Speaking aloud the things in my mind is oftentimes difficult. Especially when I know that the subject matter is one I’ve guarded dearly, and it is perhaps the most significant part of my life story – at least, when it comes to personal tragedy.
I believe we all have something that is a thorn for us. A difficult time that helped shape the trajectory of life and alter it forever. Maybe words you should not have said and cannot take back. Perhaps words left unsaid and now there is no way to get them out – the person whom you’ve wished to hear them is gone. Or, it runs deeper. You hurt someone irreparably; someone hurt you…
Everyone faces it, it is just that we all cope with this challenge differently.
I need to speak it. That is how I deal. Whether that comes out audibly or with written words; when I have to deal with the burdens I carry, especially of my past, I cannot breathe when it weighs heavily on my heart and will not breathe easily until it comes out – thus, I write, or I speak.
… I have dealt with some intense anxiety over the past several weeks. I know where it originated, but I could not be honest about this. So I’ve suffered with an elephant crushing my chest every single day. It causes me to lose the air from my lungs and when I try and inhale to get it back, it feels like I cannot take in enough and I begin to panic, as if slowly suffocating. My heart races. My face flushes. And I am in full panic mode.
Because I have not said what needs to come out. It’s been burning inside of me. But I felt that, if I said these things – or if I wrote them – it would just fall short and not help, but maybe too even worsen my anxiety because, once I say these things, once I write them, they become real and unavoidable to me. It is here that I face it with a vulnerability that is hard to come by at times. Hard to face because the truth of these thoughts – the reality of this burden – is very much at the heart of the worst time of my life. If I expose that, if I make it known aloud or on paper, it is then not just my own… That is a scary sentiment. But one I have faced several times and make public through my writing – at least, at the very least, I face it.
That is where I am now.
So, here goes:
The house that we made a home. The house where I fell in love and experienced it fully, without fear and entirely vulnerable to love’s fickle nature; the house that, for ten long years since, has been the place I looked back to in my dreams as the last place I knew my mother – a truth in itself that is hard enough, but too it is the last place I found myself completely open to love, unhindered by what was to come, and since those days on Falk Road I have been forever changed… Because I learned there that love would not be strong enough to give us the life we spent years building.
I came downstairs in our beautiful two-story home and found John as soon as I discovered that the home I once knew was gone. He recognized the look on my face and asked me what was wrong, but it took a few minutes for me to say it aloud. I began to cry before the words formed, and I buried my head in my hands in utter shame at the feelings it brought about in my heart. I realized, sitting there in his office, that I would be facing because of this an entirely new avenue of pain that I couldn’t have known would present itself; not after ten years, I thought, so why did this hurt so much?
He held me in his arms as I cried and reassured me that, yes, I am allowed to feel hurt because of feeling this loss. Yes, it was okay – it did not hurt him, could not hurt him, and please explore these things I was feeling and allow myself to cope with it however I would need to.
Having that freedom is a tremendous gift. To say he is the only person whom has allowed me this gift is not an understatement. Most people look at me sideways when I am honest about the pain those days, ten years ago, caused – and the fact that I still deal with that hurt today, well, it makes people uncomfortable.
We are taught to just man up, pull on our smile no matter how much it hurts, and get on with life. But what about the fact that pushing one another to just get over our shit does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING towards achieving that goal?! John knows this, through and through – nobody in the history of stress ever calmed down by being told to calm down! So, he embraced me, and let me deal with it. This, for me, meant crying and it meant talking through it.
Only, this time, I had few words. I could not exactly name why it bothered me so much that Tim sold the house.
So, I pushed it aside. I have life to live. Ain’t got no time to dwell – I’m a Mama, I’m a wife. I’ve got a house to maintain, children to nurture, and a handsome, loving man to adore. Who has time to rehash to past? Especially one I have not belonged to in over ten years…
Fast forward to today. Anxiety. Why? Because I did not name it. I did not talk it out. It’s been living inside me since the day I saw that little house on the long and winding road that is now yellow. The picket fence we built together was replaced by something sturdy and wood-grained instead of white paint. The walls inside the house had long been dressed in a different color since the days my hands painted it green. The floors were different. . .
The bedroom where my nightmare began had been turned into a child’s room with a scene of Pooh bear painted on the walls.
It occurred to me as I had a rare glimpse into the life that wasn’t mine that his life moved forward, too. He made that house a home with someone else. He made a family there. And it was no longer mine. Had not been for many, many years.
Try and tell my heart that. This is where it gets tricky, and honestly I don’t expect even those that know me very well to understand it fully. Hell, some days even I don’t, but I have to try because after all it is my journey. It is my healing.
