It was the day after the man who had promised to always love me was arrested.
I sat on the narrow bed in the spare room at my sister’s house and contemplated the entirety of the mess of my life.
I was broken. I was broke. I was undone.
But I was no longer lost. I had been found.
For the final three months of that relationship from hell I had been missing. Disappeared. Gone.
My daughters, my family, friends, no one knew where I was and I wasn’t telling.
He had told me I couldn’t. I didn’t dare disobey him.
When the police arrived that morning of May 21, 2003, I was standing by the river that ran through the property of the guesthouse where we were staying.
I was contemplating how to disappear forever. I imagined unhooking gravity’s hold on my body, letting it fall forward of its own volition to sink beneath the waters and get washed out to sea.
I had lost all will to live and wanted to die. But I could not kill myself. To kill myself would have made a lie of the one truth I clung to. I loved my daughters. I could not take my own life.
Desperately I waited for him to take me out of my misery. I waited to be rescued by death.
And then I was.
Rescued. By life.
I have been thinking about that story lately. It is inevitable. Working in a place where women come in with their children in tow, fleeing a man who has promised to love them and who is hurting them in ways they never imagined possible.
It is inevitable that those memories surface as I watch a woman and her two teenage daughters navigate the uncertain terrain of an emergency shelter and this place called homeless.
It is the part of the journey that people seldom talk about. That place where all pride is stripped away as you face the bitter and unbelievable truth; you are broken and desperately need help.
I was always too proud back then to acknowledge how broken I was. My pride kept me from reaching out for help.
I hid. I pretended. I smiled to hide my fear. My pain. My confusion.
I wanted to be rescued because I did not believe I could save myself.
On that morning after he was arrested so many years ago, I opened a notebook and began to write. It was all I could think of to do to keep from drowning in self-loathing and fear and sorrow and grief and heartbreak.
One of the very first things I wrote so many years ago was, “Now for the hard part. Healing from this mess.”
I remember sitting on my bed, looking down at the pen in my hand and the notebook with its lines blurring through my tears and thinking, “I can’t do this. I don’t know where to start.”
And then a voice from deep inside me whispered. “Yes you can. Begin right here. Begin with what you know. You are alive. With life, anything is possible.”
And it was true.
I was alive and anything was, and is possible.
I gave up on hating myself that very first morning. I gave up on dragging myself through the dirt and muck of the past and gave myself permission to be present in life as it appeared in that moment.
I was still afraid. Still broken. Broke and sad. But I was alive.
And with life, anything is possible.
It is what I want to tell the women I see everyday at the shelter. It is what I want to whisper into the ears of those young girls who sit so still as they whisper together, watching the room of children and parents flow around them.
“You can get through this. Begin right here. You are alive and anything is possible in your life.”
Once upon a time, pride stood in my way.
And then, life rescued me and I found the courage to let go of pride and reach out for help.
I am grateful.