Friday morning I woke up with severe conjunctivitis in both eyes. My eyes were so light sensitive that I could not look at my computer screen or phone without searing pain. I took some Benadryl and got a prescription for antibiotic eye drops. Thankfully, by afternoon I was much better . We had tickets to see Les Misérables. Thankfully, I was able to see and the pain was much reduced by the time we left for the show.
This little incident got me thinking. I am just amazed by how much a less than 1% change in my body chemistry could literally incapacitate me and throw off my equilibrium so badly. While my eyes were impaired, I could not practice law. I could not drive my car. I could not watch television. I could not post in this group. I could not see my beautiful wife's face. Thankfully, it was a very temporary kind of impairment. However, I know there are many people who live every day with more serious pain and impairments. I am thankful that I am generally pretty healthy. My little episode with severe conjunctivitis helped me to realize how grateful I am that I have not, thus far, had any severe and permanent kinds of health problems.
The point I want to make with this post is about how much we take for granted. Many mid-singles feel deep disappointment because of how their lives have "turned out." I was one of those for several years -- until I realized that I was still alive and my life had not "turned out" yet. I started to see my single status for the opportunities it presented instead of the challenges. Thankfully, I had skills I could use to start a business, and I had the health to enable me to do the work. I still looked pretty young for my age and I enjoy meeting people, so dating was relatively easy for me. These are all blessings that many people too often take for granted.
One of the most important lessons my mid-single years taught me is that we can enjoy anything only to the extent that we are grateful for it. Otherwise, we are blind to the joy (maybe that's a useful pun, given how I started this post). The time this really dawned on me was when I was living in Texas. I had figured out how to make a decent living doing title work for oil companies. For the first time in several years, I had money enough to pay my bills and treat a lady to dinner once in awhile. I bought a nicer and more reliable car, which I enjoyed driving every minute. I was visiting a lot of interesting places. My oldest son was living with me and preparing to go on a mission. I loved having him around. I was finding plenty of good dating opportunities, albeit long distance. I was learning to see how happy my life could be when I just appreciated each little element of it. It all added up to feeling joy. And joy begat more joy. I got a lot more enthusiastic about my life and all of its possibilities. It was infectious and the people around me started being more positive too. I attracted enthusiastic people who brought opportunities into my life.
The last year I spent in Texas, I had a corporate job. There was a downturn in the oil business and I got laid off -- with my son on his mission. I found some $25 an hour briefing work for a law firm in Washington. It wasn't really enough, but I kept doing it until I had enough other business to quit. In the meantime, I returned to Utah and hung out a shingle again. I had the emotional and spiritual strength and enthusiasm to build a business -- unlike the time I tried doing that after my divorce from my kid's mom. At that time I was emotionally depleted and bereft of energy.
I want you to know that genuine gratitude is empowering. It allows you to truly enjoy the good things in your life and build on them. I also believe it is a good habit. It is a good habit when you are driving your car to think about how grateful you are for such a wonderful and reliable machine that takes you where you want to go in comfort. Over the last week, I have been newly thankful for the proper functioning of my eyes, even though I need glasses to read very much. I am hugely thankful for those glasses that make it possible for me to earn a living and live my life with more joy.
My life has not been all peaches and cream. I have been divorced twice and lost a little brother to cancer when he was only 17. I have had dengue fever and spinal meningitis. I spent several years in depression after my first divorce, partly because I didn't know the things I know today about alleviating it. Notwithstanding these and many more challenges, I have a great life. Without these challenges, I wouldn't have Cathy
. I wouldn't have my two step kids. I wouldn't have the business I have today, or the knowledge to create one. Love in Later Years would not exist. All In all, I think I have a beautiful life.
In my first marriage, I didn't truly understand the power of gratitude. I did what everyone else was doing in their 20s. I got married. We had a couple of kids. It didn't seem special. It seemed just normal. After I got divorced, I remember laying in bed at night feeling lonely sometimes, and thinking about how I had always taken it for granted when I cuddled with my former wife. With Cathy, I don't take that for granted. I realize how wonderful it is to go to bed with my loved one every night and feel her warmth next to me. I will never take that for granted again. During my mid-single years, every time I took my kids to the airport for a custody exchange I cried on the way home. They are both grown now. But I never take for granted the conversations we have. Every time one of them calls or messages me I feel blessed. I love the people they have become and I am grateful to have an adult relationship with them now. I don't take for granted the moments we get with my step kids, because I know how fleeting childhood is and how precious.
If I had to lose my first marriage and go through a lot of emotional pain to understand and appreciate the joy of loving and being loved, it was worth every moment of suffering.
To our mid-single friends, don't take years to learn this lesson like I did. Learn from my mistakes. Love and appreciate all that you have been given and your life will be abundant. That's the secret folks.
PS from Cathy: Les Misérables was such a great production, I'm so happy we were able to enjoy it together after some much needed self-care and medical intervention. I'm amazed at the body's ability to recover so quickly. It's not always that way so I feel very blessed to have experienced this event with Jeff despite the unexpected last minute obstacle. Jeff Teichert
, I'm glad we are intentionally grateful people, it makes life so much better! Such a great LILY Gem you wrote today. Love it and love you!
It is a self-evident truth that, in the realm of human relationships, agency will always create the opportunity for truly irreconcilable differences.
During our long-term marriages, we believed we would always be able to think of an acceptable alternative to divorce, no matter what problem arose. However, in both of our cases, the decision was our spouse's. At other times, the kind of marriage a spouse might have to settle for would violate their integrity. For example, we know a man whose wife told him she would stay married to him if she could keep her lesbian partner in a separate bedroom in their house. He would not remain married on those terms.
In situations where your spouse gave up on the marriage, placed serious addictions above the marriage, or proved chronically unfaithful or abusive, you can continue to hope and pray if you wish. This may be living in denial. Acceptance of reality and of your partner's agency is the beginning of healing.
If you are broken-hearted over the decisions of a former spouse and think, "It wasn't supposed to be this way" or that something is "wrong," give yourself time to grieve. But also begin to ask yourself whether, perhaps, your situation is exactly as it should be. Consider whether a chance to start over at mid-life with all the knowledge you have gained is a tender mercy. Begin to think and dream about creating a new future with a spouse that is aligned with you in the most important areas of life – and see your situation for its possibilities.
Enjoy an associated LILY Pod episode:
- Elevating Energy from Grief to Gratitude
Three years ago today, Cathy
and I were married! Despite all of the fear and trauma that comes from broken marriages in the past, we chose each other and promised to be together forever. Getting married is a tremendous act of faith in God and in another person.
I can say, without hesitation, that I am grateful she said "yes" and I would do it again. I chose someone with whom I could build an intentional marriage at mid-life, and that's a beautiful thing. I want the same joy for every one of you that is willing to try again!
I love you Cathy! Thanks for saying YES!