I haven’t blogged in about a year because, honestly, my life has been an unraveling hot mess.
Last January, I chose the word “freedom” as my word for 2014. At the time, I thought this would be the year I learned what it was like to live into the freedom of cancer no longer being a family member after my mom’s 30 years of it. I thought it would be freeing to allow grief to do its thing and remain open to whatever smell, memory, song, or randomness triggered missing my mama on any given day. I thought this would be the year we were free to plan holidays, events, visits, trips without checking the chemo schedule or scan schedule, as that was Mom’s hope for our family.
While I lived into freedom in those ways, it also took on additional, unexpected meanings. In the midst of fresh grief from my mom’s death, I learned of my spouse’s years of lies. It’s been brutal to learn of his betrayals and the betrayals of colleagues and friends who engaged in affairs with him or kept silent. It’s a heart shattering hell I don’t wish on anyone, yet like all of life, there is much to be gleaned from the broken pieces.
In the gleaning, I’ve learned the freedom that comes from moving out in the midst of chaos, pain, and countless questions. I learned the freedom that comes from nesting in a new place. I find freedom in the hope that comes with choosing to get out of bed every day and love the world all over again. I learned the freedom that comes from offering forgiveness while seeking accountability. Recently I was asked, “Why forgiveness and accountability instead of revenge and retaliation?” I answered, “My freedom and future depend on it or else I’m captive to the nightmare.” As Anne Lamott puts it, “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare…” Sure, I have my don’t really want to have lunch with you list, but the primary issue is grieving the marriage we promised to share forever is no more.
It turns out there is much freedom and healing in the cultivating and purging process as one starts their life over. This week’s purging includes having my wedding dress cleaned before consigning it because the timing feels right in this phase of my grief over the death of our marriage. I love the dress, and the train was immediately my favorite part. The dress was on clearance and didn’t even need to be altered. I love that my mom was with me when I found it, and love that there was a veil to match perfectly that didn’t require a special order.
The dress holds wonderful memories of being with my mom to choose it, my maid of honor coming to the house later that day because she couldn’t wait to see it, and wearing it at the wedding. The wedding was beautiful, meaningful, and we were surrounded by supportive friends and family. My mom, who had Stage IV cancer, was not only alive to be there, but felt well enough to dance at the reception.
A friend asked if I thought it was bad karma to consign a wedding dress due to divorce, and I suppose it could be viewed that way. Instead, I see it for the memories it holds and hopes I have for the next woman who wears it down an aisle:
I hope she has someone she adores with her when she picks it out.
I hope she loves a good clearance sale bargain as much as I do.
I hope she knows I meant every word of the vows I made while wearing it, and I hope she does, too.
I hope she takes loyalty, integrity, and respect seriously.
I hope she has an authentic marriage full of bringing out the best in each other, supporting each other through darkness, and choosing every day to be married, even in the midst of routines and the mundane.
I hope she understands the “in sickness and in health” vow isn’t just about caring for her significant other; it’s about preserving her own mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health, too.
I hope she knows the freedom of loving herself unconditionally.
And I hope she loves the train.
Image of “freedom” is a photo from my new kitchen, and the art work is from Colleen Attara’s Salvaged Words collection.