One of the worst memories I have about my divorce was the day my children found a family photo that had black tape over my face. It was found in an album at my ex’s mom’s house. What was even more devastating is that my children didn’t have the heart to tell me themselves.
Days later I received a phone call from my mom telling me that my kids told her what they had seen, as they held back tears to explain to her that it was a family member who had done it. Every emotion imaginable hit me all at the same time as I tried to swallow the rage.
My first thought was how do I begin to explain the unexplainable to my children. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what message was this sending them? That their mother was someone that was no longer part of this family? That divorcing their father meant I no longer existed in their world? Or was it that I no longer mattered because of my choices? I wasn’t ready to have a conversation about something that I was still trying to process.
I had no idea why this family member lashed out at me in this way. I was raised to be respectful and kind to others and also to mind my own business. I could never imagine doing that to anyone. Why did he do it? Was it because I am an Italian woman who chose to stand in her truth? You have to understand the Italian culture to make sense of this insanity. In the Italian culture, you do not leave your marriage, no matter what the situation is. At least this is what I was shown.
I thought about my great grandmother who lived in Italy, and how much pain she must have carried in her soul. It wasn’t until I was much older that I found out my great grandfather had a whole other family we knew nothing about. I wondered what that betrayal did to her. What wounds had she been made to carry? My heart ached for her silence. How many other women before her stayed silent in marriages that no longer served them?
Was it my strength in leaving my marriage that offended this family member? Was it the fact that I was no longer going to be controlled by anyone or anything? Or was it just another man willing to throw a woman out like garbage because she was no longer submissive to her husband?
My truth and my courage sent an aftershock that rattled everybody.
Once the rage wore off I was left with a deep sense of sadness. I understood why my great grandmother stayed. What was she going to do, leave my great grandfather and raise the children on her own? He financially supported the family. Back then there were no options for mothers that wanted out of their unfulfilling marriages. Did men take advantage of this position of power because they knew women had no way out? I wondered what it would have looked like if she left him.
I realized that my divorce was so much bigger than just wanting out of a marriage. I was breaking cultural norms that had never been done before. It was my truth that offended people. “How dare she break her family apart. What kind of mother is she? She left a good man that gave her everything she could have ever wanted. She doesn’t deserve to be part of this family”… this was the message I received loud and clear from the black tape over my face, and this is what landed on my children’s eyes.
I couldn’t make them unsee what they had seen, and I also didn’t want them to have hatred in their hearts for the ignorant behaviour that was displayed upon them. I wasn’t going to let this person do what so many others before him had done…keep women from standing in their power by crippling their spirit.
No, I choose to rise instead. Not only for myself but for the many women before me that didn’t have the power to do it. I chose to rise for my children because I wasn’t going to show them that I needed to defend myself or prove myself worthy by giving this any more of my energy. I chose to show them that the power of forgiveness is stronger than any stones thrown at me. That’s the legacy they will remember, a mom that stands in love can’t ever be erased.