how great it was going to be. I stared at him lovingly, but mostly my insecurities reminded me how grateful I was that someone would accept me. I was happy to see a handsome man standing before me ready to take on life’s biggest challenge. I focused on things like whether my hair was in place, did my makeup look okay, and whether my arms looked fat. No need to put too much weight into the actual ceremony, are you kidding? I’d played this over in my head millions of times; I agonized over the things on my checklist till I was sure I was doing the right thing. So this act we were performing in front of family and friends, I had already prayed over and performed in my head. By agreeing to marry him I had made my vows, and by saying ‘I Do’ I had sealed my commitment.
Now, in the process of divorce and separated for over a year I have had ample time to look back and ponder it all. Where I went right, where I went wrong, etc. I figured it out quickly; this checklist. I’d never known that it existed – simply that I’d always had the ideals I knew I had to follow and fulfill in order for life to go perfectly. How could I go wrong if I followed these rules and goals I had set in place after excruciating thought, prayer and planning?? The epiphany that in my mind I had created something as useless as a checklist by which I judged all the movements and decisions I made and still failed was a blow to the gut. One more reason to break down, and sob for days at a time. What else was on a checklist, where else might I be failing? To be going through something I grew up KNOWING would never happen and then be slapped with the realization that everything else might be falling or about to fall apart as well was more than I could stand, so I kneeled. I slept, I sat. I did anything but stand. Gradually I am regaining my strength to stand firm in myself and who I am but this journey was a hard one and now it seems another is just beginning… only this time, I won’t be using a checklist.