This article first appeared on Divorced Moms and has been republished with permission.
The middle is messy. And I should know. I was in the middle for a long time.
The middle is filled with learning and growing, which always feels less like growth and more like being dragged. But you can’t get to the happy ending without going through the middle first.
This middle, this uncertainty, this time of being dragged, it hurts. You are waiting for things to click and for happiness to flow. You are exhausted and as you try to make sense of this new life on your own. It might be uncomfortable and itchy, but you will make it through.
Whenever I think of the middle, I think of the snails we used to pull off the rocks at the beach when I was younger. They would cling to their spot, despite the rising tides or the sea life that eyed them for a snack. We would reach down, grasp their tiny shells and yank. Nothing. They held fast. A little more tugging, and then a little more. Eventually, as we pulled, their soft flesh would become exposed, the shell beginning to move away from the rock. They would put up a fight, but we would win. Change always does. Plop. The snail went into our bucket, off to a new place.
I know that, sometimes, a part of you wonders if things might have been easier if there were still two of you.
Two people to tie little laces and clean up when the stomach bug hits. I know that sometimes you wish there were someone to take care of you, too. Someone who says, “Don’t worry, I’ll order dinner” or who pours you a glass of wine at the end of a long workday. And I know you can do all of these things yourself. It’s not that you can’t; it’s just that sometimes in the middle, when you are busy taking care of everyone else, deep down you might long to not have to do it all on your own. And I know you are grateful for your friends and for the family who are there to carry you, but it’s not really the same, is it?
Remember how long you dated before you decided to get married? Remember how long you planned your wedding? How much energy went into the dress and the flowers and the food? It took time. It will take time to come apart and come back together as something new, too. You can’t rush it. You just have to be in it. This is the middle.
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Know this: It is OK to focus on other things right now. It is OK if the house isn’t perfect and if you are the Munchkin Mom and not the Pinterest Mom for the class parties. It is OK to slip into your own bed after everyone else goes to sleep, instead of tackling your never-ending “To Do” list. It’s OK to use the energy you do have to play with your children and to show up as your best self at work. The dishes will keep. The mess in the playroom will all go away one day, anyway. And an army of mice will not show up to eat the stray Cheerio under the end table.
Work on letting go of wanting this to be different. Embrace this time for what it is. Take the slack others are willing to offer you. There is so much beauty and so much learning right here in the middle of the unfolded laundry and scattered Legos and silent tears.
Let this be your new story:
You are important. You have worth. Put down the baggage, the mess, the longing, the uncertainty. Pick up something for yourself — the pretty flowers, a new class, your old friends. Let this be what moves you through the middle. Let this be what keeps you together. Let this be the time that you showed yourself that you matter, too.
It was only a few short years ago that I was you — baggy clothes, tired heart; a woman wondering if this was the life she was always going to lead. And it would have been had I not done something about it. Everything in middle is worth never feeling like that again.
Before the middle, there was the bottom. And after, there is the moving up, the slow walk each day towards easier breaths and more light.
One day you will be here, too, the middle behind you. You will have put down the heavy things you carried and you will have picked up a new story. And you will be the one working to write your own happy ending.