I received a click story in my inbox the other day and at first felt terrible that I had not found it sooner, but as I read it I realized the timing was just right. I wrote about marriage on Monday and when I published that post I wondered about any readers who might be thinking that they’d been looking at the big picture and were tired of living in a black cloud and desperately seeking that silver lining. I know there are people who put all they can into their marriages and still find that the only way to achieve joy is to leave it behind. So this amazing post about the end of a marriage and the awakening of a creative, thriving, beautiful woman is for you. You can read Jane’s blog here.
One of my biggest personal changes happened when I got divorced from my ex-husband. We had been living in a renovated carriage house on his parent’s property for 10 years. His parents were adamant that the kids and I should stay and he should move out. I had my chance to get that UHaul and move but I passed on it due to my own fear and self imposed limitations. I simply didn’t believe that I could ever make it on my own out there with two children. On July 1, 2004 my husband moved out. As the kids ran to the window and watched the moving van pull out of the driveway, I sat there in a half empty dismantled home feeling envious that he got off that property instead of me. He had the freedom while I put down the scissors after clipping my own wings. It would be four more years of living next door to the main house and a soured relationship with my ex-in laws before the tides changed and I got that UHaul. But in the mean time, those four years were the biggest gift from God that I ever got. In that period of time I unearthed so many wonderful things about myself that I thought were long dead.
In the beginning of our divorce there were some adjustments to be made. If you’re a woman who’s been through a divorce you know that no matter how happy you are to be free of a bad marriage there is a period of grieving that goes with it too. For so long I was tied in to the identity of being someone’s wife. Even though I was in a bad marriage, it still gave me a sense of feeling complete just knowing that I had a husband. With the new title of “single mother” I really started looking closer at what it meant to be a woman. Sometimes as a single mother I felt like I had scarlet letter on my forehead. Other times women would approach me privately and tell me that they envied the freedom I had gotten because they had been in horrible marriages for years but were too afraid to leave for financial reasons. It was then that I realized I would rather be single and struggling a bit than to stay in a loveless marriage for the next twenty years just so that I could hold on to the big house and tennis lessons.
It didn’t take too long after my ex husband moved out to realize that a huge mountain of weight had been lifted. Granted, I was still living on his parent’s property and terrified about how I would make it as a single woman with no real career but I was still amazed at the sense of freedom for just having that weight taken off me. I suddenly had a sense that if I could feel so much lighter despite those restrictions, imagine the real sense of freedom once I cut my ties to my in-law’s property entirely.
The greatest thing about my new found freedom was watching all the goodness in me resurface again. The creativity that had no pulse was suddenly bursting out of me. I replaced every piece of store bought art with my own original work. My house was like a little art gallery. I replaced white walls with vibrant yellows and reds. I took up kayaking and entered in to the MS 150 bike ride from City to Shore. For a woman who was constantly criticized for her bad cooking, I was suddenly finding myself devoting Saturday mornings to making Linzer Torte and homemade spinach pasta. No longer fearful of being condemned for a messy house, I was elated to put my infamous little stacks of books and papers wherever I wanted. I was creating a space and life that was uniquely mine and for the first time in my life I didn’t mind being without a partner. During my first marriage I rarely went anywhere. I isolated myself in our bedroom for hours. Now I was taking every chance I had to go out and throw myself in to social situations that would allow me to talk and connect to everyone. It was marvelous. It truly was. But the turning point that started me on a long path of self-discovery happened when a co-worker challenged me to pick up my camera and get involved in a Flickr project which involved taking and posting one self-portrait a day for a year. The first time I picked up the camera and turned it on myself I cried. It was actually joyous because what I saw staring back at me was a beautiful woman who had locked herself away for years. It’s true that the eyes are the window to our souls. Once I took that first snap shot I was hooked and it wasn’t because of some vain ego thing at all; it was because each photo revealed more of who I was on the inside. I needed to take those pictures to continue to evolve. Of course the posting on line lead to connecting with other people globally. Now a whole new world of endless possibilities to connect was at my finger tips. I started a blog and realized that I could actually write. Five years later, I’m still blogging and continuing to build and connect in ways I never could have imagined if you asked me six years ago. I’ve since remarried to an amazing man and life is so good. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at living. I’ve been rebuilding my life slowly. Writing, I’ve discovered, has a voice inside of me that needs to come out and share itself with others on their journeys.