Of all the problems of the world, relationship trouble can cut to our core like little else. And if the twenties and thirties are the ages of new love, weddings, babies, and home-building, then the forties and fifties are the ages of disillusionment, despair, disentangling, and yes, that other big D.
I remember my own divorce and how I truly thought that I might die from a broken heart. I rationally knew that people recover, and some even thrive. I am, at my core, a thriving type. But I was so distraught (what is it with D words?) that I couldn’t feel secure or stable. I was just miserable.
I had worked so damn hard to have my family work and now I was going to have to share my kids’ time with this guy who couldn’t stand to be married to me anymore? What kind of a raw deal was this? And, and, and….I would be alone for the rest of my life! I would be sad and lonely!
I remember a woman who had lived through these treacherous decades responding to me at the time, “Oh, you just never know. People get divorced, but they also fall in love again and they keep on living. You’ll see over time, everything just changes.”
Of course she was right. And I wouldn’t have understood just how sad and lonely I was in my marriage if I hadn’t had the chance to leave it. My divorce has been the best thing that ever happened to me and my children.
And yet, it was hard to see at the time. I had glimpses of something good to come. Like when one friend said, “Don’t turn your marriage into some kind of golden era. It wasn’t that great.” Yep. When you’re committed to something, sometimes it facilitates a blind eye towards things that don’t work. When a lot isn’t working and people are suffering, it is time for something to shift. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting divorced, but for some people, it’s a reasonable answer to an impossible question.
The other day I was driving along country roads and a saw a patch of thistle along the fence. I stopped and asked the owner if I could pick some. She sort of snorted and said, “You can take as much of them as you want.”
Nobody likes thistle. They are prickly and sharp, pointed and jagged. If they take hold they can spread like crazy. It can be extreme. And they hurt.
But if you let the thistle grow all the way through the painful, prickly mess, the blossoms are rare and exquisite. Their tall, winding stems give way to Dr. Seussian blossoms. The flowers are fluffy tufts of fuchsia. They are inspiring.
When some kind of heartache in our lives cuts us to the core, the thistle can remind us that pain can bring deeper understanding, true acceptance, and a life that doesn’t foster anxiety and stress. Pain can be a doorway to more freedom.
So I picked a bunch of thistle for a friend in pain. So maybe she could see the need for the pain more clearly, so that she could remember that beauty that is surely coming.
And today, I returned and picked another batch and put them on my kitchen table. I didn’t get hurt doing the picking. For now, I’ll just enjoy the beauty.