Jessica is one of those calm, competent women you meet and think, "Now that lady has it all together." She is smart, accomplished, and unflappable. As a person who is easily "flapped," I admired her instantly. My respect for her deepened when I learned that her capabilities endure in spite of, not because of, her life story. Jessica has been through the proverbial ringer with her family of origin and her marriage. This woman is a dandelion and will bloom in the most inhospitable environments. She has set out to change the course. Steadily, lovingly, and daringly, Jessica does not accept that a past must determine a future. Here is her story:
When I finally called it quits on my marriage, a marriage that had been falling apart from the very beginning, it was a relief but it also wounded my soul. I hurt for my children who were also little-wounded hearts. I grieved to no longer be a wife because I always thought that I would thrive in this role. I was good at being a wife, I just hated being HIS wife. This man was an alcoholic, who spent as much of our marriage unemployed as he did employed, who spent bill money on weed and strippers, whose girlfriends reached out to me on FaceBook, and who had chosen a nickname for me that consisted of two words my children were not allowed to say. In spite of ALL of this, I did love my husband. He was the father of my children and the man I had chosen for better or worse. I just thought there would be more "better".
And though this split was past due, much called for, and a relief, I missed my marriage because, in spite of my divorce, I believe in marriage with my whole heart. I truly grieved the loss of my marriage because it was the end of a dream that maybe one day (if I prayed, and worked, and loved, and hoped, and crossed everything) my marriage could be what I wanted it to be.
I wanted to grow old with someone who knew our memories and family stories and inside jokes built from years of shared life experiences. I wanted to spoil and love on my grandchildren with the man who held my hand as I birthed his sons, to share my grandbabies with someone who cherished my own babies since before they were born. I wanted to be with someone who knew the shape of my body, the smoothness of my youthful skin, and the luster of my hair before the extra belly skin, thinning (gray!) hair, and stretch marks that came from the time and the stress of creating our family. I wanted to be with someone who loved me exactly as I am today, saggy breasts, stretch marks, crow's feet, and all because those changes in my body represented our life together as a family and our family was EVERYTHING.
I wanted that dream. I wanted it so badly that my soul hurt for it. But I didn't get that dream. When I called it quits it was because I finally realized, heart, mind, and soul, that even we achieved AARP status together, my husband was not going to be that person that I yearned for in my marriage dreams. He would never be that person with me or for me. I was always going to the "f'ing B," and no matter how good of a wife and mother I was determined to be and worked hard at becoming, I would never be enough for him.
After we separated, I did A LOT of soul searching, a deep sea expedition to retrieve the pieces of my shattered heart. And through this introspection and work, I realized that I had never been enough for me either, which is a big part of why I chose him. I came from abuse, and poverty, and dysfunction. I could work hard, harder than anyone, but I could never change what I came from. I was broken and damaged, and what kind of man of quality would want a mess like me? I thought, if I dated a good person (which I never did), a man of character and integrity, he would eventually find out that I am a fraud, that I am damaged goods. I would be a disappointment to this fictional good man, and he would throw me away like the trash that I viewed myself to be. I would be discarded, as I deserved to be. So I picked relationships with people just as damaged in their own ways who would never reject me or throw me away.
Only they did. And I let them. And my children watched. The cost to my children of my life decisions is the hardest thing for me to come to terms with. I know they have terrible parenting stories of their own to deal with, and if these stories become something they need to work through as adults, I pray that I have the courage to be the mom that they need at that time too. In the mean time, as I move through this journey of healing with them in tow, I hope that I am also an example of resilience and survival. I hope that I can also show my children that there is such joy in living, even in the dark parts. I want them to know that not everything happens for a reason, because I don't want to be part of a universe that lets children be used for violence and sex for any reason. There is no reason good enough for that. But I need them to know that even when the bad things happen, there can be much to be gained from the pain, and there are lessons to be learned in the dark places. It was only from learning to be quiet and to listen to the pain that I finally realized something: even as broken and damaged as I am, I am enough and I always was.
Please thank Jessica for being brave enough to share her powerful story. Like the post and comment. It encourages our writers and we pick a winner each month from the comments on The Healing Wall.
If you would like to see how Jessica is reaching out to change the world, check out her inspiring TEDX Talk: