The first full day I had to myself after my ex moved out, I celebrated. Feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off of me, I made myself a nice dinner and opened an ’85 Cabernet that had been sitting around collecting dust. As I sat in the perfect silence of my home, enjoying food I wanted and wine I loved, I realized just how trapped I had been in that relationship.
Over the next few weeks, I thought about what had happened. What it had taken to survive those years and remain somewhat sane. I needed something to mark that accomplishment. Something unique. Something permanent. I decided to create a unique piece of art that represented the part of me that got me through that period of hell. I also wanted some symbol that represented my Irish background. I’m not sure why. Maybe because they have some of the most interesting symbols. Maybe because I felt it was that part of me that got me through. I just knew the Celts were the answer for me.
In my research, I came across a site about the Celtic meaning of trees. Being a pseudo-treehugger, this appealed to me. Each tree is represented by a symbol in an ancient alphabet, called the Ogham. As I scrolled down the page, I looked at the traits each symbol stood for and their deeper meaning in Celtic culture. About halfway down the page, I came across the symbol and tree that truly stood out to me.
Gort is the name of the symbol and it represents ivy. In Celtic culture, ivy stands for strength, determination, and patience. I continued reading about the meaning of ivy and soon found myself crying. Not because I was sad, but because I had found something that truly symbolized me. Ivy represents the connections we make with those closest to us that last through the years. These connections stand the test of time and even distance.
I thought about my friends. My true friends. The ones who kept in touch with me during the bad years, even when I couldn’t communicate much. They’d call me or email me just to check on me. They told me they were there if I needed them. They knew my relationships with them were limited because of the situation I was in, yet they stood by me through all of it. Through the divorce. Through the hell that was my new relationship. Through the joy of my freedom.
Just as they have stuck with me, I will stick with them. I always have stuck by my friends, even those who deserted me. I still do. They might not know it, but I’m always thinking about them. And if they needed help, I’d be there. That is yet another element of the ivy.
It is no secret that the relationship with my ex was tumultuous. There were times when I thought I’d end up in a padded room. I tried so hard to make things work and nothing was ever good enough. I thought I was the problem and my ex made sure to tell me I was the problem. But eventually, despite all the insults and putdowns and harsh words, I came to see that she was just projecting her own issues onto me. I wasn’t the problem. I wasn’t the one she hated. Ivy is virtually indestructible. You can cut it back, but it finds a way to thrive.
I came back. I have thrived. I am not indestructible by any means, but I’m much stronger than I thought I was. Perhaps stronger than anyone else thought I was. I was determined to survive. I think I always have been. No matter how many times I’ve been put down or been made to feel inadequate, I have come back stronger. I know what I am capable of. I know how strong I am. I know who I am.
I created a rough sketch of what I wanted and took it to a local artist. He took my idea and created a beautiful piece of art. I am this symbol of strength, determination, and patience. I am this symbol of loyalty. I am this symbol of rebirth. This art is a part of me, forever engraved on my heart and my soul.