Four months. Has it really been four months since the last time I wrote something here? Honestly, it’s probably been at least 2 and a half since I’ve written anything at all. Time has been a funny thing lately. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels as though it’s moving faster.
It’s just been a busy year I guess. But also, I think for me, it’s kind of become the year of the pause. Some sort of in between space,a transition of sorts, in many aspects of my life. Our kids for instance.
Kate is 16 now. Halfway through high school. The in between space of being our baby girl, and nearly an adult. The space where we have to learn to let go on so many levels, and let her find her own way. The space where they have one foot out in the world, and yet we want so much to protect them still. I’ve always been a bit of an overprotective Mama, so it’s a really tough space for me. Navigating High school, newfound freedom that comes with driving, a part time job ….and boys. It’s a whole new world when they turn 16. That tug of war that happens with the holding on tight and the loosening of the grip, never really knowing if you’re getting the balance quite right. But, I’ve been here before. And I’ve seen the other side. So I know that although I most certainly didn’t get everything right the first time, and I’ll likely miss the mark on quite a few occasions this time around too, in the end, as long as they know ultimately we are on their side and just want the very best for them, that’s really the only thing you have to get right.
Emily is still acing college. In the next year or so, she will be deciding where to apply for Grad school. Some of the options she has considered could possibly take her far from us. But for now, I’m just trying not to think about it and just enjoy this space of the in between. I didn’t quite get her back for the summer as she decided to stay at school and take classes for the summer semester. But she has been home for several weekend visits.
And she’s really stepped up in the big sister role. I actually let Kate drive herself to go see her. It’s a 2 and a half hour drive, and the furthest she’s ever gone on her own. They spent the day together shopping, eating sushi and getting ice cream. There were so many years that they argued and annoyed each other. They are SO very different. But over the years I have always told them that one day, they would grow to appreciate each other. That one day, they would truly enjoy each other’s company. That despite their differences, they would eventually see that they are more alike than they thought. I would always tell them that one day, they would be so thankful to have each other, that they would be the best of friends and wouldn’t be able to imagine a world without one another to share it with. I have such a strong bond with my sisters, (and brothers) and I’ve always prayed the same for my girls. I’m beginning to see that coming to fruition with the two of them, and there’s not much that makes a Mama’s heart happier than seeing her kids develop that friendship and supporting each other, and knowing they will always have each other to lean on and share life with.
In our church life, we’ve also found ourselves somewhere in a space of transition. Feeling like we might be going in a different direction, but not quite clear what that direction is yet, so just kind of hanging out. And I’m ok with that for now.
Jeff and I are good. One reason I haven’t spent as much time writing lately is that I haven’t really had any days at home alone. There just haven’t been any days that someone else wasn’t here, or that we didn’t have something going on or somewhere to be. I really need several hours of being alone to write. It’s the only way I can focus and not be distracted. It can be done with others around, but it’s just really not fair to them, because when I write, everything else becomes background noise and fades away. So I really can’t write and be present with anyone. And while I suppose I could plan to wake up at 4 in the morning and write before anyone else gets up… let’s just be real here…it’s just not a viable thing for me at this point in my life. I have trouble falling asleep at night, so getting up at 4 AM would only serve to make me a zombie. And I certainly don’t find my writing inspiration when I’m in a half awake state. So there’s that.
But I think outside of that, a large part of why I haven’t written as much this year is because I have used it for so long as therapy, and maybe, I just haven’t needed it as much. Which is really good, right?
But I know also that it’s not something I want to let fall away. It’s a big part of who I am, and still feels like it’s something of importance, and I believe it can still serve a purpose. Because even though it in large part served as a form of therapy that brought healing and clarity to me, it’s always been very much an offering, a way to help others find their way through whatever difficult path they are facing, a way to build a community of hope, and a way to give back some of the goodness that we’ve been blessed with.
The flashbacks and triggers that once plagued me day in and day out are now few and far between. Occasionally though, something will pop up. Last week, it was a photo. Just as I was about to go to bed, Jeff came to me, with a pained look of concern on his face, very obviously reluctant to say what he needed to say to me.
– “So, I need to tell you about something. I debated whether to bring it up or not. I don’t want to. But I don’t know what to do about it and know you will probably see it. I’d rather you not have to see it at all but I decided it was better for me to tell you about it and see if you know how to fix it than for it to pop up in your newsfeed and you be mad at me for not warning you or have you think I wanted it there.”
A friend and coworker of his had reposted a photo from her Facebook memories, and tagged him in it. The photo was of herself, and Jeff, and a small group of students from nursing school on a day trip to the state Capitol for a class they were taking. And there, in the pic with them was the woman Jeff had the affair with, and right behind her stood Jeff, peeking around her shoulder with a goofy grin on his face.
