Cashmere or Lace?

10/12/2011

What does one wear when she is off to meet the woman who wrecked her marriage?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m only vaguely fashion-conscious.  But when I think about being face-to-face with her for the first time, I am perplexed.

We will meet at my grandson’s baptism.  She will be with him.  I will be with mine.  We will be cordial and we will be relieved.

I will remember meeting her once in my husband’s office.  She was the technician behind the ultrasound machine when I was called back for a second look after a questionable
mammogram.   I felt very vulnerable though I had no inkling of how much I was so.

I will remember the slap of awareness as I perused  the cell phone bill and noticed something amiss.  I will remember how calm I felt when I asked him.  I will remember my
mind spinning ahead at the moment he responded.   And I will remember that my mind had not planned for this altered future.

She will seem young in comparison to me when we meet again.  I will be surrounded by my loved ones while she will have only him.  I will strive to make everyone comfortable and she will try her best to feel comfortable.

And we will move on to this new phase of life.  We will begin anew as a family redefined by infidelity and a marriage that faltered.

And as I dress for that day I will remember that I have come to know that I no longer
blame him, or her, or infidelity, for the breakup of my marriage.

I will remember that there were patterns that developed very early on in a marriage of
very young people.  Had I known what I know now, I’d have done it much differently.
I will remember the good times and the children and grandchildren that came from our marriage,  the shared history and what we still share today.

More than anything else, I will keep in mind how the total upheaval of my world turned
out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to me.  I will think how the intense anguish steadily faded and how I started feeling stronger sooner than I would have guessed.  And how free I felt.  Free from an underlying unhappiness that existed in an otherwise excellent life.

I will consider how I had gone along for years with lingering unhappiness, sensing emotional disconnect like the dull pain of a protracted headache.  Always there at the back of my mind.  I will remember how I never would have left him without stiff prompting because the known seemed far easier than the unknown.  I could envision my life 20 years down the road if I stayed with him.  Without him, I didn’t see much past next Tuesday.

About the time she and I glance at each other from across the room, I will be thinking of
how I have been able to forgive him, but not her.   As it is with many other friends and family whom I have known forever, I choose to focus on the good qualities and to ignore the faults.  I can look further back and remember what it was like when we were young, how we worked hard to move ahead, how we raised our children, how we shared a journey through time.    Even with dreadful faults, I am somehow able to accept him for who he is because we have a common history and because I know him well.  I know the demons that haunt him and the goodness that is often buried.   I understand him as can only be done through years together and I sense that he is burdened by the choices he has made.

I do not know her like I know him.  I know her only from brief interactions when the marriage was failing.  I know how she looked when I ran into her shortly after I found out.  She was at the video store with her husband and two small children and I knew her husband did not know yet.  I recall looking boldly into her eyes and willing her to look closely at those two children and carry on as she should.  Instead, her marriage ended and eventually, mine too.  This is all that I know of her.  I can see the faults that caused me pain.  But I know she has another side too.

Divorce is painful for most everyone, no matter the particulars.  What happens when it’s done has many versions.  For me, it’s been transformative.  I have found parts of me that I never knew were there and parts of me that had long-since been forgotten.  I have discovered strength,  self-esteem and a person I didn’t know very well.  One can say all that comes naturally from the passage of time.  In my case, I believe it has come directly from the unexpected door that popped open when the other door slammed shut in front of me.

So while I may remain a bit apprehensive about getting over the little hurdle of our first
encounter, I am happy that my grandson will be surrounded that day with an extended family that still exists, if in different form and connection.   It is not today what I envisioned  long ago it would be, but it is still a loving family.  I know that I am happier than I ever would have been.  I know that when the vows of marriage were cut apart, I was set free.   I am happy and I am at peace.  And it would never have happened without her.  It still surprises me that my sorrow and pain created such sweetness.

I have said and written before that I sometimes feel I should send her a thank you note.  My life is better because she entered into it and for that, I am grateful.  For that, I can forgive.

I will wear whatever I feel like wearing that day.  I will not worry if it is better to wear the outfit that makes me feel classically elegant or instead the outfit that makes me feel like a kinda sexy grandmother.  All I really need wear that day is a smile.

50 thoughts on “Cashmere or Lace?

