Life Changing Moments

Winter Slips a Bit

March came in like a lamb this past Tuesday, but the lamb was a dingy, dirty one. Even the skies for most of the week were dull and dreary. Not exactly conducive to pushing on to spring-time thoughts and better days.

For example the photos for today were taken in color—but you’d think I’d done them in old black and white film. Not so—just colorless dawn.

As I’m writing this now and glancing out my window, Lake Michigan churns up its dingy, silty bottom and huge snowflakes are falling.  The remains of dirty snow piles left from the February blizzard are getting a white glossing over, as if to say, “Really, better days are coming.”

I’m sure they are.

Perhaps because of this dreary weather this week and the fact that serious issues keep popping up each day lately, I’ve thought a lot about life changing moments. You know those moments that sneak up on you and deal you a gut-wrenching blow. In the aftermath, you realize that life will never be the same again, that life may be more difficult or easier, or even sometimes both.  But in the moments that you get the punch from life, whether it’s a moment when you make a conscious decision or not, you know your life has changed forever.

What follows then is what you make of the blow you received.  Will you grow from it? Will you retreat from understanding its impact? Will you close off your personal growth? Or will you develop even better survivor skills?

I’ll share one of mine with you.

The day was an ordinary one in very early September. I’d been married to my first husband about ten years and had 3 adorable sons.  While my boys were in school, I spent the day registering for classes at the university and missed my ride home. However, a young man who’d been in a couple of my classes offered to give me a ride home and I accepted. Otherwise, I’d have had a very long walk and wouldn’t have been home to greet my sons after school.  We all arrived at home at the same time, and the young man played some ball with my boys. All innocent, but I was frantic. I knew my boys would be excited about this and tell my husband. I knew he’d be furious. I stewed about what would happen when he found out. This ordinary day made me realize my life was so circumscribed by trying to make my husband happy when he never was that I made myself miserable and could never be the best mother I needed to be for my sons.

That realization hit me like a thunderbolt. In actuality, I’d been hiding it from myself for many years. I understood I couldn’t go on living the life I had been living. It would kill me and my spirit. I recognized life would be tough, especially since divorce didn’t happen very often. It had never happened in my family. However, I knew I’d be a stronger woman and happier in the long run—no matter the difficulties I endured in getting myself out of the marriage.

Rolling Waters

Life wasn’t easier for a few years, but my sons and I grew closer and stronger.  Because of a simple moment that changed my life in so many ways. Like a crocus bud on the first warm spring day, the moment opened me up to seeing how strong I could be, to really understand what my priorities were, to accept the bad things that happened in life because I knew I could handle them—somehow.

It was the beginning of my journey to being a wise woman, a strong woman, a woman who in walking away from what she thought was love, learned the greatest lessons of love. First you must love yourself before you can love another. That loved ones are worth fighting for—even when fate seems to suggest otherwise.

I’ve thought often this past week about Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” especially the last stanza: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

What life changing moment have you had? One really gut-wrenching and mind-opening? Have you taken the less traveled one?

Explore posts in the same categories: Character traits, Light bulb moments

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10 Comments on “Life Changing Moments”

  1. Elle J Rossi Says:

    Great post. Not sure if I’m ready to write about my life changing moments. In doing so I would have to admit certain things to myself about myself. And then this comment would turn into a journal and then a book and very possibly, a reality TV show!

    But I do admire your strength to make a chage when the easier thing would have been to stay, to hide inside yourself and to wear a mask!

  2. caseyclifford Says:

    Oh, Elle, I’ve had many I’m not willing to share openly and may someday figure in a book. However, I knew I needed to provide one example and this particular one was seminal in my life. 🙂

  3. Edie Ramer Says:

    Mary Jo, you say so much in such a short post. I saw Meredith Baxter on Oprah this week, and found out her husband David Birney had been abusive, mostly emotionally. Your blog today reminded me of her plight. So glad you got out of yours when you did.

  4. caseyclifford Says:


    I remember the TV show they did together. My two much younger sisters loved it. When I read an excerpt from her book, I felt so sad that she’d not had the courage to find herself. I was very lucky…and determined. 🙂

  5. Anne Parent Says:

    Once again you’ve given me something to really think about. I do remember my first life altering moment. It was at age 12, and it broke the trust with someone who was my hero. But, it also gave me an inner strength that changed my life in a positive direction. Thank you for reminding me of that.
    Your word are beautiful!

  6. caseyclifford Says:


    Since these moments help us to understand ourselves and our directions in life, I’m glad you’ve remembered one. And I’m quite sure you’ve many more. For us as writers, they help us mold our characters and their journeys.

  7. Nancy Kaye Says:

    I’ve had many life altering moments. The first week I was married to my first husband was a real eye opener. I now had more responsibility. I also wondered why he didn’t. That first week should have given me a hint of what was to come. I also remember the relief I felt when he was gone. I sat in my kitchen, drank some tea and felt free. Another moment that sticks in my mind was when my second husband had a stroke. I knew things would never be the same again. All these events have made me grow and accept the life I now have.

  8. caseyclifford Says:


    And you’ve done a magnificent job in handling life’s high points and low ones. That was certainly some stupendous class of women-to-be we had way back when–when first we met.

  9. Deb Maher Says:

    “First you must love yourself before you can love another.” So profound, and what a powerful post, MJ. Your actions took courage and conviction and I doubt that you’ve ever regretted them, despite the difficulties that followed.

    Yes, I’ve also made a few tough choices, and taken the road less traveled. But your story is an inspiration. I’m proud to call you friend.

  10. caseyclifford Says:


    Thanks for your comments. Courage is earned with each brave step one takes. We’ve all taken them and gotten stronger. I’m so happy we found a friendship thought we live so far apart. 🙂

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