Spring is finally here, and with it comes new beginnings.
This is the time of year that many people start their gardens, and if you ask anyone with a green thumb they’ll tell you there’s a right way and a wrong way to prepare your soil, to plant seeds; there are rules about fertilizer and water and sun and shade. There’s a good time and a bad time they’ll say, as though time is ever anything but a gift.
I think this spring is particularly evocative because of how brutal and relentless the winter was, how dark, and cold, and lonely its occupation. For me, grief was my stony companion throughout those grey months, and it often filled the empty side of my bed. It asked me to spend the day with it, to wrap us both in wrinkled sheets and listen to the rain perpetually peppering the roof. Sometimes, I did.
In a little over a month, my estranged husband and I will have been separated for a year, and we will be eligible to file for divorce. Just the words “separation” and “divorce” sound so sharp and sudden, like a limb cleaved from a body. But for me, it has been more like a gradual dismantling, little pieces tearing with each step we took toward becoming incomplete. We lost a fragment when we stopped touching; another when he began sleeping in the spare room. More broke off when he moved out of our house, and continued later when we finally made it all public—we’d kept the crumbling secret for so long. Something even larger tore away when I finally moved out too, and it took some of my soft flesh with it. Because of this, the pain has been gradual as well, coming in stages and waves. I know that’s typical, but it didn’t make it any less startling when I found them upon me.
flowers still die
Sometimes, you do everything right, and the flowers still die; you care too much, drown them in nourishment and they never fully leave the soil. The carrots, neatly spaced, still wind like tumors around each other, and once pulled into the light reveal their deformities. You bury the stems of the tomatoes deep, cage them, and water regularly, but they rise up as shrunken heads, wrinkled and diseased. And yet at other times, you toss a rotten pumpkin carelessly onto compost, and from the unsuspecting seeds pop bright, plump descendants.
When I fell for someone again so shortly after my marriage ended, and I saw that new life sprouting amongst the brown and peeling leavings of my life, I was entirely unsure of how to respond to it. And I resisted accordingly, heeding the advice from endless Google searches on “dating while separated” that insisted on a right and wrong time to move on, offering instructions on how exactly to fall in love again; I thought them paradoxical, all those structured methods for plunging into vulnerable uncertainty. But their purpose is easy to understand: divorce rattles your identity to the bones, shaking off those warm layers of “wife” until you’re naked and shivering. Laid bare, you question your judgment at the deepest level and wonder if you’ll ever be able to trust anything or anyone again, let alone yourself.
dust yourself off and try again
But one day, I finally tried. Shutting out the self-styled relationship experts, I began listening instead to the words my heart had been whispering steadily for months, realizing that perhaps I’d been too hard on it—that maybe it hadn’t always been so wrong. After all, it’s that very heart that lead me to my husband in the first place, a decision which gave me two beautiful children and a lifelong friend to co-parent them with. And that heart of mine is, for better or worse, resiliently optimistic. Despite the lowest points of this separation process, which have included becoming a single mother to three-year-old twins, and moving us from our family home into a tiny rental suite, I’ve somehow survived. Not just survived, but grown stronger too—my skin is firmly calloused. And I can’t defend or make excuses for moving on, because if I stop listing to my heart, if I reject my inherent instincts, what’s left?
Though life is unpredictable and I doubt I’ll ever say with certainty that I know what I’m doing, right now I am so very grateful for this spring sunshine, and for my ability to believe in something again. I’m in awe of my heart’s capacity to adapt and heal, and it’s a gift I refuse to squander. Because soon, it will be winter again—we all have our own winters that come and go. And I’m determined to make the most of this spring I’ve been blessed with, and to let life astonish me with its miraculous resurrection—to breathe in fresh earth, to listen to the birds croon, and to fall in love again if that’s the path my heart is determined to take me down. This year I will be green shoots, and under the long-awaited warmth I will stop bending, and let myself blossom as Mother Nature intended.
There is no right time or wrong time, there is only springtime and wintertime, summer and fall. And I am determined to be unapologetically true to myself through them all.