From the outside looking in, I seemed to have it all…a beautiful home in a good neighborhood with a long driveway and a fenced in backyard. My best friend lived two coves down and we spent many Mississippi summers sipping out of mason jars while our kids soaked up the sun. I’d been married for almost a decade, and we shared four amazing little girls together. Less than two years later, we’d be going through a high conflict divorce in two separate states and the man who fathered my girls would agree to terminate his parental rights.
I asked myself countless times “Why?”. Why did I stay? Why didn’t he love me? Why was I so hard to be around? Why did this happen to me? Why does it happen to anyone?
There’s a catalyst. There’s something that you can’t “let go” of. There comes a time where you realize this was always one of the internal battles that would eventually lead to war. Your mask of nonconfrontational, don’t say anything offensive that you often use as a shield is about to come off. You know that once you lift the sword there’s no take backs. The good guy always wins though, right? We will all ride into the sunset and live happily ever after.
As a last stitch effort at conformity, you’ve completely starved yourself of all essentials needed for survival. You’ve screamed at the top of your lungs. You’ve sat in silence. You’ve smiled, apologized to keep the peace. But the more complacent you became; the more violence surrounded you.
At some point as a society, we collectively decided that it wasn’t cool to show too much of ourselves. It’s human nature to follow the people who seem to know where they’re headed.Vunerability is the root of connection. When you’ve never felt seen and safe at the same time, relationships are messy. I feared letting go of the anger I confused for power. I was scared that if I talked about it, it would be real. I’d wake up from my daydream and be right back in the hands of a monster. I was terrified of what else may be lurking in the shadows if I talked openly about it. What would people think of me? What was he capable of? I feared letting him keep that power over me more.
My biggest struggle was loving myself. In order to do that, I had to (hate is a strong word, but it’s fitting here) hate alot of people. It was much easier to hate myself and continue to work hard. I feared change until the fear of not making it to the other side tapped Change on the shoulder and said….”Uh, sorry not sorry…it’s time to go!”.I knew what I needed to do. I knew that it was impossible. I knew that I had to. I couldn’t do it for me…yet. But I could do anything I needed to do to make sure that my children were safe.
I was scared of trusting my gut. I was scared of having children, and I was especially scared of becoming a mother when I was just starting to like myself a little bit. The universe is really funny sometimes. If I ever were to have a pow wow with the Sun, Moon, and Stars I’d definitely give kudos for whole making me a mother to four little minis. Nice touch.
I’ve heard that being a parent is like looking into a mirror. For a while, I thought that I’d never fit in. I quickly realized as a mother that we may have all watched Pokémon and made some poor choices in middle school, but we do not all share the same childhood experiences.
I never felt that I was worthy of love, or even simpler things such as understanding. Every day felt like a Friday Night Football game. There was magic. I saw the flicker, I know I did. The most devastating feeling was knowing that in another life we probably made the best team. I held on to an idea of you, and the longer I hoped, the more I disappeared. I sank deeper and deeper into a false reality of all sorts of colors. For you. For everyone else in the game but me. I cheered for you. I lost my voice screaming as if it would mean something if I just got louder. When that didn’t work, I spent so many hours in silence. I shifted in and out of disassociation until I knew what I saw.
On the last day before it all changed, I felt it. I knew that something was about to happen. I remember running around exhausted baking cookies in my kitchen with my best friend. And I held on to that delusional image of her for so many nights because it was the one relationship that I never had to disassociate from. When I no longer felt home there, I was forced to make moves that I would have never imagined otherwise. I feared letting her go, but she was already long gone. Losing control. Spiraling. Spinning. I realized no one was going to help me. Mentally, I broke. My brain couldn’t possibly process all these emotions at once but it was too far gone to stop it.
And then it all came crashing down. I saw the true image of him that I’ll never unsee. I could never give enough of myself away to make him happy. He would keep taking and taking until there was nothing left. I knew him well enough to know that I couldn’t scream. I cried, and I laid there, fawning. In that moment, all hope dissipated and all that remained was this pathetic little injured bird. I knew my brokeness was exposed and I knew that he had no empathy.
I didn’t know how I’d do it. I had four daughters, I’d just quit my job, and my name was in national headlines. How could I leave? He’d find me. Find us. I felt like my only option was to make a fight or flight soup with a dash of freeze and a hint of fawn. These situations are never simple, but maybe if we had a conversation about the “why” we’d realize that we all have fears. We have flaws. Scars really do make for the best stories, but they aren’t always physical.
Forgiveness. It’s true that often times we have to forgive people who never gave an apology. My four year old has a very cute “I’m sorry.”. It’s one of her favorite phrases, but I have to remind her that words still hurt. No one person can provide you closure. That’s something you have to give yourself.
It’s okay to grieve the life that you thought you were going to have. It’s important that you grieve.
Honesty. Peeling back the layers of your “why” is brutal. It completely sucks the life out of you. You’re gonna want to tap out of that chokehold, but it will only suffocate you if you don’t allow yourself time to process it. I realized that even though it was scary leaving everything I’d ever known, I had to figure it out.
As a mother, I tried to make everyday an adventure. I created spaces that I loved. We explored. We threw glitter. We hiked. We traveled. Car karaoke on weeklong road trips. I started dancing again. I got a new job, much more lucrative than the job I’d left behind and I learned to love myself. I got plants, and I gave myself some grace. I learned that no is a full sentence. If you’re scared to feel it, just know that pain demands to be felt. The only part of it that we have any control over is that process. Sometimes sharing our story helps others feel less alone. Sometimes we give enough heads up on the play.
The answer to facing my biggest fears was simple. I pictured, over and over again, the life that I have now. It’s peaceful, not perfect but we are getting there.