  1. Wow, that was powerful. These marriage and divorce blog posts all seem very personal to me, as I have told a bit of my story in the comments I have left. What strikes me is that there is life after the decision or the event that ends the marriage. The one sentence that really resonated with me was when you said you felt “free from an underlying unhappiness that existed in an otherwise excellent life.” That says it all. Why it is hard to leave, when the rest is just the way you want it. But all know without a good marriage, the rest is tarnished too. Thank you for sharing this. Your new life sounds wonderful and I hope the meeting with the “other woman” went well.

    • Michael Ann–the sentence you mention were key to me too. Occasionally I still grieve a bit but it is usually grieving for the future I thought I would have and not the relationship itself. Thanks for your wisdom and words.

  2. I commend you for the courage in sharing your feelings with us, your blogging friends.
    I never had to live through a divorce and it’s aftermath, but I lived through the sudden death of my husband of 41 years and the aftermath of that.
    And do you know, you are right. We learn, we grow and we find that we can rely on ourselves. We become changed in the process. So go to your gathering knowing that you are in a great place now. Wear whatever you wish to – your grandson will be proud of his grandma.:)

  3. You are a class act, lady. I am so glad that this event opened this door for you and that you had the courage, strength and grace to walk through it. Otherwise, I might never have gotten to read your words or enjoy your beautiful photos. Brava!

  4. I once had a person I respected deeply tell me that of all the graces one could have, the gift of forgiving was the most important. As a follower of your blog, it comes as no surprise to me that you have both that gift and that grace.

    No matter what you wear to that baptism, my guess is you will be both sexy grandma and classy elegant. Enjoy that cherished moment just as you are enjoying your renewed life! And congratulations again.

  5. One thing I learned after my divorce- and it was a difficult lesson- was to just let go of the hurt and the anger. Very difficult but you really come to a better place when you do. You have! So wear whatever you want! And send pictures!

  6. I suggest cashmere… elegant, sophisticated and the kind of confidence that shows you are the sexy grandma and someone who’s happy, comfortable with herself and at ease!

    I love this blog post, thank you for sharing a divorce post that’s not full of anger and angst and drama. At the end of the day, when children are involved, we have to keep those ties don’t we?

  7. I agree with the above comments… thank you for sharing your story with us, and with such class and elegance. Your writing reminds me of a good book that puts me in the place of the main character, to where in my mind I want to go up and pull some hair when she is hurt. Thankfully, the main character always handles things with much more class than I do in my head.
    And as for what Chris King said, if you listen carefully, you will hear us cheering you on. So true!

  8. Powerful piece. I’m so glad that you were able to recognize what you gained, rather than what you lost, and came out stronger because of it. Thank you for sharing your personal story. You are a tremendous inspiration to so many women, even if they haven’t gone through what you’ve gone through. Your life is a lesson in how to live with grace.

  9. Thank you for sharing this post – it was raw, powerful, emotional and elegant. You will shine, your family will surround you, and their love will sustain you. You are an inspiration, indeed. I’ve seen the word “grace” used several times, and I could not agree more.

  10. Often “the other woman” is insignificant in the break up and should not rent space in your head. She is not your rival and if there are rivals the relationship is not worth having on your part. People come into and out of our lives, even spouses unfortunately. I think they key is not to place your self identity in being just wife or husband. Don’t dwell on the obviously painful past for you. Relish in your new found freedom. You say you found parts of you that were buried or did not know were there. Celebrate the new you and the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead. It does take failures to be seasoned and I’ve had many but at 62 I have become comfortable with where I am and for what may lie ahead without being encumbered with self imposed unhappiness. The price of that was not cheap, I assure you.

    • Carl–really love your suggestion that another woman should not rent space in my head. I will keep that in mind and share it with friends who face similar situations. And your advice re self imposed unhappiness will be heeded as well.

  11. Compelling! The last line made me smile. :) Thank you for this & the reminders of why so many of us can relate in our own ways. I am also thankful!

  12. ” I will keep in mind how the total upheaval of my world turned
    out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”
    I enjoyed every bit of your story. It will serve as an inspiration to us all. Not all people who go through separation and divorce will have a happy turn around as you did. I admire how you turned the pain into something to rejoice and celebrate. I think one of the secret is that you truly reflected on what will make you happy and what the future has in store for you. You chose to move on and face the blissful future ahead. I’m happy for you and the smile you brought into the world. Stay blessed always.

