I have written at length about the dynamics within my marriage that contributed to its dissolution. No one gets married to get divorced. This is, however, the right thing. I was told three years ago by a therapist that our situation was not sustainable, and I could not hear it. I was too busy dealing with the reappearance of my mother. I am, however, not one to run from the truth for long. My failing health became a clarion call as did last summer’s hip surgery. The recovery was so brutally painful. I cried on and off for months knowing that he put me in that operating room. How could I have a healthy relationship with a man who hurt me like that? I had to be honest with myself. Really, really honest. The sort of honesty that many of us avoid because it hurts too much. In the course of my very painful self-inventory, I got sicker. Everything in me protested. My neurologist thought I had MS. Bring on the medical testing. Stress is a potent force, isn’t it? It kills people both quickly and very, very slowly.
Today, I am in the final stages of making our separation a reality. He moves out next week, and my house is a pressure cooker. I can honestly say that I am behaving with respect and kindness. I have four daughters to whom I want to model integrity. I have said my apologies to him for the places I contributed to the demise of the relationship. That was very painful, and he really appreciated it. It’s hard when your self-perception conflicts with reality. It’s also easier to come to these realizations on your own and be able to sincerely apologize of your own volition rather than by force of accusation.
I am, however, not broken over the loss. Not anymore. I was broken a year ago. Two years ago. Three years ago. Today? I am sad at the loss of an idea. I am more sad for my daughters. The man I chose for my husband did not turn out to be a good father, and my daughters will grow up wondering what it’s like to have a good father. This is a pain I know all too well, and I worked so hard to try to give them something different. If I’m angry at him for anything, then it’s that. He fucked it up colossally as a father. Me? I will heal. I am healing. Screw up as a husband, but don’t screw up as a parent. Let that be your success in life. Even if you don’t get anything else in life right, get that one thing right. He didn’t. He won’t. This is what cuts me to my core.
So, as a mother, I throw myself into the fray and give it everything I have. I am in it with them. There are no perfect parents out there, but there are some really great ones. I have always aimed to be a great one even though, at times, I have felt completely clueless and ended my day with an apology. I don’t know sometimes what I am doing particularly in this very difficult time of transition. I just want to make sure that everyone is stable, feels cared for and loved, and feels safe and important.
So, yesterday I took Eadaoin, my 16 year-old daughter, out for breakfast before doing some school shopping as was her request. She had a pancake jones. We were chatting about nothing in particular when she said, “I hope I have kids one day, and I hope one is a girl.” Imagining our kids as parents can be a strange experience, but Eadaoin will be a good parent. She went on to tell me as she was sipping her tea that she had a middle name in mind: “I want to name my daughter after you, Mom. The middle name. So, I need to have a girl.”
I was stunned. I had to try not to cry. She kept sipping her tea and continued, “We all look up to you, you know. You are what we all want to be like. So…” It was more than I could really bear to hear, but, in an instant, it made all those moments when I fought to get up and stand up worth it. I didn’t think that anyone noticed. As it turns out, four people were watching, and four people are still watching. She said, “We are really proud of you, Mom. I don’t know everything going on between you and Dad, but I suspect that some bad stuff went down. You are doing the right thing, and I hope that I can be as strong as you one day. And, you know, as good about it. You aren’t rude or anything to him.”
Suffice it to say, I could not finish my breakfast. It is cliché to say, but taking the road less travelled in life albeit a lonely journey much of the time is worthwhile. After all these years, I can finally see those very hard choices–some made many years ago–bear some fruit. And, the fruit is sweet.
Don’t give up. Fight for yourself. Hold onto your self-respect. Build out a happiness. It is well worth it.