My husband always bought me Chanel No. 5; he started doing this when we were dating, and continued for about ten years into our marriage. To this day, I can’t walk by and see it on a department store counter without feeling a certain kind of pain. And then, one year, I opened a bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s 5th Avenue on Christmas morning. I wondered why the sudden change… until I discovered that he had bought two identical bottles of perfume that year. Shortly after that, I found several other receipts, for gifts I didn’t receive or open. Smart man, yes?
There is so much shame and embarrassment that comes with divorce. It would be nice if there was a safe, quiet place where we could go and heal. Divorce also comes with a lot of upheaval; we lost our home, and every place we’ve rented since has been sold by the landlord almost as soon as we unpacked and got everything set up the way we want it. Suddenly, it was all gone. There is a saying that “God is a God of second chances.” With God, we get a clean slate, so to speak. Not so with people. Sometimes they’re just gone. Sometimes we lose our place of hope and safety. Or we lose our voice, instead of finding it.
In the very beginning of counseling, I had an extremely difficult time trusting that my counselor was honestly not going to just quit and disappear. After everything I had just been through with my husband, I just did not believe that she wouldn’t do the same thing, and I wasn’t about to go through anything like that again. I was already extremely sick, and tired, and it just seemed like to much effort to go digging into the past. Nor did I want to dig it all up, and then risk being left alone with all of it. I told her that I was afraid I would ‘come apart’, and all of the pieces would scatter, and I would never in a million years be able to get it all back together. When I said that, she did the most wonderful thing; she left the room, and then came back with a small package of Skittles. She opened the bag, and let the candy fall all over the floor between us. Then she got out of her chair, and knelt down, and started picking them up, one at a time. She looked up at me and said: “And if that happens, we will pick up every one of those pieces, together.” When she had them all, she sat back down. She had heard me.
Some time after that, she gave me a small, beautiful bracelet made of pearls. She said that she was giving it to me so that I would know that I could trust her, and that she would never just quit and give up on me, and walk away. She said that she understood that I had a hard time believing her, and that I would learn over time that she could be trusted. I loved my bracelet, and I finally believed her. I did wear it, and it did help. Had I known what would happen in the end, I would have handed it right back and left the room, but at the time, I really did believe her. I think she did, too. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way she promised, and now all of those little pieces of my life are scattered everywhere, like little beads from a broken bracelet. Most of this is all my own fault. I wish I could go back, because there is so much I would do differently. For the last couple of years, I have been trying to pick up all of those pieces by myself, without a counselor. It isn’t going very well, mostly because I didn’t get to take them all with me, the way you normally would when you finish counseling, in some kind of integrated whole.
After the horrible day in her office, the day she was so very angry because of my email, I waited and waited for her to call and say that what she did was wrong; that she had made a mistake, and we would talk it out at my next appointment. Instead, she called, and said that she would meet me at Panera Bread when she got out of work one night. Why we met at Panera Bread, I will never know. None of it made any sense, and still doesn’t. I don’t know what the purpose of any of this is, and it’s all still such a confusing mess. It hasn’t served any purpose, Godly or otherwise, other than to make me wish I had never asked for help in the first place. When we got there they were closing soon, so we didn’t have much time. She explained somewhat hurriedly over coffee that she had read something in her devotional that morning, and that she took it to mean that God had given her an ‘out’ so to speak. (That is not how she worded it, but is in essence what she was saying.) She had brought a copy of it with her; I read it, but didn’t see what it had to do with what had happened in my session. I still don’t. I felt like I was watching our conversation from the ceiling, or another part of the room; the whole thing was surreal. When she was done saying what she had to say, she promised that nothing would change, she “would still be there” (I haven’t yet figured out where) and that we would be friends, and have coffee, but we just wouldn’t “do therapy.” And just like that, she was free.
She kept a part of her promise, for a while, and even sent an email on my birthday. We were actually going to go for coffee (she said) but before that happened, she read a couple of the posts I had written about how hurt I was. I regret it, but don’t know what to do about it. There’s nothing anyone can do. Needless to say, everything has changed, and all I want is to go back and finish my therapy. It’s not about her, it’s about me. I want a second chance. Now we are not even friends. She just disappeared.
I was heartbroken when we left Panera Bread. I also sent the bracelet back to her, but can’t remember if it was before or after Panera. She told me that as she took it out of the envelope, it broke, and the pearls scattered. She said that she took it as a sign that the counseling just “couldn’t stay together any more.” As though it were proof that God had let her off the hook. I took it to mean that she had broken her promise, and that I was right in the first place; it was a sign that she really couldn’t be trusted after all.
Do you know what it was a sign of?
That if you wear a bracelet every single day, for years, but never get it re-strung, the elastic will eventually break, and the beads will go all over the place.
That’s all it means. Nothing prophetic, overly spiritual, or profound. It’s not a sign from God that it’s okay to break a promise, it’s just a sign that you shouldn’t send fragile items through the mail. It’s a sign that you can’t trust a piece of jewelry to keep a human being from acting like a human being. They get angry, they blow up, and they hurt the people they say they love. And then they leave.
I miss my bracelet, and I want it back. And if I had honestly thought for a moment that she would keep it, I wouldn’t have sent it to her. I only meant to remind her, in a not quite so harsh and hurtful way, that she had made a promise. If I hadn’t sent that email, none of this would have happened, and things wouldn’t be as they are today. It really was a pretty bracelet.
I will never see that again, either.