Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Natural Consequences

Just when I think that the past is really behind me, that I've moved on, grown, made strides, and learned something (any other cliches?), I realize that rather than growth and healing being a straight-lined journey, it is more cyclical, revisited periodically.  Coming on the heels of Father's Day, this current bout of understanding and reflection concerning the past has been fairly poignant.  I'm realizing that the process of blending a family is more complicated, more difficult, and frankly more work than I had been prepared for.  Given a variety of personalities, cultures, and family backgrounds, I liken it to throwing three different jigsaw puzzles on the ground and trying to come up with one coherent picture.  Not impossible, but also not easy.  We continue to work at it, diligently, but now with the knowledge that this work is true work, and it needs to be tackled each day with an awareness of the importance it holds.

It just so happened that for the past week, I have been converting old home videos to a digital format, which means that I have spent quite a bit of time immersed in my and the boys' pasts.  From the birth of Pacey to the time Gage was 3, their dad and I separated three times and finally divorced.  I went through several hairstyles (some good, some very, very bad).  I lived in four different homes.  Much of this was invisible to the camera's eye, but as I watched, I relived the backchannel story.  The anger and grief, the hopelessness and despair.  But I also saw our love for the boys despite the situation.  We laughed at them and with them, and it rejuvenated my soul to experience our relationships as a third party.  It made me glad that one day, when the boys are older and see the videos, they will see many happy moments that included all four of us.

In the midst of my personal reflection (and despite the fact that the boys didn't know I was watching the videos), Pacey intuitively told me that he wished that all four of us could still live together, so that way he could see me and his dad all the time.  In that moment, I realized that I owe so much to my little boy-os.  When making the choice to leave (time after time), I struggled with the impact it would have on them, and I finally found peace with the notion that if I had stayed, I would have continued to be unhappy and that would have impacted them in a much more detrimental way.  What struck me was that though I have moved on, and we have a new life with a new family, we will always be impacted by that choice.  The boys have ultimately lost something and will experience that loss daily-- when they wish to be with both parents all the time, despite the fact that they were so little that they don't remember us all living together.  I looked down at his head in my lap and saw a strength in him that I hadn't noticed before, and I realized the irony of divorce.  That in some way, in order for me (and by extension them) to be happy, I had to make a choice that would always make them sad.  And me too, a little, if I am being completely honest with myself.

I have no regrets for the choices I made that brought us here.  I know that I am much happier, much more fulfilled and much more myself in this marriage to an incredible man.  And that all translates to me being a better mom, which brings me back to the blending family issue.  Through all of this reflection and revisiting of the past, I have realized that I need to create a new definition of family for myself.  I have naively believed that simply by the merit of us all living under the same roof, we would immediately feel and function like a single, biological family.  I have wished that all of the kids would just be ours, and that it would feel like what I had only glimpses of in my previous life.  But through that wishing, I have ignored the reality of what blending a family and step-parenting means-- we are not a biological unit, and it is completely natural to feel that loss, but it is also equally important to know that the boys and I and the husband and the princess are a part of so much more as long as we are open to finding it.  We are a blended family, and though the journey that comes with creating and maintaining this kind of family is more intentional, less haphazard, and littered with remnants of our pasts that require careful navigation, I know we will be up for the trip.

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