There was a time when she thought she had it all under control. When the kids listened, when they were safe. When she didn’t have to worry. But there were times, like tonight, when she felt that it was all unraveling. Each end she tried to grasp and tie up, slipped through her fingers. And she wasn’t sure if she would lose them, of if she was just losing herself.
Dark air didn’t help. It felt heavier than the light. The blackness took opportunity to shut everything else out, no escape from the terrifying voices within. Eyes not focused on anything except the movie picture memories. Ears ringing with a deadly external silence. And that’s when she could clearly hear everything. Inside.
How did it get this bad? She thought. Where did I go wrong? They always said we are just one bad decision away from a screwed up life. Just one little thing, But what it was, she couldn’t tell. Was it the too loud argument they had over dinner, almost 2 years ago now? She could have handled that better. Did she say the wrong thing? Or maybe she shouldn’t have taken this job. It was just enough pressure on the family, to push him over the edge. To push them over the edge. She could have stayed home, they could have made that work. Looking for the place in time where it shifted. When did the uphill turn down?
Nighttime had a way of allowing her to speak too boldly, too harshly, to herself. She knew that when her stomach turned over when she pulled the quilt back. Every night. Now. Trying not to remember what the red glowing numbers told her, about the time. The time she would waste here, laying defenseless, and defeated. It was only 9:17pm. God. Just forget that. Heart beating, sweating, thinking of the meaningless minutes that were just passing, and slipping, and leaving her timeline. She couldn’t get it back. But there was nothing else she could do. But lay there.
This was the second night alone. Without her baby girls. Well, not babies anymore. Sweet and spicy less than young adults. Pieces of her were missing, numb and hollow. Even though her girls never slept in the same room as she did, theirs was down the hall. Even when they were babies, she faithfully trained them to self-soothe so that they would be able to put themselves to sleep. That was the good mom thing to do, encourage their self-sufficiency, so that they would grow up strong, not depending on her. Back then, it was a responsible plan.
Tonight the vacuum of life and breath that once slept on the other side of this wall, was deeply painful. They were not there. She could not reassure her internal mother angst by laying a hand on their peaceful back to make sure they were breathing. Even at ages 6 and 8. She didn’t have the exasperation for telling them to pick up their dirty laundry or to brush their teeth. Simple annoying things that she never thought she would miss. But she did. And she now regretted those were the particular words that she had to hold on to.
They were not gone forever, of course. It could have been worse, it always can be worse. She has to remember that. People do this everyday. Why is she so sad? It could be so much worse. But it is not. Not yet anyway. Her little girls were spending the first week with their father, her ex-husband, an entirely new arrangement in everyone’s life. And she couldn’t care for her little girls. Not like she used to.
But what was she going to do now with her life? She tried to quote the inspirational Instagram wisdom that scrolled through her brain. The little sentences plastered over the calming pictures. Catchy quotes by important people. Much more important that she ever wanted to be. Of course she would listen, to them. The little words that taught her how to move forward. Think better. Live better. If only her distracted mind could always remember. If only those words worked. Those stupid little words.
Learning the hard way, I guess that’s how this was turning out. Everywhere she looked for inspiration and answers, it never quite worked out. In fact, most of the things people quote on coffee cups and even in Bible study, have proven to be unhelpful and even false. God was not opening any doors for her. Her whole world had been shut down. God gave her way more than she could handle, and she was drowning in the quiet darkness.
They wanted her to pull herself out of this funk, and somehow find joy. Joyful that her husband suddenly turned cold and demanded a divorce. Joyful that she now lost her loves, her children, her daughters, for fifty percent of their childhood to the man who violently broke her heart. Joyful that she now had no one. Absolutely no friends and family since their most recent move to this small tight-knit town, in which she hadn’t found anyone to depend on.
But she couldn’t. It was too much. Maybe God didn’t care. Maybe she wasn’t strong enough after all. Maybe she screwed up beyond repair, and this was her punishment. This was all too much to handle and she didn’t know what to do anymore.
She has always heard about couples having problems. She didn’t ever consider that she would be one of them. Fighting for time with the little people that came from her very own body. Despising the man that she once fell in love with. Struggling now with the simple bills that a two income family didn’t give a second thought about. Yearning for someone, anyone, to just touch her shoulder. To simply feel the warmth of another human body, that she was beginning to forget.
And it wasn’t spectacular. It wasn’t out of the mainstream ordinary. But this wasn’t what they said the Christian life was supposed to look like. As a matter of fact, it seemed to only get harder since she found a community of faithful friends.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
And she was now seeing the suffering of the cross more clearly than ever. That the beautiful world was infused with a heavy longing. That pure love and commitment was entrusted to selfish sinners. That her temporal life would end up too short, and a search for meaning in itself was meaningless.
She finally believed that she could not save her life.
She was chosen to lose it.