This following article is a guest post from Stephanie Abdon of A Hot Southern Mess.
I’ve never been more proud to forget an anniversary. On January 17, 2014, I went into a courtroom as a married mother of a four-year-old boy. I emerged a divorced mother, with a new (old?) name, and the uphill battle of sharing a beautiful son with someone I no longer loved. Little did I know that day would bring even more struggles and uncertainty. Bills would become more difficult to pay, my family would turn against me because they did not agree with my lifestyle, and I would continue to question my fitness as a mother and value as a person.
My marriage didn’t end in that courtroom. It had ended years ago, even before that angelic child made his way into the world. I put my heart, soul, and wallet into a relationship that did not benefit me. It’s like I was sleepwalking through life. There was no romance…not so much as a hug or high five. We were two ships passing in the night. I was giving everything I had and getting nothing in return, but I was afraid to walk away.
My family situation was nothing new either. I was always different than my siblings and, according to my parents, never did things the proper way. But I would never have guessed they would take me to court to challenge the custody arrangement my ex-husband and I agreed upon, in which my son lives primarily with his dad. Although the decision was made in my son’s best interest, I was being chastised for not living up to the standards of a good mother.
I buried myself in my work, gaining kudos and even a small raise. I was honored to be asked to manage our annual fundraiser, even if it meant I would miss my twenty-year high school reunion. Who am I kidding? I was elated for the reprieve. How could I, a cheerleader and Senior Hall of Famer, show up and admit that I was such a failure? No high-power career or happy family to brag about, nothing to show for all the time and money I put into schooling or my now dissolved marriage.
I did a lot of soul searching in the last year. I chose to be positive, finding joy even when facing adversity. I took better care of myself, which most certainly more appealing to people I met, as well as a better to companion to close friends. I am truly grateful for all the friends who lifted me up, saw me through difficult times, and pointed out my good qualities. I even reconnected with some old friends and discovered their lives weren’t exactly perfect after all.
I feel especially blessed by a talisman I received as a birthday gift, a calligraphy pendant bearing the symbol of courage. I often wear it when I need an extra boost of confidence. It is a tangible reminder of the true gift, an amazing friendship that developed over the year…a person who truly appreciates and celebrates the way I am. It’s not that my friends provided a panacea or magic formula, rather they helped me see what was missing all these years.
Courage. I lacked courage. I missed out on opportunities because I was afraid to tout my talents and abilities. I missed out on relationships because I thought I wasn’t pretty or fun enough. I never stood up to my parents. I cowered and let my ex-husband make all the decisions, including declaring himself a superior parent. Mostly, I proved myself right. I was failing at everything. I didn’t have the courage to do anything otherwise.
This year, I had a big goal. I signed up for a half marathon. I hadn’t run since high school and was terrified of even telling people what I had planned. I worked hard. I sacrificed. I found a wonderful running community. I wanted to prove to everyone, especially my son, that I am strong. On January 17, 2015, donning a headband stating “Though she be but little… she is fierce” I finished that half marathon in a respectable two hours and three minutes. I didn’t just run a race, I succeeded at something I made up my own mind to do…and I did it well. According to my son, I’m a superhero.
I will admit to first blowing it off as “just” a half, but I quickly learned to be proud of my accomplishments. As I counted down to race day, I kept wondering why that date sounded familiar. Exactly one year after I nervously walked into a courtroom to end a relationship that didn’t serve me, I ran across the finish line of a half marathon.
Life is still tough, but my son is thriving and my relationship with his dad is…well, it’s improving. I have discovered that good relationships aren’t limited to blood relative and lovers. Mostly, I found exactly what I needed. Courage. And it was inside me all along.
PS: One of my other goals for the year was to write more and to get over my fear of sharing it with others. Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.
Stephanie Abdon writes from her hometown of Charleston, SC, usually with a glass of wine in hand a cat in her lap. When not writing, she is usually reading, running, practicing yoga, dancing, at the beach or watching old movies. She is a museum educator by profession, but her preferred title is “mommy.” Stephanie blogs at A Hot Southern Mess.