I’m assuming the woman that posted it, although I’m sure she knew about Jeff’s affair, wasn’t aware of who the other woman was exactly or the fact that she was in that picture with them. She’s a sweet person and I truly don’t believe she would have tagged him in it if she had known. So I can’t blame her for it. But regardless of how or why it got there, it was staring me in the face and it took the breath right out of me the moment I saw it. In my mind, I’d seen them side by side a million times. But this. This was real life. Seeing them together, in an actual real life photo, well, it’s just not something I needed to see. I didn’t know a picture of the two of them together even existed, except for the graduating class photo from the year they graduated. They weren’t beside each other in that one and I haven’t seen it in years. But this one. This one was like a punch in the gut. They weren’t having an affair at the time that this photo was taken, but it was the beginning of their friendship. The bond was being formed, and you could clearly see it. The flirtation was there, and the foundation was being laid for the destruction to come. There they stood, his face right beside hers. And that ‘can’t breathe, stomach aching, heart racing, nausea inducing’ feeling of crushing anxiety washed over me in an instant. Hot tears that I didn’t even feel coming suddenly dripping from my chin.
-“Please don’t be upset. I really didn’t want you to have to see it but I also didn’t want to hide anything from you. I just don’t know how to get rid of it and get it off my page.”
I’m thankful for his honesty. It’s something that obviously wasn’t one of his strengths as the old Jeff. So I am grateful that it is prominent in the new version. But I have to say, that pic threw me for a loop. It showed me that though we are so far from the pain of those days, it’s still a lot closer and more present in my heart than I sometimes think. That even though a heart can heal so much, the memory of it all, no matter how deeply buried, can surface quickly, and if we aren’t careful, can set us back.
So, yes, when I saw that photo, that pain shot right back to the surface like a volcano spewing hot molten lava burning a hole through my heart. So, I did what I’ve learned to do to get past it. I got quiet. I let it run it’s course. Because once the wound is open, ignoring it just gives it a chance to fester untended. I spent the next couple of hours lying awake, working through the sadness and anxiety and fighting the battle of letting the grief run it’s course and ridding my mind of the image now ingrained at the forefront. Drifting from heartache to numbness and back again, sifting through my thoughts to push that painful image out of sight. Praying it away, and making an effort to turn my thoughts to the present goodness and away from the pain of the past. Finally falling asleep from a weary exhaustion of mind, body and spirit. And the next morning, I got up, determined to not let that photo and those memories get the best of me. I chatted with a few of my support group friends. So thankful for those girls. Sometimes, you just need people that get it. People that can not only relate to what you are feeling, that can feel that depth of sadness in a way that only someone that’s been there can, and can not only encourage you and lift you up, but somehow even find a way to inject some humor into a very not funny subject and have you giggling by the end of the thread. I really, really love them.
Anyway, I showed Jeff how to untag himself in that photo, then resolved to put it behind us, and enjoy our beautiful weekend at the lake. And that’s exactly what we did.
So, yes, there are still occasional reminders, but mostly, our days are good.
We’re in the in between. Far, far removed from the worst, but also aware that we haven’t fully arrived at our best. I’m somewhere in the middle, knowing where we came from, knowing what a good place we are in now, and knowing that because of that I can and should feel more secure, yet also still struggling to allow myself to actually REST in it.
We are here in the pause. And I think it’s a necessary place. It’s where I am learning to be still. To just be present in the place we are in. Spending time with Jeff, with my girls, with my family and friends. Finding some sort of normalcy in our everyday lives. Spending less time looking back, but also not trying to look too far ahead. Allowing myself a quiet space of time to just be, and rest in the goodness of the here and now.
There’s more to come. Of that I’m sure. Lessons to be learned, places to go, new memories to be made, people to meet, and books to be written.
But for now, I’m content here in the pause. Resting. Healing. Growing. Finding our way. Finding some joy. Learning to relax a little. Learning to know the importance of the past and how it’s shaped us, and the importance of allowing God to use our lives and our story to bring hope to others, but not allowing what happened in the past to define or be the underwriting narrative to EVERY moment of our existence. Trying REALLY hard to remind myself that I don’t have to work so hard to stay two steps ahead of whatever might be coming because God’s already there.
I’m just trying to enjoy the pause, letting the lessons and the goodness really settle in to my spirit, and do that deep quiet necessary work in my soul. I’ll just wait here in the pause for whatever comes next, and believe with all my heart that whatever that is, it’s gonna be really, really good.
Amy Thurston Gordy