If someone would have told me that years ago I would be facing the imminent loss of my father, so soon after the death of my husband AND still getting over the loss of my mother, I would have called them a liar. I would have said that no one could endure that much in such a short period of time. While I was terribly unhappy inside of an abusive marriage, I had what I used to recall as living if “accepting of my fate”. A member of my husband’s family once said to me, “No one is going to help you with your problems.” While I’ve never forgotten the circumstances surrounding my hearing that answer following a desperate cry for help, what I didn’t realize is that there was someone always there to help me, but I was too damaged and traumatized then to see it. That person was me.
If you visited my home today, you would see a WHOLE lot of butterflies…everywhere. I still have the first one I received from my daughter many years before so much tragedy struck and I didn’t make the connection at the time. Then, for reasons unknown, I started seeing a LOT of them after everyone was gone. Perhaps it was sheer coincidence, like seeing nothing but the same car you bought for months after getting one, but the butterfly soon became a precious symbol of how I felt…transformed, delivered, FREE.
It wasn’t just the loss that connected me to what I was feeling, it was a combination of a multitude of factors. I was obese, I was lethargic, depressed, I had PTSD and pretty bad anxiety. I wasn’t eating right, sleeping right. So much was wrong. Going through the motions was about all I could do. About a week after my father died, I went to the local ocean resort to stay at the condo of a dear friend. I took both of my children with me, just the three of us for what I recall was a week-long vacation. With the generous offer of the condo, I was able to spend some money on some fun things and do a little bit more than I normally would. I remain grateful to this day. You see, it was my first vacation in just under 20 years.
One of the moments that remains so fresh in my mind is that first evening sitting on the beach. It was nothing fancy, just a small beach chair, a blanket, my toes in the sand. Even though the sun was setting, I kept my sunglasses on. I kept them on because I was looking around. I saw a young couple in love walking by, holding hands and sharing secrets. Grandparents were on one side of me, making memories with their grandchildren, building sand castles and laughing, taking pictures and having a blast. I wept that day on the beach, but it wasn’t because I felt pity for myself. I cried because for the first time in SO long, I felt free. I knew that something was changing in my life, although at the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Life went on all around me, oblivious to the horrors I’d endured. Somehow, I knew I needed to as well.
Watching my children laughing and having such fun in the water was such a new experience for me. I’d never been able to take them on a vacation before and for the first time, I didn’t have to wait for someone to take me or depend on someone else to do it. I DID IT. I got in the car and drove us all to the town and walked them to the beach. It was ME that took them to the boardwalk and put them on rides and bought ice cream and French fries. It was the sound of OUR laughter as we rode the speedboat and the spray hit us in the face as dolphins swam alongside the boat trying to keep up (they did).
While it was hard to watch that couple holding hands and the grandparents with their grandchildren, my tears were tears of relief. Hell, I didn’t know that back then. Maybe I did feel sorry for myself and just don’t remember it like that. But by god, I did it MYSELF.
I would go on to make poor choices on my journey and take a really long time to heal and learn how to take care of myself. I still work at it every day and I don’t think I’ll ever heal 100% from being mistreated like I was, but I am my own person now. Even though I am and always will be a mother, a partner once again (to someone who is my equal and who I believe is the great love of my life) and a friend, I will never forget that moment on the beach. I was so tired that day, from the long drive, the endless trips up the stairs, the drive to the grocery store to stock up, dragging everything to and from the beach, but what a GOOD tired it was. I slept like a baby that night during what I believe was the most cathartic week I’d ever had before.
There are probably ten thousand quotes for every emotion out there, but this one is really important to me. I have learned a great deal about what I’ve been through and why I allowed the things I did in my life. Living for today is something that I truly strive for and it is NOT easy! The past and the future try to creep in and cause confusion and anxiety does that just because it can!
Over time, I’ve worked on forgiving him for what he did. “They” say that forgiving is so cleansing and wonderful and frees you from things, but perhaps I’m not ready yet. What’s helped me the most is forgetting the things that made me so miserable. Sure, they surface from time to time and can cause sad reflection, but I don’t try to suppress it; I just let it in if it needs to be. However, those bittersweet tears on the beach bring a unique smile to my face and mark the beginning of my new life that started that day.