I have a Phoenix tattooed on my left shoulder blade. I thought about that tattoo for years before getting it. It wasn’t that I was scared to get it, it was that I wasn’t sure I had earned the right to bear it on my skin; to wear it as my badge of honor. It would be a testament to what I was made of, and I needed to know I had earned it.
I had survived the divorce. I wore the fact that my son was taken from me because I was poor and blind-sided and naive–I wore that as my Scarlet Letter for years. People look at you funny when you’re a woman and you don’t have custody of your child. You feel the need to over-explain. You feel the need to defend. You feel the need to open up your wound to anyone that looks at you even slightly cock-eyed. No, I wasn’t an alcoholic. No, I wasn’t addicted to drugs. No, I wasn’t abusive. Then finally it got to where when people I didn’t really know wanted to pry I just said, “No.”
“No’ is a complete sentence.
(I learned that from Dr. Phil. Don’t you judge me, Earl!)
(Also, if you don’t know that reference, can we even be friends…stranger on the internet reading my inner monologue? Can we?? Look it up. It’s funny.)
It’s easier now that my son is older to say he just “lives with his dad.” He’s at an age now people don’t question as much, and I feel less and less-inclined to answer when they do pry.
Right after the divorce (maybe 6 months) my ex-husband filed to have my visitation revoked. People always talk about what is right and fair and just, but truthfully whoever has the most money gets the most “justice”. I went 10 long months without seeing our son, and then was placed in a supervised visitation program where I saw my son for an hour 2 times a month with a monitor only when school was in session. So I still sometimes wouldn’t see him for month here and there. Even the center asked why I was there with no follow-up hearing when there was no record of abuse. The truth was I was waiting out the original judge to retire. That took a year. He never would accept a motion for a follow-up hearing. I was personally more terrified they would kick me out of the program for being there so long and I would lose what little contact I had. But they told me no, they loved watching me interact with my son and they only desired I look into a follow-up hearing.
Which I did–finally–after the original judge retired. I handled my case on my own or Pro Se as they call it. A month prior the hearing my ex contacted me to meet up. I won’t go into the details, but I will say this- the devil is always in the details and that is how I got my visitation back.
Yes. Just my visitation. That’s another long boring legal story.
But I cherish that visitation with him. We’ve made some amazing memories; memories that maybe we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We have similar senses of humor and personalities. I feel as though he and I found our way to each other regardless of obstacles.
It wasn’t until I won in court, that I got my Phoenix tattoo. It was done by a wonderfully talented local artist. He free-hand drew it on me. I’m sure I drove him crazy, but this tattoo meant something. It’s a Phoenix with the Japanese peacock feathers aflame, and the wings outstretched ever rising, with the head being a mix of European Phoenix, fierce and bold- Dave Rankin did a beautiful job.
I didn’t want it to appear that attaining the new bird was fulfillment. We should never be completely fulfilled. That leads to complacency and pride. We should always seek more. We should reach ever higher, knowing that transformation happens over and over during lifetimes and for lifetimes. Out of the embers we rise over and over.
10 year ago my world crumbled to ashes. It has been a very long painful journey of growth. I’ve beaten a bonafide lawyer, I’ve tried to impart the most important life lessons I can in the short time that I have with my son, I’m almost finished with a Masters degree. And yet, things still crumble and fall to ash when change is coming; like knocking down the old building to create something new.
Something new is coming. I can feel it. The old is falling away and there is a part of me that deeply mourns it. I am thankful for the good times and the memories, but I need to move on from this place where memories hang on everything. I can rebuild again. I know what I’m made of now. Some days you just want to ball up and hide away from the world, but change doesn’t exist by staying in a state of arrested development.
It’s time to rise again.