It isn’t what I envisioned but light comes through the cracks

Today was one of those days when I just couldn’t fix it.  Life hasn’t turned out the way I envisioned.

This weekend, in little bitty Clinton, South Carolina, we celebrated Maggie’s college graduation. The weather cooperated, the trees and grass were green and all seemed right with the world. But it wasn’t.

When I married Maggie’s dad way back when I was woefully young and unprepared, I remember the honeymoon sitting on the dock, dangling bare feet in the water and dreaming where we would be for our 50th anniversary. Paris? Tokyo? Rio? That was many years and dropped promises ago.

On the grass in the quad, families were gleefully taking pictures with their graduate. Maggie’s college friends all have intact families. They didn’t feel compelled to be a part of the 50% American divorce rate so I guess we had to do our part. Maggie always had a touch of sadness when their parents came together in the same car for football games.

None of our craziness with Xs and Os. (We say Xs and Os. Is this your dad? says a friend, No, my stepdadooohhh, comes the response. Thus Xs and Os).

I digress. On the quad we were finagling pictures; me with Maggie, Morgan and BT, then their dad, Bryan, with the three. The Os awkwardly watching from the edge eager to be helpful and do something, anything, other than just stand there. Hold this program, take this picture, grab Grandma some water.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. My children weren’t supposed to deal with all the crap that vomits itself on life after divorce. One child not forgiving fast enough or another forgiving too fast, guilt, separate homes, holiday quandaries, mastering the skill of walking on eggshells. None of this was in my vision.

I love Roger, my now husband and my now life.  Seeing Bryan, whom I was married for 26 years, confirmed I wouldn’t wish to be married to him now. Of course, I still love him; different than some women, I don’t want to run him over, but we’re in different places and have moved on and thankfully, get along. But…I didn’t want it to be this way; I didn’t plan this for my life and certainly not the lives of my children.

I didn’t have this picture in my head. Me alone with my offspring and one in a mortarboard. I married the first time to be married for a lifetime.

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Life is hard and of all the pictures of intact families being taken on the quad that day, odds are some of the smiles were forced, masking one twisted pain or another. I’m sure a mom is going to look back on those pictures and wish it were as rosy as all the teeth suggest.

Leaving for the day, we stopped at McDonald’s grabbing a Coca-Cola for the road. In the drive through, I saw this tree out the window. The wind was picking up, a storm was brewing and the silver underbellies of the leaves were showing. Tears running down my cheeks, I snapped this picture because that is how I felt. My soft underbelly was showing. The one I never want anyone to see.

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Maggie is the peacemaker.  She was scurrying around afterwards during the luncheon, making sure everyone had a seat, a tea and their food. Maggie, this is your party. I have the details. Don’t worry, I whispered while holding her close for a slight second.

I didn’t want her to feel the pressure.  The pressure of making everyone happy and navigating the Xs and Os.  I don’t want any of them to have to deal with the mess their dad and I made.

My underbelly was showing. Fighting tears like a good mom and the Southern hostess I was bred to be, I smiled and saw that everyone had what they needed.

My beautiful girl. She shouldn’t have to worry about who was or wasn’t feeling awkward. But that’s the way it is.

Drinking my Coke, it was indeed a real Coke as my ragged feelings needed salving, riding down the highway toward home, I was trying to tap the root of the tears.

The other families had it so together – they reminded me of a plate of sliced apples. Clean, crisp, sweet and easy.

Our family was more like a bowl of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. A little hard to eat, an unnatural chemically element clinging to fingers and dusting clothes, a pasty, burning  film coating the inside of the mouth – tasty but an overall glob-fest.

My kids are grown-ups now and this transition is like reaching my arms around a manatee. Slippery and unwieldy.  But watching these three grown babies beautifully and kindly handle our family throughout the day was pretty incredible.

I saw Maggie’s village. It is for sure a bowl of Cheetos but it’s real. Grandparents came the distance and sat in the shining sun and swampish humidity of S.C. The Xs and Os were kind and engaged and making conversation. They brought laughter and grace filled love.  Her village isn’t what I ever envisioned but it’s a village nonetheless.

I think we see more clearly when our underbelly has been flipped. We’re more mindful, more present and the light peers into the cracks of vulnerability.   Like the tree – its beauty showing with the silver underside flecked among the deeper green of the stronger top – the effect is beautiful.

No, life doesn’t always turn out the way we envision but it’s still breathtaking. Maybe the tears wash clear the way to see what is right before us.

Love on, brave ones!

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