When I was 34 years old, six months after I launched a pilot on HGTV, I divorced my husband. The same one I’d filmed said pilot with. For someone who put more stock in having a put together life more than she’d care to admit, it was devastating. It rocked me because it was actually happening; but that decision brought peace, as painful as it was. What I had to face inside of me…that was a different story.
It would be unfair to say it was all bad for all the years we were married. It would be wrong. But nothing is perfect and I got tired of trying to hold together a situation that had become unhealthy for me, my children watching me with ever present eyes.
We get affirmations along the way when we are open to see them. I know this because about 6 months after my divorce, my nine year old son looked at me in the car one day and matter of factly said, “I’m so glad you stopped sitting in the bathroom to cry, mama.”
The problem was this for me: while there was good, there was something inside me that knew some things shouldn’t be okayed. Some things should have been addressed. On all sides. But it seemed they couldn’t be. That we couldn’t get around it without me taking all the blame. Whether that is the full truth or just how it felt, it did feel that way, and I started to shut all the way down. And eventually, the silence around that miserable fact nearly choked the actual life out of me.
I grew up in a small Southern town, with parents who loved me fiercely. I had a brother who liked to torture me, and me him. There was green everywhere and we laughed more than we fought. Things were relatively quiet and things were most certainly good, so everything I learned in that house was gold to me. As it is with our children, it was with us.
We listen and learn and soak in and take to heart all we are taught, whether by verbal instruction or observation. Some of it is good, some is bad. Some is less impactful, some is life-shaping. My parents could not have been any more intentional, and so it is that sometimes we learn also what we are predisposed to learn, with no intention from others. What I learned, by observation, above everything else, was that I wanted to be GOOD. I wanted the stamp of approval. I wanted the approval of those that mattered to me. I wanted the approval of good. Good became my God, my seal of enough, and my all encompassing star shining in a dark night.
Good led almost every decision I ever made up until I was about 34 years old.
Good isn’t the root of evil. But the love of Good most certainly can be. The love of Good is not about spirituality or morals or even your own convictions. Because the opposite of the love of good is inevitably the dread of bad. Shame. These stamps are not only untrue, they are dangerous. The love of Good can cause a young girl to make all kinds of choices hoping it will reveal to her the stamp she’s longing for. It will make her give her body to some idiot. It will tell her to allow her friends to talk to her like she’s trash and she’ll even apologize for it. It will create a sense of purposelessness cloaked in the disguise of purpose. It will tell her it could be worse, and to be grateful. It will cage her and convince her anything she does without the stamp is bad, and even worse, she, herself, is bad. Her stamp is now forever red and smeared with old black ink, tainted and damning.
Here’s the problem with Good. We eventually stop paying attention to who is defining it. Before you know it, the preacher, the parents, the boyfriend, the friends, the cousins, the bosses, the other moms at PTO, and even your spouse get to define good. They all get defining rights. They get to define you. And you, my darling, will break under the weight of everyone else’s good for your life.
The other problem with good is this: sometimes it’s dressed in ratty clothes and an outcast’s smile. Sometimes good looks nothing like church and nothing like yes ma’am, and sometimes, it looks like flat out rebellion.
Despite all my former notions and fears, my divorce, was in fact, good for me, which was good for my children.
This leads me to one conclusion:
I say we burn the stamps.
A note to my daughter:
I’m convinced if there is one thing I will give you, it is this. You get to discover yourself, your truest self, in all your flawed glory. You get to determine your worth, based on your own spirituality and experiences, and not my behavioral expectations of what your good should be dressed like. I could get it wrong. I could look back and wish I’d spelled it all out more clearly for you. Told you how it all should be. But I’ll tell you, darling. I was never more alive than when I threw good out the window and actually listened to myself. May your windows stay rolled down and your own voice drown out all the others screaming for you to hold on to it tightly.