I’d like to think I’m finally settled. I’m hopeful that the incessant movement of the last few years has slowed some. Once again, the pictures are hung, boxes empty, everything in it’s proper place. This is home for at least the next two years. This home with the warm wood and crazy wiring, glass doorknobs and mint green exterior fits my family perfectly. We will be happy here, that much is evident. Joy lives in the nooks and crannies here, safety is wrapped up in the walls. My children’s father lives a block away with his sweet girlfriend, giving my children the opportunity to have both parents nearby. We’re doing okay putting the pieces back together, knitting new lives for ourselves in our odd family tapestry of four adults and seven shared children. I’m proud of who we were, and who we all are now.

My love and I did the final clean on our little apartment last night. We scrubbed the toilets and tubs and vacuumed up a million Lego arms and legs. Today is one year since we moved in there together, completely sure of what we were doing but with no idea how to actually make it work. While I cleaned, I thought over the last year, about the undoing and chaos, the scars and the still-healing scabs. There was joy in that little home. There was the first time I had all my children together under one roof in over two years and a sweet little Christmas celebration. There were also times I laid in the bed, wrapped in the blanket that is my man, choking on anguish and bitter tears. When you hold your feelings too close to you for years and years, they become your cocoon. Breaking free from that chrysalis was so painful, yet allowing another person to see me in my deepest brokenness, allowing him to hold me together as I came apart, showed me the light inside myself. This is the surest form of beauty I can imagine.

I don’t think the people in glass houses throwing stones at my decision to leave my marriage will ever know how broken I felt at times over this last year. My heart is so big and my skin is so thin, all the arrows of judgment sent flying in my direction pierced my brittle bones, over and over again. I knew how things must look to the outside, and was also wise enough to know that defending it wouldn’t make a difference. I meant to start a brave new life, I certainly didn’t mean to find the other half of my heart at a taco stand downtown. There were times I felt like I should apologize for this accidental new love, while realizing how ridiculous that truly was. So, I sat in my apartment on Facebook, watching girlfriends have lunches they didn’t invite me to, seeing communities that no longer allowed my scarlet-lettered self in the door. I was so deeply grateful for those few who thought to ask questions, to see me with eyes of love, grateful for people who realized that tragedy is not a communicable disease and neither is divorce.

I learned in that tiny box of a house how to be better at showing up for others, how nothing is as it seems from the outside, and how assumption and criticism is the mother of all wounding. I learned I can be stripped of everything to the point of doubting my own right to exist, yet those who love me best will pick me up and set me back on my feet over and over again. I learned that explaining oneself is useless because sadly, there will always be those who wish to see the worst in others. Most importantly, I let go of the desire to control how others viewed me. I learned that I’m a Pheonix, rising and rising again and again. I’m remade from the ashes of my past, those ashes are what make my bones. My feathers are strong and new and I get to remake myself as many times as I’m called to do. This is a gift of this life we live, the ability to continually create, and one I embrace fully.

When life gets small, when everything falls away except the dearest of essentials, you begin to see richness in everything that surrounds you. Part of my training is to always find the blessing in every challenge, and to leave no stone unturned until the miracle reveals itself. From a big house on a hill to a little ground floor apartment, from margaritas with laughing girlfriends to quiet nights on the couch with a ball of yarn and a crochet hook, from financial abundance to being grateful when the pantry can be filled, from lavish vacations to road trips on a shoestring budget, all of these things were the result of the decisions I made. But my choices forced stillness and in stillness I found a million tiny blessings that I would have missed before. There are no more distractions from the joy at hand.

I am not who I used to be, but she is part of who I’m becoming. The relationships that remain are the ones I cherish most. You never forget the people who stand beside you when everything falls apart, especially those who bring a broom to help sweep up the pieces. With their help and the bandaid that is time, things are leveling out. I’m loudly grateful for this experience of quiet and smallness. I take nothing for granted. The roof over my head, the godsend of having a job I adore and two working hands and feet, the smiles of my children, my love dancing with me while I prepare meals in our cosy little kitchen. If this is what I’ve been reduced to, if this is the sum of my choices, I will gladly take it, a million times over. I gladly take this little life and make it mine.