With several years under my belt of being a divorced 67-year-old mother of four grown children, I have had time for reflection.
The divorce was my choice. I sought and embraced it after years of apathy, contempt and hostility. I couldn’t change my ex’s emotions or approach to life.
Despite the choice and the relief at its execution, there was still an emotional toll. There would be no happily ever after. My children would no longer have the home of their childhood as their touchstone.
The longer I linger on this planet, the more I see two kinds of people. There are victims and there are those who refuse to be victims. I fall in the latter camp.
I am no stranger to tragedy and have endured unspeakable sadness in my life.
At each point, I faced a choice. I could choose to let the experience destroy me. Or I could learn from it and move on in triumph. I generally chose the latter.
It’s human nature to place fault. When life does not turn out the way we thought it would, it is easy to look around and find someone to blame.
In my own therapies (I have been in therapy several times over the years), every current malady was dissected in the light of the past. What had my parents done or not done that caused me to be who I am with the difficulties I suffered? While that was a legitimate inquiry, it still came down to my choice as to how to respond.
Why would it be any different for my children? As they dissect their difficulties, they will surely place plenty of fault in my lap, and in my ex’s lap.
Some of it belongs. Some of it doesn’t.
In my life, my kids’ lives and my ex’s life, choices were made. Who we are and who we have become is the sum of those choices.
I made a choice in my marriage and mothering to try to manage other people’s emotions. I thought it was my job to motivate them and to make them happy.
Guess what? None of them asked for me to do that! No one said, “Mom, you need to completely revolve your life around us and do nothing for yourself.”
It was a choice that I made because I thought it was the right thing to do. It made me lose myself and made my family resent me.
I’ve made different choices now. I honor the fact that my needs and wants are just as important as the needs and wants of my family.
Of course, my strengths and substantial weaknesses had an impact on how my marriage turned out and how my children turned out. But just as I made choices, they made choices.
My ex made the choice to give all his energy to his career, to the detriment of his family. It was a choice he made – and he now lives with those consequences. He chose to treat me and the children as an annoyance and viewed us with contempt and hostility. He could have made a different choice.
My children made choices that did not serve them well. They chose friends who were not good influences. They chose playing video games over reading, studying or advancing themselves. Those were choices they made.
And so we circle one another, each in our own orbits, still trying to figure out how we will be family. Some choose to remain in close contact. Some cut themselves off while they nurse their woundedness.
Someone once said none of us escapes family life unscathed.
My prayer is that we figure out how to be family moving forward. We’re wandering around the chessboard trying to figure out the next move.
May we all remember the deep, unshakable basic love we share.
How much are you the sum of your choices? Have your family members made choices you have had to learn to deal with? Are you learning to forgive yourself and others?