My ex moved out a year ago today.
Thinking about that still hurts my heart just a little. There’s a tender spot as I reflect on the heartache and pain I suffered (and just as likely caused for another) in my marriage, as well as the failure to provide my children what I believed was so important to give them — a solid, secure and loving family environment.
(As I write this, Dusty Springfield has rotated into my iTunes playlist with I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself. Would you call that ironic?)
The melancholy in reflecting on this stems from two sources: First, that I loved so much and so deeply and yet didn’t know how to love, as surely causing pain to object of my love as he did to me. Second, that I chose so poorly in the first place. It’s difficult to accept that I knew so little about myself or was blind to so many signs that I picked a partner who would draw out so much pain and anger, forcing me to deal with them and grow (while he simply pointed fingers). I can’t help but believe there had to have been a kinder, gentler way to learn these lessons.
(And now Joan Armatrading’s Willow — “I said I’m strong, straight, willing to be your shelter in the storm…”)
I still remember the first day of it being just us: my two elementary-school-age children and me. I explained to them that, without Daddy here every day to do things for them, they would have to help out by making their own school lunches, among other things. I assured them I would step in to help when needed, and that we were all capable and would be fine taking responsibility for ourselves and helping each other.
This is when my son teared up, “I don’t know if I can do it, Mommy.” He is a tender-hearted young soul, and so generous with his empathy and feelings! He continued to stress through the evening and even as I tucked him in to bed. My daughter, on the other hand, was excited about being given more independence and responsibility.
The next morning, everyone got up just a little earlier and pushed through the morning tasks of dressing, eating breakfast, making lunch, etc. just a little more diligently. We all got out the door on time, successfully. My favorite moment was at the end of the day when my son remarked, “Mommy, I guess I didn’t even need to worry.”
These past twelve months have also brought a number of lessons and much growth. I recall feeling that taking out the trash and recycling wasn’t really adding to my workload. And I also remember discovering other areas where my ex picked up more slack than I ever realized or gave him credit for. It hasn’t always been easy, and there have been plenty of hiccups along the way — my ex appears to be declining to communicate with me right now, as an example. Yet I can’t help feeling that we’ve come a long way.
My children have gained patience, self-reliance, a greater understanding that their parents are merely human and the capacity to be more helpful and responsible than I might have thought possible for their ages. (And still I work to balance this with their need for innocence.)
As for me, I am gaining confidence in making the choices and life decisions that nurture me. I am seeing more clearly what happens when I neglect to do important things that I’d prefer to ignore (the banking, taxes and money management, for instance). I am growing stronger, more clear and determined in my life path. And I am learning how empowering it is to commit to my own happiness, even if it requires making choices that once seemed impossible.
(Citizen Cope If There’s Love)
So I keep going back to my son’s wise words: “I guess I didn’t need to worry.”