I recently celebrated a milestone birthday. That event seemed to unleash a torrent of memories from my memory bank. In recent days, those memories have been about the years in the immediate aftermath of my first divorce.
Most of the time when I look back on those post-divorce years, I cringe, as all I can see is weakness, vulnerability, and a series of poor choices. During those years, I repeatedly found myself in dire circumstances. When I’d left my unhappy marriage, I’d no idea how difficult it was going to be to face life as a single woman and to financially support myself. I was pretty much hanging on by my fingernails. Furthermore, I had become entangled in a relationship with an abusive man.
Last night, as I looked back on those years, I found myself reliving the overwhelming pain and fear. “How did I manage to survive?” I asked myself. “So many things threatened to do me in. I can't figure out how I am still standing.”
But early this morning, my mind lit on an awesome memory.
I had gone through several months of unemployment, and had become dependent on my boyfriend. Living in a state of poverty and emotional abuse, I had become so depressed that I had lost confidence in my ability to work professionally. I actually felt incapable of doing anything to improve my situation.
Then, a woman I knew, the wife of a manager at a local steakhouse, told me that her husband was looking for help. So, I applied at that restaurant, and I got a job as a waitress.
Through that humble little job, I managed to pick myself up, hold myself together, and regain a measure of self-confidence. I vividly recall how hard I worked, hustling at top speed to serve customers and clear tables, stuffing my tips into the pocket of my uniform skirt. On a good night, that pocket would be bulging. I stretched those coins and dollar bills as far as I could to pay bills and buy food.
After about five months of working as a waitress, I found the confidence to apply for a professional job again, along with the courage to disentangle myself from my abusive relationship.
Until this morning, I hadn't realized what a blessing that steakhouse job was, how it became a turning point in my life journey. I smile as I picture my young self in my waitress uniform with a pocket full of tips!
That memory came to me like a gift. It dispelled the notion that I was nothing but a failure during those post-divorce years, reminding me that even at one of the lowest points in my life, I was strong and resilient.