That's what love is - I thought you of all people would understand that
A postcard for the Millennial American dream, I was running a successful business, fulfilled and capable by the standards of my Facebook friends. Drowning by my own, observing my psyche unfold from the inside. A personal growth junkie, I’m well aware that vulnerability is the only road toward depth and belonging in relationships. Vulnerability is a room with one window where the light shines through on an old wooden chair. It’s breezy enough to give you goosebumps and cool the sweat that accumulated on your forehead from fear when entering in the first place. You perform the hardest part by gripping the door handle to walk in. You sit on the chair and revisit bookmarks in your past that make you who you are: experiences that shaped you; relationships that broke you; opportunities that fell through; victories that changed the trajectory of you. You see you, maybe for the first time. Next, you walk through the most necessary and beautiful crucible, presenting the opportunity to both belong or shatter completely on the floor. Are you ready? You hear footsteps, the handle turns, the door creeks open. You see a face. He, she, they. You show them what you see, and give them free reign to stay or walk away.
‘I love you,’ and ‘I can't do this’ in the same sentence isn't ok.
It was a slow yet steady shattering. My spirit chipped away piece by piece upon hitting the cold tile floor of our relationship. A freshly sharpened blade would have been a softer place to land than his care. His modes of manipulation bristled against my ability to love someone with an open hand, and supported his believed right to close his with me inside.
It's absurd that you think it's the relationship that's the problem. You’re the problem.
What choice do we have beyond vulnerability? If we choose to turn away from this quiet room in a steadfast pursuit of certainty, we sacrifice the primal mystery in connecting to others in a way that transforms existence to living. But then, you experience long nights on tile floors at the hand of someone else, and suddenly this quiet room becomes a danger zone with jagged edges and cold air. The choice of vulnerability now pales in comparison to the warm, but false reality of certainty. And so is the paradox of human relationships.
I've never asked once for the entire world
Saturday morning at 630 AM. Sleepy and a little hungover I roll over to answer his angry phone call. He is disappointed at my lack of discipline to attend a work meeting that day. I had been out of town to celebrate a family wedding and decided that this optional meeting would be missed less than the time I would get to spend with family that day. He parallels this decision to my lack of care in other areas, such as our relationship. I am exhausted, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I decide that I can either use my energy to fight for air to defend myself, or to listen until he’s through his rage. He decides that I am playing the victim.
To say you've given it everything you've got -- I just don't see that. I wish you would once admit to it. I just want to see what that looks like.
I dig deeper for reason and perspective.
Can you honestly say you've given this everything you have?
I question my own gut and sanity.
I've never asked once for the entire world
I dig deeper.
For every finger you point at for feeling attacked there's three more pointing back at you
Our last conversation is a week later. I am silent. He understands this to be my white flag of surrender.
You can't face anything. You're always the victim
It took six months for me to unearth the truth of our relationship while still inside of it. I’m not sure if that’s a long or short amount of time, I only know the magnitude of it on my spirit. I guess the only measurement I had was the same as someone who’s underwater and needs air. At what point are you either going to pass out or come up for a breath? When will you recognize that the very person shoving you back down is the exact person you’re in a relationship with? Emotional abuse. Toxic relationships. Brokenness at the hand of another human. These experiences look differently from the outside than they feel on the inside.
Be a decent human being
None of them are phrases I would have associated to my relationships, because in some ways, I felt guarded from them. The safety of the home I grew up in, the trust I carried in myself to have sound judgement, and the pillars of identity I had built around me to recognize my life in some way convinced me that I was beyond this type of hurt or pain. But he grew into my life like a slowly progressive cancer. There were symptoms early, yes, but much like a slight head cold wouldn’t send someone to the emergency room, I was in no hurry to leave, and was quick to brush aside his controlling, manipulative demeanor. Our relationship became a barbed wire fence that I felt trapped inside of. Staying would leave me incarcerated, but leaving would undoubtedly draw blood and leave lasting scars.
Resilience is calling her name from the wilderness. Seeking after her rightful home within my own spirit. I’m the one she’s been looking for. I’m the one she’s chosen to embed into and spread worth like wildfire so my life is a glorious exhale and uprising of new. This is the beginning, to which he replies:
I hope somewhere along the line you figure out yourself. You can't take ownership over a single thing. You’re toxic. I really hope that you learn from this
Identifying the sound of my own name was the only fruit that made his silencing bearable. I have gone back and forth, around corners, through walls to understand every inch where it went wrong, and why. I have looked from every angle possible. I went to therapy. I ran directly into the most painful questions and stood at the center of them for answers: How can I step into the room to be chosen and cherished without the possibility of being thrown against the tile floor? How did I let this happen? Why do I hold a tight grip on control, while sacrificing the unparalleled bliss of being accepted by someone else for free, without anything in return? How can he go on living this way? Why did I let him treat me like that? Where was my worth? Where is it now? And what does this all mean with how I move forward? How will I trust again? The honest answer is that there’s not a one-size-fits-all-one-liner that comes in a beige tissue-lined box from Anthropologie.
The elusive choice of forgiveness is the everyday decision to live for your future instead of within the walls and thought processes of your past. At its grassroots, it’s a moment by moment decision to let go of what was never in your control anyways: circumstance and other people. It’s the moment by moment choice to resolve within yourself the reality that you didn’t do anything to bring it into your life. It’s the choice to know that you deserve to take up space here, for no reason other than the fact that you are still here; that you know the depth of love you have capacity for because you’ve felt it in all its forms, and you live to tell the story. I used to think this language made me too idealistic. That it wouldn’t allow me to embrace the full reality of the experience because I was too busy slapping perspective all over it, like wrapping twine around a garbage can and expecting it to fit inside of a Sak’s Fifth Ave. But the reality is, sometimes you need some freaking twine to see that you will make something out of this. It becomes your story, your resolution, the slow burning uphill battle that turns out to be your victory lap, your revival. It becomes a part of you, and you adhere definition to it. Your story holds infinite power, but only when you fully embrace it. The good, the bad, the ugly. Because when you numb the slow burn you numb victory endorphins at the top of the hill. Can you feel it now? Your hands above your head, the deep breath in your lungs that signifies you’ve made it.
Throw out the phrase, “everything happens for a reason.” and embrace the phrase, “I bring reason to everything that happens.” I’m positive someone has said this before. This doesn’t mean the horrible things that someone did to you hold purpose and contain spiritual awakenings you can only access if you fix yourself enough. It means that through your unique, hard, honest and daily process of healing, you will find grace; you will learn forgiveness; you will overcome; you will show yourself that you’re still breathing through it all. And it will become a wholesome journey back to yourself; one you can serve others through in the future. There is not logic in brokenness. It doesn’t make sense. It never will. But it will almost certainly always be a part of our world, so we have to choose to do the best we can with what we have, which is to make the most of the stories we’re living; to fully embrace them as our own; to bring purpose into every moment and season at our own pace, and believe beyond reason that the best is yet to come. Your revival story begins right...now.