During a one-day symposium held at the University of California in October 1986, author Ray Bradbury reportedly (Los Angeles Times) surmised that if enough people followed their hearts, they could realize their optimistic vision of humanity’s future. Although I would have been just 15 years old at the time, what he is credited with saying that day is something that I now think about often.
“If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or,”I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.”
Although I didn’t actually hear these words until 2016, I lived them a lot earlier….in my marriage and my decision to end it. As many people come to find about marriage is that sometimes we outgrow the relationship or need to grow and find that the relationship simply can’t support the growth or grow with it. My own experience was a marriage that had been rocky from the beginning. Lacking many of the elements one can expect in an interdependent and healthy relationship, I suffered through verbal abuse, controlling behavior, and I walked on eggshells the greater part of 18 years as the entire household revolved around my husband and his moods. Couple that with my desire to write and pursue a meaningful existence and mission, well….it was inevitable that something change. I had to change my life and I had to let go. I had to let go of whatever hopes and dreams to which I was still clinging and create something new. They weren’t the only way or best way, as I had always believed. They weren’t the ideal path I could envision….and although I didn’t want to give up whatever elements of a perfect whole still remained, it was time to act, take a risk…..and jump off the cliff.
Now, as anyone can maybe imagine, jumping off a cliff can be scary stuff and I spent a number of years crippled by my fear….peering over the edge of the abyss, unable to make out the unfamiliar territory below. Because, even if I did manage to survive the fall, being stranded below didn’t seem all that great. Never mind that on days when I just didn’t think I could handle one more minute of my life, I would imagine myself as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, driving off a cliff with a groundhog. The thought of finding myself alive and at the bottom, having to climb my way back up, was a bit daunting. However, what finally became overwhelmingly and obviously clear was that until I risked leaving the safety and security of my perch, giving up the picture I had in my head, I was never going to be able to fully embrace life and love and experience the excitement, joy, energy, and freedom of flight.
But this was my experience. When it comes to one’s children, it’s so difficult to let go of what we want for them and the right path is not always easy to see, especially when we don’t want to see it and it’s no longer about our own safety and security. It’s about theirs. However, my question to anyone in a divorce situation with children is what are you willing to fight for when you put it all on the line? What are you going to want to save and what are you willing to do to save it? Can you also build their wings on the way down?
My own answer to this question was that I wanted to save the lives of my children and myself. Beyond that and despite what I previously thought I wanted for my children, I also wanted to show them a different way and that sometimes the only way to save something is to risk loss, not be afraid to start over, and create something new. I wanted to show them that one can build wings….and show them that taking a chance means having a chance….a chance to fly. Maybe you’re not the best at it at first. Maybe your wings aren’t so strong. But give it time. Jump off the cliff with the courage of an eagle and someday you could be soaring as one…..
(Writer’s Note: Parts of this were written May 9, 2018, three years prior to the date of publishing. Other posts may explore this subject in more depth.)