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Last December, close to Christmas, my children were home for the holidays and I was full of joy and contentment. I was full of good will and cheer.  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.   The fire was adding to the warmth of my heart.

Leaving the comfort of my full home, I got into my car to run an errand.

On the passenger seat next to me, I noticed a beautiful glossy Christmas card.  My daughters had borrowed my car the night before, so it must have been one of theirs', left behind in their usual distracted hurriedness.  

I picked up the card.  It was an expensive card, a professionally made card that came from people successful and proud.  It took me a few seconds to take in the images...beautiful images of a family on vacation.  A happy family.  A together family.

My heart sank and I felt sick to my stomach.  Above the attractive and handsome portrayal, the card read, "Our Family Time in Italy".

A villa in Tuscany situated on a hill sprinkled in gold and green.  And pictures of my children, MY CHILDREN, with their father and his wife.  The images spoke volumes of a family united, blended, and happy.

I opened up the card and the lives of my children were being updated for the recipients, each one listed carefully in birth order followed by news of my husband and his wife.

I could feel the heat rising from my toes to my face.  My heart was pounding.  I felt dead.  I felt invisible. If I were the recipient of that happy Christmas card, I thought, I would think there was no mother.  Only this perfect new family.

I took the card into my office and tacked it onto my bulletin board.  I thought of my private practice.   I thought of my workshop for families in remarriage.  I thought of how I talk to people about the grief of divorce.  I thought of how I tell them that the pathway through the grief is in the letting go.

I hated myself in that moment.  I was a fake, a phony, a fraud.  The card was devastating to me, even after all these years.  I felt I was in some strange kind of Twilight Zone and awakening from one of those nightmare dreams where you're trying to get home and you can't find your way.

I was having a battle with my ego and I was losing.  

I decided I was going to keep that picture up on my bulletin board until I got over myself.

I thought about an article I wrote about happily ever afters...for everyone, including the ex-spouse.  Bitterness can be a constant companion for those who have divorced.  I've seen this bitterness eat away at the souls of good people. I had a career warning others of the dangers of resentment.

I thought I was beyond this.  I was happily remarried and had been for years.  I couldn't dream of being with my ex-husband.  I used my intellect to reason with my emotional self.  Of course my former husband and his wife were entitled and allowed to send out Christmas cards with pictures of themselves and the children.  Life moves on.  It had for me and of course it had for my ex.

I remembered a time years ago.  It was shortly after my divorce.  I was still reeling from the sadness of the past several years.  It's no easy journey to separate lives shared, children born and 25 years spent together.  

As I had that day, I was getting into my car after shopping at the local grocery store.  Something, someone caught my eye.  Someone very familiar.   I looked over and saw my ex and his new woman, a beautiful graceful woman walking out of a coffee shop.  My ex was walking ahead of her.  She stopped to get a newspaper.  He turned around to wait for her.  She got the paper, dropped it and picked it up playfully, smiling at him all the while.  His smile back at her was huge and full.  His smile was one I'd never seen.  He'd never looked at me like that.

I had made up a story in my mind.  He would never really be happy with anyone else.  He would never really find someone as wonderful as me.  Oh, but he had.  And, stomach lurching, someone more suited for him.  

I had left that parking lot years ago determined to let it go, let him go, let the memories go.  I thought I had.  But then, wham, here it was again, years later, and the same feelings of replacement, of not being enough, crashed back into my heart like unwelcome visitors insistent on overstaying their welcome.

That Christmas card stayed on my bulletin board for 3 weeks.  I wasn't going to take it down until I was over it, over myself.  I wrestled with the dual process of simultaneously loving my new life and looking back at unresolved regrets.

Finally, I was able to let it go and be truly happy for my ex and my children.  It is a good thing to have parents happy in heart.

As I threw the card away, and the last image of that impressive stone villa with the swimming pool placed on the edge of the Tuscany soaked hill overlooking vineyards far and wide made its way to the trash, I had to smile.  

I was superficial enough in that moment to have one final blast of divorce regret and there I was...back to ego once again and more work to be done.


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