A November Night | Reflecting On Life
A night of reflecting…
Last night was a gorgeous and relatively cool November night here in Cayman. It was a night that offered an opportunity to practice gratitude while I reflected back on life. I am inviting you in as I reflect and look forward. In coming along with me today, you will gain an intimate look into me, my marriage, my life as a Mom, and so much more.
Here we are in November 2016. Do you know that feeling of gasping for air when you hold your breath just a little too long? Maybe it was a dare? Maybe it was a dive into the pool that took you just a little too deep? Well, last night, I finally felt that gasp. That rush of air that told me, it is going to be alright.
Looking back to November 2014, I remember starting to feel like myself again after having my son. Nearly 2 years old, I started to feel re-energized and whole despite the chronic pain that I’ve contended with since my near-fatal accident back in 2010. I was at a healthy weight having lost the 70 pounds that I had gained during my pregnancy with my son, I was enjoying life as a Mama to my little boy, and my husband and I were still pushing forward despite the trials that we were facing in our marriage – our marriage which was never given a chance to experience that honeymoon phase. I look back and I think about how my desire for my husband grew as I started feeling better overall. Daily chronic pain, gaining 70 pounds through my first pregnancy, having an emergency c-section after laboring with my son, breastfeeding 24/7, and being the primary caregiver to my little one with little help, took a toll on me. It affected my marriage. I lost touch of myself and despite losing the 70 pounds that I gained during my pregnancy, I was still depleted. I had no desire for intimacy or to embrace my husband who had not committed himself to our marriage and family. Words were empty to me when his actions did not match up and his loyalty to me waivered. My response was anger and I pulled away, I prayed, I cried, I threatened to leave, I always stayed, but I felt that this cycle of behavior was unending. We had been to this place before in our marriage prior to moving to this island. This was supposed to have been put in the past. I had forgiven him. Moving here was supposed to be our fresh start. However, I learned that old habits die hard. Despite not having it all together, we managed to push through and stay together and we’ve been blessed along the way despite experiencing painful times together. Just as we had not planned for our son, we had not planned for the second pregnancy that we were blessed with. On Jack’s 2nd birthday, we found out that I was pregnant. During my pregnancy with Kaitlyn, I faced several scares including the thought of an ectopic pregnancy and then a couple of bleeding episodes, which placed me on bedrest. Those experiences made it very apparent that I already loved and wanted Kaitlyn. As my body grew, I embraced the fact that I was going to become the Mama to two, God-willing. My marriage continued to face tests and trials, and I remember at the beginning of my pregnancy with Kaitlyn the feeling of hopelessness and despair – again. My desire and envisioned legacy for my children motivated me to continue fighting for what I knew was right and for what I felt a committed marriage meant.
After we welcomed Kaitlyn in August 2015, I remember slowly feeling like I was literally going to die. I am not exaggerating this by any means. Healing from a second c-section, being home taking care of a newborn, nursing 24/7, trying to keep up with an active toddler, and trying to maintain our home all while dealing with daily pain while others tried to minimize what I was experiencing was breaking me. I remember my husband coming home and complaining that toys were not cleaned up and that there were dishes in the sink and I remember finally losing it. At this point, we had just surpassed our five year wedding anniversary and the only gift that I asked for was that the next five years would be better than the first five and that he would love me deeply. I longed to feel my husband’s genuine love and not a self-seeking type of love. This is the time when I finally found the courage to give others a glimpse into our marriage. In sharing, I was not seeking pity, sympathy, or anything else from others. I have shared an intimate look into my life since I decided to take a journey of healing following my accident. I’ve shared in hopes that others would see past my exterior appearance, past the social media appearance, and past the positive posts that I share, which help me (and others) move forward focusing on that which one has to be thankful for. However, as much as one focuses on positivity there are underlying realities that are not as pleasant to share. It takes great courage to share these realities. I share because I realize that walls do nothing to heal and my walls were demolished when that truck hit me back in December 2010. At nearly 65 mph, that truck shattered everything that allowed me to keep people out. Through my acceptance of faith and my desire to heal, I grieved and I also wasted a great amount of energy on anger. I remember when I started writing despite how uncomfortable it was and despite the judgment that came from those who did not know me intimately. I started to write and as I began to heal, others were healing, too. It did not take me too long to realize that this was no longer about me, but about who could be served through me. After celebrating my five-year wedding anniversary, I felt led to finally share more into my marriage. Despite my own fears of sharing this intimate look into my marital struggles, I shared. In sharing, more people opened up to me and shared how thankful they were for that courage to do so. They were able to realize that they were not alone in their struggles in their own perfectly imperfect marriage.
