This week, we are lucky enough to hear from my hilarious recovery friend, Ali. Ali’s Facebook post from a week ago prompted discussion in our 12 Step meeting, and when I went to check it out, I knew it was something that needed to be shared. Hope this post strikes a cord with you.
If it does, give Ali some love on the comments. I am hoping we can hear more from her on our Women’s Blog in the future.
This blog post is brought to you by 80’s bangs and triangle collars.
A few days ago, my kids and I were discussing the challenges they’ve endured in their lives. I joked that the rest of their lives will be smooth sailing after the big changes they’ve endured in the past few years. In reality, I know that my kids have many large battles in their future, but I want to validate their current feelings and not overwhelm them. Along with the struggles they will encounter, they will also have times that are full of more joy than their minds can even comprehend.
When I was 12, life was hard. Soon after this picture was taken (I’m the youngest one in the flower dress), I was in a car accident that shattered my face and required reconstructive surgeries. This came just two years after extensive surgery and subsequent doctor visits to fix a malformed kidney. At this age, I was also teased mercilessly by kids that seemed intent on making my life miserable. Surely when I was a little older, life would be easier.
When I was 14, life was hard. I struggled to keep my face clear of zits and was a “late bloomer” in the physical department. I had braces and wondered if I would ever kiss a boy. Surely if I could date and drive, life would be easier.
When I was 17, life was hard. There was a suicide in my family. Boyfriends broke up with me. Despite fun moments with friends and family, I was often anxious and dealt with clinical depression. Surely when I could move away from home and be independent, life would be easier.
When I was 19, life was hard. I lived with roommates that didn’t like me. I struggled to understand my worth and wondered if God was even real. I worked hard at my job and had an active social life, but I still often felt lonely. Surely when I got married, life would be easier.
When I was 21, life was hard. I was a newlywed and wondered if other couples ever struggled with the adjustments. My husband and I were trying to balance college with making enough money to pay rent. On the afternoon of our first Christmas Eve together, I caught my husband masturbating to a pornographic video. He cried, admitted he had been addicted since a young age, and made promises to quit. I believed him because I loved him. Surely when we had more marriage experience and started a family, life would be easier.
When I was 25, life was hard. I had a couple adorable babies who brought me more happiness and frustration than I ever knew possible. I worked in the evenings and was a stay-at-home mom during the day. My husband worked hard as a teacher and a graduate school student, but finances were pretty tight. Our marriage was far from stable so I learned to hide the dysfunction from everyone outside our home. My husband was controlling, manipulative, and had even been physically abusive. I didn’t know that these issues were linked to his addiction. Occasionally he would attend a 12-step meeting when I begged and cried enough. Surely when we made more money and my husband finally outgrew his immature behaviors, life would be easier.
When I was 30, life was hard. We had recently moved to a new town and I gave birth to our fourth baby. Our home was filled with sweet giggles, but I was always exhausted from the physical demands of motherhood. I found out about an affair between my husband and his attractive coworker. I was devastated and felt sure this was “rock bottom,” because my husband seemed so remorseful. I made him sleep in the guest room for 2 weeks, which was one of the first boundaries I had ever set. This would make my husband understand the pain he caused so he wouldn’t do it again. I was terrified of people finding out about the affair. Would they think I was weak for staying with him? Would they think I wasn’t fulfilling him sexually? Surely once I lost weight and the kids were more independent, life would be easier.
When I was 36, life was hard. All my kids were in school, so I went back to college. Raising teenagers was turning out to be much harder than anticipated and I was always exhausted from the emotional demands of motherhood. I was shocked at the time I spent driving kids to various activities every day. My husband had been diagnosed with treatable cancer. This was scary but also exciting, because he would finally become the humble man I always knew he could be. I had stopped asking for updates on his addiction behaviors since it always ended in arguments and disappointment. Surely when my oldest child could help with driving duties and my husband learned to rely on God after surviving cancer, life would be easier.
When I was 40, life was hard. I had finally started attending therapy sessions on my own a few years earlier. The therapist told me that if anything was to ever change in my marriage, it would come from me. She said my husband had no reason to change because I enabled him. How could she say such a thing when I was the only reason our marriage had survived? Through these difficult therapy sessions, I started to regain hope. My husband traveled often for work, and sometimes I let myself wonder if he was having more affairs. One day I found evidence. I had set specific boundaries and my husband had broken them repeatedly. I began to grieve the end of my marriage and filed for divorce. My kids were dealing with various struggles of their own, so I was terrified that the divorce would destroy them. I longed for the “easier” days when my kids were small – but weren’t those years difficult too?
Now divorced at 41, I’m finally learning that the purpose of life is not to merely survive the difficult times but to fully embrace them. I feel so much hope for the future. I will never be more happy than I can choose to be today. Someday I want to experience the joy of having a fulfilling career, being married again, and chasing after adorable grandkids. But I know that life will still be really hard at that point.
The only thing that has made life easier is my firm belief in God. I wish my younger self had understood that God’s presence in my daily life is literally all I need in order to be successful. Christ has used all those difficult moments to transform me into a better version of myself. I can’t wait to see what challenges and blessings I have in the future so I can become a seriously dope 80-year-old.