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Nevertheless, she persisted

Almost two years ago, I traveled to Iowa with a close friend of mine. We visited her hometown to see her family and attend a concert. One day, we shopped around at a popular store called RAYGUN. It’s one of those quirky stores with cards, magnets, T-shirts, pint glasses and other items adorned with sarcastic, political or satirical sayings and quips. 

Recently as I was cleaning out a drawer, I found a purchase I’d made at that store. It was a single black post card with the words “Nevertheless, she persisted,” written in white block lettering. 

When I bought the card, my mom had passed way seven months earlier and my marriage was crumbling. I remember crying through the entire concert. I needed post cards, magnets, anything I could find to convince myself I could go on, that I could persist.   

But, when I found the card the other day, it offered new meaning. Being divorced in a small town is grueling. This isn’t Boston or New York where you’re lost in a sea of millions of people and families are made up of all types of genders, sexual orientations, races and configurations. This is Haywood County where most families are still intact, so it’s hard to be different, and it’s hard to watch your children have to be different from their peers and friends. 

My boys have been amazing throughout the entire process. I owe much of that to the fact that no matter what, their dad and I put the boys’ feelings before our own. We communicate well and get along, and as a counselor told me one time, “As long as kids know mommy and daddy are OK, they will be OK too.” 

I’m also reading a book called The Truth About Children and Divorce by Dr. Robert E. Emery. As of late, it’s been critical in my healing and my acceptance of a new normal. It’s interesting how grieving the loss of the marriage and grieving the loss of the family unit are two entirely different processes. It’s important to let the emotions have their way with you. If you don’t give them room to breathe, they will suffocate you. 

Every day, I’m thankful for the black and white post card. I have it sitting up on my dresser and look at it each morning as I’m getting ready. It offers significant encouragement. 

Last week, I needed those words for an entirely new reason. I’d found a lump or knot in my breast. My primary physician referred me to get a mammogram and an ultrasound. With my mom being a breast cancer survivor and then passing away of blood cancer, it’s best to get things checked out. 

These types of doctor’s appointments spawn a million frantic and stressful thoughts. I’ve known other young women who’ve battled breast cancer. I’ve seen some walk away from the disease victorious, but some haven’t been so fortunate. 

I looked at my post card that morning and decided whatever happened, I would have to persist. 

Luckily, I left Hope Women’s Center last Friday with an “all clear” report, but others aren’t so lucky. As I sat in the waiting room, I looked around and wondered how many were stage 3 or stage 4, or if someone would leave that day with an initial diagnosis. It hurt my heart thinking about it. 

We all have our own turmoil. Many things I’ve battled like death and divorce are external, and I discuss them openly. Writing and talking about these experiences has been paramount in my healing and grieving. It’s those who keep their turmoil bottled up inside that I worry about. It’s never good to keep the darkness in. Shame and guilt deteriorate when words are wrapped around them. That’s why therapy works. I’ve also learned that seeking happiness is an ongoing process of knowing oneself and forgiving oneself. 

I’m grateful I bought that 50-cent post card on a whim in Iowa in March 2017. 

Nevertheless, she persisted. 

It’s only three words but for me, the sentiment has been everything. 

(Susanna Barbee writes for The Smoky Mountain News and Smoky Mountain Living and works with local businesses on developing digital and print media strategies. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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