Despite my positivity and hopefulness, however, my marriage still faced more trouble. My husband was either not listening or paying attention to the fact that I was barely staying above water. Everything that I was doing during the day to keep it all together was falling apart, as was I. This new year of marriage didn’t seem too new, but instead, all too familiar.
Around Christmas 2015, I finally broke and I stopped doing everything that I was doing.
I finally realized that I needed to focus on self-care.
From late 2015 until this night in November 2016, I’ve done just that. I had no choice. My body could not handle the demands and lack of attention. Slowly, my mind and my body were deteriorating. In prioritizing my self-care, my husband realized more of the demands that he was unaware of. In prioritizing my self-care, I established boundaries with those in my life who were feeding me doubt, negativity, and toxicity. I established more boundaries with my husband, too. In prioritizing my self-care, my husband slowly started to realize that love involves more than “what is in it for me”. That last sentence is interesting to me, too. One of the best lessons that I have learned in all of this is the fact that self-care is not selfish. If you do not care for yourself, then you cannot care for and serve others in the capacity that a “whole” person is capable of. If you do not care for your own mental and physical health, then it is not possible to be the best wife, Mama, and friend that one is able to be. If I am overdoing it and unable to function due to pain, then I can serve nobody and how am I serving a bigger purpose at that point? If certain people want me to stay silent because they do not want to accept reality, or this reality dilutes their delusional perfect world, then how is this serving a bigger purpose?
Thankfully, due to the benefits received through my husband’s job, I am now getting the care that we could not afford for the first couple of years since moving to this island. Thankfully, I’ve crossed paths with a couple of amazing physicians who practice medicine with exceptional patient care, who take the necessary time to learn through listening to and actually touching their patients, and therefore, truly make a positive difference in assisting their patient in healing. Thankfully, one of these physicians has allowed me to see a part of me that I had not identified and in learning about my own giftedness, I’ve been able to understand myself better and in more ways than one, my hope has been restored. Thankfully, I’ve realized that I am going to be okay even when I don’t have all of the answers. Thankfully, I have my deep sense of faith, which others have mocked and laughed at. That is okay. I understand the journey that I took and how long it took me to understand that there was a Creator who is so much greater than me. I respect the fact that everyone is on their own journey. I’m just thankful that I did not succumb to the thoughts of “I would have been so much better off dying than surviving and going through what I am going through every day.” Those are thoughts that I had after my accident when I didn’t realize that I had a purpose for surviving. My acceptance of faith has gotten me through the darkest of moments and it has brought me to this beautiful island, which I have the privilege of calling home.
So that brings me to this night of reflection in November 2016, which happened to be a beautiful night in Cayman. I am not sure I’ve experienced a not-so-beautiful night here, but this one felt special. Relatively, it felt like a cool summer night back in Michigan. Last night, I felt like I could breathe again. In looking back, I’ve gone a little too deep, I’ve fought my way back to the surface, and I’ve gasped. I’ve moved past that fear that one feels when they realize what threatened their existence, and I am thankful for the lessons learned during my struggle to regain my sense of self.
With a sense of newness of life, I felt like I was able to finally sit back a bit and truly enjoy the blessings that I have been afforded since my little girl entered the world.
Here’s a glimpse into my life – my reason for truly living…
My heart overflows with joy and love as I watch them play together. I am so blessed to be their Mama.
I love Kaitlyn’s joy and carefree spirit.
I pray for my husband to always be the type of man that Kaitlyn deserves in her Daddy.
She gives it her best effort.
Sometimes she falls and that is okay.
She always gets back up and she only looks back to acknowledge how far she’s come.
The sun shining down on her soft skin, those beautiful curls, and memories drawn into the sand.
