You may be surprised to learn that my 20 year marriage, you know…the one that just imploded 9 months ago wasn’t my first marriage. Back in 1989 I eloped just 8 days after high school graduation to Las Vegas with my then boyfriend….lets be honest, my drug dealer…and was married in a tiny chapel on the Strip by a blind Elvis. Hand to God, I’m not exaggerating. Blind. Elvis. I make light of it – but if I’m honest, it was the worst time of my life. What was I thinking?
If I could go back and meet 18-year-old me, I would first tell her to start moisturizing, stop picking at her acne and just say no to the perm, then I would probably slap her silly and lock her in a room somewhere until that guy moved onto the next desperate girl. It was the first of many difficult life lessons where I learned that things – even the really horrible things – happen for a reason. You can’t really see the reason at the time, and sometimes it has to smack you in the head, but Shit happens to shape you. Your messes become your message and your tests become your testimony.
Let me repeat that, your tests become your testimony and your messes become your message. Mind blown, right?
Of course, it wasn’t a full year before I discovered that I was pregnant. It’s really sad that I would probably never have left had it been only me at stake, but I had a baby growing inside me now. A baby that was depending on me, and my husband had already threatened to kick me in the stomach and end my pregnancy simply because I was complaining a bit too much about being tired and nauseated, so I called my family and between all of us, we had a couple of trucks, a bunch of trash bags and I was out of there within an hour.
I now work with victims of violent crime and a lot of them are domestic/family violence victims. I see the 19-year-old me in a lot of those girls, and sometimes I can’t help but project my history onto them. Sometimes I give them “homework” to do. I ask them to write a list of all the bad things about the relationship and the actions of the abuser and to be detailed. Then tuck that list away somewhere safe. That’s what I did because I knew my heart would soften at some point and I needed a way to keep my resolve and to stay the course. Anger can be a fantastic catalyst for momentum and I still have that list to this day.
I thought after leaving and getting myself into some counseling, that I’d done the work to stop my codependent, self-destructive patterns. But clearly I’m not as smart as I think I am because I chose a different person with a lot of the same issues again. This time; however, I had some extra tools in my toolbox. I had experiences with con-men, abusers and thieves, as well as their victims every day of my professional life. I could now see the patterns once I had some distance and perspective. I also had another secret weapon – I’d discovered my love for writing and expressing my feelings in a way that created inclusion with those around me, not exclusion. I’d found my voice….which turns out…seems to be a very similar voice to all of you reading this.
I have been pretty shocked – happily shocked, by the outpouring of support and love for what I write and how honest and real I am about things that others would keep secret. My feeling is that once a secret is out in the open it holds no more power over you, so why wouldn’t I want to unburden myself of the things that hold negative power over my heart?
It’s worth repeating a third time, my life that I once considered a mess has become my message, and the many tests that I’ve been tasked with in this life have become my testimony. It’s practically impossible to see The Plan while you’re in it, but it’s there. It’s all part of Gods Plan and in God’s Time.
So just get in the boat.