The human mind is an amazing place. The things we remember and can do with our brain are truly fascinating. Two weeks ago I decided I was going to try a new form of therapy that is supposed to be very favorable for those with PTSD, ADHD, and other concerns: neurofeedback. As such, I realized I am finally giving up the final pieces of myself that have caused me to be stuck. While I have made a lot of progress, I still feel as though there is a piece of myself that stops me from going as far as I should in life. Of fully releasing myself to truly and fully live again. Through neurofeedback, we will be destroying walls I have been building for nearly 30 years. We will be helping me remember things that I have tried to forget, and in doing so I will heal from the pain through therapy and be able to get out of my own way. In a way, I will be will forgetting the pain that I am going there to remember and will be able to reframe my life in a way that I see all my terrible events as setups for this place I am in now where I will be helping others to heal from their traumas by holding workshops and referring people to counselors so they can be fully restored.
Sometimes healing can be a scary place. Do I want to forget? Do I want to tear down the walls that have given me such a hedge of protection all these years and kept me from getting hurt too badly? Or do I want to be like the paralytic and sit by the pool making excuses for why I spent most of my life sitting only steps away from my healing and restoration?
This coming week will be nine years since my divorce was finalized. Nine years and I still haven’t moved on. I still think of him and wonder, “What if he had not left?” I wonder if we would have ever been truly happy. I wonder if my daughters would be different people. I wonder if our family would have ever accomplished his dream of being a musician full time and my dream of being a writer full time. I wonder because wondering about the past is easier than moving forward to the future and being vulnerable. I think of how I was finally opening my heart up to someone and thinking about love again and how reality reared its ugly head and showed me why it is easier for me to be distrustful and not believe there is hope for another person to enter my life and cause me to feel as my ex did.
And that is where I stop myself because I don’t want to be like the paralytic making excuses for my condition. I want to be healed fully and restored to what God designed me to be.
It’s around that moment that I realize unlike when I wrote this post about how I remember everything, I have come to a place where I have forgotten some of those awful moments. See, I remember the good moments and I remember the way he made me feel when I felt loved and wanted. Though they are few, though we had more better days than bad days, they are what stick in my mind because it is what I spend my entire childhood, teens, and young adult years searching for: love and acceptance. Our relationship would have been a wonderful memory if we’d ended it with him leaving CT and sailing away into the sunset. He would have been the man who rocked my world. Instead we married and he is the man who removed my heart and replaced it with a rock. And that is where I am able to reframe and remind myself that his leaving gave me life. His leaving allowed my daughters to have a home without any fighting or hatred spoken toward people you are supposed to love. His leaving allowed them to see the strength women possess when we are backed into a corner.
Sometimes like that paralytic, we lie on our mat watching life pass us by. We see folks walking in front of us, going where we want to go, and we reason that there is no way to get to our purpose or that we aren’t qualified or good enough. But sometimes the only reason we stay in the same place for so long is because we are in our own way and refuse to ask for help. When we truly want to be healed and we truly want to move on, it will happen because we will move heaven and earth to ensure we get the resources to make it so.
The post I will share tomorrow is one that has been really hard to write because it admits some difficult truths I have realized lately about the last ten years of my life (August will be ten years since my ex abandoned our family). The truths have not been easy and it took almost giving my heart away again for me to realize them. That’s the crazy thing – in almost moving forward and allowing myself to love again, I realized the all the reasons I hadn’t. And right now I am in a vulnerable place in which I can decide to give up on love because all men are the same or realize that I haven’t truly ever known love because I keep being attracted to or attracting men who are incapable of loving others (spoiler alert: as of last night, I realized it is the latter and have spent all last night and today processing this reality). Bringing up all these memories and diving into old poems and writings is what made me realize that I have forgotten a lot that I didn’t realize I ever would. (Maybe forgotten is the wrong word, as obviously I can dig it out but it isn’t present and sitting on a shelf anymore. Like my photos and memories of our marriage, theses things are tucked away in recesses of my brain.)
