It’s an accepted norm in our society to commemorate happy occasions with jewelry – engagement rings, wedding bands, communion crosses, anniversaries, the list goes on. This is of course important, yet, jewelry can be its most powerful at difficult times, as a point of remembrance, hope, or strength. The Victorians knew this well, with their mourning jewelry, and many of those themes have been represented in our own wax seal jewelry for quite some time. Yet, I longed for a way to create more significant life transition pieces, and the opportunity came recently when I co-created a piece of jewelry based around one woman’s story of divorce and single motherhood. It’s the very first piece in our new Memoir Jewelry line.
Cynthia wanted a ring that would not only represent the strength of her struggle through divorce, but, most importantly, would symbolize the happiness and hope she has found through single motherhood and this new chapter in her life.
The design we created together has a North Star on the front of the ring (and corresponding pendant), and an engraved intaglio horse on the inside of the ring. The North Star symbolizes hope and direction, and holds her son’s birthstone, citrine. On the shoulders of the ring are Cynthia’s own birthstones, diamond. The horse was intentionally engraved inside of the ring so that Cynthia can always remember her strength and story, but in a way that is known to her alone.
Cynthia’s story is a powerful and inspiring one. Here she tells it in her own words:
“At that time, it felt like it came out of nowhere, but looking back now – maybe it didn’t. I suppose a little voice inside me suspected something for a while but that voice wasn’t loud enough to be heard, until “that” day. “That” day, the floor beneath me was yanked without a warning, my heart stopped beating, and my breath felt like it was stolen from me – much like my life as I knew it. “That” day, I woke up to what felt like someone else’s life and was forced to play a role that I didn’t understand, a role that didn’t belong to me, a role I didn’t want. “That” day, I was left standing on my own, 30 years old with a six-month-old at hip and on my way to divorce.
The decision to go through a separation, and later a divorce, wasn’t one that was taken lightly nor was it made quickly. The days that followed were harsher than the last and the pain of separation was an unbearable grief to carry that weighted every step I took. Loneliness, anger and despair took over every part of my life and pushed me down a dark hole that seemed impossible to crawl out of. As if the inner battle wasn’t enough weight to carry, the pressures and stigma that still exist in society for single moms brings a shame that softens, yet hardens your heart – making you want to shrivel in its existence and hide from the world.
I spent days, weeks, months completely lost. Trying to understand what happened. Trying to find who I am and who I was, but the truth is, there’s no possible way to get back to who you were. That kind of loss (or any kind of loss, really) enters your life and leaves you different than how it found you, but it’s what you do with your new self that will define what’s next for you.
The pain and pressures of being a single mom was (and sometimes still is) a weight that I carried on my shoulders each day, but nonetheless, I carried it! Each day, I woke up, got dressed, grabbed the “weight of the world” and went about my business. With that weight I cried, scream, and yelled my way through the minutes and hours, but I showed up each day and rebuilt, loved, laughed, and grew.
Through that growth I also realized that regardless of what we go through – we shouldn’t go through it alone. That growth granted me the ability to learn to ask for help from a village that surround and supported me even when anger blinded my way. This village consisted of my family and closets friends who supported my sorrows and my happiness. They are the ones that steady the ground I walk on and hold me up when weakness wants to push me down. Although they helped me built strength, it’s the healing of my heart that has lighted the weight I once carried.
They say that “time heals all” and although three years has passed, I don’t believe that time has done anything for me. What continues to help me heal and what guides my way when I’m lost is the north star that shines where darkness once lingered.
In life, a north star comes in different shapes, sizes, and even forms – but regardless, it stands with you and lights the dark sky, showing you the way, and my north start does just that. My north star has come into my life in human form and at exactly at the time I needed it the most. That bright star of mine lightens my load with laughter, warms my heart with his spoken words, and pulls me into hope as he holds my hand.
At the tender age of three, my son has been the north star that has guided my way. He has shown me that with love, hope will come and healing will follow. His unconditional love has taught me that I am enough and will always be enough – as long as I continue showing up to life. And seeing him develop and thrive into the little person that he is has shown me that I am the kind of person that will make it because I’m the one to bet on.
So what happens now? Am I “healed”? No, but are any of us “healed?” We all have different battles that break us and helps us find the inner strength we never knew we had in order to rebuild, only to break us down again later on. But our resilience is just one of the amazing qualities we have as human beings. We all might be a little broken on the inside – but as Leonard Cohen once said “there is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
All photography copyright Kylene Cleaver