"The rain is washing away all the snow," I said into the back of my daughter's head, grateful for the steady drenching that granted me another day's reprieve on outdoor chores.
Her quiet response: "Does that mean the snakes are coming?"
Last year's winter-into-spring storms brought The Night of the Snakes:
2AM, the kids finally asleep in my bed; nobody wanted to be alone. Relentless wind was punctuated by snapping tree limbs. Occasionally a local transformer would blow, momentarily lighting the sky, pale greenish-yellow. I crawled on the roof, pelted by sideways, stinging-cold rain, grappling with bricks, tarps and bungees. Then back inside, fumbling in candlelit flashlight, using every bucket, pot and towel in the house, mopping the leaks.
When the snakes -- apparently flooded out of their dormancy somewhere in the foundation -- began to emerge from the heating grate, it was more than I could handle. At least the girls were upstairs, therefore did not witness first-hand either the reptilian invaders or their mother coming unglued.
Wriggling under the kitchen table, one, then 2, then more. They were harmless as it turns out, not that I was going to get close enough to find out at the time (No, I didn't have that kind of nerve until one showed up in mid-summer. It was efficiently bashed with a rock, dropped into a ziplock bag and held up to the computer 'til I found a match). Northern Brown Snake. Non-venomous. Okay.
But there I was, Ms. Self-Reliant, she who had learned to split her own firewood (poorly, but it still counts), who already had toughed out more than one solitary and exhausting winter... Somehow, I reflexively leaped to a sort of cowering perch, on my favorite corner of the kitchen counter, from there staring uselessly at the snakes ...and crying like a girl.
The only problem with this approach: It was Life, not Hollywood. So, I didn't get to be the plucky but adorably flummoxed Sandra Bullock-type leading lady, and my kitchen door was not fortuitously kicked open by a heroic but adorably ingenuous Mark Ruffalo-type leading man. The closest thing to rescue was one of the cats dashing in to attack. And she did a pretty good job, considering how out-numbered she was.
Snakes can elicit a visceral reaction. A symbol for Original Sin, they have many spiritual connotations, representing Knowledge and Wisdom as much as they do Evil. I believe in taking cues from your environment. Divorce hands us a lesson with regard to sacred vows vs. primal nature. Or better put, maybe it teaches us a new definition of what is Sacred in our lives.
My first winter in this house, I huddled at the fireplace like a refugee. Two years later, I stretched in front of it like an empress. Same spot; different me. Of course in reality I am neither regal nor pathetic, just keen on archetypes as a source of healing.
Simple acts can be big steps: I bought my own chainsaw (though I'm still a scaredy-cat about using it). Last year's storm damage is this year's firewood.
So, when it comes to creating life after marriage, Yes, do look back. Don't dwell, of course, but acknowledge how far you have come, especially if it's been a tough climb.
On a recent hike, my manfriend asked me if I had ever spotted my house from the top of Mount Beacon. Good question. Why hadn't I taken the time and patience to find it from that perspective? (He doesn't kick the door open on stormy nights, but he is heroic in other very ordinary and relevant ways.)
From the mountaintop, the same house that often looms over me -- a hefty world of work to do and problems to fix -- appeared as a sound and tidy little box; just one among many. Simple. Finite. Not a dream house, a reality house. That's progress.
Astrologically and otherwise, Spring is the real New Year. And before renewal there must come upheaval. So, we brace ourselves, and take up the right tool for the season. If the season is transitional, then have a variety of implements ready.
These four reminders will serve, in any season:
1. Yes, the snakes are coming. And you will handle it.
Transition demands adaptability. You may be surprised at what crawls out of your foundation (if not figuratively then literally) when you are visited by the storm of a major life transition. So, be ready to dig deeper than you thought you could, and unearth personal resources you didn't know you have.
2. Give yourself a break. Then give yourself a kick in the ass.
Jump to your "safe spot"; perhaps find a way to take a mini retreat (a "stolen moment" afternoon bath or walk?). But then get right back in there, dammit.
3. If it made its way into your kitchen, you can and you must reckon with it.
That goes for the snakes under the table, the bills on it, and your kid's affluent friend who innocently asks why there is a hole in the curtain. (Hopefully all of these have not cropped up at the same time)
4. They say don't look back. They are wrong. Sometimes you have to reflect, in order to see how far you have come.
A final note on transition: The only way through it is through it. Divorce is akin to death, taxes, childbirth, and other such Absolutes of grown-up life. It's not necessarily over when you say so, it's over when It's through with you.
What hidden strengths have you discovered, through divorce or life's other transitional storms?