Today marks the 17th anniversary of the day that the trajectory of my life took a new and fateful course. For all the world, I would call October 7th, 1995, the worst day of my life, but when I step back and understand the unfolding of events from a 17 year standpoint, I wouldn't change it.
I know that there are schools of thought that believe that fate is fate and destinies are set in stone, and every step we make was already predestined. While I agree that some things are fixed points in our lives, how we reach them, or postpone them, is determined by the choices we make.
Part of me wishes there was a me of the now to reach back and tell the me that I was then about the pain that I was blissfully stepping into. But if I had had a fair warning, wouldn't my 18 year old emotions have won out and compelled me to the fate of a disastrous marriage and a lifetime of lessons compressed into nine years of pain anyway?
I can't say with any certainty that changing my course at any point along that rough and angry path would have kept me from where I am today, but in all honesty, I wouldn't run the risk.
Aside from the obvious, irrevocable and questionable gift of parenthood, the things that I learned from my first marriage both set me up to fail, and offered me the keys to success, depending on my response. Marrying a man who did unthinkable, unspeakable things, taught me simultaneously to trust no one, and to cling to any Beauty I find. I would give my Terrible Experience of a husband at least half of the credit for both the good and the bad in my life. In teaching me the poignant depth of pain a soul can taste, he also exposed me to the joy of freedom from pain. In oppression I learned the power of liberty, and in frustrated helplessness I was forced to learn independence and the efficacy of my own soul. I learned my most painful weaknesses, and my most triumphant strengths. In him I saw all of the worst of humanity, which gave me a deep and resounding love for the truly good people.
He tore my heart into a million pieces so that I could experience the healing salve of real, wholesome, honest love. The torture I learned from him drove me into the place of peace I could only create for myself, surrounded by the people that gave me leverage and cheered me on as I scaled the wall of Total Impossibility. Without knowing his hateful selfishness, how would I know the loving selflessness I have found?
I am thankful. Not for the pain itself, but for the knowledge of it. And the freedom from it.
I believe my real life was waiting on the other side of the cruel test that he was. Looking back, I have come full circle to my childhood dreams. I AM who I dreamed I would be, with a few unforeseen quirks and maybe some unnecessary baggage. But the most beautiful thing is that I found somebody with matching baggage, and the broad, manly shoulders to carry it all. I found my hero. How would I have recognized him without the things I have seen?
As I write this, the Sister Hazel song "Change Your Mind" is on. How many years I wished to be free of every tie to the life that I walked into that crisp October day. How many years it took me to realize that it was those ties that threw me headlong into my dreams, and the Right Life. I didn't need to change my past, my life, ME. I needed to change my mind. Standing on this side it's so clear. I know standing in the middle, how UNclear it was. I know. And for my own girls, my friends, my sisters - anyone who stands in the pain right now, hear me when I say that what doesn't kill you WILL make you stronger, better, more you.