Reclaiming Wife: The Road Not Taken


I was going to write some exciting (to me) APW news today, but I’m wiped out, so you’re getting it on Monday instead (whee!). I’ve been trying to take care of myself and get some physical healing stuff in order as part of my life list goals, and it’s funny, when you’re doing that sometimes your body says, “Slow down, heal.” So this week has been all about needing to slow down. Just when I was realizing I didn’t have serious writing in me today, Lauren of Suburbalicious Living (Lauren and I got married on the same day, so we’ve been in each others orbits for a long time now) sent me this amazing piece of writing.

This piece is about the choices we make and self-care, which seemed exactly on the page I was on today. But more than that, after yesterday’s amazing discussion that ended up being about choosing to support other women in community, even when they make different choices, or choices that make us question our own… well… I couldn’t dream up a better follow up than this. So I give you Lauren, with nothing but deep respect and love:

Ever since Meg posted about mothers and wives as separate entities, I have found myself deep in thought about the contrast between making a choice and being allowed to have mixed feelings about it, no matter how exciting and happy that choice might be.

I first discovered the idea of “tiny deaths” resulting from personal choices and life changes from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her incredible book Women Who Run With The Wolves. (This book is a life-changer, I guarantee it.) She writes at length about how life is cyclical, and how some things must die in order for others to be born, and vice-versa. She calls this the Life/Death/Life nature, meaning that there is always one after and before the other. To apply this to marriage, for example, the joyful and loving decision you make to join your life to another person is probably one of the happiest choices you will make. Behind that, and before it, though, are the hard parts, the things you give up and trade and wave goodbye to (living alone, the freedom that comes with being single,) and the new things that you take on and the parts of yourself you discover along the way (two heads need to make decisions, defining yourself as “wife”.)

Or, in Dr. Pinkola Estes’ words, “Sometimes the one who is running from the Life/Death/Life nature insists on thinking of love as a boon only. Yet love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings- all in the same relationship.”

We are a community of women who are making some choices that are different from the “expected,” and that requires us to be strong. We have to defend what we do and what we believe to a host of friends, families, and strangers who think we should be doing something differently. So we make choices that are right for us, and we stand up for them with every fiber of our being. This is good, and it is also hard. And I believe that for all the time and energy that we pour into being strong and justifying our choices, we need to spend some time and energy mourning those choices we didn’t take.

I have a friend who is about 10 years older than me. She is in one of the happiest marriages I’ve ever seen, and she and her husband have known since they met that they did not want kids. We took a long walk one day, though, where she told me about meeting her friend’s brand new baby. She held him, and marveled at his perfect baby fingers and toes, and touched his perfect skin, and breathed in his powdery baby smell. And when she left, for the first time realized that she was sad that she would never have that, would never breathe in her own baby’s smell. She did not regret her decision, nor did she suddenly want kids. But she did need some moments of silence for the life she didn’t choose.

And how many of us can already hear the nay-sayers, upon hearing this story, who would immediately jump to the conclusion that her feelings meant that she screwed up her life?

“I told you so.”

“Too bad it’s too late for you.”

“How sad that you’ll regret that for the rest of your life.”

And those people are why we all have to stand up and shout about what we believe in– because we are not allowed to admit that decisions are hard, and that just like partners, there are a number of life choices that could bring us happiness, and for many of the big ones, you have to give something up to have something else. But those things are true. And maybe, just maybe, even though we can’t expect the rest of the world to understand, we can start to expect each other to understand.

I’m writing this because I believe we need to give each other permission, and perhaps more importantly we need to give ourselves permission, to mourn the path not taken. The one that might have been amazing, but for good and true and happy reasons, we didn’t choose. We need to know that it is ok to joyfully head into marriage, while simultaneously taking some days or weeks of quiet time to lay to rest the life we are leaving behind. We can choose confidently to have children, or not have children, and be equally confident about sharing how hard that choice was, and how we might wonder what the other life might have been like. We can embrace our decision to move across the country for a new job, while crying for the family we left behind. We should be able to share our frustrations with this week or month or year of marriage, while in the same breath, saying how grateful we are for our partner. This mourning, these tiny deaths– they don’t mean that you aren’t sure. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t choose what was right for you and your family. What it means is that you are human, and that you are able to acknowledge both the happy and the hard nuances of life.

One of my favorite quotes from Women Who Run With The Wolves is this: “Tears are a river that takes you somewhere…Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better.” As we move along in life, let’s give ourselves and each other the space for these tears, so that we can grow not only from the life we do choose, but also into the life we don’t.

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  • http://webecomeus Caitlin

    “This mourning, these tiny deaths– they don’t mean that you aren’t sure. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t choose what was right for you and your family. What it means is that you are human, and that you are able to acknowledge both the happy and the hard nuances of life.”

    I am human. This is why I cried at the end of the day on my wedding day… and I could never put it in to words until you just did for me. Recently, I’ve been struggling. We’ve now moved across the country and away from all of our family and friends, and I can’t find a job in the field I worked so hard to become a part of, and sometimes the tears overtake the smiles. Thank you for helping me tell myself that it really is okay to feel this way. And life is still good, and true, and even happy.

    • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

      Caitlin, so true, and you made me think of when I spent the first night of our honeymoon a snotty, sobbing mess at dinner, in public. Jeff (who was equally exhausted and is normally more supportive, ha ha) said of our outside table: “Oh look at all these people going by! Oh now they see us, a cute couple at a table! Oh, wow, she’s a mess. Oh wait, they just got MARRIED?”

      And yes, we absolutely had just gotten married, and it was fantastic, and I was also a sobbing mess. The two, somehow, can go together :)

    • Veronica

      As someone in pretty much the same situation as you – thank you. I’m having a rough time of not finding a job once I moved across the country with my husband. Last night was filled with tears, doubts and an overall sense of loss. But, I’m thrilled to be with my husband and in the little home we’ve set up. It’s nice to hear other women struggling with the same situation and that it’s ok to not always feel completely thrilled.

      • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

        I had a night like that recently… they come and go. I think maybe it’s why people say ‘growing up’ is hard. Because more and more often we keep having to grieve for the choices that we didn’t make, even as we celebrate the ones we did. Chin up– one day the celebrations will outweigh the grief, and this new city will feel like home. :)

        ps. It helps to know you’re going through the same thing, too. Thanks for sharing!

        • amy

          Oh wow, for this I need to de-lurk & say thank you too. I know I’m not the only one but a lot of times it feels like I’m the only one. And I cry or stare or quietly berate myself on the bad days. There are times I don’t want a reminder that I’ll feel settled into this new city, our new home soon or that I shouldn’t worry, I’ll find a job. I can’t believe how fantastically this post & these comments fit my needs right now. I am grateful, as usual, for the sharing and the permission to mourn even as I explore and enjoy my changing life. Thank you ladies.

        • Kaitlyn

          I just found APW a little bit ago while looking for wedding planning blogs. The sense of relief of “finally, women going through exactly what I’m going through” is amazing. My fiance and I just left home to move across country because he got transferred. It was absolutely the right decision for us, and the job I finally found is an amazing opportunity, but still…

    • Becca

      I had the same experience! My husband and I, collectively and separately, did so much mourning on our honeymoon (though that was not the sole activity, and there were definitely more tears on my side of the table), that we came away believing that this was the most important reason for taking a honeymoon, just to have time to deal with the confusing mixture of loss and joy. It was so unexpected, those feelings, but so important. It is not something that is talked about, and I wonder how many divorces might be prevented if couples remember to think of their choices throughout marriage with the knowledge that everything is a choice, and we can mourn the path not taken, while staying on the one we did.

    • Natalie

      Caitlin, I am right there with you. My partner and I just got married in August and moved across the country a few weeks later for a job opportunity for him and to where I have been unable to find work in my field thus far. As someone who has always put her career first, I’ve had a lot of trouble allowing myself to feel the sadness of letting go of the old life and some other opportunities I passed up to be here without feeling simultaneously as though I these feelings were wrong and/or a betrayal of the happiness I was supposed to feel as a newlywed (even though I am very happy with our marriage).

      It’s so good to hear that other people are dealing with this and that it is, in fact, alright.

  • http://miscetcandmoremisc.blogspot.com Eliza

    Oh my, this is spectacular. Thankyou. I am just so incredibly glad you posted this, and posted it right now.

    This:

    “We are a community of women who are making some choices that are different from the “expected,” and that requires us to be strong. We have to defend what we do and what we believe to a host of friends, families, and strangers who think we should be doing something differently. So we make choices that are right for us, and we stand up for them with every fiber of our being. This is good, and it is also hard. And I believe that for all the time and energy that we pour into being strong and justifying our choices, we need to spend some time and energy mourning those choices we didn’t take.”

    Has been really hard for me this week. It has been hard in phone calls in which there was no point at which I was not in tears, and it has been hard in standing up for myself, and it has been hard to make a choice at all – for this exact reason. I haven’t felt able to make a choice, in the knowledge that for *anything* I chose (about a dress, for context, which is embarrassing to admit) there would be so very many other things I did NOT choose. And that whatever choice I made would be criticised, because it would be in somebody’s eyes the wrong choice. That last part is the part I find hardest.

    Today I realised that the knowledge that in any one choice you are also choosing NOT to choose other things can be something that freezes you into indecision. Thing is, indecision is in itself a choice.

    I decided today that I would rather take the hard knocks of criticism (and the fear that people will think or tell me that I am wearing an “inappropriate”, “unattractive” or “not impressive enough” dress) – than be afraid and therefore not wear a dress I really love, and regret not making the right choice *for me*. It’s such a small thing – it’s just CLOTHING – and yet, it’s somehow started symbolising all the family criticism I try so very hard to avoid.

