Life is a series of seconds, leading to minutes, that then become five-minute moments, and eventually, your life.
Occasionally, one of those five-minute moments can change you, grow you up, and influence the trajectory of your life in such a way that you will never be the same.
The Japanese Buddhists refer to moments like these as a satori, a moment of comprehension or understanding. For the rest of us, it can just mean growing the hell up.
I had one such five-minute moment—I was faced with a life-changing decision. Once you grow up, you cannot grow back down; once you know, you know, and you cannot unknow.
Things were tense between David and I; it felt as though our relationship of three years was slowly unravelling.
It was the weekend of my best friend Sharon’s wedding, 16 years ago. The two-hour drive from Stitsville to Gananoque to attend the wedding, which would normally be full of talking and laughing, was quiet beyond comfortable.
We did the normal pre-wedding orchestration. I had to get my hair done in the maid of honor fashion—an up-do that wouldn’t outdo the bride. David had to check on the groom and have the pre-wedding calm-your-nerve drinks. It was all pleasant and slightly unnerving at the same time. It was like playing dress-up, but this time it was for real.
Our chariot to the wedding venue was on a boat belonging to a friend of the bride and groom. Aboard were the wedding party, parents of the bride and groom, and close friends. There was plenty of room to wander around, grab a drink, and partake in small talk with anyone who was willing. David and I could easily avoid each other’s company.
Once at the Gananoque Inn, we were escorted to our various positions to get ready for the ceremony. I must admit, it was all very fitting of a second marriage. The mood was festive, the atmosphere alive with celebration, and I was ready to have a wonderful time. My intention was set, and I was not going to let the tension with David derail my evening.
Fast forward a few moments.
Well into the evening with the dance floor hustling and voices getting louder in order to hear over the music, I decided to seek out and find David.
Even though I was distracted by his lack of presence by my side, I was smiling and making small talk with a group of strangers. I wondered if they could tell that I was feeling a bit distressed. I was watching their lips move and hearing their words, but not really listening.
After more time passed, I started to become concerned about David’s absence. He was not to be found. It was a large crowd of around 75 people, and David was short at 5’7″ and easily hidden amongst the taller people who were there. Even in my three-inch heels, giving me a stature of 5’9″, I could not see over the crowd very easily.
And then the music stopped, and my satori, my five-minute moment began.
Slowly, everyone on the dance floor started to dissipate, going either to their tables and give their weary feet a rest or to the bar to quench their thirst.
Then, I saw David.
He was standing by himself, looking lost in a crowd of people who were all laughing, conversing, and celebrating this union of my best friend Sharon and her new husband Mike. He looked completely alone and unaware I had seen him.
I stood still and watched him intently for many minutes, trying to understand what was happening in this very moment.
I did not react. Who was this calm woman standing in my shoes? There was no running over to him, no racing heart, fear, or resentment over having been apart all evening.
When I looked at him, I could not help but see a boy wearing the cloak of a man, one who looked as lost in himself as he did a room full of people.
I felt compassion for him. I felt love for him in the way a mother loves a child. But what I felt more than anything was that our time had come to an end, our purpose together had been served, and we were over.
I felt peace, I felt freedom, and I just knew.
In that five-minute moment, I was humbled by the choices I had made, having left my 16-year marriage for a fantasy with David. I had hoped to find the love in someone else that I needed to find within me. I’d hurt my children, family, and friends.
In that moment, I grew up just enough to grab the steering wheel of my life, steal it away from my inner wounded little girl, and put her safely in the back seat with her seatbelt on—because it was about to be one hell of a ride from here on in.
It was time to learn how to drive this life of mine on my own, as a grown-up, responsible woman. Nice to meet you.