I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a while now. Every time I’d sit down to write something, I was blocked by this massive brick wall. I couldn’t see past it, move beyond it, or ignore it. I couldn’t write about anything trivial, but I also couldn’t write about this brick wall because it would be “inappropriate” to do so. So I sat with my back against this brick wall, knees in my chest, just waiting for something to change. Months passed. Sometimes I’d stand up and fight against the wall, punching it over and over as though I could make it crumble and go away. All that did was leave me with bloody knuckles and a broken heart. So I continued to sit at the wall, waiting. One day I finally realized that the wall wasn’t going to change, I had to change. So now I’m going to sit and write about this brick wall in front of me, staring it down until it no longer has any power over me.
WARNING: Members of my family might find this post offensive. However, writing is the only way I know how to cope.
December 5th, 2015: Dan and I get up from our seats in the crowded auditorium, I smile at the way his hand automatically reaches for mine, and we start following my parents out of church. The four of us are about to go on a little road trip so Dan and I can show them a few wedding venues that we like. Just as we are about to reach the doors, my sister breaks through the crowd and says, “Hey, come to the bathroom with me before you leave.”
I follow Kaleigh to the bathroom and start reapplying my lipstick as she is checking the stalls. She turns to me and says, “Mimi, Mom and Dad are in serious trouble. I don’t know all the details but I know they’re thinking about the D-word.” Her eyes are wide and desperate, mine are all of a sudden shocked and brimming with tears. I can’t think of any words to say, much less get them out, so I wait for her to start talking again. “I don’t know what’s going on, but we have to pray like never before. And I know that you’re all going to look at wedding venues today, and I didn’t want to ruin that for you, but I just had to tell you.
In that moment, my world seemed to stop spinning. I walked out of the church bathroom, caught up with Dan and my parents, and followed them to the parking lot. I was numb, moving mechanically in a daze. Dan and I got in our car, and my parents got in theirs. During the drive out to our potential wedding venues, I wanted to tell Dan everything. But I didn’t have the words, and I didn’t want to ruin what was supposed to be a happy day, so I held it all in. I plastered a smile on my face and excitedly showed my parents where I wanted to get married. My heart was beating uncontrollably in my chest, and I felt like I could throw up at any second.
When Dan and I finally made it back to his house later in the day, I broke down in tears and told him everything my sister had told me. He assured me that everything would be fine, but I wasn’t sure if I believed him.
This day, the day that was supposed to be about happy dreams for the future, turned out the be the first day of what would become the darkest period of my life.
A few weeks later, my mom sat my sister and me down to talk about everything that was going on. She told us a lot of intimate details that nobody really needs to know. What it all seemed to boil down to is that she wanted a fresh start. Mine and Kaleigh’s first instinct was to fight. She’s always been the outspoken one, so she took the lead. I listened to them go at it while I sat there on the couch, holding my cat as tears welled up in my eyes.
During a pause in the fighting, one of them said, “Well what does Mimi have to say about all this?” You see, I’m a thinker and a writer and not much of a talker. Especially when my emotions are boiling below the surface, waiting to erupt. So I sat for a minute in silence until I finally opened my mouth and a sob escaped as I was trying to speak. In between the tears I was yelling something about it not being right, how mom taught us that love never gives up. Our “heart-to-heart” ended shortly after that, and I had to go get ready for work, applying makeup over my puffy eyes.
I spent the next several weeks walking around feeling as though someone had dropped a stack of weights on my chest. My emotions would switch between anger, despair, fear, sadness, helplessness, and the urge to fight and yell. The peacemaker and control-freak in me wanted to just magically fix everything. My dad was radio silent about it all, probably because he didn’t want us to get involved and carry the burden of knowing about their problems. It’s too bad my mom didn’t protect us in the same way. Sometimes I’d try to talk with her and get her to see reason, but eventually I gave up. The weight was too much to carry around and I couldn’t bear it anymore. I was beginning to realize the best I could do was to keep praying and keep living my own life.