    Thankyou for helping me acknowledge that it can be really hard to do this, and that it’s ok to be struggling with all this fear.

    • Marina

      This is what wedding planning was for me–a series of choices that would have seemed small any other time (what to wear, whether to rent plates or use disposable, what freaking color of envelopes to put the invitations in) taking on really significant meaning and becoming epiphanies about how I want to live my life. It was really, really hard, and I frequently felt ridiculous (seriously, I spent several hours trying to choose between off-white and ivory envelopes), but oh my it was worth it to get to the epiphanies.

    • Aine

      Oh, I’ve been there. “Why am I so upset, its a damned DRESS for fuck’s sake!??” and having to realize, no its not just “clothes,” its important, its part of the ritual, and above all, its okay to care about it.

      Thank you for posting this, Meg, and thank you, Lauren, for writing it. I really really needed to read this not jsut today, but right now, right this second.

    • Alison

      I think that even if every other day of your life it’s “just clothes” to you, for you wedding dress it’s so much more. Your wedding dress brings out the principles that we found costume and fashion design on. It is so clearly a statement of who you believe yourself to be, how you want others to perceive you, what you think your wedding is all about and who you hope to be in your marriage that it can be completely overwhelming. Most people don’t think about how their clothing expresses their inner selves and their relationships with the world around them when they go to the closet every morning, but with a wedding dress these things suddenly come up. Sometimes in unexpected ways because it’s hard to know that something you do every day (get dressed) can be such an important expression of, well, everything. I think that if we can see that these are the issues that we’re struggling with in choosing a dress (I had a lot of anxiety and tears about mine) then we can choose to embrace them, discard them and/or use them to our advantage.

  • Elizabeth

    This post is truly perfect, explaining what I have found so hard to convey to my friends and family about my own life choices. When I graduated from high school, I chose going to a community college that I hated over going away to any number of awesome private liberal arts schools, so that I could stay with my boyfriend. At the time, everyone assumed I was just crazy, and I must admit I had my doubts (especially coming from a family of educators). Today, six years later, I am with the same man however. Together, we have endured the ups and downs of life. We are happy. Yet, sometimes I still wonder what my life would be like if I had gone off to school, if I had taken that chance instead. And when this happens, even my beloved fiance doesn’t quite understand it. Like the questioning and the curiosity are signs of discontentment, my contemplation of the path I didn’t choose seems to signal others to throw in their two cents about a choice I made long ago. But I am happy; I am ecstatic that I will be marrying my best friend! My mourning of my more academic self does not diminish my love for my future husband and our life together.

  • Jessie

    Wow, this post made me cry. Beautiful. My husband and I had a pre-engagement and bought my engagement ring together. I WANTED that. Then, watching a movie where some man popped the question in some beautiful & romantic way and the bride-to-be realized he picked the perfect ring all by himself, I started to cry… a lot. I got angry. I was in full mourning mode. My husband (then fiance) felt as though he’d messed something up. He hadn’t and I’ll always cherish the memories of how we’d did things, but I needed the time to cry for the path I hadn’t walked.

    I didn’t realize that’s why I cried until I read this post. Thanks!

  • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

    I usually refrain from truly reading (read: pay full attention to) the reclaiming wife posts because, well, I’m not yet a wife, so sometimes they just don’t apply to me. And other times I just want to save them for later on in life, when I’m a wife and when I need to hear certain things the most, you know?

    HOWEVER, I saw Lauren’s name, and, knowing and loving all that is Lauren, I just had to read this because I knew it would be brilliant. Her words often are. Maybe it’s what she writes, or maybe it’s that I find them at the exact moments in life that I need them the most…or maybe it’s just the feeling in my heart that screams “LMNO!” and brings me back to the care package she sent me one summer during college that was just, well, perfect.

    Anyway, I’ve been struggling lately with the road not taken. And by lately, I mean, for many years. Professionally, I work in construction management, but would much rather do something totally creative (namely, be a wedding photographer – and this feeling started before I was even engaged…go figure). This can change at some point in the future, so there it goes, on the back-burner of the life plans…(note to self: at some point, you must kill your career to start anew…death needs to happen for life to take it’s place). Brilliant.

    Personally, I’m engaged to a Jewish man (who is so much more than his religion and I love every bit about him…hence, the engagement) but I’m not religious, even though I was raised/confirmed Catholic. This interfaith bit has taken over my emotions lately and I find myself wondering if it would have been easier to have fallen in love with a non-practicing Catholic, someone just like me. Not whether it would have been better, because I can’t imagine it getting better than what I have, but if it would have been easier. We wouldn’t have to argue over Christmas trees or stockings or Gilt or Easter Baskets or keeping the house Kosher for Passover, right? These things, these celebrations and observances, they shouldn’t leave a person (me) filled with anxiety, and sometimes even dread.

    I could go on, but it would take days upon days….

    So really, this is all about sticking to our guns, right? Closing a door to allow a new one to open. And then welcoming the things that come our way, the things that come as a result of our choices, and embracing those things…even if they leave us wondering what could have been had we chosen differently. Again, brilliant.

    Thanks for making me, once again, feel normal for feeling what I’m feeling…for allowing me to know that it’s okay to mourn my choices…to mourn what could have been had I chosen differently, all the while knowing that what I chose was right for me.

    • LeahIsMyName

      This: “you must kill your career to start anew.” And this: “close a door to allow a new one to open.”

      These phrases really summed up this whole post in a dead-on way for me.

      I appreciate the idea that we should allow ourselves to acknowledge the road we didn’t take, be sad about it, and keep going. Sometimes I think my wonderful husband-to-be (and maybe lots of men?) doesn’t really understand that crying doesn’t necessarily equal regret or pain.

      Yes, I’ll have to digest this throughout the day today!

    • meg

      Interfaith is HARD, my dear. Particularly hard when you’re in the ironing it out phase. We went through that for three years or so before we got engaged, and another year when we were engaged. I can say, however, that it’s worth it. And having to work all these things out puts you on some really solid spiritual and cultural footing, because you’ve made CHOICES. You’re not doing things just because that’s how they are done, and your not taking your traditions for granted.

      I’m not going to say that it ever gets super super easy (Christmas is still really complicated for me), but it gets much better. It even gets amazing. It’s just hard work to get there. So being totally absorbed with it right now is both good, normal, and worth it. And let yourself cry and cry and cry when you need to – and if you can – find a really good clergy person to talk to. They are experanced and can hold your hand through this.

      • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat at bourbonlove

        Interfaith is hard but it has such richness. I don’t mean that it’s cool we get to eat latkes and homentashen and also open Christmas presents and Easter candy (even though I think that rocks). Sharing those kinds of traditions is just the beginning of knitting your lives together. Of creating your own baby family.

        Every couple’s different. Neither my future huz (in just 2 wks!) nor I are religious, so it was difficult for me to understand why he held so firmly onto strict Jewish traditions. (Not that I was trying to make him give that up, but in the face of the fact my family would disown me if I didn’t get married in a Catholic church, it was hard to understand why he thought a church wedding was impossible). And working stuff out between us was *a lot* easier than working stuff out with our families (particularly my family).

        During the tough bits with my family, the nights where I couldn’t have a conversation with my mother without crying and throwing my phone across the room, it seemed like I was ruining every hope my parents had for me and had for their family. It definitely seemed like it would have been a lot easier to be with another lapsed Catholic. But not only would I have missed out on the awesome, funny, amazing person that my bf is, I would have missed out on the incredible/incredibly hard experience of coming into my own, learning how to plot my own way while keeping my family still in my life, and introducing my family to something that may help them to become a little bit more open-minded.

        It’s one path that’s not always easy to navigate, but many others also have difficulties and obstacles. And I am so so glad that this is where my life is going.

        • meg

          And I just want to add from another perspective that interfaith and then choosing to be one faith has a LOT of richness too. We don’t open Easter Baskets at all at all at all, but there still is so much intention around the choices we’ve made (and had to make).

          But seriously, even if you’re not super religious, or if one of you is at all religious, finding a good Rabbi or Cantor to help you out is like hitting the lottery. Within liberal Judism there is usually zero pressure to belive in God, so it’s not going to be a pressure situation. BUT, they know so much about negotating this process and can just be beyond the most helpful people.

          • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

            we’re looking for a rabbi/cantor now… hoping to get to know him/her before our wedding, and hoping to find one who will perform the ceremony. i truly believe that finding the right person will help us both. tremendously.

            thanks meg!

        • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

          I love the choices bit of it. I try to explain that we are not leaving our families behind, but starting our new family with the things that are important to BOTH of us.

          My parents are not religious. I was thrown towards Catholicism because it would appease the grandparents. And, so I could marry in a church if I chose to do so. I kind of closed that and left it all behind me when my parents deemed me old enough (and wise enough) to do what I wanted with religion. Sure, we do Christmas, but for all it’s pagan glory, not because of the Baby Jesus.

          My fiancée, therefore, seems more religious than I am because he actually observes the Jewish holidays, and his family is larger than mine, which often times makes the Jewish holidays seem…well, bigger. And maybe even more important. I am usually left feeling like a little kid without a reason when asked “Why do you want a Christmas tree in our house? What does it symbolize? Why is it important?” and my response is “Because they are pretty. And Christmas is fun. And I like it…it symbolizes winter and fall and family and the holiday spirit.” And then I cry and he says “We’ll figure it out.”. I know he’s right – we always figure our things out. It may require “tiny deaths” but we’ll do it. Together.

          Life/Death/Life. I love this.

