This week, one of my articles was published over on the site XOJane.com. I didn't even know it was going to be run this week, so I was a little caught off guard when my blog started filling up with comments from people all over the world who had made their way over to my site. When I went to the actual XOJane site, I was floored at the comments. Not only were there hundreds of them, but most of them were so freaking nice. Praise was tossed around, sprinkled heavily with the words "inspiration, so strong, proud, amazing," and many, many, more. I am absolutely mind boggled. People, can we talk about pressure?
I look at people fighting cancer with a smile on their face and I think "inspiration." I look at myself and I think "my gosh people, do not follow the path that I have! It is littered with bad decision's and regrettable choices!"
First of all, being an inspiration to anyone is a tough label to live up too. For a long time I felt like I couldn't show weakness. That if anyone saw my cracks, it would look like I was failing to live up to the standards that they had set for me and I really didn't want anyone to see me as the failure that deep down, I truly thought I was. Secondly, do you know what "I can't believe what you have gone through, you are so strong" really means? It means "Hey, your life seriously sucks and we can't believe you are still alive and waking up every morning!" Fun.
I know that everyone was, and is, being nice, but in the beginning, it was hard to hear. I remember running into someone at the store one day probably about a month after my ex had left. She walked up to me, looked me up and down, and exclaimed "You look great!" I remember telling her "I'm wearing a hoodie, my hair is in a messy bun, and I've had the same jeans on for three days straight." She replied "I know, but like, here you are, out and about, fully dressed and everything!" Fully dressed!? Have you seen me wandering around half naked before!? Because if so, I would like to find out who the designated driver was that night and kill him. She was sweet and she said something to the effect of "No honey, its just that we all know what you have been through and we are so proud of you for getting up every morning, holding it together, and carrying on." I thanked her and spent the next few days thinking about how everyone else was thinking about how much my life sucked.
You see, as most of you know by now, my life has never really been warm fuzzies, rainbows, and butterfly's. By society's standards, it has downright sucked.
I'll let you in on a little secret. A few years ago, I knew how much it sucked. After escaping an abusive childhood, even my abusive husband had abandoned me. I was losing my home, I had no money, no job, no parents to help me, and I didn't have a clue what to do about it. I remember saying over and over that my life had literally burned down around me. I was keenly aware of just how very much I had been jilted in the "life benefits" department and I had had enough. I was tired. I was just so tired of wading through the muck and the slime that was my life. I was tired of trying. It wasn't that I thought things would never get better, it was just that I was so tired of trying to get to that better place. So tired of being knocked down. So tired of trying to get back up. So tired of just remembering to breathe. It hurt. Every breath reminding me that I had spent one more second hurting from the depths of my soul.
A few weeks after my ex left, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table with a knife. I slid it across my wrist and I watched the blood leak out. I wasn't intending to kill myself, it wasn't deep enough to really harm me, I just sort of wanted to test out what it might feel like. It felt like nothing. I remember looking at it in shock and horror as I realized that it didn't hurt. I didn't even feel it. I was in so much pain, all the time, that I had reached my limit.
I had reached the limit of pain that a human could feel and nothing else could hurt anymore than everything that already was.
"Why bother," I thought to myself. Why bother trying to go on? Why endure one more day of this? I wanted what everyone else had. I wanted the family. I wanted to feel special. I wanted to know that I was important. I wanted to know that I was wanted, that the world needed me. I wanted to know that there was a reason I was enduring this. Please God, let there be a reason! Don't make my life, my pain, in vain. Please, someone tell me it will all be worth it.
That day was a pivotal moment for me. I was at the crossroads. Make a decision, either way, in which direction I was going to take my life. If I was going to stay where I was, smothered in pain, then I didn't need to bother trying, and I didn't need to go on. Or, I could take what I had, make the bright spots brighter, soldier on, and not look back. Stop carrying all the hurt and the pain with me and let it go. The walk of life is hard and it need not be burdened by carrying around the trauma's of a painful past.
