On this day… On this day 7 years ago, I was damaged. Encased in my sickness I fell head over heels in love with my ex-husband. Drifting between two worlds, neither of which were mine, I clung to his hoping I’d fit somehow. I didn’t. But I stayed anyway.
On this day 6 years ago, I was still in love. Lost. Hurting. Lonely. Desperate. But in love. Once again drifting because I refused to plant roots in soil I couldn’t touch, I abandoned myself and continued following him into hell. With every step I convinced myself that the incandescent flames I plowed toward would warm me and somehow its scorching beauty wouldn’t burn me to ash!
On this day 5 years ago, I stood in a bathroom alone. I placed my hand on my very pregnant belly which housed our two babies, I smiled through puffy eyes and a broken heart, and I snapped a picture. I posted it on Facebook and said, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the 3 of us.” I didn’t know where my husband was. I was engulfed by the flames and despite my stoic outsides, I was smoldering ash.
On this day 4 years ago, I found out I was pregnant with my youngest son. Hope was my anchor. I clung to it with borrowed strength. The weight of that anchor was more than our rope’s capacity and above what I could see, the rope was fraying. Nonetheless, there was faith laced optimism and it carried us through.
On this day 3 years ago, the last thread of that ragged rope unraveled. I once again stood alone. The shattering of my life happened in slow motion and with each jagged edge that pierced the earth below me; I felt another piece of myself change.
I sat in the center of hell, clutching the only solace I could find: my children’s gaze and the power of my faith. It was impossible to hear everything since it was extremely loud. It was impossible to feel anything because it was too painful. I was merely a part of it all. My fingers were clenched over the ash of my life, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convert that filthy dust back into anything I could hold.
On this day two years ago, I stood in front of a court with my lawyer, opposite from my ex-husband, as we worked out the final details of our years together. I had spent the day before outside with my sons. We tumbled down the slopes, and I hid my fear behind their laughing.
I carried their giggles in my pocket the following day and once again forced myself to stand as my knees continuously tried to buckle beneath me. I watched this scene of my life as a third party player and in the face of my worst nightmare, surrounded by the ruins of my own life, cinders of hope began to replace the ash of despair that covered my hands.
Grace saw me through the next year, as I vacillated between gratitude and grief, attempting to maintain my balance on shaky ground. For the first time in 6 years, I could breathe on this day one year ago. I could actually take a breath. Breath that filled my entire chest and gave my bones vitality. I had memories of torment and scars to prove it, but I also had freedom. Despite everything we’d lost, I could appreciate the beauty of what we’d discovered.
Strength I didn’t know I had. Forgiveness I didn’t believe was possible. Appreciation I didn’t think could be real. I had walked out of hell and washed away the last of its remains. The restoration wasn’t seamless but I had learned how to let go and there was a blazing beauty in that.
On this day now, I am astonished at what can happen when we walk despite weak knees, believe despite shattered hope, forgive despite unforgivable actions, and love against all odds. The fire that engulfed me 7 years ago has changed from the fervor of hell to the vigor of life.
Those ashes I covered myself in have been washed away. The fear that once consumed my every breath has been replaced with faith. The collateral damage from years of unhealthy love and misguided efforts has been transformed into collateral beauty filled with gifts I never imagined.
On this day today I am grateful. I am whole. I have learned how to hold space for the past as it paved the way for the future. I accept that nothing is without flaw and some seasons will be more difficult than others; but I understand that as we refuse to give up and we hold onto hope, new life is found. I respect the wreckage and cling to the healing.
On this day I am equal parts past and future. Messy and beautiful. Broken and mended. Ruined and redeemed. On this day, everything has changed; yet I am more me than I have ever been.