As soon as she gave her hand to him in marriage, the giving began in earnest:
When he balked at spending time with her beloved extended family, she gave in.
When he refused to let her relatives call her by her childhood nickname, she gave over.
When he belittled her dream to act in community theatre productions, she gave it up.
Bit by bit, she gave in, gave over and gave up precious pieces of her very essence, until, under her husband’s stern, unyielding and belittling ministry, she shriveled to the merest wisp of her former self– her passions, her dreams, her sense of worth dried up, blown and scattered like dirt in the wind. “I gave away such essential parts of myself,” she remembers, “that my mother considered me dead.”
And yet… and yet…even as she willingly gave away pieces of her soul, what remained of it rallied forth with panache and brilliance: She birthed and adored several beautiful children. Needing additional household income, she forged a successful career as a sales executive. At work, she felt brave, capable and appreciated. At home, she felt shut down, shut off and utterly unseen by a husband whose needs came unequivocally first.
So, when the little voice inside her whispered “Could be more!” it was not only a wonder she acted on it, but a wonder she even heard it in the first place. “Could be more… More of you… More of what you love… More of what you need…” it hissed in the deepest recesses of her being. And slowly, step by determined step, she began to heed it, paving the way for her departure.
By the time she filed for divorce, she had managed to firmly instill in her befuddled– and ultimately stunned– husband the tools and the skills to manage the house and she children she had been caring for almost single-handedly. “I wanted him to be able to take care of himself, and I wanted to know he could take care of the children when they visited him,” she explained.
Pleasantly, but firmly, she helped her husband through and out the front door of the house in which she’d lived with him since she left her parent’s home, and into an apartment of his own. In the process, she took him to Macy’s to help him feather his new nest, a last vestige of her habit of clucking over his needs.
In the houseware section, a porcelain platter stopped her short. Large, white and gleaming, it was covered with the flaming orange-red of blooming poppies. Her hands reached for it almost automatically, greedily. “I want this,” she thought, surprised. It was nothing like the dishes she had owned since she had given her hand in marriage. The poppies burst off the plate, wild, passionate, messy. She stood, transfixed, her oblivious husband a few feet ahead of her. “This could be for my new home,” she thought. “My new life.”
At that moment, her husband turned around and noticed her tight hold on the platter of poppies. “That,” he said, “is one of the ugliest things I have ever seen. You’re not actually thinking of buying it, are you?” For a moment, she hesitated; old habits tempted her to put the platter down and dismiss it with a shrug. Instead, she took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and looked her soon-to-be ex-husband in the eye: “You bet I am,” she said. “And I’m going to get the matching dinner set as well!”
And though her husband rolled his eyes, she never even noticed.
A Platter of Poppies. A declaration of courage. A reclamation of self.