Dear December 31, 2006 Me,
Hey girl. I'm writing to you from December 31, 2016. I have some stuff to tell you, because I know how you're feeling right now.
Today, you feel like your life has ended. Your heart was shattered today in that one phone call, where her voice said, "Is this Mrs. A? Are you still married to E?" and when you confirmed both questions, a spindly, bony and ghostly hand ripped into your chest, pulled out your trusting, soft heart and slammed it to the floor. It shattered into so many splintering shards that you couldn't breathe. But C, the sweet little baby girl growing in you needs you to pick yourself up. I know it feels like you can't. But this is not the end of you.
THIS IS NOT THE END OF YOU.
I realize you never imagined that this would be your lot in life. You've served him and your church, you've loved hard and expected that you were loved in return. This was not on your radar, even though the stirrings have made you uncomfortable.
It's important for you to know, this is not your fault.
You are not stupid for missing signs.
"You need to forgive yourself for the blindness that put you in the path of those who betrayed you. Sometimes a good heart doesn't see the bad", as the quote goes.
I also need to tell you that you aren't going to have the strength to walk away yet, and that's why you're not telling anyone. You don't want someone telling you what to do, because you are frightened more than you've ever been in your life. You don't want to have your baby alone. You don't want to lose the family you've tried to build with someone who is narcissistic and doesn't have the ability to love and respect commitment. That's how cheaters are, darling. They are selfish and deeply flawed and are not worthy of you.
NOT WORTHY OF YOU.
You are going to try and pick up those shattered little splinters and super glue them. It's going to be a rudimentary heart you recreate, full of cracks and holes, fear and anger and an intrinsic upheaval that makes you question your entire life. You won't know what's real. You'll say, in your head, that after a year you'll feel better. You will go on, forging as a broken family, and move to a big city, starting over.
You will give birth to your little girl, and she will have saved your life, because if not for her existence, that fleeting thought of not having the will to live will be put off until you're strong enough to process what has happened. You will fall in love with her and she will be that glue for a little while. Your little boy's trusting heart will seal it. You will feel somewhat whole.
Except in your fear, you will morph into a scarily submissive being; working nights and losing sleep, arranging life around his needs and happiness, to avoid the pain that nearly destroyed you again. You will tell yourself you're okay, that these are good years, that you are happy again.
YOU'RE NOT YOU, THOUGH.
He stole you.
From you, from your family, from your children.
You'll spend summer nights backstroking in the pool and staring at the cool stars and wonder where life is headed.
You'll throw yourself into church work and pray that God will make things turn out right. You'll pray for the good man that you were hoping for, that you just KNEW he was, is and could be.
BUT HE'S NOT.
Because four years from now, you will feel like this all over again.
And you will tell your family this time, and they will strengthen you.
And you will leave and find a house of your own close to your brother and you will become hopeful for a moment.
But you just won't have ALL of the strength you will need. You are terrified of sharing your children. You don't know how you could start over at 36. And so you will let him back in. You will feel sorry for him (I KNOW! Don't you want to scream at the us of 2011 and tell her to END IT ALREADY?!) and you will nearly lose your family over this decision.
You will feel like you are losing your mind and so you'll quit your job, break your lease and take your family to Maine to work. You will trade in your cars and say goodbye to your life and drive for five days to a place you've never been.
You'll fall in love with the people and the town and be able to breathe in church again and never want to leave. You'll drop off fan letters for your neighbor Stephen King and marvel at the pink trees in the chilly autumn. You could build a life there.
(Can you believe you uprooted and went to MAINE?! Can you see your strength steadily increasing? I'm so proud! 2012 us is getting there!)
But you will move on with the family and go to a suburb of Washington DC and rent a huge old dream house and weather Hurricane Sandy (in a tizzy, but still, you stayed strong). You almost decide to stay there too. But you keep moving, when your contract ends. You are so thankful that travel nursing is a thing.
And so you end up in Florida. You work at the busiest ER in the country and again fall in love with the people. You gain strength every day and then a longtime friend asks you what the hell you are doing in this situation, the same question those who love you have asked for years, but it clicks. IT CLICKS, GIRL!
And when it appears things are starting all over, and that your problems have followed you and not magically stayed in Arizona as you'd hoped, your strength tank is finally full.
You will do it! You will leave. You almost ALMOST go to Chicago to start life over, just you and the babies. You will be near other family and it will be good.
But then God VERY CLEARLY speaks to you.
You have to go home. To Arizona.
It's going to be hard. You are going to hurt. A lot.
You are going to doubt yourself.
You are going to wonder why in the hell you came back, because you didn't want to live in the desert anymore.
You are going to file for divorce, and it's going to shatter you for a while. You'll have to face him. Tell him no. Be strong for your children and find the courage that you were 100% sure you never had.
But did you see it building through the adversity?
You will take time off, time to fall in love with yourself. You will find your voice and your heart will meld, filling in the cracks. It will take a year. But your family will carry you through. YOU will carry you through.
And it will all make sense.
Because on New Years Eve, 2016?
Girl, you are snuggled up with the love of your life. You know, the one you were convinced didn't exist? And he has gone through what you have. He was severely mistreated too, but healed and was able to hand his sweetest heart to you.
I know! Isn't this amazing news?!
The 2014 you fell in love. And it wasn't a coincidence. God brought you someone who had hurt like you had, who had the ability to love like you love. Someone trustworthy and handsome and kind. He's OUT there! He didn't want to live in Arizona and you didn't want to live in Arizona, but you are both ALIVE for the first time in Arizona. Oh, the irony.
You are going to blend a family with him. You are going to make more babies with him, but we don't know yet if any of them with make it to the finish line. You'll learn more through those trials too. But it's okay, because you know you have that strength now!
Your first couple of years together will be hard, full of nonsense and lawyers and a funeral, but you'll be closer to him because of it. His parents will love your parents and your families will have their first real Christmas together in 2016. You will marvel at the imperfectly perfect holidays and realize that this big, wild family is what was always meant to be. It would just take mistakes that you'd both learn from, the biggest mistakes of your lives leading eventually to the biggest blessings. Your children will still be your children, and the five of them blended would finally see what it means when a man really loves a woman and a marriage is devoid of narcissism and selfishness.
You two will have a heart for travel and go on adventures at every chance. You'll spend your honeymoon in Disneyworld, see the Walking Dead set in Atlanta; you'll walk the Golden Gate Bridge together and dip your toes in the Pacific in both San Diego and Malibu. You'll be proposed to in the warm sand of Panama City Beach, and cheer on the Seminoles in Tallahassee and the Bulldogs in Athens. You'll see family in Chicago and bring all the kids to Disneyland more than once. You'll find a favorite breakfast spot in Prescott and make your new best friends in Birmingham.
You will close out 2016 having survived it, and look expectantly to 2017, because dreams were starting to be realized and you have a greater understanding for the beauty in every day of life.
So, my dear hurting girl of 2006, allow yourself to feel that pain. Forge your way through it, to the other side. Hold on to hope. Remember you have a future. God promised that when He told you, "I know the thoughts I have toward you. Thoughts of good and not of evil, to give you a future and hope".
Your future and hope are here.
You are still here, stronger than ever.
Someday, New Years will really be happy again. I promise you.
New Years Eve 2016 You.