          • meg

            I think for us it was really important for me to understand why he DIDN’T want a Christmas tree, or whatever, not just what the Jewish holidays meant to him, or Christain holidays meant to me. It took some time to understand the really complicated ‘thousands of years of opressionand assimilation’ pain for him. That for me, “we’ll just do it all” was a win, and for him “we’ll just do it all” was totally losing who he was as Jew. Your husband might not feel the same way, but getting him to open up about some of that stuff might be really helpful. Once I saw the full lay of the land, it made my choices a whole lot clearer, if not easier.

          • erin

            thank you so much for this post, and yes– i too immediately was thinking about religion and the choices i’ve made (i am another raised-catholic with a jewish partner, currently in the process of conversion). indeed it is hard– more obviously for me, since there is so much i’m giving up entirely and so much i am adding to my life, much of it beautiful and good. but i’ve also been really taken lately with how difficult it is for him, as well– to have someone come in and question and examine and redefine all these practices that are dear to him and are his tradition. so yes, much difficulty, much conversation, many “tiny deaths” between the two of us. but in the process we are becoming a true family, together.

        • http://www.soyoureengayged.com wasabi

          As another interfaith couple, I couldn’t agree more. I am currently in the process of converting to Judaism. I’m so glad that I met my partner, and I’m so glad I found a religious home for myself that we can share, where I feel comfortable and truly happy. We have accomplished a lot in the last couple of years that we wouldn’t necessarily have if we were from the same religious backgrounds. I’m glad I made the choice I made. But…I do sometimes grieve over not ending up with a partner that would share my joy for Christmas and play Santa for our future kids together. Or that I have to explain and defend my new spirituality to my parents.

          • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

            After hearing him say over and over again how huge of a compromise it was for him to drive up to my parents house every year for Christmas, I asked him why it was such a big deal. As soon as he said “I’ve fought Christmas my entire life. I’ve had Santa thrown at me, I’ve heard “Merry Christmas” from so many people, I’ve dealt with the trees that are put up in my office by people who don’t understand that there is a slew of people who don’t celebrate Christmas…I feel like I’m giving up my fight by accepting Christmas. I’m doing it for you, because I love you, but I’m not going to love it. Ever.” It took that to help me understand.

            We have so many gritty talks about the holidays and traditions/practices of each of our families…things that each of us has just taken for granted, that we’ve lived with forever. Even though he’s more involved in his religion, there are still some things that he doesn’t have an explanation for. He’ll always look it up though (even if he resorts to my “Judaism for Dummies” book!).

            I think the fact that we’re learning together is making us stronger as a couple. Because, you were right from the get-go (when aren’t you?!) the fact that we are both choosing what is important to us and making it work, instead of just blindly following along with tradition, is really pretty empowering. And fantastic!

    • Barbra

      The interfaith thing has gotten to me, too. Because I always imagined making my life and my family with someone Jewish, someone who wanted to go to services with me and wanted to observe holidays. And I have that mourning moment every time I see couples sitting together at services. The weirdest part is that actually, my Christian-raised-but-atheist boyfriend has beliefs that are way closer to mine than some who was Jewish-and-God-believing would be, but I still feel sad about it.

      • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat at bourbonlove

        This is how I feel completely, and why it makes so much sense that I work so much better with him than I would another Catholic (most likely). We’re both spiritual with a very strong sense of doing right by everyone and the planet and ourselves, but we’re not religious, nor identify as agnostic or atheist really. Our different religious upbringings raised us with the very similar values and moral code that makes up a good foundation for an enduring relationship.

    • enilorac

      two replies in one day from me? that doesn’t happen. but i have to say something because i read so many responses about interfaith marriages, and while I am Jewish and my fiance is Jewish, we come from very different religious backgrounds. Even more so, our families have changed their perspectives/beliefs/observances along the way, and then there’s the fact that each of us has lived on our own and taken still different paths — all while remaining within the Jewish fold. Here’s my point: even marriages between two people of the same religion can be called mixed marriages. It’s true that we’re not negotiating between Passover and Easter, but figuring out which traditions to keep and how they are played out do take significant discussion, planning, and compromise. And sometimes eye-rolling and then taking a break for ice cream.

  • http://roughit.wordpress.com Miranda

    This. Exactly. Yes yes yes.

    “I believe we need to give each other permission, and perhaps more importantly we need to give ourselves permission, to mourn the path not taken.”

    Thank you for writing this. This is how *I* feel about deciding with my wife not to have children, and this captured it just right: I AM somtimes sad about it, but that is not to say that I regret it or am waffling on it, and that’s sort of something I didnt’ realize I was allowed to feel, that I could have the sadness without regret. Thank you for affirming that.

    • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

      Sadness without regret. That’s exactly it.

      • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

        EXACTLY.

  • http://www.fancynotion.blogspot.com/ Kerry

    Thank you, thank you both for this today.

  • Joanna

    You put into words what I’ve been trying to wrap my head around all week. I’m 3 weeks out from my wedding and have been thinking about and trying to process my “roads not taken.” I’m certain about my choices and more than ready to move forward, but I can see the incredible cathartic value of mourning those alternate paths.

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post today.

  • mariko

    I’ve lately been feeling sad about giving up my maiden name – even though I am thoroughly confident that taking my husband’s last name was the right decision for me, and for us. But, especially because this is such a heated debate, I’m feeling uncertain in sharing my feeling with others, worried that people will try to tell me that my sadness is evidence of having made the wrong decision…”sadness without regret” sounds like the perfect way to describe it, but it’s a distinction that not everybody would be aware of.
    Mourning sounds like a good way to put it; I need time to let go of the last name I’ve had for 25 years.
    Thanks for the post – this makes me feel much better.

    • LeahIsMyName

      This is a perfect example. You know it’s the right thing for you, but if only we were allowed to take some time to mourn the passing of a different time of our lives.

      I need to keep your example in mind throughout my life as I try to remember this wise series of thoughts. Having a great concrete example in my mind really helps me understand something as big and emotional as a topic like this.

    • Alyssa

      Honey, I feel ya. I bawled in the car in the parking lot of the social security office when I changed my name.

      There are some great posts on name changing in the archives on APW, definitely check them out when you get a chance because there were some really awesome comments made and stories told….

    • http://abouttobe.wordpress.com Mary

      I have been feeling the same mourning for changing my name. I’m actually really excited about taking his name and I’ve never felt any doubt that it wasn’t the right choice for me (I’ve always HATED my last name, it’s one of those words-in-the-dictionary last names with an unfortunate meaning). I never anticipated mourning my last name but here I am. It’s almost like bidding farewell to childhood.

    • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

      Oh, HELL yes. I’m right in the middle of the process of changing my name (did Social Security, heading to the DMV in the next week), and it’s HARD. I’m glad I made that choice, and I haven’t cried yet (ahem, Alyssa, lol), but it’s hard. Each time I change something, I’m saying goodbye to my old name.

      I grew up in a big, boisterous family, and they’ve accepted my husband as part of them LONG ago (we’ve been together ten years), so I’m not concerned with “losing” my last name– I’m still that person, 110%, body and soul. It’s just a shift. And I’m adjusting, mourning, and accepting the choice I made (sadness without regret, right?).

      The shift is happening in increments- since I haven’t been able to convert my email yet, the username is still Sarah.Maiden, but the display name is Sarah Maiden Married. It’s making it easier. I haven’t introduced myself to anyone with my new last name, just yet, but I’m preparing myself. Each time is a little, fond, goodbye.

      • Mattingly

        ‘Mattingly’ is my maiden name.
        I’ve always known I would want to take my husband’s name. I’d also always known I wanted to do what my mother and her mother did, which was take my maiden name as my middle name, thus keeping it part of my identity. What I hadn’t counted on was how strongly that want/need would be, and how hard it would be to do now. Apparently right after 9/11 they changed ‘name-change’ laws so that marriage now only gives women the right to change their LAST name. I went in to Social Security with my forms all made out as First Middle Maiden becomes First Maiden HisLast, and they looked at me like I had 3 heads, said ‘You can’t do that,’ and proceeded to make me First Middle HisLast. I cried quite a bit over that one. And I might have just caved if my mother had not put her foot down and insisted I find out when that change occurred and how to get around it. I now know where every court building in our little town is, and though it took a month, and $90, a court order, and another trip to SS, I now have the name I’d always known I not only wanted but AM. Mattingly is woven into my being and now it’s a little mental victory for me every time I get to sign MY NAME on any sort of form.

    • mariko

      Thanks guys! I’ve read some of the name-change stories, but I’ll be sure to go back and read some more. I almost feel scared to read them – maybe because everybody’s aware of how controversial and personal this decision can be, it’s as though the face they present to the world is one that is absolutely certain, even if they’re sad or mourning inside. I feel so loved to know that I’m not alone in needing a moment to adjust.

    • Saretta

      I’ve been having the same feelings about keeping my maiden name. I know it’s the right choice for me, but every time I get something addressed to Mr & Mrs HisLastName, I feel a little bit sad – like maybe I would like to be Mrs. HisLast, and maybe it would be easier, and maybe my sadness means I made the wrong choice. Especially as three of my closest friends got married and changed their names in the month after my wedding, it’s been hard watching them take steps that I chose not to take, and I don’t feel like I can tell people I feel sad, because it’s hard enough to tell them that I did not take my husband’s last name and to defend that choice.
      But maybe it’s OK to mourn the steps I chose not to take, and it doesn’t mean that I made the wrong decision. It’s OK to feel sad, to recognize I made the decisions I needed to make, and to let go of the part of me that wishes for Mr & Mrs.

    • enilorac

      the prospect of changing my name (even though i pretty much intend to do so) has been a huge, huge issue for me. I posted something about it on facebook recently and got nearly 60 responses from family and friends. Whether they decided to change their names, or not, I received such lovely, cogent, respectful, thought-out responses about why they made their choices.

      i like the idea of taking the time to grieving the loss of a name I’ve held for 33 years. I think that starting to talk about it (then) eight months out and not letting it be taboo has helped me to process the change.

