We’ve grown enmeshed like two trees rooted in the same earth
inseparable unless we leave some part of ourselves in each other
I keep telling myself that I need to write something about the past two years. I have, in a way. I wrote becoming. It was about parts of my passage, some of it so heavily coded that you would only decipher the details if you knew me very well. But becoming was also about far more than just the past two years, it was really about the past eleven years and my fears for the next twenty. Am I a good mother? Do I love my mom? Do I love my husband? Am I becoming something better or worse than who I used to be? Becoming is a rite of passage, a collection of battle scars. I feel like I need to tell the truth directly because while I am repentant about some things and conflicted about others I don’t want to feel ashamed about any of it, and there are people in my life that know a lot about what exactly happened but have very little to hold on to about why.
Here’s the thing: my husband and I spent almost a year separated. It was a very dark time in my life. I felt completely wrecked. I knew we couldn’t go on living in the same house together. I was suffering from what I later found out may have been a mild kind of post-traumatic-stress disorder. I was constantly hyper-aware of everything, couldn’t sleep, and felt panicked every time I was in the same room with my husband. It felt like every time we talked about what was wrong it made things worse. I was starting to question my sanity and I was starting to get darkly suspicious of him. I worried that he might really, truly, physically hurt me. I worried that I might completely break down even if he didn’t. I felt so completely lost. So I left. I didn’t know what else to do.
Then, the internal questions. Does this mean I’m a failure as a wife? Am I a bad Christian? What do I say to the kids? What will become of me? How will I make it through the next few years? The years after that? Will there ever be a time that I feel whole and happy? It was the best and worst year of my life. It was the worst in that I was working 36 hour work weeks and going to school full time. I had to schedule my time with my own children so that I didn’t forget to interact with them. And my home got to be the kind of home I wanted it to be. The TV wasn’t on all the time, we ate dinner at the table, we felt happy and safe together. (Aside from the big gaping wound just beneath the surface inside of me, that always seemed to split the stitches at the least opportune times.) It wasn’t fun to have to struggle for a GPA I could be proud of; like the time I forgot to print my homework because I’d worked two twelve hour night shifts over the weekend and only got about four hours of sleep before coming in to school, massive migraine in tow, and had to go beg my teacher for full credit. Thankfully the instructor understood, but I’ll never forget the look on her face when I confessed to being a single mom with an infant and two kids in school, that I was so unsure of my own capability to get through school. She just said, “you’re getting through,” and left it at that.
My husband and I ended up reconciling, and that in and of itself has led to a lot of difficult questions. He continues to do the work that is needed for our relationship to get better, but as in all things it waxes and wains and I have to stomach my doubts. I have to wonder if I’ve made the right choices. I have to wonder if our relationship will ever be what we both dream and believe it could be. I have to wonder how we’ll put that year behind us, how we’ll ever fit back together now that we’ve lived and grown separately.
Is this cold flesh moving once again until rot corrupts and the stitches no longer hold the form together?
Or is it soft and sacred as a newborn baby’s face with the scent of fresh birth still lingering in it’s hair?
What do we call ourselves?
And then I look at all of the growing and changing that has happened, and even with all of the scars I realize that I would not give up this experience. When I was first considering the reconciliation a friend of mine asked me what I would say to the 19 year me if I could find her and talk to her. Would I say run? Would I say go for it? Whatever I would say to myself then should be what I say to myself now, that friend said. But I realized that if I could find the 19 year old me and talk to her I would tell her to never stop believing that love can change everything, and I don’t want to stop believing that now. It’s completely foolish to believe that the changes are always what we want, that the love is always perfect, that the end result is always purely good. We’re human, and sometimes humans hurt each other. We’re made of flesh and that flesh can scar. We have our own motives and sometimes we’re blinded by them.
But even in the moments where we kill each other, kill ourselves, in our selfishness there is still beauty that can be born there. The stories of the Bible are stories of corruption and renewal, death and rebirth, slavery and exodus, captivity and freedom. It comes in a cycle as people live and forget, lose and remember. And those stories in the end are what all humanity shares. We’re all on the same journey. And I look at my husband and realize that he can love me despite never fully understanding what went wrong, and I can love him without knowing what changed, and we can both live with our past without believing it has cursed our future, and then I trust God.
I barely remember parts of the past two years, especially the almost-year I spent alone. Huge parts of it are already lost to me, probably because the immense amount of stress I was under. My brain would go on autopilot. I’d drive home and put the car in park and not remember driving there. I’d look at the clock at work and realize four hours had passed that I could barely remember, but when I panicked and double checked I’d been doing my job. I’d wake up in the morning and not remember having gone to bed, but there I was. And throughout that whole process I learned to relax because I just knew that someone out there must really love me, and want me safe.
I can remember the moment I realized it would be okay. And it was, it has been. It will continue to be. And my biggest question, the one I’ve struggled with the most? You know the one, I’m sure. “What am I becoming? It is better, or worse?” It makes me smile, because the one thing I’ve learned more than anything else is that if you move towards God you could never become worse. Little things happen to remind me of how I used to react, what I used to think and feel. I realize that I am not who I used to be, and as I trust myself more I can learn better how to trust others.
I think I died, somewhere in that year alone. Not my physical body, obviously, but somewhere deep inside of myself some version of who I was died. Sometime in one of those moments where my conscious brain just shut itself off and hid, some part of me died. And I’m okay with that, because it’s part of the journey. I think it was the part of me that doubted the most, that wanted to hold on to its hate, that wanted revenge, that thought that I shouldn’t have to share the blame in what went wrong.
But when I snapped out of it, late at night, and wondered how I’d ended up in bed safe and warm with my daughter in my arms, I heard a voice tell me it would be okay now.
And it has been.
Every tree knows it was once a seed covered by earth,
Dead and then not dead, not undying.
*Pieces of poetry from a larger work called “you wouldn’t call a tree a zombie”, written a month after the reconciliation.