ABOUT GRATITUDE. Yesterday Cathy
and I went to lunch as part of celebrating our third anniversary. I remarked to her that one of the advantages of being a divorcee is that I take our marriage less for granted.
I got married the first time when I was 26 years old. We had a child 11 months later. To some degree, I was going through the motions of what American Latter-day Saints do. I graduated from high school, served a mission, went to college, and got married when I was in graduate school. It's kind of the life plan we all expect to follow. I loved my first wife and my family, but I think I kind of just expected it would always be there for me. I took it too much for granted. Perhaps I thought what I was doing and the way I was living was just normal. But normal isn't special.
Having a lengthy marriage and then getting divorced woke me up to the fact that we are not simply entitled to marriage. Our spouses ALWAYS have choices. Even if you feel really solid with someone, that is partly a result of their devotion and conscious choice to be with you. That is a great blessing and a high honor. We should really never take it for granted. We should celebrate it every day, and not just on anniversaries.
Cathy and I dated for a good chunk of 2016 and were "just friends" for all of 2017. At the end of that year (literally the last day of the year) I wrote her a letter and asked her to date me for marriage. I didn't know it at the time, but she was dating two good men, who both had serious intentions, and trying to decide between them. So I complicated her life. Even with the great options she had and even though we had stopped dating a year prior, Cathy chose me. I don't take that for granted. She could have chosen otherwise. So I consider it a great blessing that she chose me.
Before I even met Cathy, I learned that we can only enjoy something to the extent that we are grateful for it. Our enjoyment is directly proportional to our gratitude. I enjoy my marriage and the love that we share so much because I am deeply grateful for it. I am grateful for another chance at life and happiness in marriage. I am grateful for someone to love everyday in a special way. I am grateful for the kind of family life that I once took for granted as being "just normal." Because I feel abundantly blessed, I feel abundantly happy. That is the secret my friends.
Be grateful for what you have. Be happy for others when good things happen to them. Be enthusiastic and embrace your life for its possibilities. Life is not merely to be endured. It is to be lived. So take chances, have adventures, love deeply, and live it well.
17th century English poet Robert Herrick penned these immortal words about a very mortal subject:
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
(Robert Herrick,To the Virgins to Make Much of Time.) One of the great advantages of middle-age is that you are old enough to know but young enough to do. The great disadvantage of middle-age is being painfully aware of how fleeting it is. Childhood felt like one eternal summer. Youth passed more quickly but still seemed to go on for a good long while. Middle age snuck up on me. I don't believe there was one day when I woke up and just realized, "Okay, I am no longer a young man. I am now middle-aged."
So what rosebuds will you gather while you still have time? What kind of memories will you make with your children if you have them? What contribution will you make to the world?
Will you follow Herrick's advice, "Then be not coy, but use your time, And while ye may, go marry"? (I think a lot of us are pretty "coy" when the subject of marriage arises. Nothing makes a middle aged single feel more vulnerable.) When Cathy and I were married I was 50 years old -- which is three years younger than I am now. I don't lament that I didn't meet her when I was a newly returned missionary. (She was only 9 anyway.) I am glad that we have an eternity because we started a little late. With an eternal perspective, starting at 50 isn't much different from 21.
On the other hand, however old you are today, you are younger than you will ever be again. It is ok if you went through some trauma and don't feel ready to get married yet -- as long as you know what you want long-term, and don't become complacent about it.
We started Love in Later Years in part to encourage you to live the second half of your life with more enthusiasm than the first half. We want you to rediscover the belief that marriage and family life can be joyful and rewarding. So take that trip to Disneyland with your kids, take those art classes you always wanted to take when it never seemed practical, get that college degree, start that business, and pluck up the courage to ask that beautiful or handsome friend to have dinner with you.
We often talk about the trials that inevitably come in every human life. But life is to be lived, not merely endured. So gather your rosebuds and live it well.