I had a very nice lady who has known me and my family for many years talk to me the other day. She was bragging on our successes in the business, how much we had accomplished over the years even with all the ups and downs of life, and so on and so forth. Then she said "You know honey...your marriage might not have worked out, but you got a sweet girl out of the deal...so I guess it wasn't a total loss was it?!"
I know she meant well...and trust me I have heard worse "compliments" regarding my status in life over the last five years, but for some reason on that day, in that moment, that comment just hit me wrong.
I smiled and said "Well you know...I have never considered Dotty a consolation prize for failing at marriage."
Of course this caused the well meaning lady to backtrack rather quickly. I wasn't trying to make her uncomfortable or upset her, because I don't think she was originally trying to do either of those things to me. We did get past that awkward moment and ended with a hug and a goodbye.
Later I got to thinking about what she had said and about my feelings regarding the entire situation.
As Oprah would say...there are a few things I know for sure...
1. Like I told the lady...I don't think God ever intended for Dotty to be mine or my ex-husband Tony's consolation prize for not making our marriage work. Dotty is one fantastic, amazing, off the charts personality, going to do something big someday...kind of kid. The world needed Dotty...or if nothing else...MY world needed Dotty for sure! God knew this. He knew I needed Dotty...and the only way to get Dotty was to put Tony and me together. So no...Dotty is not the consolation prize. She is not the "Let's see what is behind Door #2" in the game show of life. She is not the equivalent to a lifetime supply of Campbell's soup as a parting gift from the "Marriage Game". She is at least one of the MAIN reasons...if not THE reason God put Tony and me together. I believe this...with my whole heart I believe this.
2. Up until my marriage ended life came pretty easy to me. I had a great childhood for the most part. I did well in school and in sports. I had friends. I had family. I had a good job. Of course there were the little dips in the road here and there but nothing major. I knew other people that had REAL big issues in life...but not me. Nope. I had it made. In fact...in some ways...I was basically telling God "I got this Big G....don't you worry about me. I am good. I have my life in control. You go solve world hunger or find a cure for cancer...but don't worry about me...I am all good God! I got this. We can talk later." However, when I got divorced, I was definitely not "all good". In fact, I was one big mess. For the most part I kept it together at work and in front of Dotty, but when I was alone or with friends or sitting on my counselor's couch I was a huge mess. During the first year I talked to God more than I had talked to Him in the 30 years before that...I yelled at Him...I questioned Him...I cried to Him...I reasoned with Him...and then finally I stopped talking and I listened to Him. In the last five years I have grown closer to God than ever before. I have talked with Him not only daily but sometimes hourly. I have poured myself into a relationship with God because that was the only way I could heal. God knew He would have to break me...He would have to break my heart WIDE OPEN in order for me to make room for Him. Now don't get me wrong...I have always loved God and worshipped Him but I had never REALLY leaned on God, cried out to God, fell on my knees and talked to God with a heart and a soul so crushed that only God could find all the pieces and put it back together. I don't believe God intentionally hurts us but I do believe that He let's us get hurt so we can find an even bigger strength...an even stronger faith...and an even deeper love through Him. After all, if He would let Job go through all that he endured, God would certainly let me have a few months of pain and sorrow if it meant a deeper connection with Him in the end. So my divorce brought me closer to God. Again...I don't think this was the consolation prize...I think it was part of the Plan...Big P from Big G!
3. The last thing I know for sure is we all walk different paths in life...no two roads are the same. My marriage/divorce/coparenting situation is not like anyone else's. We all must travel the road God has for us. Before I figured this out I was very quick to make assumptions about people and their situations. Now I realize I just don't know the whole story...and I am not supposed to because it is not my story. I think I have more compassion for everyone going through the trials of life whatever they may be...at least I hope I do. Many people see Tony and me raising Dotty in our somewhat unconventional way and they make comments both good and bad about it...but what I know for sure is this is what works for us...and most of all for Dotty. I know some of you have ex spouses that are first cousins to Satan himself and trust me my heart breaks for the situations some of you face. I thank God everyday that while Tony and I failed at our marriage (and trust me we both failed at it...we each had our issues big and small that led to the downfall) we have succeeded in raising a kid who for the most part is "okay". She is well adjusted. She is pretty normal...although some of her dance moves are a little out there...but she is pretty normal for an almost 8 year old girl. I don't know what the future holds. Twenty years from now she might be telling her counselor all her problems stem from her parents...but the one thing she can never doubt is if we screwed her up we did so out of love. It was the love Tony and I had for her...the love for her and her well being that has caused us to raise her the way we do. Tony and I still disagree sometimes. We still get on each others nerves. We still don't like the same things in each other that we didn't like five years ago (in fact I can assure you Tony will not like this post)...but we also STILL love Dotty more...more than anything else will ever matter. And Tony and I are just pieces of the path. Brittany, Dotty's step-mom, is HUGE piece of how we walk our road with raising Dotty. In fact...sometimes she is the glue that holds the whole road together! Our parents, siblings, friends, and so many others who love Dotty more than they love picking a side in a divorce are also a part of the path. Tony and I are pretty good parents because we have a crazy awesome support system that won't let us fail. These people might not always agree with our choices...they might not understand them...but they see Dotty smile and they know that she is the only reason we do what we do.
God has shown me over the last five years what it takes to forgive someone and what it takes to get forgiveness in return. God has shown me that REAL forgiveness can't come with stipulations or ultimatums. Real forgiveness is freely given. Real forgiveness is a choice we offer up every day. Real forgiveness can't be forced or rushed. Real forgiveness comes from a deep place that real pain and real love also reside. Real forgiveness is what we give others and what we must give to ourselves.
I know for sure that becoming a single mom has made me a better person in the last five years. I am not the same person I was back in the fall of 2009. I thank the good Lord every day for that. Once again I don't think me becoming a better human being was a consolation prize...I think it was part of the PLAN.