People affect our lives in so many different ways. A timeless conversation with someone. A knowing glance from sometime. A permanent brush against our psyche.
As the days, months and years slowly fade with each passing moment, occasional quiet times are afforded us when we could listen to the inner voice within us. That wise sense of knowing that interprets those incidents that pierce and embolden us. The life that was. The death that occurred. The rebirth that struggles to emerge into our consciousness.
This cycle can be vicious, enlightening and freeing. It can inspire amazing changes in our lives, but it’s not without a certain commitment. To realize our greater selves, we must undergo such journeys.
I am no stranger to these emotional gauntlets and have shared so many of my experiences with you, dear reader. A gentle friend on Facebook who has transported me to the places she has seen through her beautiful photography asked me these questions: “How long did it take you to recover and accept the withdrawal of your family? And how did you deal with it?”
And so I hope I can transport you through my own eyes.
In certain spots in my yard are rosebushes. The locations were selected to share their beauty with those walking along the road next to my home. From a distance, their flowering roses display brilliant hues of pink and red, their graceful branches elongated with their reach to the sun for nourishment.
But up close, they are a world of contrasts. Beneath each radiant bloom under an array of green leaves is a trail of thorns that can draw a drop of blood when a finger carelessly pricks them. I could have chosen genetically modified rosebushes without thorns, but to nurture such an aberration was abhorrent to me. I wanted to experience and share these roses in all of their natural beauty as the seasons change bringing forth their life, death and rebirth.
Through the roses and thorns in my life, I have discovered much about myself and the appreciation of the cycle of life that brings this awareness to light. Many of my roses and thorns can be found in my relationships and experiences with family and friends.
When I decided not to marry my son’s father, I feared the rejection of my family. At that time, I knew only that my parents, two beautiful roses, understood and respected my difficult decision not to bind myself to a person who could cause my son and me hardship and pain.
But with others, I was anxious and uncertain. Some family members had endured painful divorces. Some experienced the untimely deaths of beloved parents. Some lost children they never knew and never had a chance to love. Some believed in the nuclear family as the only moral way to raise a child. Some only cared about what they deemed to be appropriate parental involvement regardless of my reservations about his father. And some simply rejected me with no explanation. These thorns have pierced me deeply.
But one rose emerged in an unexpected situation. One afternoon I visited my grandmother, my father’s mother with whom I shared very few intimate details of my life. She was, in many ways, a stranger, someone apart from me who appeared comfortable with our unspoken emotional distance; perhaps the very reason I could tell her about my decision. After I provided my brief explanation, she opened up to me for the first time about an incident in her life. She described one of her first dates with my soon-to-be grandfather. He said something that angered her immensely.
“And I slapped his face.”
She then looked away from me. A long pause followed, pregnant with a knowing, a longing, a thought that she kept to herself. When she turned to me, she voiced her support for me and cautioned me that I must take care of myself. I will never know what she experienced in that moment because she has since passed away, but she gave me this rose to remind me of her love and understanding.
Through the seasons, many roses have come forth in my relationships with family members, but the roses from my friends are truly special ones. My friends have accepted me as a single mother raising a son who is growing into manhood. They have supported me as a coworker and a professional. They have shared musings, laughter, anger and tears as a confidant. They have joined me on various adventures as a companion. They have devised plans for life and living as a sidekick. Their roses have added their unique beauty to my world.
But some people whom I believed were friends drew blood. They used my kindness to their personal or professional gain. They lied about themselves and lashed out when confronted, directly or indirectly, with their own weaknesses. They made fun of my financial and living situations. They stole from me and misrepresented me. Or they simply withheld their friendship and disappeared with no explanation. These thorns were so cruel and exacting, their sharp pierce felt keenly.
Memories may have preserved these external roses and thorns in my life, but they are part of me, a sentient, intelligent being. Over time, I cherish the life they bring and endure the loss they cause me to suffer. However, I pull from the wisdom of a fertile place — a peaceful space where my inner voice speaks — to find the strength to grow anew, to become beautiful and alive, because I too have roses and thorns. I too bring joy and pain to others. With each season, I usher in a greater understanding of who I am, how I affect others and they me, followed by a deep reflection and rebirth. Through this familiar cycle, I am able to experience my resilience regardless of what I have endured.
And so dear friend, in answer to your questions, I am still coping with the rejection and withdrawal of so many, but I have found that as I have developed a greater appreciation for myself and what I have to give, I can overcome the pain and celebrate the goodness — for the most part. This process has, in no way, been easy, but I didn’t know how else to live. I could have allowed the thorns to destroy me, drain me of my blood, but that voice within me wouldn’t let me be defeated. It just wouldn’t let me give up.
Experiencing rejection from family members is among the greatest torments, but trusted friends can provide solace, acceptance and kindness as well as help renew your strength. And during this time, those who love you and want to love you but are afraid to do so will see your new beauty and strength come to life and they will find you again.
Editor’s note: This rose is blooming on one of my rosebushes.
On Thursdays I will be sharing a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every fourth Thursday, instead of a personal post, I will put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send any comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @parentsonurown and can be found by searching #singleparentandstrong.