As a little girl, I loved the story of Cinderella.
Kindness prevailing despite miserable circumstances, miracles bestowed by fairy godmothers, and love conquering all.
These themes still appeal to me.
I used to think the story of someone loving us enough to save us from our suffering was romantic.
I didn’t realize that by dreamily investing in that story, I had given my freedom over to someone other than myself.
When I married my husband, I believed that we were the lucky ones. The ones who had found each other young. I watched my grandparents grow old together, committed to one another in 50+ years of marriage. I used to think that successful marriages were a product of longevity and that if love brought two people together, it remained permanent and irrevocable.
I worked hard to be lovable. Inside me there existed a constant internal struggle to be enough of everything, accept myself, maintain my individuality while also compromising to prove my love and commitment to my marriage. I wanted the fairytale and I desperately clung to it. When I said ‘I love you’, I felt it in my bones.
In the end, that starry eyed girl I was, oh my, how her heart broke. My chest was cracked right open and laid bare. The agony of it is incomprehensible. There are no words to provide a just description.
Shaken and exposed in my grief, I experienced a still, quiet, calm before the storm.
A whisper of transcendent clarity told me the truth: I could let this pain break me, consume me, and ultimately destroy me or, I could stand back up, fight to survive and learn from it.
I got back up. I faced every element and gave attention to every wound: betrayal, loneliness, uncertainty, self-doubt, overwhelming fear. Each one, brought me to my knees, over and over and over again. I dove deeper into the depths of suffering, because I wanted to experience the absolute worst of it. I embraced the fire and the dark. I welcomed the opportunity to see how much discomfort I could endure. Each time I survived my emotions, I reinforced a crack in my own foundation and gained confidence that these feelings were not fatal even when I was sure they would be.
The beautiful thing about hardship is that it opened the door to knowing myself more. It was a very real opportunity to see how I would respond to adversity. I could freeze – which I did at first. I could impulsively react with emotional panic. Or I could allow myself to sit and soak in all of the details and realities of the situation before making my next move.
I used to wake up every morning with this giant weight on my chest. It was the first thing I felt before any thought had come to my mind. I would then think to myself, “What’s wrong? Why is this heaviness here?” And, slowly I replayed the details, “He left. He’s with her. You’re here alone. You’re going to have a baby in a few months. Emmett is in the next room sleeping.” And then I had this choice to step out of bed into my life. And, everyday I encouraged myself to step into this new existence but I resisted it most mornings saying, “Today is not the day.” And then one morning, it happened. I laid in bed, went over the details. I remember the sun shining through the window and casting this light across the carpet, and I said to myself, “Today is the day. Get up.”
I’m thankful everyday for the anguish and sorrow felt in my heart breaking. It was the gateway to my freedom. It reaffirmed my belief that everything in life, the adversities as well as the triumphs are all for my benefit.
Acknowledging this allowed me to pick up the pieces and start again. I reinforced parts of myself and rebuilt others. I’m made of much stronger substance now: Courage, confidence and compassion. Emotional authenticity and strength have enhanced the quality of my relationships and increased my capacity to love.
Although my marriage ended, I’m grateful for it. I’m thankful for the love I felt. As I continue to observe relationships that stand the test of time and analyze relationships that broke, my belief in fairy tales has evolved into something deeper and more mature.
Love is not the product of “flawless” choices, good deeds, or extraordinary efforts. It is not a destination of time or place. Love. The pure, raw, the real. The world is laced in it. It exists in every moment of every day. It is in the simple, stripped down moments…in a child’s eyes, in plain acts of kindness, in a stranger’s smile, in the virtue of patience, and in the sweetness of generosity.
Remarkable love stories are woven together in loyalty and devotion, during times of profound strength and in hardship, loss, change, aging. Love is the profound material that fills the cracks formed by weak moments and misunderstandings. It fortifies a flawed foundation. Love is what grows when people lean into one another during the celebration of life’s joys and hold each other up throughout its challenges.