My heart overflows with love.
…and then there’s my boy. My brave and adventurous little boy.
So bright and independent.
He’s patient, kind, a teacher, and a best friend to his little sister.
Jack, I know that you are going to do good things in this world.
You changed my life for the better, you’ve humbled me, and you’ve motivated me.
You and your sister are two of the reasons why I had to survive.
Now, for your sake, I desire to truly thrive.
I hope I can teach you as much as you’ve already taught me.
Jack, I hope you always know how much I love you.
I once questioned why I survived. I remember those dark days and the uncertainty.
I remember the pain. The feelings of fear. The sense of hopelessness.
I trusted in a plan greater than my own. I followed where I felt led.
I have seen good and bad days and each new day has been a gift.
I do not take this second chance at life for granted.
I remember what it felt like when I felt my life was ending.
In looking back, I realize it was just beginning. I am so thankful.
In reflecting more on my marriage, our commitment to our vows, for “in sickness and in health”, for “for richer and for poorer”, the “for better or worse”, I feel a deep sense of gratitude.
and now an open letter to my husband as we come up to our 6th year of marriage…
I think of our love and what makes it special.
It is messages like these. It is you sharing how much you enjoy sharing our e-mails when you are away at work, providing for our family, allowing for us to have this beautiful life here in Cayman.
It is the little mundane tasks that are required to make a family work.
It is the vulnerability that you allow through your support of me sharing our most intimate moments like I am doing right now.
It is gratitude for opportunities to share my love for you and our marriage with others – sharing our realities, struggles, and pain with others to restore hope and help those who do not yet see the light.
It is opportunities like this:
That lead to comments like these from people who I admire and respect:
It is finally having a night where our little warriors pass out and are both asleep, where I am not overcome with physical pain and exhaustion, and when you can actually hold me.
I know that you love me. I can now feel your love for me and finally see your love for me.
Your actions speak louder than your words in a good way.
It has taken us nearly six years of marriage to get to where we are today, but I am thankful. How could I not be?
I am thankful for my hardworking man who weathers the elements of this island to provide for his family. I am thankful that you know God’s love, that you pray for God’s protection and provision, and that you’ve allowed yourself to let go and to grow in so many ways. I am thankful that you choose your family over everything else. I am thankful that you always tell me that you love me. I am thankful that you forgive me when I feel overwhelmed, when I am in pain, when I fall short, and when I do not extend grace to you. I’m learning, too. For that, I am also grateful.
I trust that God will continue to lead us, guide us, and provide for us. He has never failed us. Our story is something you see in movies and I still haven’t given up on the thought of our journey actually materializing into a hope-filled movie one day. If we didn’t personally live through it, I don’t know if I’d believe everything that has happened along our journey together.
and now, a letter to God…
Thank you for allowing me peace and clarity. Thank you for carrying me through life’s darkest moments. Thank you for allowing me to see the beauty of life. Thank you for allowing me to recognize how much of a gift life really is and for allowing me to be thankful for this journey – pain and all. Thank you for loving me despite my past mistakes. You have taught me that nobody is ever too broken to receive your love. It is always there for those willing to receive it. You have taught me that there can be purpose in pain. You have taught me to be grateful and to not take life or what life offers for granted. I think back to who I was before my accident and I was unappreciative. As much as I’d love to be free of this pain, thank you for allowing me to go through it, to have no other choice but to rely on you, and to come to a place where I feel continuous gratitude – even in the simplicities of life. Thank you for allowing me this second chance at life, for giving me my family, for giving me supportive and encouraging souls who genuinely care about me and my family, for giving me a platform to help others along their own journey of healing, for giving me the gifts needed to help carry out my life’s purpose whatever that will fully entail, and for never forsaking me.
To the beautiful person reading this…
Thank you for joining me in this space, for allowing me to reflect with and serve you, and for giving me an opportunity to make the most of my gift of life. I hope that in sharing, I am able to encourage and inspire you to also live your best life possible and to assist you in focusing on all that you have to be grateful for. If my writing and shared experiences have touched you, then please help others by liking and sharing. You never know how a simple gesture can help someone else understand that they are not alone.