I wrote something in my journal during this time that helped me gain perspective and peace. I had a seed of a thought in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t see what it was until it came out in my writing:
“It dawned on me that most people would have the response of doubting marriage, and doubting love and the value of it all. But I don’t. Never once did I think about not marrying Dan. He is absolutely and irrevocably the great love of my life. Our marriage will have its ups and downs, but those will just add to the beauty of it all. Real life — real love — is messy, but it is breathtakingly beautiful. Planning my wedding while my parents may be planning their divorce does not and will not make me anxious and doubtful, but instead it fills me with a sadness. I will not let this crush me. I will have peace. I will have hope. I will have faith. And, most importantly, I will have love. ‘Love bears all things. Love believes all things. Love always hopes. Love endures. Love never fails.‘”
A few weeks later, Dan and I put our deposit down on our ceremony and reception venue for our wedding. Life as I knew it was falling apart around me, but I was determined not to let it steal my joy.
March 6th, 2016: I’m driving home from work and talking on the phone with Dan. As I’m laughing at something he just said, I get yet another message flashing on the screen of my car: Incoming Call from Mama. I’m only a few minutes away from home, so I ignore her call again; I’ll be seeing her soon and she can tell me whatever she has to say then. I pull into my snowy driveway, hang up with Dan, and kill the engine. My mom’s car isn’t in the driveway. My brain tells me she’s probably just out shopping, but there’s an ominous feeling in my heart. My phone rings again, and this time I answer it, “Hi mom, what’s up?”
Mom says, “Hi honey. I’ve been trying to call you, but you must have gotten out of work late. I just wanted to tell you that when you get home, I won’t be there. I’m going to be living with your grandparents for a little while. I know that you probably hate me right now.”
Tears, once again, are my default reaction. As they’re streaming down my face, all I can muster to say is, “Okay. I hope you’re happy and that you find whatever it is you’re looking for.” I hang up the phone, get out of my car and head straight to my room. I pace the room a couple of times and then seek solace in my walk-in closet. I slam the door behind me and crash to the floor, sobbing.
Once my tears had subsided, I called Dan and told him what happened. I remember saying, “I promise I will never be like her.” I never thought that I would say those words and actually mean them. My mom is someone who I’d always looked up to and admired. She was my best friend. But I said those words and I meant them with every fiber of my being.
The anger and the bitterness came back and took up residence in my heart for a week or so. But then I got tired of it again. Bitterness doesn’t solve anything, it only ends up hurting us. So I resolved to stay gentle and kind, and not to let the world make me hard. It’s easier said than done. I found myself engaged in a battle between bitterness, peace, and “the grays.” I’ve found that love is the only force that has the power to overcome the darkness looming so close overhead.
It’s been five months since my mom chose to stop living with us. It’s just Kaleigh, my dad, and me living in this house now and we take care of each other the best that we can. Life goes on, but it still seems stained by this knowledge that life isn’t as it should be. My parents splitting up has created this darkness that constantly threatens to take root in my heart.
Dan and I are planning our wedding and our life together, and it’s a beautiful and wonderful thing. Kaleigh got engaged recently, so now she’s planning her wedding too. We’re supposed to be happy and hopeful, and usually we are. But sometimes, when I realize that I can’t just come home from work and be like “Hey mom, let’s start planning my bridal shower!” or “What do you think of this color for the bridesmaid dresses?,” I get sad again.
I think the hardest thing is this thought that creeps in sometimes: “Everything your parents taught you is a lie.” I know that that’s not true. It’s just that it’s hard. My parents taught me to love Christ, and to love my future husband unconditionally. They taught me that love is strong and love is forever. They taught me to never walk away from love when things get hard. They taught me that when you get married, you make a vow before God that you will be committed to the one that you love for the rest of your life. Even though my parents aren’t showing me this anymore, I still believe in these principles with all my heart.
I don’t get angry as much as I used to. I try to be gracious and loving at all times, but I’m only human. So to anyone who’s been wondering why I haven’t been my normal happy and kind self all the time, this is why. And I hope you’ll show me some grace as I continue to work through all this. I have deep scars that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life, but I refuse to let this situation have any power over me anymore. I am going to live my life with joy, peace and love. I believe in a God who restores broken things and makes them new again. His love is strong.