My Life in Pictures
My son’s birthday is next week. He asked me to send him a specific picture for his birthday; he is going to be 24 and is living out in LA chasing his dreams. That doesn’t sound like a big request. I am old enough to have sons in their 20’s and a lot of their childhood is captured in “old fashioned” printed pictures. Having three sons in three years means that I took and printed a lot of pictures and threw them in tubs thinking one day I would organize them…which has obviously not happened yet.
I had to search through about five tubs of pictures to find the one he wanted. As I looked through picture after picture, I found pictures of my first wedding. I saw a young bride who was full of love and hope while naively thinking that the young man she was looking adoringly at would be her life partner through good times and bad. I saw pictures of all of the dreams that were built and destroyed one by one. The move to another state to start a business together that was destroyed with poor decisions. The house that was leveraged to start another business and then a sudden change of mind, not caring that the house and the security of the family would be lost.
The pictures showed a family of five change to a family of four. A single mom raising her sons on her own. Pictures of me with my sons camping on our own for the first time. Me in my Cub Scout leader uniform with my sons proudly grinning next to me. Team pictures with me coaching little league baseball. Pictures of their first concert (I had to hold my youngest on my back the entire time because he couldn’t see). Road trips across the country for new adventures.
I opened another tub and another chapter of my life showed up. Pictures of me at 36, glowing with the confidence of being a divorced woman making it on her own. Pictures of an incredibly handsome man who made my heart skip a beat whenever I looked at him. He called himself Prince Charming and me, Cinderella. A romantic getaway to Sonoma, flowers and diamonds. Pictures of the dream house we built while planning our fairy tale wedding… complete with horse-drawn carriage and glass slippers. Me looking lovingly at him as we said our vows with the long-awaited promise of my happily ever after.
I found a few pictures of the week after the wedding. There were very few of them which in retrospect wasn’t surprising. In the pictures I do have, I am deliriously happy, looking as if I couldn’t ask for anything more in this world. The smile on his face seems forced, almost pained. I had no way of knowing that week would be the last week I believed in happily ever after.
I don’t have any pictures of the week we got back from our honeymoon. I don’t know if they would have captured how my world was shattered by the first of what turned out to be many lies. The pictures of the next few years show a blended family of seven but do not show the emotional abuse that was going on when the camera wasn’t pointed at us. The pictures from that time capture the move from the dream house to the house I had managed to keep in my own name upon the revelation that the man I thought I married was not who he really was.
Most of the pictures I have after that time are digital. They are on my Facebook page and document my announcement that I had officially changed my name (again). Pictures of me with my sons as we returned to a much happier family of four. There are pictures of me with a small group of women who became my sisters during the darkest time of my life. Pictures of us celebrating life and supporting each other through life’s ups and downs. Our first (and only) float trip, girls’ nights out, concerts, graduations, weddings, a funeral and an adoption. They became family and I don’t know how I would have gotten through that period of my life without them.
As I revisited my life in pictures, I wondered what my life would have been like had I made different choices. I wish I could have given my sons a stable home with two parents. Unfortunately, the decision to divorce their father was one of the best decisions I ever made…for me and ultimately, for them. Marrying my second husband was the worst decision of my life. However, that experience brought some of the people I value most in the world into my life. It gave me the desire to create Recovering Cinderella, a way to support other women going through divorce.
It has taken me years to heal and realize that my divorces do not define who I am. They do not make a me a bad person. While my marriages failed, I am not a failure. The pain I went through helped me become the woman I am today. Those experiences have given me the opportunity to reach out to other women who are going through their own pain and hopefully help support them when they need it most. The present pictures of my life show a woman who is confident, loved and not afraid to take on the world!
Hi! I’m Keri Lauderdale Olson, also known as Recovering Cinderella, www.recoveringcinderella.com. I am not a therapist (although I can probably use one) or divorce professional. I am simply a woman who has lived through divorce and wants to help support other women through their own divorces with honesty, humor and a healthy dose of reality. If you are a woman going through a divorce or if you are divorced and have some insight to share with women going through it, please join my private Facebook support group. There is a link on my website.