One of the most renowned pieces of sculpture in the world is Michelangelo’s statue of David. Supposedly, when Michelangelo was asked how he created the magnificent statue David from a block of stone, he replied that he did not create David from the stone; rather he saw David in the stone and merely chipped away at the unneeded pieces until David emerged. Human beings are like that. Underneath all the things we were taught to feel and think about ourselves, our relationships and the world lies our authentic true self.
When coming out of an unhappy marriage, many women feel as if they have lost themselves. They felt entombed in the roles of the family mores and the larger, societal culture. After years of acquiescence and trying to bring harmony to the marriage, many feel as if they have lost themselves. Having put the needs of others first for so long, they are amazed to find they do not feel connected with themselves. When I ask, “What do you like to do?” many women report that they simply do not know. It has been so long since they had the opportunity to attend to themselves, their wishes and desires that they stopped listening to their own emotions.
Start listening again. Like Michelangelo chipping away at the stone that encased David, you must chip away at those things which keep you trapped. Criticism, negativity, fear, and abuses of all kinds are what entomb us and prohibit us from being our beautiful, free, authentic selves. Divorce can be the chisel to chip away at those unwanted pieces that impede our growth and joy. The process of breaking up is difficult and painful but it can be the opportunity to free you from the stone. The lessons learned in the demise of a marriage can provide you with answers to questions that keep you stuck; it can strengthen your voice; it can free you to be yourself.
Like the freeing of David, this does not happen overnight. It takes patience, dedication, attention to the task and focus. Michelangelo’s determination and vision were what freed David, along with his absolute belief that he could make it happen as he envisioned.
Today I will acknowledge that this process is difficult. But like Michelangelo, I will stay focused on the absolute belief that I am hidden underneath all this weighty excess of guilt, self-doubt, and fear. Little by little, I will work to chip away at those unwanted pieces. I will close my eyes and affirm that I am becoming the woman I want to be— the woman I have always been.
The above essay was originally published in my book From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce, but the metaphor can be easily applied to other areas of our life as well. For example, addictions, family of origin conflicts, secrets and body image obsessions can also keep us entombed and disconnected from our authentic selves- What has kept you trapped and what is the chisel that can free or has freed you?