My divorce didn’t begin the day the paperwork was filed a few months ago. It didn’t even begin the month before that when I KNEW I couldn’t do this another day. My divorce began over a year ago. It was a cold December night. I sat at my children’s bedside, one at a time, and cried telling them Mommy was so, so sorry.
I remember that night as clearly as I’m sitting here typing this now. My daughter was three and a half. She was still in a toddler bed. She was close to the ground and I sat on the floor. I held her small hand which was still tucked under the fleece blanket. “I’m sorry baby.” I cried quietly at first. “I’m so sorry Mommy couldn’t keep this family together. I never wanted this for you.” And then the tears turned to shaking sobs. Next, I went to my son’s crib. The same.
It took more than a year to actually file, but if you’re a mom, and you’re heading toward divorce, the first thing you have to reconcile is what about the kids? There is no greater concern, and there is nothing you wouldn’t do for the sake of their well-being. Of course you’re scared for them. What will they think? How will they react? Adjust? What will this mean for their lives? It’s enough to paralyze you… and I was, for a long time.
Then, at some point, you realize your children will be okay, but only if you’re okay, too. Because you are no good to them depressed, playing small, and living in a shadow. And so at some point you must accept what a divorce will do to them so you can save yourself. It’s an agonizing decision, but you know in your heart that everyone will be better off in time. It takes a mountain of faith.
Your children inform every next decision. Of course there’s the worry over money. Can I do this? What sacrifices will need to be made? Where will I live? What will I do? Only when those HUGE questions are answered do you even begin to contemplate what this means for you; as in you, the woman.
And that’s where I am right now.
As I begin to sift through a decade’s worth of rubble from my life – ideas, memories, feelings of long, long ago are making their way to the surface like something ancient encrusted in rock. Things I liked to do. Conversations I liked to have. Ideas I entertained a million years ago. The ways I thought as a girl are poking through my consciousness like barbed wire through linen. Remember that time you took off to Chicago in the middle of the night on a whim to see a friend? Remember when you loved to go dancing all night? Remember when you used to dance on the bar? Remember that girl who could talk to anyone, about anything? Remember staying up all night doing just that – talking?
Right now that girl is running head long into this woman, and there’s a reconciliation going on.
That girl was mighty insecure. That girl was achingly alone and scared. That girl was frightened of intimacy. Yes, that girl was fun, and spontaneous, and threw caution to the wind, but that girl didn’t always land safely on shore. That girl was funny and whimsical and wild to a fault. She has a lot of great memories to show for it. That girl was intelligent and trusting, but she was also needy and naive.
This woman has responsibilities. This woman is no longer insecure, or desperately lonely, or scared of being vulnerable. This woman is cautious, confident and capable. She is witty and wise. This woman wants for many things, but does not need for much. She is no fool.
These two factions are sparing it out in my head — the girl I was, and the woman I am — and it’s causing a bit of a ruckus in my life. That girl is fighting for face-time, and this woman is trying to talk her down with reason.
This woman contemplates that girl, petulantly bouncing her hip in her short skirt and high heels, while sitting back in her cozy sweater and sensible flats. That girl is dying for a chance to strut her stuff. To prove to the world that she still has what it takes, whatever it is. And this woman is sitting back, with her cup of tea and her books trying to remind that girl that she already does. But this woman does not shout or demand. Because this woman is patient, and kind, and forgiving to a fault. But that girl pouts all the same.
I’m not going to lie. That girl has won a few battles. But this woman is wise enough to know that this life is long, and yet, much too short for war.
So they carry on; circling each other like territorial hens to scratch it out another day knowing that no matter what happens, the one thing that overrides them all, and always will, is being Mom.
Because if you’re a mom going through a divorce, there is nothing of greater importance. Nothing.