Sometimes life circumstances can be so daunting that it’s all we can do to get by. Our sense of what’s true and what’s sure dissolves in an instant and we have to sort things out again. Or as some say, find a new normal. And while one part of our life is crumbling we often find ourselves having to participate in the rest of our lives as if everything is okay. I remember such a time in my life. A time where I knew what I wanted. I would even say that I knew that what I wanted was already true and yet I had been so shaken that I didn’t have the resources within me to own that. So I wore a mask to hide my fear, uncertainty and doubt.At the end of September 2005, my marriage came to an abrupt end. Of course, since that time I have come to realize that my marriage died a long, slow and painful death not the sudden death that I found myself in the midst of on that memorable September day. But at the time life as I knew it was over in an instant. We had been married for almost 18 years and had a somewhat complicated family. I was my now ex husband’s third wife and he had a child from each marriage. He had two daughters (one from each of his previous marriages) and the son that we had together. Over the course of our marriage, as fragmented as we started as a family, we grew together and indeed were a cohesive family unit. This was and is a feat that we all created and that we all can be proud of as it required a letting go of the old and accepting the new to make it happen. We each saw things as they really were and chose to make it work, in spite of the difficulties.
This is a picture of my family (my 2 step-daughters, my son and me) that was taken in November 2005. The girls live on the East Coast and my son and I live on the West Coast, so this picture of us was taken the first time we saw each other after the breakup of the marriage. I know we look like a happy family on the surface and yet I know for sure we were all hiding behind a mask at the time. The masks that we wore contained all of our feelings and emotions- some of which we showed and most of which we hide as they were too raw to expose. I love this picture because it tells a story and it has a secret.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and that is so true of this one. It speaks of truth and lies, it speaks of hopes and fears, and it speaks of a past and a yet undefined future. And… what’s true is that all of it was real at the time. This is a picture of four people who were brought together (and at some level even created) by someone who no longer was part of the picture. We all love each other and yet being together (when this picture was taken) was a painful reminder of what we had all lost. We were together and yet we were fractured. We still needed to discover how we would again fit together. While I can’t speak for how the others felt, it was hard. I had been part of their lives for over 18 years, we had definitely bonded and yet I wasn’t sure at the time that it was enough. Was I enough? Were we going to be able to stay bonded even in the absence of what originally brought us together? I thought I knew the answer, but until I was sure, I wore the mask that hid my fear.
And for that time, the mask protected me. It showed what I wanted to be true, what I hoped would be true but in the moment I was so unsure of.
Two some years later, the mask is off. The pieces are back together and stronger than ever. We are a family of choice. It means for us that we’ve had to let go of the “roles” and establish or confirm our relationship for what it is. We are four people who opened our hearts to one another knowing that the form doesn’t matter. It is simply a matter of the heart.