So it was my birthday. On paper, I get to spend this day with my son. I don’t have to share it or give it up, no matter what. Just that my birthday happens to also be son’s cousin’s birthday; and it was her first birthday this year. First birthdays are always special and they’re celebrated big. So was this one. The entire family was there, all the kids were there, and there was of course no way that I was going to keep Christopher away from that. So I had to be there, too…
When Your Children Forget
I was woken up by my son announcing to me that it was cousin’s birthday today! And when I asked him who else’s birthday it was, he did not remember that it was his mom’s, too. Very uncharacteristic of him. Very uncharacteristic of him to say that a first birthday is more special than mom’s, which is why we’re not celebrating mom’s birthday, but only cousin’s. He hadn’t made me a present. He hadn’t drawn a picture or made a card or even spent any thought on anything along those lines. I was quite in shock at his indifference and couldn’t understand where it came from.
And then son was rushed to get ready along with 20 other people in 3 bathrooms and everyone was shuffled out the door in an attempt to make it to the park on time for a family portrait.
When a Picture Speaks More Than a Thousand Words
At this point it would make sense for me to bring up that I had always wanted a family portrait. A picture with everyone in it to go up on the wall. I love pictures. This is a big family scattered all over California and the country. So when they are all together in one place, that is indeed a rare occurrence. So this time, a photographer was hired to take pictures at the park the morning of my birthday. Needless to say that I got cut out. No matter that I am still Christopher’s mom and he is left to wonder why all the other kids get to have their moms in the picture and he doesn’t. So while about 20 people got ready to take pictures and left, I remained in an empty house. On my birthday. Crying. Because I was no longer part of this experience. That experience that I had longed for for so many years.
The family photo I had wanted so bad for 7 years was taken in what would have been my 10th year of marriage.
So everyone got to have this picture… except for the one person who always wanted it more than anything. This picture said it more clearly than anything else ever could: “You no longer belong. You are cut out and you are not welcome.” And I was alone in the house; cleaning up all the mess 20 people that had cut me out had left behind after camping out all over the house the night before. I spent the beginning of my birthday feeling left out, cleaning, and horribly lonely.
When everyone got back two hours later, one of the few family members who is actually supportive, took me out of the house for coffee. That’s when she told me that she was really upset that I wasn’t invited to be in the photos because I am still Christopher’s mom and I am still her girls’ aunt. And she would have wanted a picture with me and her kids. She continued to go on about it, how I had been a part of their life for 8 years and she had no intentions of just cutting me out. For the rest of the weekend, she kept making it a point to point out every chance she got that I was family, and I belonged and I was welcome. And I love her for that. But every time, I also wanted to cry. As well meant as it was, it was also making me aware of the fact that 2 dozen other people weren’t thinking this way.
When Opinions Clash Over Who You Are And You’re Caught In The Middle
No one had asked her if she’d mind if I was in those pictures. No one was asked that question. And no one else had thought about speaking up for me. Obviously, no one wanted to speak up for me. Maybe, to everyone else, I didn’t belong to the family anymore at all and it went without saying that I was not going to be a part of this picture. That’s what divorce does. And I would have never thunk of it differently, had it not been for this one member who pointed out that SHE was upset about it.
Divorce just amplifies the problems you wanted to run from.
Take it for a fact. And it also won’t change back to any sort of normal. The matter of fact is that you are indeed still connected to this family, but you’re no longer treated like family. Your children will always keep you connected, but you’re left out. So you’re literally sitting on the uncomfortable fence and you can’t tip either way. This family you think you’re going to divorce will never go away. They will still be there… and the problems you’re trying to divorce yourself from just get worse… because there is no longer a healthy way to address or resolve them. Even though the problems are yours, it is no longer your place to address them. I am lucky enough that there is at least one person in the family who stands up for me. Who sees my pain and how twisted all this is. I know she is reading this post and I do want her to know that I am so thankful to have her and I love her so much. But she is not able to convince an entire boat load of people to think like she does.
So if you think divorce is your answer, think again.
This person who is supporting me now was the only one literally fighting with all her might and power for us to not get divorced. She had been close to getting divorced herself years before, but had decided to do the right thing and fix what was broken. So she spoke up because she knew. She forgot about being appropriate and polite and she fought for us to stay together and work it out. She truly cared and I could feel and see her desperation over our choice to get divorced. Yet I didn’t listen to her. I didn’t believe her. I was convinced she had no idea what I was going through. Because if she did, she wouldn’t suggest staying in this mess. Well, she did know. And I wish I had listened to her. Because even though her marriage isn’t shining, her life sure is better than mine by a million.
So I want to implore you, as you are reading this and find yourself on the fence, listen to her. Listen to me. Yes, I do know exactly what you’re going through. I really truly do. It’s just that you don’t know yet what I am going through. Because if you did, you wouldn’t be thinking about getting a divorce. I promise.
My child, listen and be wise: Keep your heart on the right course.
Jeremiah 17, 9 says: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” So when you hear Proverbs 23, 19, which says “My child, listen and be wise: Keep your heart on the right course,” you know that’s easier said than done. But it also makes it very clear that it is crucial for us to protect our hearts. And to think with our heads. So as you find yourself in a situation where your heart tells you to run, remember that your heart is desperately wicked and no one can understand it. Think with your head and stay on the right course. Because even if that course is extremely difficult to maneuver, it IS the right course. And when you do the right thing, it can’t be wrong. Even when your wicked heart disagrees.
Read the beginning of this story here.