Taking stock over the years since leaving Washington, I know that over the course of time since I left, any time I needed to remember what my life was like before the end of innocence, I looked to that house. I looked to who I was there. Who I thought I would become. And what it felt like to love without fear. It was very far from perfect, but I had love – who needs more than this? When you are young and in love, he is all that matters. That house was my home and we together worked very hard to make it ours.
I would look back and find comfort in that place. In those memories. Because it was the proof I needed that, yes, I could love deeply. I could be vulnerable and happy, despite everything else. When things weren’t going well wherever I was in Texas, I would go back to Falk Road and see the version of myself I knew best. The version of myself that was free and smiled without worry. A person that had faded to grey, and finding her in this life, at times, was hard to do.
Him selling it was bound to happen. Honestly I thought nobody would tell me. I thought I’d never have to know. I thought, anyway, that I wouldn’t care.
The thing is, I did care. A lot.
But then I’ve spent the past few weeks telling myself I am an idiot for caring. I am stupid, I must be, right? Because who would care? People break up all the time. Hell. I’ve been divorced twice. I’ve lost homes with my ex-husbands – I know what it is like to have to pick up and move on (again and again). So what the fuck is the big deal about THIS house?
It took me a long time to figure that out. And doing it only inside my own head has caused me great anxiety. Mostly, I think, because I chastised myself repeatedly, and with so much judgment. I thought, if I explore this aloud – if I make it real how this hurts me – what will people think? I will surely be judged by the weight of other’s opinions that – to hell with the past, get over it already – why would I subject myself to that? Keep quiet, woman. Deal with it. Man up. Nobody gives a shit. He doesn’t even give a shit – why should you? I told myself this, for weeks.
The things is, it doesn’t matter. This is my story. My life. And I need to get this out.
I finally broke through my self-criticism and talked to John about it. He’s been diligently helping me work through my anxiety for weeks now, patiently asking probing questions to get to the bottom of these heavy thoughts that are so deep they’re literally restricting my breathing. I would sit there and explore it with him and feel myself want to blurt out that it was Tim, somehow, and that house, but then I’d basically give myself a big “fuck you, Christina, get over that – that isn’t it” in my mind and shrug my shoulders as if I didn’t really know what was bothering me.
I had to accept it before I could help him understand it.
When I finally told him, he was the most patient, understanding husband, and I am a million times grateful for that. Not once did he shame me. Not once did he get hurt or shame me for harboring feelings that have nothing to do with him, but instead, a man I loved when I was younger.
He is the best husband, and how dare I think anything other than that I am safe with him. But sometimes I forget, and I am guarded – this helps neither of us.
Talking to him about it helped me a lot. But now here I am. Still feeling anxiety… and I know that is because it’s still inside me.
So, I have to confess that it hurt me. I have to confess that it felt like I lost my safe place. The memory of that house was my comfort for ten years – as absurd a truth as this may seem. That house was where I knew life a certain way, and since the moment I left it, life would forever be something different than what it was when I called it home.
A piece of me still found itself inside those walls. After all, it was where I helped my mother when she needed a place to stay, free of judgment. It was where I saw my dad beat on the drums while Tim ripped on guitar – their music filling my ears for countless jam sessions in the room behind the garage. It was where I planted roots and felt entirely sure about the way my life would go.
And it was the scene of the greatest hurt of my life. The last place I laid my heart out in the soil and buried it, never to retrieve it again – or so I thought. It was where love as a child to her mother was irreparably altered, and where I saw her smile her life’s last smiles to her daughter. Where she told me she loved me and held my hand, as I told her she could fight harder – try harder – and become something different than the shell of the person she once was. It was where she put the nail in the wood that sealed her fate, finally, when she made the single biggest mistake of her life that ultimately cost me my first great love, and cost me the trust and love I had in the woman whom gave me my life.
Tim selling that house was symbolic of all of this for me, ending. The chapter closing, for good. I can never go back there to place flowers on the grave of all that died on those porch steps. I can never go back… That’s what I realized recently.
I’ve known it intellectually for years. I am not an idiot, really. I’ve known in my mind that it has not been my home for all this time. It belonged to him and his wife and their son. Her hands painted the walls. Her hands helped him build a new fence. Her hands touched his face at night and her lips kissed him goodnight. She was not me, and would never know what that house was before she stepped foot in it, and never know – not really – all the reasons why selling it would mean more than simply moving somewhere else. It would mean the finality of memories that danced before he knew her name, and belonged to a woman somewhere in Texas whom he moved on from and successfully forgotten over the years.
Thing was, I did not accept it. Not until now.