  • Jacquei

    I needed this today like nobody’s business.

    Earlier this week, talking myself down from a panic attack as I take some of my last classes of an expensive and time-consuming bachelors degree I will not/do not want to use- I found myself crying uncontrollably. I’m in mourning, of my work, my passion, my past. This helps me realize that I’m not compromising so much as working my way up a winding path- and that life isn’t simply right or wrong.

    I know what book I will be curling up with!

    • Vmed

      Hey, I just wanted to say- tears before commencement are very very normal, no matter what you end up doing with your degree. It’s a major accomplishment and it’s ok to be sad and proud and tired and happy and overwhelmed.

      I ugly cried the day before graduation after I found out I’d actually passed all my classes. I just cried and cried because it was over.

      And this term as I Master out of my PhD program, I expect tears to come, though I’ve mourned the death of my academic career along the way.

      Congratulations! You worked toward your goal, and achieved it. And no matter what you do next, your future is bright.

  • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

    The Road Not Taken

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    –Robert Frost

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

      It’s funny how strongly the context in which we first encounter poems can shape our reading of them. I.e. this one sends me into a anxiety attack remembering an elementary school “gifted” class where the interpretation presented was something along the lines of the “path not taken” is the path you *should* take if you want to have an awesome life. I never realized how scarring that was until now—I always just hated the poem! So thanks for the opportunity to re-approach it with a new perspective.

      • ddayporter

        ha! maybe this poem is the reason we all need this post today. apparently it instilled a great deal of anxiety in a lot of elementary school kids – you, me, how many others?

        • Jessica

          I vote banning this poem! It emotionally scars children!!! *tongue-in-cheek*

          • Aine

            Hear, hear!

      • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

        Wow… I never read this poem in school, and today I’m grateful for that! I read it with my mom, who is a very down to earth, make-your-choices-and-live-with-them-because-life-is-always-an-adventure kind of lady. I always took it similarly to Lauren’s post… although my thoughts were never expressed as beautifully as hers :) Sorry to bring on any anxiety attacks this morning, though!

        • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

          I read this poem in school and I’ve carried it in my heart ever since, I think his “two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both” is exactly what Lauren is saying. It’s helped me through a ton of choices since then, from where to go to school to choosing a hard course load over a great job to moving to a different state…all of it is choices, and with choice comes loss at the same time as comes opportunity.
          So this is exactly it, to me, Caitlin.

  • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

    I wanted to say a little more about Women Who Run With the Wolves…

    Pinkola Estes is a Jungian analyst and also a cantadora, which means she is a “keeper of stories.” In this book, she uses old, old “fairy tales” from a number of different cultures to show how girls and women used to be taught how to grow up and grow old, and also to show how we have lost this in modern-day society. These are not your Disney tales- they are fairy tales as they were originally told (bloody, hard, and true).

    Each chapter begins with an old tale, and then the rest of the chapter is spent analyzing that tale for the lessons learned. The book is scholarly but approachable, and I often find myself wanting to underline every sentence. However, it’s not the easiest book to curl up with!

    So, if you are interested, and if it feels like too much to read cover-to-cover, I’d recommend flipping to the chapter that speaks most to you. You won’t lose anything by reading it in this way. Some chapters that I have found especially relevant to marriage and adulthood are Chapter 4 (The Mate: Union With The Other), Chapter 5 (Which covers the Life/Death/Life nature), Chapter 6 (The Ugly Duckling- ever wondered how you were born into your family? This one’s for you!) and Chapter 10 (Nourishing the Creative Life).

    Enjoy!

    • ddayporter

      mmk after reading the post I thought, “hmm I think I’d like to read this book.” after this comment, I’m thinking, “AAHHH must read this book!” thank you for this post and for introducing us to Ms. Estes.

      • ddayporter

        oh crap that’s DR. Estes!

        • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

          Yes, it totally is!

  • amanda

    Thanks for this post ! So true, We are kind of going through this, I just got married, we chose to live in a country where I do not speak the language (because he already had a job here and I am just starting) and it is turning out to be harder than I thought.
    I have a job, but I am not working in my field. I am a biologist and a veterinarian, which has always been my dream,and now I am doing something completely unrelated.
    I am studying the language, but it has been about a year and sometimes it is really hard, because it feels like I gave up something that I enjoyed and worked hard for (10 years at the university… ).
    This post helps me understand we are all in this, this is what it is about, I always knew my new family would be our priority so here we are,
    I just hope in the near future I will be able to really learn the language and find a job in my area.
    Sometimes I beat myself up thinking I am being childish for wanting everything, and maybe I should just have kids (which I really always have wanted) and starting our family is also part of our choice.
    So thanks for this post .

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      That’s really difficult. I hope you find connections, and that it gets easier soon. Hugs.

      • Amanda

        Thanks :)

  • Sept Bride

    Thank you. This post moved me more than anything I have read in a long time.

    I have never really thought about this concept, but have often wondered why I feel so sad sometimes about things that should be so happy. This post made me weep as I started to understand these feelings. So thank you. Starting today, I am giving myself permission to grieve the little parts of my life left behind (and not just in marriage – in all things, in all choices we make, every day). I hope (know?) that this allow me to celebrate my decisions more honestly and fully.

  • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

    I needed this too.

    “Tears are a river that takes you somewhere…Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better.”

    I have been mourning a literal tiny death and have been doing a lot of crying. The quote above helped.

    • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

      Meghan– hugs to YOU. I hope those tears are beginning to help you heal. So sorry.

  • Alyssa

    I just ordered this book based on the post. VERY excited to read it.

    I know exactly whar you’re talking about, Lauren, and have been doing it for years, I just never realized that I was mourning a “tiny death” and not being a giant snotty mess! That’s what’s so nice about these posts, you read them and go, “Oh, wait. I’m not a nutball. That’s nice….”

    My husband doesn’t understand this kind fo thinking either, and it seems other posters have mentioned that too. Does this seem like a typically female phenomenon?

    • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

      Maybe the mourning isn’t typically female, but, at least in my family, the snotty mess is alllll me. I cry when I am happy, when I am frustrated, when I’m not sure what I feel, and that is DEFINITELY not the way Jeff expresses any of those emotions :)

      • Katelyn

        Yeah I definitely cry whenever a particularly intense emotion hits, regardless of what that emotion is. Lots of rivers to carry my boat downstream :)

    • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

      Alyssa, this is how I will describe APW to friends and family from now on:

      That’s what’s so nice about these posts, you read them and go, “Oh, wait. I’m not a nutball. That’s nice….”

      thanks :)

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      My family was very, very bad at doing this until after my sister died and we had a giant loss to mourn. After that, we got better at saying “You know what? You taking that job was a great thing, but it meant that you gave up time with your kids, and that was a loss. It’s okay and even good to mourn that.”

      We had to be taught that, sort of like with kindergarteners, you have to tell them “you feel angry because they took your toy and it’s okay.” That vocabulary is super helpful.

  • http://starsinthegutter.blogspot.com Katy

    This is the first time that I have visited this blog and I think that I was meant to read this post today. In the past few weeks, I’ve been analyzing and judging the course that I have chosen to take in my life. Although I am sad that my path keeps me from being near to my family everyday, I am eternally grateful for the lessons that my path has taught me. Your post excellently describes how, as humans, we cannot have it all even though we want everything. You must sacrifice many things in your lifetime, but hopefully, in the end, the sacrifices are forgotten and your path was worth the journey.

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

    Oh, wow. First of all, Lauren, thank you for sharing; your writing is amazing. Second of all, I’m adding that book to my to-read list IMMEDIATELY. Yowza.

    My initial reaction is to the idea of mourning parts of our lives. That even with good and amazing things happening, we need to let go of the path not taken or the life not lived. My older brother is disabled; he was born without part of his brain (his cerebellum). It wasn’t something my parents could tell before birth, and they only discovered it at about six months, when he was developing a little slower than other babies. My brother is amazing, and I wouldn’t be the person I am without him. As part of raising him and accepting their family (just my parents, me and my brother), my parents actively mourned the son they lost. They had given birth to a happy, healthy baby boy, and their expectations and hopes for him were forever altered by his disability. They mourned the son they would never have, the son they had hoped for. This doesn’t mean they love the son they have any less– it means accepting the change (even if it wasn’t a choice they made) and letting tears fall for what could have been. It’s a very moving and emotionally liberating concept that has helped us be a whole and real family. It helped my family embrace my husband as the son they almost had, while still loving every bit of my amazing brother, even with his disability.

    I pledge to let each and every one of you weep over your choices, to encourage you to fully immerse yourself in moments of mourning. Our choices are not black and white, and we are not on one unchangeable path. The choices we make shape our lives, and understanding the complexity and implications of those decisions is the best way to fully embrace the life we shape for ourselves. I love this idea, and I can’t wait to read the book.

    • Tina

      This is beautiful and very inspiring. That’s all I really have the words to say.

      • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com Sarah K

        Thanks! To me, it’s just the story of my family. It’s not fancy or special or anything– just us. But there are moments when I’m reminded that it’s not exactly normal. And my parents telling me they had to mourn a son they technically never lost– that was one of those moments.

        My brother inspires me every day, and I’m very lucky to have such an awesome family. :)

  • Kashia

    Wow, just … wow.

    I wish I had been able to articulate this idea of ‘tiny deaths’ when after excitedly getting engaged, I then promptly sat down on the floor and sobbed for hours. It would have been nice to have been able to explain to my fiance why even though I was incredibly joyful about the choice we had just made, I really really needed a good cry.

