Every once in a while life gives us a moment of affirmation. A moment of pause when we are presented with evidence that somewhere along the twisted rocky path we’ve been walking, we were able to stumble in just such a way as to do something very right. For me, that moment of affirmation came in the form of letters written by my children.
Six years ago, my ex and I told our four children we were getting a divorce. The marriage ended long before I had the courage to speak the words. Fear kept me in place. Fear of losing my children, losing the relationships that meant more to me than life, fear that they wouldn’t understand why, and fear that I wouldn’t be able to explain fast enough to keep them close. I worked their entire lives to create a façade in order to protect them from reality and in a matter of seconds I ripped the curtain down, exposing a truth they couldn’t possibly comprehend quickly. I asked them to trust me while I crumbled the foundation their young lives had been standing on. Looking into four sets of eyes, filled with fear and disbelief, I could only beg them to search their hearts and to know how much I loved them.
“You know who I am. I would never do anything that I don’t believe is best for you. I know how much this hurts but I promise, everything is going to be okay.”
I’m not certain I believed my own words back then. It would have been easier to stay silent. I wasn’t sure everything was going to be okay. I only knew that if I didn’t take action to change the course of our lives, my children would grow up to repeat the pattern I had created. The pattern of a life not lived, of walking on eggshells, morphing one’s self, going through the motions, not knowing the power of self love, living in a fog with no pathway through. I only knew that no one else was going to change the way things were, it was up to me. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do. I only knew what I couldn’t do any longer. Something had flipped inside me and I had no choice but to move forward, blindly walking toward a place of peace, searching for joy. My fear was the cost could be the love of my children. I chose the risk. I loved them too much not to.
I believe as parents, it is our responsibility to model an authentic life for our children. Not to model the perfect life as fantasized in the media, but to live our lives from a place of truth and love, warts and all. For me, the truth was that I had never learned to love myself. Childhood experiences served to create a feeling of “not good enough” that molded me into an adult who felt a need to prove herself as “better than” in order to be okay. Insecurity built a fortress around my heart to protect me from the pain of judgment. Attempts to venture beyond the fortress walls proved to be painful and each time I retreated further from my truth. Years and years of hiding exhausted me to the point of hopelessness and it was at that point when the risk of staying the same was greater than the risk of making a change.
Blindly, I walked through the fortress gate into an unknown space. For a while, I suspect my children and others didn’t recognize me. I didn’t recognize myself. I lived moment to moment not able to think consciously of the choices I was making but only to feel each choice step-by-step slowing making my way to the light. Conscious thought had not served me well through the years. My ego voice was strong and if allowed to speak, would drown out my intuition. For a while, survival required me to silence my ego and move purely from my shattered open heart. I’m not certain I was the best mother during that time. If I am honest with myself, I don’t remember a lot of what was happening then in regards to actual events. I remember feelings. I remember missing my children. I remember sobbing myself to sleep after screaming fits of frustration and anger left me exhausted and unable to move from floor to bed. I remember loneliness. I remember fear. I remember knowing I was following the right path for the first time in my life despite the pain. What I didn’t know for certain was if my children would ever know this too.
I came to believe over the years that my children had forgiven me for the upheaval of their lives. Children adapt and mine began to relax and settle into the new “normal” that was our life. We stumbled a few times but slowly we all began to learn a new way of being. Laughter returned and with it a new level of honesty and communication. Recently I received as a wedding gift from my darling husband, a journal filled with letters written by those I hold dearest in my life, letters written with raw honesty, confirming my decision to follow my heart all those years ago.
Words written by my children of gratitude for “courageously fighting for what I believed was best for my heart and for the hearts of my children.” Their letters expressed an understanding that selfishness is not a negative trait. Taking care of one’s Self must come first before we can truly care for others. Unbeknownst to me, they have seen and now understand that until I was brave enough to risk it all, I wasn’t able to love completely. They thanked me for “modeling” exactly what I wanted them to learn. They used words like authenticity, passion, alignment, synchronicity, joy, Divine guidance, and abundance. They thanked me for the example of a loving relationship filled with joy. They wrote of lessons I had taught them and words of wisdom I had shared, most of which I didn’t think they were hearing at the time.
Reading their letters over and over I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for these amazing souls who chose me to be their earthly mother. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the knowledge that life is not meant to be a struggle. I’m forever thankful to have been given a second chance to live in this truth and experience the joy life can hold for all of us. Most of all, I’m thankful for the path I have walked, thankful to have been broken open, for it is from this wide open heart that I now live and love.