A model’s journey through divorce and loss

I used to be a model. People said I would literally glide down the catwalk when I modeled. For 25-plus years as a professional model I wore thousands of dollars in gowns, furs, jewelry, shoes and handbags. We had professional hair and makeup teams to make us look like a million bucks. But the best part was that I modeled for some of the most well known international designers. For seven years I was the house model for Saks Fifth Ave in Atlanta.

A model’s journey through divorce and loss

Photo courtesy of Carlyn Butts

One day I went to a fitting at Nordstrom’s. They were having a show for the new store opening at Perimeter Mall in Atlanta. I’d never had a fit problem as I did that day. My clothes were a little snug. Then I learned they were too small because I was pregnant. I immediately stopped modeling because I gained weight so rapidly. As a matter of fact I gained 75 pounds during my pregnancy. But I didn’t care. I was ready to become a mother. I’d previously had a miscarriage and was told I would have complications conceiving. Then 16 years ago the greatest blessing came into my life: my son..

I was married to a former NFL player. It sounds glamorous, but is also difficult. You have to deal with fake friends, users, jealousy, envy. And then there is the athlete and his ego! We were together for 24 years, married for 19. Eventually it had to come to an end.

What made me say, “I’ve had enough?”

Well, there was always another woman in the picture, either a so called friend, or some business that had to be taken care of, and even his mother. How do you tell your wife your mother is your best friend? I can understand loving your mother and having a special relationship with her. I pray I always have that with my son. But when my son gets married, his wife should be his best friend, not me. His dad and I worked at a restaurant we owned together. I ran the front of the house (dining room). I did everything from creating menus, to booking events, décor, payroll, scheduling, holiday menus and events and so much more. He was supposed to run the back of the house, (kitchen), but for some reason or another he was always hanging out in the front of the house.

Also read: Making new friends in midlife

A model’s journey through divorce and loss

Photo courtesy of Carlyn Butts

At the time we both had the same type of cellular phones. One day at the restaurant I picked up his phone by mistake. It was the best mistake I ever made. When I realized I had his phone, I glanced through his text messages. What I found devastated me. There were images of strippers and text messages from a ‘female friend’ as he said she was. But worst of all, he was texting her telling her I was making his life a living hell, that all he wanted was his son.

In one of the texts she warned him he would have to pay alimony if he divorced me. He responded he was not paying me anything. For once in his life he kept his word.

He thought I would never have the courage to leave him. But I did. I had nothing when I left. I had worked at the restaurant without pay. He had all the money and he refused to help support me while I got back on my feet. He wouldn’t even give me gas money to take our son to school.  He had money but he said that when our son was with me, I was supposed to take care of him.

Pretty soon I fell into a deep depression. I couldn’t function. My thoughts were cloudy. I cried day and night. I didn’t know if I could ever recover. It all happened without me knowing what steps to take next. I didn’t see it coming, you never do.

I truly had to hang on to my faith and trust God to bring me through. At one point I was angry with God because I didn’t understand why he was allowing this to happen to me. But then I realized God wasn’t at fault. God sent me women to encourage me, to edify me, to lift me up.

My life took a serious turn, but the worst part was that I was robbed of being a mother to my son. I couldn’t care less about my former husband and his women. I’m over that. But I can never regain the years I haven’t been able to be with my son—to sleep beside him, to pray with him and make him breakfast every morning.

These days I’m functioning a lot better thanks to God’s help and the love and support from my dear friends and family. I am still working on re-starting my modeling career which hasn’t been easy. But that’s my passion, it’s what I know and love to do.

Deep down I know I will be successful. I look forward to the future ahead. But there have also been days when all I wanted to do is roll over and die. Still, there is always a reason for me to find hope and make it through another day. Perhaps it was a mistake to stop modeling. My husband at the time had encouraged me to stay home and raise our son. And I wanted to be a good mother to my son. Now I realize my ex-husband wanted control. I could have been just as good a mother to our son if I’d kept on modeling.

But I learned my lesson. Don’t ever lose sight of who you are and your purpose in life. Always be yourself, have your own mind and career, no matter what happens.

This is a guest post by Carlyn Butts

Viva Fifty

Viva Fifty! is an online bilingual and multicultural community that celebrates your best age. Midlife and beyond.