    I think I’m going to go have to buy this book now.

  • Melissa

    THANK YOU for these wise words.
    I celebrate the right to feel sorrow for how things might have gone, with or without regret. Why does our world demand that when we make a choice, we never look back? I get caught up trying to prove that there are no drawbacks to the paths I’ve chosen, as if there is some fault in facing a complicated set of decisions, any one of which could have been beneficial.

    This is something I needed to hear, and needed to hear reaffirmed by a big list of enthusiastic commentators, as I figure out what it means that part of me is angry and disappointed at the prospect of getting married. I am full of fear that being happily married will mean my life won’t take that exotic, unpredictable, and thrilling course of the international social justice career, the one my married self will always believe was an alternate possibility.

    And it’s ok to be sad and angry about that, with the ‘same breath’ acknowledgement that I was the one who made this choice, and I made it with confidence and happiness to be creating a family with the man I love most.

  • Dani B

    I’m not engaged, we have no firm wedding plans as yet (except ‘eventually’!), but this post resonated so hard. I moved to the UK from Canada three years ago to be with my boyfriend. It was much, much simpler for me to get a visa this way than vice-versa, and we wanted to test the waters (having never lived in the same country before!) before we committed to anything more permanent. We’re set on getting married, but the complications of international planning have intimidated us enough that we’re putting wedding plans on the back burner for a little while.
    But the mourning for the choices made, the paths not taken? Happens every day, or at least often enough that it’s not far from my mind. I’m 3500 miles and 5 time zones away from my family and closest friends. I miss the minutiae of day-to-day life, like ‘zomg just saw the most GIGANTIC pigeon’ (seriously – I miss this stuff!). I wonder if I’ll regret not spending more time with my grandmother (who was 88 this year and thinks the other people in her euchre club are ‘old’).
    Thinking about it from this angle, that small deaths happen to make new life possible, was like putting on a pair of much-needed glasses…I’ve felt, since making the decision to move here, that it was absolutely necessary and right and everything I wanted, no matter what I was giving up. Just sometimes the mourning side of it won out and manifested as horrible dragging homesickness. It’s ok to feel both.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

      “I’m 3500 miles and 5 time zones away from my family and closest friends.”

      Moving far from family and friends is such a hard decision, even if you know without a doubt that it is where you want/need/aspire to be! I’ve moved oceans away from my family and friends a few times, the longest time so far being for three years. Now I am on the same continent as my family and friends, but in a different country in a province with a different language (which I thankfully speak.) However, this international move was different because I moved here to be with my husband in his country, whereas the other times were in my single days, where I was just following my dreams. Though I’ve been here a year and feel like I am home when I am with my husband, I also still feel like I am trying to make my life in this new country, especially now as I can’t work (for pay) because of immigration stuff. Anyhow, I just wanted to say….well, I guess I want to say congrats on having the guts to be with your partner (even far from family and friends), and good luck on the international wedding planning, and I wish you all the best as you continue to embrace life, and make a new home in the UK with your partner. And yes, you will probably miss out on some things that happen with your family and friends because you are far away, but you will also have unbelievable, amazing experiences that would have been impossible anywhere else. :)

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

        Ah, just saw you have been there three years. Oops, somehow missed that the first time. :) Well…of course, you already know all about what I said, but I still wish you all the best. And also agree that the mourning the paths not taken is part of the process. :)

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

    Lots of good stuff to think about in this post; I will be mulling it over for a while. And I going to see if my library might have this book! :) Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Lauren.

  • Ashley

    LAUREN! seriously, you make my heart scream – like a happy happy scream. I could just cry. I just love this. This is so exactly what I needed to hear today, but not really today, I need to hear it everyday. I really struggle with decisions these days, it seems the older I get the more I question every single decision that I make to the point where I can’t even recognise the choice anymore. I just can’t seem to trust myself. Which is really hearbreaking, when you think about it. But I’ve been realizing since I read what you commened on the post about not having chidlren, that it’s because I am always sad about what I am not choosing and for me that always feels like regret. But you can have sadness without regret and you can think about the path not chosen without regret and you can wonder what that life would have looked like and really truly love the life you have and not want to change one bit of it. And that is just SUCH great news, because I think the reason I can’t trust myself anymore is because I wasn’t prepared for decisions to be this hard. I think I honestly thought when you become an adult everything gets clear and you meet a great man and fall in love and everything makes sense and nothing is hard. Or woman or not – maybe you choose to be single – but that’s not my point – my point is I didn’t truly know that life is sometimes hard and choices can be hard and sad but it’s also great. And that it can be happy and sad at the same time is just so true!
    I could seriously go on and on about this, (if i wan’t suppose to be working) But to sum it up, this was great, you’re great, all of you! What a perfect way to start a friday. :)

    • Barbra

      I’m so with you on this! I also expected that decisions would be more clear as I got older but the opposite seems to be true. I was always a very decisive person, and now I feel like I am second-guessing myself more than ever! My friend and I were just talking about how it seems like there are no easy answers in adulthood. So cliched, but true. Being able to distinguish sadness from regret is still something I am struggling to truly understand at my core, but I hope it will help me trust myself.

      • Jessica

        Thirded.

        I have done a lot of thinking about why I’m suddenly indecisive and I believe it’s because now my decisions potentially have a great impact on others (my fiance, my future children, our joining families) moreso than they did when I was younger.

  • http://www.christytylerphotography.blogspot.com Christy

    Lauren – this post was amazing! Thank you thank you thank you for this. So many of us (all of us?) need to hear this. It is so nice to hear that it is normal and okay to mourn a life not chosen without necessarily regretting the choices you did make. It’s okay to cry for these things because it moves us to a new place within ourselves. Thank you so much for sharing this. Perfect reflection on a Friday morning.

    And – I definitely need to go get this book!!!!

  • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

    Oh, I am so glad to see this here! And expanded on and beautifully written! I stumbled upon this concept on Lauren’s blog (the post Meg linked to), and it was like a giant void in my thinking/approach to life had been miraculously filled. Funny thing is, I had the “aha” moment and then went on with my regularly scheduled mess and forgot to actively permit myself to mourn the “tiny deaths” resulting from *all* my choices: big, small, and in-between. So thank you for the reminder, and the book recommendation!

  • http://abouttobe.wordpress.com Mary

    I think everyone needs to read this post. Not just people in relationships or marriages, but EVERYONE.

    I haven’t cried about this (yet). But a quiet part of me looks at my peers who are embarking on fabulous careers and single lives, and although I have a deep knowledge that mine is the right choice for me, I can’t help but feel a tiny twinge of jealousy.

    Thank you for reminding us that yes, there is always an opportunity cost. And yes, it is ABSOLUTELY okay to mourn it.

  • http://knitsmcgee.blogspot.com Shayna

    I’m not sure what it was, but this was just what I needed to hear.

  • merryf

    Thank you for this today. I’ll be stopping by the bookstore on the way home from work to get this. I think it will verbalize all the struggles I’ve been having since he proposed in Jan 2009 and I freaked out and, in some ways, still haven’t calmed down.

    For the second day in a row, an APW post has made my heart break in recognition of some really deep truths about myself. This place is like group therapy that actually helps.

  • Elizabeth

    This reminds me of my favorite quote:
    “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets”
    -Arthur Miller
    It’s become somewhat of a mantra for me: not no regrets, because that’s an impossible standard to live up to, but the right ones, ones that you can sit and be with and look back on almost fondly.

    • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

      That’s really beautiful, Elizabeth.

    • Alyssa

      I am so in love with you for quoting Arthur Miller….

    • http://www.lilikoiandthyme.com Christine

      That is such a fantastic quote, and one I’m totally going to carry in my metaphorical back pocket from now on.

      • Barbra

        I feel like I actually might start carrying it in my “literal” back pocket!

    • Lethe

      So, so wise. Thank you for this insight.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

      Miller is one of my very favorite playwrights. Thanks for sharing this thought provoking quote.

  • sara

    Lauren, thank you for writing this. All of it, and: “…we need to give ourselves permission, to mourn the path not taken. The one that might have been amazing, but for good and true and happy reasons, we didn’t choose.”

    My new husband and I just had the most stressful set of weeks, so soon after our wedding, as he was offered a new job in a far away and unfamiliar (but interesting) place. We both have good current jobs, and a great current place, but we both are sort of dying for a change of pace, an adventure, a what-could-our-lives-be-if-we-take-this-particular-plunge-but-Oh-No-if-we-give-up-this-very-good-life-here-we-will-never-get-it-back-if-the-other-choice-isn’t-as-good-but-will-something-this-intriguing-come-along-again-or-not-and-this-is-our-only-chance-and-acckkkk!

    So, we stayed put. for now. And, predictably, we are on the up and down thought roller coaster of happy-for-this-choice but slightly-grieving-for-the-”what might have been.” But, as you say so well, that is o.k. I’m sure I’ll be right back at it if/when we do take a plunge and it becomes time to mourn what I have left behind rather than what I didn’t head towards…

    Thanks everyone for this discussion on how we deal with both!

  • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

    What an amazing post, and something I think any smart person could appreciate. I love it from both angles too — both that we need to allow ourselves to mourn the tiny deaths that come with our decisions and that we also need to help others mourn the tiny deaths of their decisions — without judgment. Gawd, if everyone could take that lesson to heart, what a better place our world would be.

