My daughter and I used to go to the gym together every so often, and one day, right in the middle of her workout, she paused her ipod and came over to me.
“Listen to this song,” she said, handing me one of her earbuds. Madonna’s “Like It or Not” was playing. “That’s your song,” she said. “If you had a theme song, that would be it.”
I loved that she said that, and that she considered it a positive thing. Going “my own way,” choosing to live my life in a nontraditional way and making choices that many people do not understand or approve of, has not always been easy on my family. I recognize the sacrifices they have had to make, and appreciate them – they didn’t choose to have a mother/wife/daughter/sister involved in an unconventional relationship. They didn’t ask to have to make explanations or excuses for me. Bless (most of them) that they have been supportive and at least tried to understand – and even if they don’t, have (for the most part) accepted my right to choose the life that is right for me. And for those that don’t accept it, or that openly disparage the choices I have made, “living well is the best revenge,” as a friend recently said. I am thinking specifically of my ex’s wife’s occasional attempts to discredit me to my children, belittling me, my life choices, and even my partners to them. I don’t actually seek revenge for the mean-spirited things she has said about me to my kids, but I do believe that the stability and happiness that my partners and I enjoy is a telling counterpoint to her put-downs and snide remarks. I am doubly blessed that my children recognize that and are witnesses to a life that is full of love and contentment – and point it out to her when she does say unkind things.
I believe that making the choices I have – in spite of knowing they are against society’s rules, and even in having to make the choice to leave my marriage to their father – has made my children stronger and more willing (and better able) to make tough choices of their own, choices that others might not approve of (including their stepmother and father.) They have grown up evaluating the kind of life they want with an open mind and without letting others’ opinions sway them. They make their own, informed decisions about what they will accept and what they want in their lives and their relationships without bowing to society’s, family’s or friends’ pressures. The Boychild told me recently that he admires that I choose to live the way I do, in spite of the sometimes uncomfortable consequences, and that it was partially this that gave him the courage to stand up to his father’s insistence that he attend university and get a 4-year degree, instead of attending a technical college to become a welder, as he is doing. My daughter has consistently defended and explained my life choices to friends and family, even presenting a paper on differing relationship models to her senior English class, and chose not to engage in a typical mono relationship with her first love. (She has since entered into a monogamous relationship, but not because she was “supposed” to, or because he pressured her to, but because it was a choice she made.) They have both grown up knowing and accepting that there are other ways to love and live.
So even though sometimes, when I am feeling low, I worry that choosing “my way” has been a selfish act, I know that in some ways, it has been one that has empowered my children, and given them the tools to live better lives, and for that, I am proud.