As I sit here tonight reflecting upon this journey I am about to take, which I have been told will result in possibly crying without warning for the next five weeks due to my brain remembering things that I had truly stored away, I realize that I am finally going to be able to say goodbye to my mat. Though I thought I was ready on 4/15/2016, that was actually only the start of the healing journey the last two years have been for me. I needed to get to this place where I could understand my likeness to the man on the mat fully:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5: 1 -9)
Do you see it? Did you see yourself in the story? Did you realize how you are like the paralytic? Surrounded by people who are just like us, we tend to become comfortable in our pain. I have often thought the last couple of years have been a waste because I gave up everything I loved to come back here. My home. My freedom. My stuff. My independence. My dignity. My pride (and boy do I realize I had a LOT of it). I have often complained to friends that my life feels wasted and shared with my therapist that I feel like God has just given up on me. But I always catch myself and realize that I need to be thankful. And as I sit here today, knowing the changes coming up in my life, knowing the investments I have made in myself lately and seeing the healing God is doing in my life, I realize: These last two years have truly brought me to a place of complete surrender for the first time in my life. I am finally at the place where I have worked out all the scenarios I could possibly play out to get ahead and prove I can handle success and be the woman who my ex-husband would miss. I have come to a realization that a lot of what I did over the past nine years, I have done to make him wish he’d stayed. (Damn that hurt to type… it feels so much different going out online that it doesn’t being in my journal.) I haven’t actually done anything for myself or my children. Until August of last year, I hadn’t done anything because it is what I knew I needed to do to respect myself and see my worth. That is huge. That is pitiful. But that is also real.
AND REAL IS WHERE WE HEAL.
Real is the place where we get naked and bare our souls and say, “Here I am. Take it or leave it, this is who I am creating and who I am okay with being. I may not be who I want her to be in this moment, but I am stronger, more resilient, and more powerful than I ever realized I was. And I did this – not you.” It is that moment that we realize that our God, our power that drives us, our inspiration and motivation is what took us to the place we are. And there is a promise in the Bible that I hold on to in this truth, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (Matthew 16:25). In finally being willing to give up everything and start from a clean slate, I will find the life I should have been living. In coming to the end of myself almost three weeks ago and giving up the only thing I had left that gave me any pride and feeling of being needed, I gave myself a freedom to finally step in to a life that will make me more proud than I have ever experienced and in which I will finally experience love as it was meant to be (more on that tomorrow because it is a long post on its own).
When Jesus saw the man lying on his mat, He didn’t heal him right away. Jesus asked him whether he wanted to be well. That is the question that three weeks ago I had to ask myself and then I spent a week after making the decision the pick up my mat and walk – away from everything that defines me in this life and away from everything that I loved about my life – I have seen one door after another open, including being able to undergo this new therapy, and I have been stepping through them. I don’t want to be that person who offers excuses to how others are going before I can because here’s the thing: If others are going before me it means there are people I have not asked for help that I should have asked. It means that instead of asking the blind man if he could carry me while I offer to be his eyes, I watched him stumble around me and go get the healing I was so close to. It means that people with less of a need than I to be healed (lame people), were getting up and walking despite their injury so they could receive their healing. But there I lay, alone, on my mat. I will not remain paralyzed by an event that happened 9 years ago when I am steps away from my healing. I will ask every blind, lame, mute individual that goes by if they will help me. I will risk being unclean like the leper or being stomped on as I beg a child nearby to roll me to the water. But I will not remain on a mat waiting for Christ to come by and ask if I want to be well and then offer Him an excuse for why I have waited so long to be healed.
I no longer want to be like the paralytic. I want to be like Peter and be willing to put my foot in my mouth and be willing to fail and experience Christ’s love in fullness and beauty. I want to be so close to Christ that He walks into my house and sails around on my boat and knows my mother by name. I want to be so close to Christ that even when He knows I will mess up, He has already planned my forgiveness and restoration moment. I want to be the woman God knows will live this life he gave me, so many times saving me from death, and that I will live it well.
So I will remember the hurtful things if it means I can forget the pain once and for all and move on to help the people out there who haven’t been so blessed to have their abuser walk away from them. I will remember the things I want to forget forever so I can speak about the pain I felt and help others realize they aren’t alone. There is no shame in what we have gone through. There is never shame in loving another person so much that you believe they can change. EVER. But the freedom that you can experience when you are no longer held prisoner in your own love and in your own feelings and in your own house because you no longer have someone around saying or doing terrible things that scar you is a gift that we all should experience. No matter how dark and endless the nights seem… no matter how dreary it looks when you think about what life will be like without your abuser… you are worth so much more. And singleness isn’t awful. It really isn’t. There are days of loneliness and days when you think you will never love again, but they go away and you realize that there is so much joy and peace in knowing when you sleep tonight it won’t be in tears after a beating or in sadness of wishing the person only inches away from you wasn’t so distant from your heart. Instead it will be in peace knowing that you will rest without fear of whether you will wake up to love or hate, beatings or lovemaking, a day of hostility or happiness. You will wake up and you will make the day whatever you want it to be because you are finally free, even if the good memories are still something you want to remember from time to time.