  • rosie

    so i’m thinking about the alternative approach – what do we do instead of mourning the “tiny deaths” that are necessitated by everyday choices, big and small? i think sometimes, instead of mourning, we minimalize. we are hard on ourselves (“this shouldn’t be such a big deal”) and force the pain away. other times, we demonize. we make the option we didn’t choose out to be a bad thing (“___ is stupid anyway”) so that we feel good about the choice that we made (i do this one… and i think it’s especially pungent in the context of comparison/jealousy of others’ lifestyles).

    but! to acknowledge that many paths exist, and that many could be good, and that we are still only able to choose one, and that the one we chose is good despite how many others might also have been good… that’s tough. i think it requires a confidence in our own decisions, an ability to confront that inner voice nagging, “was this right? what could have been? what am i missing out on?” and respond by mourning what’s lost and embracing what’s here. mourning lost options gives them the respect they deserve, and allows for a more sincere and whole-hearted appreciation for what’s been chosen.

    and i love that this community gives each other the courage to do it, every day :)

  • tirzahrene

    Thank you. This moved me.

    I’ve been thinking I should re-read “Women Who Run With The Wolves” lately; I’m hungry for that type of women’s wisdom. Your post made me sure I need to do this.

    Incidentally, her rendition of the Bluebeard story is one that I told to my older stepdaughter when she was about five, on our first (rollercoaster) family vacation. She asked for that story many times afterwards.

  • Esther

    Can I just “exactly!” this post?

  • Melissa

    Yes. This. Thank you. I’ve been struggling with this for the past week or so. I am lamenting my career choices (for reasons too lengthy to go into here) while at the same time knowing if I hadn’t left my job and moved across country when I did I would not have met my husband. And I really love my husband. So I’m grateful for him and disappointed in my career at the same time. It’s such a weird place to be in, but reading this and having it resonate is allowing me to honor all of those feelings – because they are all valid, and all demand my attention and THEY ARE ALL OK. Even necessary.

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

    YES! Just bought the book.

  • J

    I’m not sure if this is just me being weird or what, but I am having a hard time getting used to calling my fiance’s parents “Mom” and “Dad”. They are WONDERFUL and they are really special to me, but…I’ve had my own Mom and Dad for 24 years! I don’t want to offend, but it’s a struggle giving those titles to someone else too… It makes me feel a little sad and confused, especially because I now live with his parents and left mine halfway across the country…

    • MNBride

      I have a hard time with this for exactly the same reason. It feels somehow disloyal to my own beloved parents to call someone else mom and dad. Instead, I refer to them as Mama First Name and Papa First Name (that is, when I can’t the need to call them anything at all). And although my husband is a quick Mom and Dad adopter, he’s continued to call my parents Mama and Papa last name, a tradition he started when we are dating. It’s made this awkward thing kinda cute.

    • ddayporter

      did they specifically request that you call them Mom and Dad? I call my husband’s parents by their first names, because that’s what I’ve always called them. But, they are fine with it that way, in fact I’m not sure how much they would like it if I did call them Mom and Dad. If your future in-laws are insisting on it, maybe you could see if they would be ok with an alternative – like what MNBride does, or just using a similar name but not the same thing you call your actual parents (like, Mum and Pop or something instead of Mom and Dad)?

      • J

        Yes, they said they would like me to, but also noted that it’s okay to go through an adjustment phase to get used to it. I usually call my parents “Mommy” and “Daddy” (Always have, always will. Yes, I am an adult.) but refer to them as “Mom” and “Dad” in conversation.

        I don’t want to offend, or be socially awkward, but I can’t get used to it yet. I strategically phrase things to avoid calling them anything all-together, which is ridiculous and awkward in itself.

        We’ve only been engaged since December, so I don’t think there is pressure to make the switch yet…and thinking about it, I don’t think my fiance calls my parents anything either.

        I guess this is what happens when your family grows! Anxiety over holidays has already started…

    • meg

      Duuuudddeee. I do not call David’s parents Mom and Dad. They are not my Mom and Dad, though they are lovely people. I call them by their names. I’d talk to them about it and think about it. They never asked for me to call them that, but I also know that if they had, I probably wouldn’t have said yes. They are family, but not my parents. So. Yeah. You have options :)

      • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

        I never called my former in-laws “Mom” or “Dad,” and neither did my ex, but you should have seen my mom’s face LIGHT UP when Tony asked her what she *wanted* to be called! She told him that he could call her whatever he liked (by her first name or Mom or any variation). He asked if he could call her Mom after the wedding, and I honestly think that was the moment when she stopped fussing about the wedding and got on board. This one, she decided, is a keeper.

        • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat at bourbonlove

          That’s so totally cute!

      • Moz

        I find that this is a cultural thing for some people. It is very common in Italian and Greek families here in Australia to call in laws Mum and Dad. In many cases calling them by their first names is considered wrong.

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      I have the same situation in terms of leaving my mom whom I adore across the country while living right next to his parents. I do not call them parental names, and probably will not unless they specifically request me to. I knew and spoke to them by their first names before I started even dating him, so it was natural to continue doing that. If they asked for it, I’d probably mix it up a bit like MN bride.
      The hard part for me is his grandparents! Almost all of mine are dead and haven’t been close for years. I know they want me to call them something, but I just avoid it because they won’t address it. We’ll cross that bridge sometime.

    • http://abouttobe.wordpress.com Mary

      There is NO WAY I could ever call Mark’s parents Mom and Dad (I might call his dad “Pops,” because it’s kind of cutesy and I’m rather fond of the man), but I’m struggling with this for his grandfather, who offered that I call him “Grandpa.” He is a sweet, sweet man and I am happy to call him that. At the same time, the only man I ever called “Grandpa” was my mother’s father, who passed away when I was 5 or 6. Even that is an adjustment for me– it makes me mourn a little for the grandfather that I never knew.

      • Morgan

        When I was younger, I used to “adopt” grandparents. I figured I would only ever have one mother and one father, but I already had 4 grandparents, so why not more? Family friends and friends’ grandparents became “mine” as well – I guess I just like old people. :)

        • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com Koru Kate

          It’s not just you; I’m in the same boat. My fiance’s parents said I could call them Mom & Dad as soon as we got engaged &, eight months later, I have not been able to do it. Nor do I want to. My Mom is my Mom & my Dad is my Dad. My Mom asked my fiance to call her Sue & I really wish my fiance’s parents had requested the same. It’s a sticky situation because my sister-in-law-to-be calls them Mom & Dad so I feel like I will be questioned for not following suit. For now, I avoid calling them anything like J mentioned. It can’t last forever . . . should be interesting!

          • Kristen

            My mother-in-law told me I could start calling them “mom and dad” within 24 hours of our engagement. Thankfully I was so stunned and shellshocked that I just kind of sad – “thanks for the offer, but I probably won’t.” And they’ve been Helen and Stu ever since.

  • Abby C.

    Once again, Meg and Lauren, you hit the nail right on the head! I so needed to read this, as it’s exactly what I went through when I first met my FH. I knew we’d be eventually getting married right from the beginning, and it was a really tumultuous time for me – saying goodbye to my singlehood, being forced to come to grips with the fact that my reality (which is absolutely perfect for me, btw) still looks nothing like what I had imagined as a girl. I really believe sometimes the Universe gives us, as they say, exactly what we need, rather than what we think we want. And it’s great, and wonderful, to have that, but it was so far different from what I was expecting that I find myself sometimes mourning my childhood dreams of a blonde prince on a white horse, even though the grown-up me is waaaaaay to independent to actually want a romantic relationship like that.

    So instead, I get to board a plane with my Indian rajah. :-) But sometimes I find myself going “But what about my blonde-headed babies??” Sounds so silly, but that mourning is still there, and still necessary.

  • http://www.agirlandaboy.com/journal agirlandaboy

    I love this because in addition to giving us permission to mourn what might have been, I think it also allows us to acknowledge that sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we marry the wrong person (or do it the wrong way) or make all kinds of other decisions about life, love, work, and family that we THINK are right for us in the moment but then, for whatever reason, don’t work out. And that’s OKAY! And it’s a shame that there are always the naysayers who come in with “I told you so” and all that rot, which is why it’s important for those of us who “get it” to support each other…and more importantly that we support ourselves and know that we’re all just doing the best we can, imperfections and mistakes and all.

    • meg

      It’s funny you used those words, because someone wrote me about this (and I need to pull it together into a post). She was saying that what is happening when people say, “I told you so” or “you’ll seeeeeee,” or whatever is that they are SHAMING us. And that shame is a super powerful way to control people’s choices. I think women do this because it can be really scary when people make different choices than you do, and shaming them can shut down your crazy emotions on the subject. And I mean that in a personal way. There have been so many times where someone announces a big life choice and I get all shaken up. Shaming them would be the quickest way to re-assure myself that I’m doing ok.

      • http://miscetcandmoremisc.blogspot.com Eliza

        Wow. That is exactly it, and I never really realised that that was the action/emotion being used (particularly in my comment above)…but it absolutely it.

        Really look forward to reading that post Meg!

  • Hilary

    Thank you for this. It put into words exactly why I’m sad sometimes about decisions I’ve made. And now I’m giving myself permission to mourn the loss of the alternative and not beat myself up over not being content or being ungrateful for the way things are. Now I feel I can be sad about those things and then move on.

  • Sandy

    Thank you for this, Meg and Lauren. This post absolutely rejuvenated me. I’m recently married, even more recently returned from the honeymoon, and in the all-consuming process of setting up home with my partner. We did not live together before getting married and, despite warnings from all sides, we find living together to be quite easy; a relief, even. However, as we buy new furniture and decorate sort our things into Trash, Charity, and Keep piles, I find myself crying a lot. Because I don’t really want all my kitschy collections of knickknacks prominently displayed in our gorgeous new apartment and I don’t really want to hang he torn-at-the corners Bob Dylan poster I moved from house to house for the last seven years, but it’s hard to watch that part of my identity fade. It’s hard to feel like I’m the one making all the sacrifices, changing my name and giving away my old bedding because his is nicer. And I felt bad about feeling bad. But now I realize that of course getting married and moving in together means giving something else up. And it’s okay to mourn the death of that something (I guess it boils down to independence). Because it really is a tiny death. If you’d asked me at any point along the course of our five-year courtship whether I’d give up my cheap mis-matched furniture to meld my life with his, I’d not have hesitated for instant. The sacrifice is more than worth it.