It’s a hard pill to swallow. And not that it makes ANY difference to my life now. I am present here with my children, and my husband. I love them in a way I cannot really express. Especially my husband. John is incredible. And he is extraordinary. He allows me to feel these things, even when I cry aloud for a life long ago, and yet still knows and trusts in my love for him. We’ve had our own struggles and some dark times in our relationship where I lost my way, but he remained and loved me through them all, and he knows I will give him the same amazing gift should he ever need it. I AM present, and I am grateful for my life now.
The feelings I have for my past are of no danger to my present life. I am, to be certain, happy here.
I just have a lot in my heart. My greatest struggle still comes out from time to time. Sometimes, it causes me anxiety, and I don’t believe this makes me odd or means that I am not strong. It does not mean I am being unfaithful to my husband by dealing with my past. It does not mean I am pining for Tim when I think about the fact that he sold “our” house and the reality of that hurt me.
I would encourage anyone whom faces their difficult past to address it honestly. To step out of the judgments from yourself and see that it does not mean you are weak if you wrestle with yesterday. It does not make you a fool.
In fact, for me, it is the only way I find happiness. To be honest about the past and how it still grips me today. If anything, it means it was something worth a damn to me, and that is better than not having loved at all, right?
Great loss hurts. Great pain stays with you. You can fight that truth, beat past it, but you will never fully let it go unless you attack it head-on. Open up and be honest with the vulnerable truth that yesterday was real, and it follows you, and you must make amends with it – and challenge it directly when it comes back up inside of you – or lie to yourself and face anxiety for weeks, years.
For me, that’s no way to live. I need to be able to breathe.
So I am facing it. I am challenging it. And I am figuring out that I can survive without that house to go back to – if even just in my mind. I can smile for Tim because he’s free from that house and all the memories that hurt him and I. I think, if it would have been me, I would have probably sold it years ago, because living there – facing those yesterdays every day when you walk through the door, I imagine at times that was tough. So at least he’s let that go.
I wonder if he thought of me the last time he turned the lock and walked down those porch steps. I wonder if he turned around and sighed heavily. If he did, I hope he remembered me only with happiness, and then, as he drove away, released the burdens that dwelled there. Forgiven himself, and forgiven me for leaving him there to deal with that hurt alone.
It is gone for us both now. Symbolically and literally.
That is in a way a gift for me, personally. It didn’t feel like it at first. It felt painful at first. Like walking through the smoldering ashes of my dad’s house when it burnt down when I was in High School. A cold, ash-ridden reminder of everything we lost that we’d never have again.
But I am tired of carrying it with me. It is time to work on letting it go. One labored breath at a time. One honest word at a time. One written sentiment after another. . .
Life goes forward. We like to imagine ourselves strong enough only to be present with today and positive that tomorrow will be better, and as we do this, we are told to leave yesterday alone. The thing is, yesterday is all we know, next to today, and so I’ve made it my work for the past 31, almost 32 years, to be really familiar with the past. I know it intimately. It shaped me, grew me, taught me, hurt me, and made me who I am today. Some of that past hurts. It hurts a lot. And I cannot live in a world that tells me I should be quiet about that pain. That I should be over that by now. Sorry, folks, but lying about the reality of your history – to yourself and to others – does nothing to help resolve it.
For me, it is only with honesty and an open heart that I find peace with yesterday. Through the pain of anxiety and the torment of keeping it to myself, I finally opened my mouth. I finally put my fingers to this keyboard and I admit that yesterday still hurts me. So, now, I am stronger because I’ve acknowledged that, and it has a little less power now.
Funny how breaking the silence does that. Funny how pushing through my own self-doubt and self-critical tendencies and opening my mouth to speak it aloud breaks the pain apart a bit more. I am grateful that I’ve been brave enough to speak it. Brave enough to be vulnerable with this. Because I cannot let it keep me down. I cannot let it steal my breathe any longer.
Thank you, husband, for being here for me as I work through the parts of myself that hurt me. Thank you for being present, and patient, and loving. I could not be strong like this if you did not encourage me to speak even when it hurts.
To those that suffer anxiety. Speak it out. Don’t push it down. Don’t be ashamed of the fact that the past hurts you. You are not unique in that struggle, trust me. Own it. Face it. Be honest. You are not weak if you acknowledge the reality of your mind and the pain in your heart. You are human. We are all flawed, and we all face something. Every single person whether they appear to have all their shit together and speak all the right philosophies. You may look into their eyes and envy their present peace… But even those who’ve cultivated a spiritually sound life have darkness in their mind and in their heart – from yesterday, from today, and perhaps even as they look into tomorrow. None of us are immune to this.
Anxiety is a bitch. A liar. It will make you believe this pain is too deep, too heavy, too much. But it is not. Let it out – not to be confused with “let it go”…
If I can do it, so can you.