  13. I wish I had your grace. (Your ex clearly made the wrong choice!). After my divorce, a group of friends rallied around me & convinced me the best “revenge” was none at all, but to go on to find peace and success on my own terms – I’m so glad I listened to them. Very well written.

  14. You already have the best outfit in the room. A lovely shawl of the softest beauty. Fabric draped and folding, patterned with courage, intelligence and love. Shining bright with joy and grace and dignity. I’ll bet every eye in the room was on you. :)

  15. You are the best dressed woman there. From Proverbs: “A woman of valor, who can find? For her price is far above rubies. . . She girds her loins with strength, and strengthens her arms.” You have clearly been through a lot, but you have come out stronger. You say you cannot forgive the other woman. Maybe you need a new definition of forgiveness–it’s not saying what she did was right or even of no matter; forgiveness is the understanding that you cannot change the past, and your willingness not to try. Retribution is stabbing yourself in the heart a hundred times in order to hurt the other person. Go proudly to the baptism. Hold your head up. You are free.

  16. Wow, that must be an uncomfortable situation! I’m used to moving on and never seeing my exes again. I’ve never had it happen otherwise. Life is simpler that way, I think, but then, I am child-free so that makes it easier to move on. ;-)

  17. I think the outer clothing is immaterial. You get to show up wearing not only a smile, but dignity, respect, strength, growth, and so much love from your family and for yourself! Best of luck!

  18. As so many have stated, this is very powerful writing. That is one of the most compelling first lines I have read in a long time. This piece totally drew me in. You wrote in a very naked and vulnerable way, but with such class and eloquence. The what to wear question is so interesting, isn’t it. Every few years I visit the family who adopted my daughter. For a month beforehand, I think about what to wear. It is so much easier to focus on that than to focus on the underlying issues. You did both, so clearly and maturely and beautifully, in this piece. -kate

    • Thank Kate for sharing your experience about the what to wear question. You’re right—it’s easier to focus and resolve that issue that it is far more difficult issues. Good point and very helpful to me.

  19. Hi Winsom,

    My sister in Colorado emailed me today to verify my P.O.Box, as she will be sending my Halloween birthday gift. This is why I have the Frankenstein gravitar at the moment. I’ve been having some ‘spirited’ fun at some other sites using this image from ‘Young Dr. Frankenstein’.

    Her email made me think to check out what you have going on…

    OK…I can relate…”Divorce is painful for most everyone, no matter the particulars. What happens when it’s done has many versions.”

    I am not going to give all the details, but will say that the intense events that occurred all at the same time with my former’s infidelity almost made me eject myself from this world. It is to my credit that I did adapt. I have not been able to have that close relationship in the ten years since, but each day I do have more peace of mind. I do have the love of my daughters. I do have a new and interesting profession. I am gaining simplicity. I still have good physical health. I still have a great since of humor. I want to do new and different things. I have new friends. I have kept some very old and dear friends. I love the natural world. I love God. I am feeling more content.

    Have I been able to forgive?

    Well…Yes…

    The clothes that I have considered wearing have been ‘Old Jeans’ and ‘Old T-Shirts’ as I have been called upon to repair my former’s toilets a few times…her husband is not a *Handyman* :)

    Thank you Winsom…

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  21. Pingback: Question time | I choose how I will spend the rest of my life

  22. Wow, ‘Bella’ – your post is not only personal but powerful. Like the comments before me, I thank you for sharing this post with us. Your story helps us to find strength and encouragement to continue in whatever challenge we face.

  23. “More than anything else, I will keep in mind how the total upheaval of my world turned
    out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

    My hat is off to you!

  24. I share the deep admiration your readers have expressed above. Beautifully and honestly told, this story is (as you’ve seen from the comments) more universal than you might have guessed from its midst. It’s expressed differently in every instance, but pain is pain and shapes us in its passage through us. You, my dear lady, have been shaped into a spectacularly beautiful creature of bravery and thoughtfulness and willful joy. There is no end to the potential in that!

    I am the blessed beneficiary of others’ similar pain: I’m wife number three–and came along well after both previous marriages had gone into the mists of time–and have two amazing friends in my husband’s ex-wives. Because all of them learned those lessons you describe, along the way, and found ways to have new kinds of relationships after ceasing to be quite the same persons who had at one time been married to each other.

    You have clearly set yourself on a marvelous and hope-filled path into the glorious continuation of your life story, and I will definitely be among those cheering you on. All good things to you!
    Kathryn

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