    • Marina

      One way I dealt with this was to have some spaces that were all mine. My bookshelf. My chair. My side of the bedroom, with only my things on the wall. For me, having some small space that’s completely mine, not melded both of ours, felt very safe and comforting to me.

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      I just moved in with my partner, and oh man, the sorting was TOUGH. Because it was stuff that I’d kept in case I’d need it when I settled in, and here I am settling in, and not needing some things that I might have needed…I did cry a little bit. Thankfully he totally got it and was fine.

    • Harriet

      Until I read this comment, I never realized why I burst into tears when my fiance told me he wanted to get rid of my old (and okay, kind of ugly) kitchen table. My parents had that table when I was growing up, and I got it when they moved and I got my first apartment. It is the table I think of when politicians talk about Americans sitting around their kitchen tables. :) My parents got us a beautiful new table for a wedding present, but I am keeping the old one in the closet anyway.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

        Haha, I have my old kitchen table in our storage locker. It was my grandparents’ and I got it after they passed away and when I need one 8 plus years ago. The idea of giving it away makes me sad, but yet my husband and I bought a wonderful retro table that we love. So….my old table is in the shed til I sort out my emotions. :)

  • http://www.icookwithwine.com Melinda

    Perfection. Thank you.

  • MNBride

    How timely. I have been thinking a lot about the dichotomy of my life at this moment and the idae of the happy and the sad co-exisisting is exactly it. I am deliriously happy with my adorable husband and this life we’re making. At the same time, we’re dealing with an extremely troubled step-child. And by dealing with, I mean our lives are sometimes hell. And by sometimes, I mean right now, today. It’s weird to have these two realities of my life happening concurrently. We have died several deaths the past several hours but we will go away by ourselves this weekend to lick our wounds, take care of ourselves and be born again to how happy and madly in love we are. Thank you, Lauren, for the words to describe this odd place I’m in.

  • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

    The timing of this post is uncanny. Just this morning, I began ruminating about three different regrets/losses that, although they occasionally make me feel sad, they are also losses that enrich my life and my family.

    (1) I was feeling sad that my fiance and I (high school sweethearts long ago) had missed out on growing up together in our 20′s and gallivanting around San Francisco, working in a bookstore, going to college together and just generally seeing each other turn into our adult selves.

    (2) I was feeling sad that my marriage didn’t work out; that I chose (for albeit good reasons) to leave, and how we were unable to work together as a unit for our mutual and family best interests. How very hard it is to know that stopping my own suffering has caused suffering in someone I once cared for very much.

    (3) I have been feeling rather sad at my fiance’s and my choice not to have children together. We have excellent reasons for this choice; my motherly instincts will not change our decision. Our family is quite full already with my two young children, and the health risks are not acceptable to us. But I can’t lie; there is a little part of me that wonders what our little one would look like. I imagine his personality, his woolly eyebrows and bright green eyes and impish sense of humor. I can see him toddling around, following his brother and sister everywhere, waiting excitedly for them to come home every week, and I mourn the baby I will never know but love just the same.

    • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

      Sarah- HUGS to you.

  • http://www.knitmetogether.net Christy A.

    You have no idea how much I needed this post right now. On my evening commute yesterday, I was sitting in traffic, and visions of the career I’d given up on popped into my mind. I never wanted to get married – it was not on my list of life goals at all – so pursuing the career I wanted, a career that required a lot of travelling and selfishness, made sense for me since having a family was not on my radar. But then I met Aaron, the man who changed my perspective and helped me believe that I could be happy in marriage, and I had to choose.

    I always tell the graduating high school kids we mentor to make sure and enjoy their life in their college years, because it’s the freest they will ever be. Not because life is a downhill slope from there, but because every choice we make by necessity limits the future choices that will be available to us. Choose a major? That means you limit you career choices. Choose a career? Limit your choice of cities to live in. Choose a city? Limit your choices of people to meet. Choose a partner? You’ll (hopefully) never look for anybody else. Buy a house? Your financial freedom will be limited. Have kids? Oh, boy, will your available choices change! All these choices are good and necessary, but that fact is that once you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to a whole slew of other possibilities. And that’s ok.

    Aaron never asked me to give up my career dream, but I knew myself well enough to know that pursuing a career that required giving all of myself to be successful would not leave room in my life to be a wife. So I made a choice. Yesterday, in the solitude of my car, I had a little wake for the dreams I’d let go. I have to do this every now and then, but I don’t talk about it because I don’t want people to think I regret my choices. It was hard enough to choose in the first place without having a well-meaning buffoon tell me how I should have pursued my dreams, and damn the cost.

    “because we are not allowed to admit that decisions are hard, and that just like partners, there are a number of life choices that could bring us happiness, and for many of the big ones, you have to give something up to have something else.”

    This is so true, and exactly what I needed to hear. It would be so healing to be able to mourn with friends over the choices we didn’t make, then turn around and celebrate the lives we have because of our (very good) choices.

    Thank you. You healed a little part of me today.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    This is always true – about life, about marriage, about love. And because it is so well said here, Lauren, it rings so true. Especially on days (like today, for me) when you know both wholeheartedly that your partner is the one for you, is amazing, captivates your heart… and also that he (she) cannot be everything to you, and that sometimes that means you have a little sadness.

  • http://sherwoodspecialists.wordpress.com Kayla

    I have nothing more to add, but I just wanted say that I loved this post.

    Thanks you.

  • Rachel

    Am I the only one who doesn’t want to have children but who tears up at the Disney commercials where all the kids are screaming and huggin their parents?

    I swear, I’m really secure in the decision to not be a mom, to the extent that I have fully decided that, should we accidentally get pregnant, I would give the baby up for adoption (yes, a married woman giving a child up for adoption. There. I said it out loud.), but that commercial kind of breaks my heart.

    And now I know, thanks to Lauren, that I’m just mourning my path not taken.

    • Barbra

      Yup, definitely not the only ones. I cry every time a (fake) baby is born on whatever TV show I happen to be watching, even though I am not planning on having kids.

    • Sylvie

      I have a hard time with my husband’s inability to understand my moments of mourning the choice to not have children. I’m 38 and the last of my formerly childless friends (both men and women) are now having babies and unexpectedly LOVING it.
      My husband just gets a little mad at me, and tells me that people say they love being parents because, “that’s what they have to say”. I tell him I just need a little encouragement, like – “I know the choice is hard, you’re brave.” Instead, he’ll see me in a moment of sadness and ask me what’s wrong until I tell him – and when I do, he just sighs and walks away. It makes me feel very alone. He’s usually supportive, but he just doesn’t understand this. So I’m thinking I need to turn elsewhere, like here, for support. Thanks for your post.

  • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com sera

    again. can’t read the comments yet, but just wanted to say thank you. I really REALLY needed this today. I have four days left of my current job until I start a new, lower paying, less creative job that I’m certain will make me happier. I’ve been an emotional wreck but only on the inside for weeks now. thank you for giving me the permission to cry it out and be happy for my decision.

  • peanut

    I’m the daughter of immigrants and my husband is an immigrant, so I’ve seen this (and experienced it to some extent myself) with regards to one’s national identity; as in, I’m an American now, but what if I had stayed in my native country? Did I give up that part of myself? Should I move back? Will I ever move back? It’s something I can’t fully understand since I live in the country that I grew up in, but there are definitely periods where my loved ones mourn their path not taken and even feel guilt about it. For my husband, marrying me was a decision that he would stay in the US to build our lives together, and I could tell it was a very deep and complicated issue for him even though he is happy with and does not regret the decision.

  • http://www.amycavephoto.com Amy

    Thanks for posting this today. I’m not a wife yet, but have been struggling a bit with the path not taken..especially because I’m now old enough to see where seemingly trivial decisions I made five or ten years ago actually had huge and in some cases path altering consequences.
    It’s a good feeling to look back to know that yes, my life could have been much different, and probably happy, but then to remind myself that my life right now on the path I chose is really good and happy too, just different. It makes letting go of those other paths a lot easier.

  • suzanna

    YES. Incredibly well-put. Mourning the choices we didn’t make, not because we regret anything, but just because it might require a bit of doing to let those things go.

    Perfect subject for the autumn, really. Heading into winter always makes me feel introspective. As I’m 35, still have a year left in school, and am planning on getting married and having babies right after that (fingers crossed), my life is kind of flashing before my eyes these days, know what I mean?

    Good, lovely stuff. Thanks.

  • Cherry

    Wow. Boy, did you hit the nail on the head. I’ve actually been thinking about this for the past week or so. I’ve always made it a point to make decisions thoughtfully knowing full well that the choice was taking me on a certain path. At 35, I’m starting to “re-think” and second guess some of these choices such as “Should I have gone to an art school? Should I have gotten a master’s degree right after the Bachelors? Should I have stayed another year in Japan?” I’m suddenly revisiting all these big choices I’ve made in the last year. I know understand the whole “mid-life” crisis issue. :) This post made me feel so much better because I was worried that revisiting these decisions made me feel like I had made the wrong choices. One thing I’ve realized is that I have romanticized the path not chosen. I have to remember the reasons why I didn’t choose that path. This post was a great way to start the weekend. :) Thanks, Meg!

