None of her friends or family understands why she has done it, and most of them would like to shake her out of her foolishness. Their objections make sense. After all, May is in her mid-forties and has been living alone ever since her daughter moved out. May is also in debt. And yet, here she is, raising her ex-husband’s child by another woman.
May married early and was divorced by her early twenties, but even before that, she had been raising her first child alone, as her ex-husband had a drug addiction and spent as much time in prison as out.
Then twenty-some years later, he reappeared out of the blue and asked for a favor. He had fathered a new baby with another woman, and he wanted May to arrange for the baby to be taken into an orphanage before he went to jail again. Little Joline had been abandoned by her mother, and it seemed she was destined for a childhood spent in an institution.
Instead of that, May arranged to keep the baby and has been raising her for the past five years. It hasn’t been easy. May is working hard to make ends meet, and Joline is a handful. But May is undeterred.
“People have been telling me what a big burden Joline is, and how she isn’t worth the sacrifices I make to look after her. But no one ever asks me how I feel or really listens to why I’m doing this.
“After my last failed relationship, I felt I had lost everything to live for and that I’d never have a normal family. But when I first saw Joline’s smile and felt her little hand clasp one of my fingers, I knew then that there was someone who loved me and needed me. Joline is not a burden, she’s my source of love and joy.”
Just then, Joline came over and placed her arms around May’s neck and kissed her cheeks. “I love you, Mommy. You’re the best in the world!” May’s face lit up as the proud mother she is.
It dawned on me then. May was right, even though others had misjudged her. Rather than letting life’s misfortunes and struggles drag her into a spiral of self-pity, she had chosen to focus on giving what she still had. And in doing so, she also found the happiness that had been eluding her.
One of the greatest gifts my father gave me—unintentionally—was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity. He was always unshaken, completely tranquil, the same ebullient, laughing, jovial man. —Ben Okri (b. 1959)
Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.—Voltaire (1694–1778)