When I look at the purslane that inexplicably appeared in the crack of the cement on my patio, I think about all the times I tried to grow where I was planted.

Growing where you end up being planted builds strength and character, but sometimes the pendulum swings in the other direction.

Sometimes you cannot, no matter how hard you try, bloom in that particular spot.

Purslane

“Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
 
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way…
 

I have moved so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve crisscrossed both Oklahoma and Texas. I’ve been married to three men.

Obviously marriage is not my forte in life. I just wish I’d figured that out after the first one. Why did I need to make the mistake three times before I learned my lesson?

Marriage #1: Married at age 20 in 1977. Marriage ended at age 28 in 1985 = 8 years married

Marriage #2.: Married at age 32 in 1989. Marriage ended at age 40 in 1997 = 8 years married

Marriage #3: Married at age 41 in 1998. Marriage ended at age 54 in 2011 = 13 years married

The third marriage nearly did me in. It was worse than the first two put together.

I tried so very hard to bloom where I was planted that I did not heed the signs.

…I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
 
“Moons and Junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way…
 

Signs that would have told me that I had been planted in the wrong place and I failed to correct it, so deep was the need to make it work.

house plants

I stood three times for “till death do us part” and all three times I meant it from the depths of my heart. I wanted so very much to bloom there with that person.

…But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away
 
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all…
 

But then if I’m totally honest, I realize that perhaps we were strangers long before I signed those divorce papers. At one time I thought I knew them like the back of my hand, when really I didn’t know them at all.

We have preconceived ideas about people.

Sometimes we want them to be someone so much that we trick ourselves into believing that that’s who they are.

Who we fell in love with. Who we hitched our wagon too. Who we wrote into our fairy tale.

We needed them to be that person so desperately that we closed our eyes and failed to see who they really were.

We built that white picket fence around a house built on a foundation that would never hold up with time.

…I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
 
Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way…
 

Cone flower

I think perhaps I still looked for love from a father I never met, and that need was far too big to be solved by love and marriage.

Still, I kept trying to get it right.

But that is added baggage you bring to the very spot where you repeat “till death do us part” over and over again. You have stars in your eyes because hope springs eternal.

…But now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.
 
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all…
 

And when all is said and done and the dust had settled, I look back and wonder how on earth I could have rested my hopes and dreams on that person.

Because it’s obvious now that far beneath the surface I never knew them at all.

(Lyrics By Songwriter Joni Mitchell)

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35 Comments

  1. My story is similar to yours. My father committed suicide when I was 4. I grew up with sisters and a mother who wasn’t very emotionally available. No men. No healthy loving relationships to see. I married 3 times, once too young for love and twice to provide a father for my children since I felt inadequate. Abandonment. Feeling less than. Depression. A good therapist has helped me work through issues, and now I have some coping skills, but these feelings still pop up like weeds in a garden. I hear you, I read your story and wish I could just reach out and give you a pat on the arm. You are not alone. I am not alone. We are all in this rocky journey. It makes us what we are, warts and all.

  2. I didn’t have the greatest father figure either – yes, he was there physically (and a lot of times, abusive physically, too) but not really mentally. He grew up in a very abusive family, as well so I think that’s what he learned. Thank God I ended up marrying a man who is kind and gentle and loving and his highest priority is taking care of his family. We got married young – I had just turned 22 and he was 24. We’ve been married We’ve been married almost 34 years now.

    Hindsight is a conundrum, isn’t it? Don’t beat yourself up over the past – just move forward with your wisdom and enjoy the rest of your life on your own. As you know, there’s joy in every day.

    xoxo

    1. I try to always write from the heart. Yes, I am putting myself out there for all to see. But I know all of you are sisters and have had some of the same things happen to you. I write for all of us. I promised myself that was what I would do when I got divorced and left Texas.

  3. I could hear Judy Collins singing as I read the words to the song. My oldest daughter used to go to sleep listening to her music every night. And once we drove to Canada to hear her in concert and my daughter picked flowers along the highway to give to her. We barely caught her driving away after her performance and the flowers were a bit wilted but my daughter was happy.

    Well, who of us does know life? Or more specifically, Love. I married at twenty-six, desperate, I realize now, to not be an “old maid”. We were married for twenty-five years with two daughters when he left for someone else. I was blindsided. We had just repeated our vows and celebrated our anniversary with family and friends. I felt so embarrassed . Much later I learned from a mutual friend that he had never been faithful to me and I didn’t see it. I trusted. To this day, I think there were signs that I didn’t see or didn’t acknowledge. I never expected to be divorced. The one thing I wanted most was for my children to have a stable home with two parents, which I didn’t have. Now I realize that there were many things about the relationship that were overlooked, ignored, or not within the consciousness of either of us. What did we know about life or love? Or healthy marriages? So, we have been apart for nearly twenty years now, but are friends, comfortable sharing the grandchildren together and celebrating birthdays and holidays together. And I think being alone and learning to survive on my own has been a blessing to me in many ways. So, I have my sorrow and regrets about the relationship and it’s ending. But I find joy in many things, primarily my grandchildren right now, and the love of my daughters, my gardening, photography, girl friends and many other things. Life goes on and we must forgive ourselves for not knowing what what we didn’t know and could not have known then.

    Love and hugs to you and Charlie!

    1. That was what drove me too. Wanting to have family. I’m wondering now, after I wrote that, were there signs? Maybe they were just that sneaky and clever and soulless. I couldn’t do that to someone, live with them and lie to them. But it seems there are wolves with sheep’s clothing out there in many capacities. They get by because we have trust.