I wish I could explain why I chose what I did, but I can't. I just remember thinking that there had to be a reason why I was going through this. That every life has a meaning and I owed it to mine to stick around and find out what that meaning was. To give myself that gift of knowing, before I died, that I did have a place in this world. That my life was created for a purpose and that my pain was not in vain.
I remember sitting there and having almost this moment of clarity, like my "ah ha" moment. How could I find my purpose when I was so bogged down by pain, trauma, bitterness, and anger? I couldn't. I needed to let it go. I needed to accept what was and to make peace with it.
I didn't want to be that old bitter woman, who has had nothing but an angry life. Bitterness is a shell that forms over you when your wall of anger is so thick that it can no longer be penetrated. Anger is a defensive emotion. It is easy to feel angry because it gives you a feeling of power. When someone hurts you, it is easier to be angry with them, with the situation, than to let your defenses down and admit that you have been hurt. That you feel betrayed. That you are sad. Instead, the defenses go up and you feel angry. Anger can protect you from some situations and some people, but it can also bury you alive. You will get lost in it, and it will steal your joy.
I needed to let the anger go. I needed to be ok with the fact that everyone in my life who was supposed to protect me, was supposed to have loved me, had failed me. I was a failed child, I was a failed wife, but I would not have a failed life.
I needed to be ok with who I was. I needed to love myself so that others could love me too. I needed to reaffirm what I had promised myself as a child, that even if I never had another person in this world see how special I was, that I would be ok with being special enough for myself, so I set the anger down. I looked over the entirety of my life experiences, I saw how very much I had missed out on, and it fucking hurt like hell. But then I looked ahead. I looked at what could be. I looked at what I wanted and I decided to keep going.
So I'm going, everyday. I don't know where I'm going and I don't know where I'll end up, but day by day, I'm finding my joy. I'm clinging to my happiness, I'm putting forth my smile, and I am enjoying what I have. There are days where I still break out into the ugly cry, make-up running down my cheeks, knees to my chest, head buried in my arms, the whole deal. There are still days that I still ask why and as you can all see from this blog, I am still dealing with quite a few trust issues, but I am still going and I don't intend to stop.
I wouldn't change my past. I wish it didn't hurt so bad, but I have learned so much. I'm working with other survivors and I'm loving it. When an opportunity came along to found a not-for-profit to help other survivors, I jumped all over it. I'm seeing where the good is coming out of a painful life. I think I might have finally found my purpose in this world. Maybe the path I've walked, wasn't about me. Maybe the path I was chosen for, was really about others. If walking through the trauma's was the only way to make a change for someone else, I'll take it. I'll make it my purpose and I'll do it with a smile.
Inspiration? Hardly not. I'm just making the best out of a broken life. Sometimes you have to reach the end before you can start over at the beginning. Sometimes, you just become so smothered in the pain, the heartache, the brokenness, that it is hard to see beyond it. Sometimes you have to get to that point where your entire life has burned down around you to really be able to see the sky and start fresh. Like an overgrown forest, smothered to the point where the sun no longer shines through it, nothing can grow there except for mold and weeds at the bottom, but when fire takes hold and the forest is burned down, everything is cleared. The smothering cover over a dark and gloomy world is gone. Things start fresh, and flowers grow from the ashes because they can finally see the light. Beauty blooms in the cracks of life.
I will rise from the ashes, because this is my life. I will rise stronger, and brighter, and moving upwards.
This is my life and it is the only life that I will ever have.
It may be a life less than perfect, but it is a life no less important.
It may be a life less than ideal, but I will make it a life no less enjoyed.
You can read the article that spurred this post, over at XOJane, by clicking here
Photo Credit Canceled Dreams: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdevers/
Photo Credit Flower: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goodfeeling/
Photo Credit Crying: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zanten/
Photo Credit Rain: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pejrm/
Photo Credit Pressure Gauge: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/