Thursday, February 10, 2011

and then... Life Blooms

                                                                                                                   {image from Best Cactus}

When you have gone through a divorce, especially if a lot has been taken away from you in the process, it's tempting to be bitter. 

It's practically expected. 

I've had my fair share of tears and rants. I've whined and felt sorry for myself for many different reasons. VALID reasons.   And I hear many other divorced women, single moms, and non-custodial moms vent about how awful things can be.  Their complaints are heartfelt and real.  The loss of a relationship or marriage, a home, a life that you once thought of as your own, is painful.
Many nights have I found myself in the fetal position on my couch, sustained by a pounder bag of M&M's and cheap wine, my face scrunched and blotchy, dripping tears onto my comfiest sweats (I don't cry pretty). I've cranked Annie Lennox and prayed for God to avenge me by making my ex find his new wife in bed beside him resemble Forrest Whittaker in drag.

But when the wallowing is done, it's time to get off the couch, brush the Doritos crumbs out of your hair and move on with your new life -- the "Part II" of being a woman, and a mother.  It's time to fight back temptation to vilify your ex and shout to the world how unfair life is.  It's time to declare a new fight. 

The way that I have chosen to fight back is to make my life into something new.

I've made it better than it was before.  I am a stronger woman than I was when I was with my ex husband.  I am finally confident and proud of myself.  I am writing again, doing photography, and embracing life in a way that I'd forgotten how.  Because I didn't melt into a puddle of grief, I found the opportunity to figure out who I really wanted to be.  And now I am loved by a man whom I respect, and who not only loves me for who I am, but he treats me well.

I am finally cherished.

After 17 years with the wrong man, I am finally an example of a kind, smart, self-sustaining woman who is probably a better role model for my daughters than I ever was before.  My new husband is a better role model for my son, and the relationship we have is something I am proud of and hope that all my children strive for.  Finally, after being married to a man for too long who didn't treat me well, I am able to show my kids what a good relationship looks like.  They now see how people who love each other work together, respect each other and bring out the best in one another.

I can't help but think that if I'd stayed with my kids dad, if I'd ducked my head and pretended it would get better, if I'd lowered my expectations and sacrificed what I knew was the "right thing," I would never be who I am to myself and to my children today.

Transition is hard and often painful.  In some ways, it's comparable to transplanting a garden, sowing seeds or tending roses.  Often you don't see the benefits of planting until many months of hard work.  It helps to have a plan or blueprint, and to keep in mind that the seasons do change.  No matter how cold the winter might be, spring is around the corner.  Think of it as a gardener's wisdom.

My mother is a Master Gardener.  Every winter, right around Valentine's Day, she tells me it's the very best time of year to prune the rose bushes.  When I first see her pull on her boots and ruthlessly cut the gangly and bare stalks to knee level with her pruning shears, I gasp. Her methods seem harsh.  How can a delicate rose ever come back from that kind of cut?  Being hacked nearly to knee level -- won't it die? 

But in the spring, new growth takes over.  The branches multiply.  Leaves appear a deeper green and thicker, healthier texture than the year before.  Buds appear and turn into flowers that are more profuse and beautiful.  By pruning her roses back, and doing what she needed to do, even though it's not the most fun of gardening chores, my mother gives her plants new life.

I can't help but think of this as a great metaphor for life.  It's a little like the shock and heartbreak of divorce.
A woman feels cut-off, cut down, and betrayed.  Her life is pruned back to the bare stalk.  But, sometimes, as difficult and cold as it seems to cut away and throw out an old part of our life, we finally begin to re-shape things into the way we want them to be. We stimulate new growth.  When diseased and overgrown branches are removed, we can finally have room to start fresh, to heal and bloom as women and mothers.

And when a new life begins, it can blossom into an even more beautiful life than it was before.

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