Since my divorce, I’ve savored my life as a single person. Every now and then, however, I’m reminded of the down side of my singleness, and I miss having a partner. It happened last weekend.
My lonely self-pity party had reached its peak when a miracle happened. A loud wake-up call blasted forth:
Your status doesn’t define happiness – your outlook does. Live life loudly.
As usual, the mandate came from a most unlikely source.
I’d driven to western Michigan to visit a friend I’d known since elementary school. She and her husband have been married for 31 years. I’d remembered a happy, giggling couple. Instead, they’d become a snapping, grumpy duo. As a divorce coach, it didn’t surprise me. I know that long-term marriages require managing two tough dynamics – boredom and irritation.Those cute little quirks that were “so adorable” in the early years morph into itchy, poisonous irritants in later years, testing the fiber of day-to-day living. After 31 years of sharing a household, they knew which buttons to push.
My friend spent a substantial amount of time complaining about her spouse: “He forgets to fill up the gas tank; he doesn’t clean the kitchen; we haven’t had good sex in years”.
At the same time, I could see what she couldn’t: Their roles had woven together over the years, and they depended upon each other. Their foibles were countered by a quiet comfort, in spite of the flare-ups. There was security in habits bred by years of familiarity – things like laughing at the same jokes and finishing each other’s sentences. They knew each other inside and out. And, they had each other’s back.
I was jealous. I wished somebody had my back. I wanted a partner who would fill up my gas tank when I complained. I yearned for someone who would laugh with me over an episode happening 20 years ago.
Then, it happened. He was leaving the house, carrying his trombone, going to his symphony rehearsal. He wore a hat that said “fff”.
I missed the meaning. “Hey James, what does fff stand for?”
He said, “Triple f: forte f fortissimo, or fortississimo – either will do.”
Me: “Does that mean play loudly?”
Him: “Oh, yeah! The joy of this trombone is that every now and then you get to really blast it as loud as it goes. And this baby delivers. It’s such a good feeling. Complete freedom. Kinda like what you want to do in life.” He took off the hat and tossed it to me. “Keep it and remember: fff: full volume!”
Out of a man who hadn’t spoken three words to me during my visit, came the life lesson I needed to hear:
Live at fff. Full volume. That’s the joy of it!
My jealousy subsided. What did fff mean? I looked for pleasure, not pity. I spoke words that brought beauty, not rebuffing. I saw a bright blue sky and puffy white clouds, not the threat of thunderstorms. I wrote my gratitude list: Freedom. Friends all over the country. Two beautiful daughters. Passion for helping others through divorce. Good health. Most of all: sense of humor.
I’m home, now. My fff hat stays on the door knob of my front door. I see it when I go out or come in. In my car, it’s on the dashboard. I wear in on my evening walk after work. Fellow strollers stop me and ask what it means. I tell them: Live life loudly.
It’s not the path we’re given in life. It’s what we make of it. I plan to journey through mine at fff – fortississimo. Full volume!