Eight years ago I gave up a marriage. It was wrenching and wretched. I lost a family and lifestyle that appeared to be the billboard for what life should look like. I found I had the strength to create a new life. I found the heart to forgive, myself and others, and rebuild a relationship with my ex-husband to conform to the new rules of who we are.
I gave up my grandparent’s cottage and gained insight into my heart. What becomes a burden or a point of contention can open a healing process when you let it go, as painful as it seems at the time. By giving up the concept of ownership of place, I am free to indulge in the memories and joy it represented.
I lost the day-to-day role of mother, when my daughters left home. The empty ache was physical for many months. Slowly I rebuilt my routines and life. I found a different identity in being a mother to adults. I found a long-buried freedom in not worrying about where they were or what they were doing. I found pride in their journey to move forward, even though it meant moving away.
A friend of over 40 years has been lost. He was my brother, Duncan’s best friend and had become like a big brother to me over the years. As time went on, he was a devoted uncle to my daughters and accompanied me on many equine journeys to events as my groom. We always laughed that people mistook the word “groom” to mean we were married. The last time I saw him was at his own wedding. The woman he married was threatened by our relationship. She hated the photos I took of their beach nuptials and forbade him to have any further contact with me. He told me this over the phone, apologetic but powerless to change the situation. I was enraged; at her stupidity and selfishness, at him for his lack of spine. Over time I have moved from rage to pity for what he lost and thought he had found.
I gave up my horse trailer and retired from competitive eventing. It felt sad and empty. The end to an accomplishment. I found the joy of riding again; not to condition and train, not to work toward a goal, to take the time to go slower. The pressure to “be my best” was replaced with the pleasure of being content with what every ride had to offer. This Fall, I lost my mare of seventeen years. I told someone it felt like I had lost an eye, if I lost the remaining eye, (my other mare) I would be blind. At first I was overly cautious and protective. Every change of mood and health in Night was cause for concern and worry. I have found a deep connection, beyond what we had ever experienced before, a blurring of the lines between animal and human.
A year ago I lost an executive title and a corporate lifestyle. It was terrifying and lonely. I struggled to stay connected and hang on to the trappings. The people and habits slowly drifted off, like smoke lifting on the breeze. I struggled to build a new habitat, reaching out to creative forces and people; seeking artists and writers to learn from. I found my voice. I found my deep desire to write. I found my identity at marthaschaefer.com.
The lost and found, the giving up and discovering will not end here. There will always be more painful decisions or losses. The key to getting through them is the ability to look for what is “found.”