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I went with my husband today to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to register our civil marriage.
We waited in the hallway with all our needed papers. A man who works at the ministry was kind enough to inspect them and let us know if we needed anything else. As he handed me the marriage certificate back, a woman walked in and asked him about her divorce certificate.
I looked at the paper she was holding and I could tell that it was pretty similar to the one I was holding myself—one read “Divorce” in big letters and the other one read “Marriage.”
I looked at her and I could discern sadness in her eyes. She obviously didn’t get a good night’s sleep and her personal troubles spoke louder than her own words. I looked at my husband who happened to be turning his face toward me, and we both shared a look that was filled with a painful reality check.
Look at us—we’re a happy couple who are registering their marriage while next to us stands a woman who’s finishing her divorce papers.
When my husband and I looked at each other in that moment, I knew that we both thought of impermanence. When we first got into the car, I asked him if he remembered that moment. He held my hand and said, “Impermanence. Ironic, right?”
Well, separation exists. Of course, no one’s that naïve to not know about it. But we’re naïve in the sense that sometimes we get too lost in thinking patterns that are based on fantasy and misconceptions.
We often translate marriage into an unbreakable bond. A happy life into immortality. A healthy body into the persistence of health. We believe that whatever we start can never be terminated. But this unrealistic idea can bring a lot of misery into our lives, because the truth is, everything is bound to end.
Sadly, we seem to constantly need reality checks to remember that beginnings are always accompanied with endings. And to be truly happy and at peace, we should often ground our thoughts in reality instead of fantasy.
In fact, reality checks aren’t that bad. They serve as a good reminder that our today looks nothing like our tomorrow. That we change, people change, circumstances change.
Reality checks remind us that what brings us happiness could be someone else’s source of misery—or vice versa.
Whatever you’re doing today and no matter what your plans are for tomorrow, always remember the factor of mortality. Not only are we subject to death, but so are our thoughts, emotions, situations, and days.
What begins now could end later, and what ends later could be swiftly replaced.
Time is stronger than any of us. It’s stronger than vows and promises. It’s more powerful than our own faith.
This year, I got married—but someone else got divorced.
Divorce hurts. Endings suck. I hope the woman I encountered today gets through it. Maybe she is, maybe she did, maybe she will.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, think of what could be the opposite of your situation and remind yourself that it could also happen to anyone—anytime, anywhere.
And it doesn’t have to be bad. It doesn’t have to be ugly.
It’s the truth—one that we must accept. Simply.