We’ll start with that next time, my counselor says, indicating that this time is up.
Pushing off with his feet, rolling in his chair to a desk in the corner, setting up next week’s appointment, I am left sitting on the couch with that statement. Beside me, my husband tries offering a reassuring presence in the form of his comforting smile and nod, but I am having none of it.
At thirty-six years of age, it took every ounce of courage to speak the place where trauma, pain, and betrayal hijacked me as a teenager. This time. My counselor is calling me deeper. Next time.
My breathing grows shallow, and blood runs cold as ice through my veins. The trick of dissociating by numbing out and viewing myself from a distance begins to take over. Noticing this, Counselor checks in and rolls from his desk to the expansive bookshelves lining the wall. Scanning them in earnest, he searches.
I am afraid to ask, though had he told me, I could have located the volume first, having become an expert at focusing on those titles and authors behind him while trying to stay grounded during sessions.
Here it is. You need to get a copy of this book to read.
He does not offer to give it to me or let me borrow it. I cannot take it home today. I have to get it for myself. Later.
Taking it into my hands, glancing at the image on the cover while simultaneously reading the title and subtitle, draws copious tears that I struggle to sniff back, but they morph into full-blown sobs, betraying my stoic facade. I cannot hide the fear and terror evoked by the simple act of holding this book.
What’s wrong? Why the tears?
Counselor’s gruff bedside manner does not mask his concern, as he gently prods my pain, following the trail I am leaving.
I don’t want to look at my story! I hate everything about my story!
This visceral response is gut-wrenchingly real. His response to my outburst is kind. He affirms something about my story having value, etc. . . I am not in a place to hear or believe him, but I know that since he has recommended To Be Told ~ God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future by Dan Allender with my husband in the room, the book will show up at our house.
Anything to help me, to fix this, my husband of fifteen years will do.
The book arrives, and I reluctantly begin reading. It feels too big and too much to think of actually writing out and sharing parts of my story to process with others, as recommended, yet I am intrigued by lines such as this, Neither your life nor mine is a series of random scenes that pile up like shoes in a closet. (To Be Told, p. 3)
I am shattered. Undone. Curious.
Nine years later. . .
It would be easier and tidier to write ten years later, but an honest time frame says nine.
Nine years have passed since that original scene of facing what was terrible, traumatic, and unspoken in my heart. I am forty-five years old, mid-forties, still processing and in process. I am in a healthier place of healing and growth. Redemption has come knocking on my door, and I have chosen to bravely open up to it, in all of its scary, strange, disruptive glory.
Growth has not been easy. It has taken much time and courage. There are still painful places in my story to visit and name. I have been living life in the meantime; a life large, messy, and full of its own trauma, trial, and error. Life stops for no one.
Nine years ago, I was married for 15 years and had seven children ranging in age from 15 to 1. Little Mae, the surprising finale to our family, was not even on my radar. Now I have half of an empty nest, with four children living at home and four living life on their own.
Nine years ago I was 36. So young. I felt so old.
Dear thirty-something struggling with your role in your story, it is not over. It is not all written. There is hope. Investigating the shoe pile-up in your closet is worth it. You do not need to struggle alone. Find someone to help you find your brave.
Nine years later, I have had time to process and to practice new skills. I have learned more words for finding my feelings and speaking my reality. I have had people sit with and support and guide and encourage me. I have had time to sit with others.
Not everyone is called to this journey a friend once told me, as I wrestled and struggled and questioned and cried, every fiber in me wanting to go back to what was.
Nine years ago, I could not have known the role that the book To Be Told and the work of its author would play in my life. I could only take it in hand, take courage to read, and keep moving forward.
Now, I am not looking back, unless it’s to help me move forward.