  • Saskia

    Thank you, thank you. This is exactly what I needed today. Thank you!

  • Moz

    Absolutely one of my fave posts ever on the site. Thank you SO MUCH for posting.

    Lump in my throat and I will be buying the book.

    xx

  • http://www.glaciercountyhoney.com Courtney Fullerton

    Thank you both for this post – simply gorgeous.

  • http://as-food-to-life.blogspot.com meredythbyrd

    This is the exact thing that makes me hesitate when my boyfriend tells me he’d marry me tomorrow and I wonder if this is right for me, for us. Thank you for verbalizing my fears and anxieties for me. It makes it a lot easier to figure out whether they are tissue paper thin fears that can be boldly stepped through or signs of caution.

  • Zhad

    I read this post back-to-back with your “why wife and mother do not have to go together” posts, and they moved me so much I felt I had to share.

    I’ve been married for eight years to my soul mate, and now that I’ve entered my 30s I’ve been struggling mightily with the baby issue. We don’t have kids, haven’t felt driven to have kids, and it’s increasingly looking like we *can’t* have kids…and are truly really fine with it. Most days.

    Other days, when I open my Facebook and see yet another friend/family member/acquaintance who’s annoucing a pregnancy or posting new baby pictures, I can’t help but feel this sense of overwhelming sadness and urgency. I’m almost paralzed with the fear that I’ll be missing out on something wonderful and magical if I don’t have children….then the next day I’ll wake up with fears of all the things I’ll be missing if I DO. Thank you for reminding me that that fear is natural, and that whichever road I take, it’ll be okay to mourn the one I didn’t. It’s okay to celebrate my life and marriage as it is: child-free.

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for this – it is much needed. I went to school for 6 years (B.Sc. and M.Sc.) in one direction but always felt like my heart was not totally in it. Even though the subject matter was stimulating and exciting and inspiring at times, I always felt like it wasn’t really taking me in the direction I wanted to be going.

    I’ve recently chosen to try something more inline with my passion and have felt a lot of personal guilt – guilt for “giving up”, guilt for leaving this path to start another, guilt for knowing that I could probably be successful at my previous path even though I likely wouldn’t be as happy, guilt for not letting that life be lived. This post allowed me to be ok with leaving this path of study to embrace a new one that speaks to me more. To be ok with embracing that little death and knowing that it was still worth it.

    Thank you for helping me understand my own struggle with this.

    xo

  • http://extoria.blogspot.com Vee

    Lauren, I loved when you posted a little on this topic on your blog several weeks ago (months, perhaps?), and it has stayed with me. This iteration is even better. You are a wonderful writer and this sentiment is exactly what I need to hear right now, as my husband and I make that lifelong decision of “will we or won’t we?” Thank you.

  • Jean

    Thank you for this. I’m new-ish to APW, but this post resonated with me so much that I had to comment. I just got married a week ago. I never, ever thought I’d get married. I never wanted to get married. I met my husband about four and a half years ago and I knew very early on that I was going to spend the rest of my life with him, and that marriage was part of that future. This fact terrified me, but it was a fact, none the less, and when I know something, I KNOW it, and I always trust that intuition implicitly. Now, four years later, we’re married and I’m happy and content and so brightly in love, and I could never have imagined the surreal, otherworldly perfection of promising my life and dreams and future to this man. I don’t regret this decision.

    At the same time, I feel a deep and real sadness at letting go of the life that I wanted, or thought I wanted, and could have built had I made different choices. As a single person, I loved my life and the feeling of control that I had over my destiny. Giving up autonomy was and is very difficult for me, and this blog is the only place I’ve found that doesn’t assume that getting married is automatically a “better” option or the default “correct” choice. I don’t feel that we, as women, are looking for a husband or that women who don’t have one just haven’t found one yet. Marriage was simply the choice that I made, and without placing a value judgment on it, I can see that it was the right choice for me, while still mourning the life that I loved and the path that I could have taken.

    Thank you for championing choice without judgment. Life threw me a curve ball in the form of the best man, and best friend, that I can possibly imagine, and I don’t for a second regret the choice I made to combine our lives…. but dang, the grass WAS green in that other pasture too. It wasn’t just an illusion. I’m grateful to this blog for saying that sadness and regret are two entirely different hurdles to cross.

  • Angel

    I think for me the mourning is part of the decision-making process, it isn’t something that happens later(generally). Which is why I need a lot of time to think about decisions, because I have to be willing to give up all my other options before I can decide, and I have to take some time and mourn them before I can announce it to other people.

    It drives some people(like my college roommate) crazy that I can’t just make a big decision, that it takes me weeks, but this is why – because the mourning is part of the process for me. Because if I choose Door #2 it means I’ll never see what is behind Doors #1 and #3 or even Door #7…

  • Rizubunny

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been dealing with this for the last few months, although I didn’t really realize why – thinking about my ex and his family, and the college I didn’t transfer to, and the semesters abroad I didn’t go on, and the job in China that I didn’t take. I don’t exactly regret it, but I wonder what my life would have been like had I made other choices. And as a few of the other ladies said, my life right now is amazing and wonderful, and my partner is fantastic and supportive and lovely, and there’s nothing wrong – but having the life that I have now necessarily means not having all of those other potential lives. I am OK with it, conceptually, but it’s been coming up more and more, and I think it’s because I was treating it as something that I *shouldn’t* be feeling. So I’m giving myself permission to be sad and really grieve all those wonderful things that could have been, acknowledge what I have is wonderful, and then move on fully.

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  • http://fionalynne.wordpress.com fiona lynne

    I’m a few days late commenting coz I was away but I loved reading this post. Like so many other commenters, you put into words something I’ve been feeling.

    Monday was our first anniversary so it’s been the week for deep thinking and talking. My husband and I met in a country that neither of us comes from and we still live there. Honestly, if I hadn’t met him, I’d be long gone by now. My work dreams (which would have taken me elsewhere) had to change because they didn’t fit with his. And that was a choice. He didn’t force me. And I am so so happy to be married to him. And I am re-imaging what my work life might look like and forming new dreams.

    But sometimes I am desperately sad for all the old dreams I put aside. And it feels wrogn to feel that way. Or at least wrong to voice it, lest everyone start recommending marriage counselling.

    Also, thank you for that last quote: “Tears are a river that takes you somewhere…Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better.” I need permission to cry freely when I need to.

  • http://mrsmoment.blogspot.com/ Kat

    Ladies, thank you. Lauren, thank you! This was beautifully written. I never realized I needed permission to mourn the paths I didn’t choose, but I did. I felt a part of my mind relax when I read this post. Knowing that there are so many others out there experiencing this is like receiving a long, warm, supportive hug.

    The path I’ve chosen isn’t easy, at least for now. I chose to marry an Egyptian man. He is so much more than that, but when people first discover his nationality that’s often all they see. The barrage of criticism I received and still receive for this choice, from family in the beginning and still from strangers, is my own personal battle.

    Currently we are blissfully happy, and yet life is hard. I looked at my husband the other night and said “Sometimes it seems as if I put on a happy face for you and you put one on for me…we are both having a very hard time, but because we’re making ourselves be happy for each other…we are happy.” My husband can’t work until his work permit comes through and the process of applying and waiting is rough. I’m working 50 hours a week, jumping through immigration hoops, and still trying to write my Master’s thesis on the side. People ask how married life is ALL THE TIME and I tell them everything is fabulous, because that’s what they want to hear. It’s the truth actually, married life is fabulous, it’s life in general that is hard.

    It’s easy to allow myself to dwell on the path not taken. For now we don’t have money and I don’t have time, but I know this will pass. Singledom was much easier in many ways. I am so much more worried about him then I ever was about myself. Compromise is something we promised each other in our vows and it’s just as hard as we knew it would be. Yet, life goes on.

    This comment has taken on a life of its own and become rather long. *sigh* =)

    My intent was to affirm what everyone has already said, share, and say thank you.

    This site always helps bring a little more perspective into my life and I value the community here.

    Thank you all.

    Kat

  • Katie

    AHHH! I cannot begin to tell you how much this post resonates with me. I am relatively new to APW, but have posted a few times about the anxiety relating to my upcoming marriage.

    Although I am still sorting out my thoughts and feelings before I ultimately decide which path to take (get married or go my separate way), I know part of me is apprehensive because my life and my partner are perhaps different than what I “expected.”

    I’ve been using an analogy lately for these wedding jitters: Years ago, I decided to attend a small liberal arts college closer to my hometown, instead of some more prestigious universities. Perhaps it wasn’t the best choice, but it was the right choice for me at the time. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. I met some of my best friends there, my fiance there, defined a path for myself and made the most of my experience. I chose to make it the best place for me. But, I still acknowlege the ‘what ifs’ of my choice. I still realize what could have been, and sometimes there can be a loss associated with that.

    I am wondering, with my current life transition, if it is similar to my choice of college. Is my fiance the best guy out there? No. Is he the right one for me? MAYBE! Can I be happy with my choice and that decision to love and get married become the best of my life? I sure hope so!

    Thanks again Lauren and Meg. Keep it up!

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  • http://www.solootraaficionada.blogspot.com.ar Carolina

    Hello Meg!
    I am from Argentina and I also have a blog like you! Unfortunately it’s in spanish only. Today someones called Marcela talk about your blogsite and I am here now!!
    You know I have red Women Who Run With The Wolves. And I agree with you This book is a life-changer.
    Now in my website I am writting about this book all time regarding Life/Death/Life nature.
    I think that every “yes” every new decision means “No to other thinghs”, and you need to be strong to understand that is important living without regret about your decisions. I have read about it in other book written by Irvin Yalom.

    Sorry for my bad english, I don’t use it too much.
    Warm regards from Argentina

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