  4. Wow this touched close to my heart today. I too meant the words til death do us part but the man I had been married too for 23 years had another side to him that I never knew about until recently. Now I look back and wonder why I hadn’t seen the signs. To trust a person for so long and find out he isn’t who I thought he was I doubt I will ever trust anyone again… there are still consequences of what he did that I still have to deal with every day and it’s been several years are we split… I am content to be on my own (though I have 3 kids and a grandson at home) I have learned to do all sorts of things I never thought I would have to do! I don’t often comment but your words often give me courage to face another day, thank you!

    1. We help one another by telling of our experiences. If someone had told me many years ago that someone could fool me so badly for so long, I’d have laughed. I don’t laugh now.

  5. Brenda, the magic number is also 3 for me. First was to escape from home, Second was to have a family and the Third I thought was for romantic love and it was the worst one of all. I’m learning so much about myself from my therapy. This song is close to my heart also. Thank you for your bravery to share your story with us!! It helps us to know we are not alone in our journey!

    1. We are not alone. Amazing how many of us are out there. It does not make us a bad person, that we chose the wrong ones. We didn’t know they were the wrong ones. It just means things didn’t work out.

  6. This was so very meaningful and helpful to me. I’ve had 2 marriages, the first was 28 yrs. worth of stress from a narcissistic control freak, sadly the 2nd wasn’t much better but I didn’t stay long. I am positive that now, at age 60, that “I really don’t know love at all” either. I feel like printing out today’s post and sticking it to the frig so I’ll see it every day!

    1. I’m 61. I won’t be tempted again I don’t think. I prefer the easy life with pets who have nothing but love for you.

    1. I really knew nothing about men. I’d never lived with them. Never had a father or grandfather. Didn’t watch men and women interact together in my home growing up. I just blindly chose men, having no real idea what to look for.

  7. It is so interesting. About two weeks ago that song kept running through my head (sung by Judy Collins) and I finally downloaded it from iTunes. So much of what you said is so very true for so many of us. xo Diana

  8. Brenda, maybe you just didn’t know what type of man to look for. I married several times for the wrong reasons and stayed in the last marriage for 20 years when I shouldn’t have. I gave up and said I’d never marry again when I divorced at age 40. Then I read the book “The Bridges Of Madison County” when I was 45 and realized I wanted a man just like Robert Kincaid, the hero in the story. The next month a business trip took me to an area where an old business friend had transferred, and he took me out for dinner. It was literally the first date of the rest of my life. Twenty-four years later, he’s still my Robert Kincaid. I hope you’ll be able to picture the perfect mate for you…once you do, I promise they will appear!

    1. I loved that movie and have watched it many many times, so glad that these things happen in real life and not just in films. Did you ever read the sequel? it was just lovely and he was still the gentleman and hero in that too?

    2. What a sweet story! Actually the second marriage wasn’t all that bad. We were more like sister and brother, by his choice. I think as I neared 40 I wondered if that was all there was going to be for me. And then a person from my past came calling. My second husband actually encouraged me to at least see him (#3) when he came to town for a medical conference. My second husband said: “He’s never going to leave us alone if you don’t see him.”

  9. I’m sorry that you have had 3 bad marriages, but I believe there’s someone out there fit for everyone, even me. I love and miss cooking and baking for someone, but even better with them helping out too. (I’ve only had 1 marriage). Everyone is different.
    Have a great weekend!

    1. It probably depends on your age too. I don’t think there is anyone I’d want to live with again. I like the company of pets.

  10. One of the most poignant songs ever, it gets to me every time. I think you’ve been courageous in figuring all this out and making a life that works for you now. You’ve overcome a whole lot, Brenda. I hope life brings you gentle joys from now on.

    1. Ah, I have gained a lot of wisdom by making mistakes. You can’t learn much from life until you make your own mistakes and then have to figure out what to do about it. It is the best educator there is.

  11. Reading this post makes me realize that for me, life hasn’t been about blooming, but becoming strong and having endurance like one of those twisted trees on a windswept cliffside. In my first marriage there were all the tools and seeds there for blooming — I even lived on a farm! But, I didn’t learn how my first husband had been abused by his alcoholic dad until after we were married. He said he wanted to be a different kind of husband and dad than his dad was, but, he ended up being a variation of it. I was in that marriage for eight years, then was a single mom for nine years when I met the man who is now my second husband. But it took us five or six years to decide we actually wanted to get married. We’d both had similar first marriages, with his first wife being a lot like my first husband. We’ve been married now for almost 13 years, and we like and love each other and are very grateful to be together. But there have not been many blooms. We’ve had a lot of setbacks — job layoffs, elderly parents to care for, my son had a lot of issues before he got on the right path, then my daughter died two years ago. These last two years have been very difficult. But my husband and I are both still happy to see each other when we wake up each morning. I thought we haven’t been making much progress in life, but, now I can see that we’ve been putting down some deep roots that are keeping us anchored to that windswept hillside.

  12. Such a beautiful song, and an equally beautiful blog post.

    Tricking ourselves into believing they are who we want them to be. Yup.

  13. It’s just me and Molly and I’ve never been happier and more content. I’ve always preferred animals to people (there’s no judging, they take you just as you are). You and Charlie are better off. Don’t beat yourself up and I’m not of a fan of looking back at what could or should have been or what you could have done differently. Keep moving forward with chunky monkey Charlie boy and enjoy your weekend!
    xoxo
    Carol and Molly

  14. I almost thought you were talking directly to me today. I too was married three times. Ditto everything you said. And I will never be able to trust anyone again. I do better and am more content by myself.

    1. Your writing speaks to me. I’m not a reader, but yet, I love to read your writings. You are so gifted in so many ways.

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