Maybe there’s something you’re afraid to say, maybe there’s someone you’re afraid to love, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt because it matters. -John Green
Once upon a time, I had a husband. He was [and is] a good man. But our marriage ended over 15 years ago. And while we didn’t harbor ill will, there just weren’t reasons to stay in touch. We didn’t share children. And since I got the dogs, we didn’t even need to co-parent. We each had robust careers. He went his way, and I went mine.
Yet happenstance brought us together for a single evening in the autumn of 2012. You see, heading into my 50th year prompted me to declare it my year of Daring Greatly. I committed to being vulnerable, practicing mindfulness, joining a Magic Making Mastermind group, even attending retreats on the beach where visioning prompts resulted in poetry writing. From me!
One of those experiences was spending an evening with my former husband and a kick-ass bottle of wine. Among other things, I opened up, maybe not entirely as I had hoped I would dare to do – but I did it. I apologized. I bore witness to his love for me and his loyalty. And my dysfunction and participation in the ending of our marriage. You know the old adage: it takes 2 to tango. The corollary is yes, Virginia, it [always] takes 2 to end a marriage. There was a catharsis to that evening and in the many evenings thereafter when I wrote about it – for me alone – trying to make sense of the twists and turns that life had presented to me in the many, many wonderful years that had followed.
And so it came as a breathtaking surprise that, while on the treadmill Thanksgiving morning just a few weeks back, I realized that this breast cancer was found one year to the day from when I spent the evening with him for the first time in 15 years. One. Year. Exactly. November 12. That realization somehow felt profound. Not that there’s any connection between him and the cancer, not at all. But that I did my own sort of daring greatly evening with him, and then one year later came face-to-face with a daring greatly event that tested every bit of vulnerability [read: bravery] I thought that I’d embraced.
I remember thinking back then that 11/12/12 had been a prescient date. What I didn’t know then was that 11/12/13 would shake the earth with the news I most never wanted to hear, but hear it I did. And bear it. And deal, and conquer, and weep and mourn and grieve, but bear it, dare it, and stare that fucker right in the eyes, knowing that I will be whole.
And in the end, I can’t help but think that that’s what the night with the man I used to call my husband did for me. Reminded me that I am whole. Gave me courage I hadn’t seen before or at least wasn’t ready to see during the time we were together. Helped me to crystalize the joy – the deep, abiding joy – that I have for my life and how the journey with him, and now beyond him, helped to make it so. He – we – were the cartographers who penned a map of love and challenge, frustration and doubt and pleasure, that was part of the journey meant to make me whole.