The student pulled a clipboard from the bin.
“Who’s Mrs. —?” he inquired, reading my old married name off the back of the clipboard.
I smiled, “Oh, just a woman I used to know a long time ago.”
Ain’t that the truth.
Many of the items in my classroom are labeled with my old name. When students ask who she is, I’m vague. Most have concluded that she is a retired teacher who gifted many of her classroom items to me.
In a way, they’re right.
She’s certainly retired. Not from teaching, but the old Mrs. — is no longer around. There are those who remember her and tell stories of those days, but they are behind us now.
Mrs. — has been replaced.
No, that’s not quite right.
She’s been transformed.
One of the more difficult aspects of a major life renovation such as divorce is that we struggle to imagine ourselves any way other than we are in that moment. If you asked the old Mrs. — who she was, she would speak of her role as teacher and tutor, she would talk lovingly about her husband, she would tell stories of her dogs and you would be cautioned from getting her on the subject of plants.
In those days when all was washed away, I remember feeling homeless in my soul. I didn’t know who I was anymore. Who I would become. I knew I would never be the same yet I couldn’t imagine anything but what I was.
And that was a scary place to be. Not the old me anymore and yet not the new one either. A limbo of self.
Scary and yet empowering. Because when you’re rebuilding your life and your identity from the ground up, you have the power of choice and the wisdom of experience. And that’s a powerful pair.
And the main choice I made was to be happy. Not happy because of the tsunami divorce. Happy in spite of it.
Everything else was secondary.
And now, here I am. Mrs. again. Dog momma again. About to plant again.
On the surface, much may be the same.
Everything has changed.
Because you can’t go back.
But you can always move on.
The old Mrs.— has retired. And now she’s just a woman I used to know.
And if you happen to see her, please tell her thanks for clipboards.