I rarely think or write about my parent’s divorce. It feels like ancient history and, for the most part, I never viewed it as a defining moment in my life.
But I may have been wrong.
As I dig down into the roots of some of my thought patterns, it seems like the fallout from their divorce is the soil from which they sprouted.
My parents, at least from my perspective, had a good divorce. Or at least as good as a divorce can be. I was insulated from as much of it as possible. There were no court battles, custody and child support agreements were made and followed. They both refrained from talking badly about the other and both made huge efforts to put my needs first.
They did pretty much everything right. Which is probably why I handled the transition well and don’t recall feeling undue stress.
But even when done well, change changes you.
We soon went from a family of three to a mom-daughter pair. I knew she was stressed and I didn’t want to add to that burden. I knew money was limited and I didn’t want to spend. I knew she had an abundance of responsibility and I didn’t want to contribute to the load.
Additionally, their divorce left me a bit like a chick pushed out of the nest a little too soon. And even though they picked me right back up, the knowledge of that unforgiving ground was impossible to forget.
Some kids go a little wild when their parents split, looking for attention and release.
I went the other way.
I became responsible.
I became perfectionistic.
I became self-reliant.
I took it upon myself to become my own parent. I watched my grades carefully and gave myself talks when I didn’t perform up to my potential. I carefully considered consequences and often held back for fear of negative outcomes.
I assumed the role of clock-watcher. Drill sergeant. Task master. If you wanted it done, I was your gal.
I took “I can do it myself” to whole new levels.
This was not an assigned role; it was self-appointed. It was my way of feeling like I had some control in my life.
Taking responsibility is a good thing. But I took it too far, assuming other’s burdens as well as my own.
Self-reliance is a positive trait. But I used it as a way to avoid feeling vulnerable.
It was my armor. My shield. My assurance.
And it was never really tested until my divorce.
And that was the first time I couldn’t do it myself.
I had to learn to release control. I had to learn how to accept help.
And I had no choice but to be vulnerable.
It’s wild – I learned self-reliance from my parent’s divorce and how to accept help from my own split.
It’s amazing how often life’s experiences will circle around again, healing old wounds and reteaching lessons. Each parallel event offering wisdom and yet threatening wounds. It can be tempting to desire a life without these difficult episodes, to dream of smooth days and comfortable nights. But I see these events differently. They are what bring meaning and purpose and perspective to our lives. They challenge us and teach us. They shape us.
Bookended tutorials supporting the life in between.
I wonder what lesson will circle around next? I just hope this one doesn’t come with a side of divorce. I’ve had enough of that!:)