We all have a past; some better than others and some a whole lot worse than others. As children, we can’t control what happens to us, but as adults, we can take charge, we are in control of our lives. For some people, staying in a bad, unhealthy, painful and abusive relationship makes them feel safe; odd isn’t it? They know what to expect, their happenings are familiar and it’s a whole lot less scary than being afraid of the unknown and unfamiliar, making changes and upsetting the life they know. The unlimited growth and potential to change their lives is hard to imagine so they continue living and operating daily from a place of fear. Their bad relationship is actually a comfort zone for them. Making a change and doing something new is very difficult to say the least, it will require hard work and guts; so let’s face it, a lot of people are not up for the challenge. It takes great courage to change what is wrong, to stand up for yourself, walk away and leave what is bad behind. and then there are those that know deep down they need to change, but they shrink back and say “one day”, “some day”, “some way” I’ll do it! So they project their hope on sometime in the future; maybe that’s how they are able to survive from one day to the next. Thinking that some miracle or some magic potion will come their way and rescue them. Nice comfy thought, but likely not going to happen, we must be willing and ready and apply some intestinal fortitude, some courage and strength to our wishing and hoping to ever get from the bad into the good awaiting us.
My own painful past is infused with so many disappointments, shattered dreams, unfulfilled desires and lots of failures and plenty of bad choices. I usually don’t go back and reopen that book and drudge up old memories because reliving them tends to bring me to place of sadness and sorrow for what could have been and a reminder of the lost and wasted years I can never recover. However on occasion it is helpful to share where I have come from and what I have been through and where I am today because of my decision and desire to change my life. I am, thankful to God, I am at the point where briefly retelling of those days is like telling someone else’s story. I am for the most part healed from my past pain and I am living in a good place now with lots of love, beauty, laughter and acceptance.
Today, I choose to share part of my story with two people in particular that have asked how I got to where I am now because they think my life has been a bed of roses. They have no idea! And then there is the one that is in the exact same place I was in from the time I was 21-38 yrs old. It doesn’t matter where you are now, what you need to change; a bad job, get out of a bad relationship, overcome an addiction, confront an abuser, tell the truth, remember and deal so you can heal or whatever it might be; I believe my story may encourage others to stop playing the victim role and blaming others for how miserable, pathetic and sad their life is. It’s time to deal, feel, heal and move forward into a better life. It’s time to quit letting your past overshadow your present and keep you from the great, joy- filled and blessed life you are meant to enjoy and participate in.
So here goes a part of my story: I struggled with the decision to leave a bad relationship for many, many years; I made excuses and had lots of reasons why I would stay to help him become a better man. I thought the better I was, the more I sacrificed, the more forgiving of his infidelities and the more I prayed and stood by him made me a better wife, and I somehow thought that would make him appreciate me more because of my faithfulness and willingness to forgive and forget. I thought I could change him and make him love me. I lost myself during the marriage, I forgot who I was and what was important to me, what made me valuable as a woman and a child of God. I became “who” he wanted me to be, I dressed the way he wanted and did things I would never have thought I would in my life. No matter how hard I tried to please him, it never did, it wasn’t enough and I could never meet his demands and fill his lust for something and someone else.
I woke up one day at 38 years old in a desperate, “life’s not worth living anymore” place and realized not only was I being hurt, but my children were being hurt as well living in a home with a father that didn’t love their mother, him refusing to participate in their lives, he was unable to set aside his own selfishness and narcissistic ways to think of anyone else, along with his mental instability and failure to take the necessary medication to balance it, and his addiction to pornography and his inability to keep a job was destroying them too. It was a wake up call for me when I realized my irresponsibility to protect them and I was directly hurting them too because I was teaching them how to be a wife, condoning and accepting his bad behavior and putting up with the filth and perversion in our home along with my own anger, resentment and bad reactions to his actions. It was not a happy home, a loving and healthy home. And my girls deserved much better!
That morning was the breaking point for me when in one of his manic depressed episodes after being awake all night on his computer, I told him he needed sleep, he needed professional help and I was tired and I wanted out and I was taking the children and going to my parents until he decided to get help. He tore into a rampage screaming he was the head of the household and he would decide when the marriage was over, who left who and when and he then threatened to kill the girls and make me watch, then kill me and then himself so we all would all be in hell together. Wow…. Up until that day he threatened to kill himself or me but not the girls. I decided my life was hell anyway, but something inside of me, I know it was God made me decide to “live” that day and to not allow the enemy to take my life and steal the life of my children. I was one angry mama when he threatened to kill my girls! I went into escape and survival mode and did what I could to get away.
Though the 14 years of marriage was bad, real bad, choosing to call it quits, because I am not a quitter, I have the tendency to hold on and keep hopeful that the dead horse will come back to life; leaving and the divorce was far worse than the marriage ever was. It was the most horrific and difficult time of my life, but I scraped together and mustered up all the courage I could find and I left him. I was ready for a change, little did I know the change I had hoped and prayed for was happening within me. I faced my fears and knew that no matter how hard and bad it was going to be on me as a single mom, it had to be better than being a “single mom” in a lopsided and hellacious tormenting, toxic and unhealthy marriage. I was determined to save my life and live for my daughters and to save their lives too.
I was up for the challenge; I believed my life could and would be better, I would finally be at peace and find my joy and restore my broken relationship with God and eventually live a life I was destined to live. I had to let go of the dream I had with him. I learned it takes two people to make a marriage, one can’t do it alone. I was ready! It took two and half years to get out of the marriage and the custody battle that followed was horrifying……
But I’m free today and he’s free; for not only did I set myself free, but he’s free to be who he is and free to do as he pleases with whomever he wants. No restraints, no commitments and no one he is responsible to anymore. I pray for him, for his salvation and healing too. I forgive him and I no longer cry when I talk about my past life with him.
I may still struggle at times with my issues, the things that happened to me as a child that lead me to enter a relationship with him being over a decade older than me, and that was married multiple times before me and that never supported his children born into those marriages, and who brought his own dark secrets into ours. I know why now, and that’s another story.
God is a great healer!
I’ve learned there is healing and it’s a continual journey I travel to walk in forgiveness and to trust others. I learned what true forgiveness is and what it isn’t; I’ve learned you can forgive a person that’s wronged you but you don’t have to be in relationship with them, you don’t have to let them back into your life and you have the ability to remember for a reason. You may never forget the pain they caused, but with forgiveness; it is what’s best for you, not because the other person deserves it or has even asked for it. But forgiving sets you free from the chains of the other person. I’ve learned to forgive myself too….. And that was the most difficult for me!
My past is part of me, just as my smile, my eye color, my natural hair color, my skin tone, my flabby thighs, my hands and my love of vanilla ice cream and coffee are. All that has happened to me as a child, all that I allowed to happen to me as an adult and even what I have participated in has all fashioned me into who I am today. I chose to develop good habits, healthier habits and to engage in relationships that are mutually good and healthy and beneficial, profitable and loving and respectful.
All of our lives are the sum of our choices and the ones I’m making today, by the grace of God have set me up for freedom from the chains of my past. It was not easy and I still struggle with the tendency to lean toward negativity and slip into a depression, but God and my husband have helped me to focus on today as the precious gift it is and to live in a positive place.
I have an amazing husband that walked into my life 13 years ago who loves me and would lay his life down for me. There is no doubt that he would fight for me, defend me and that he honors and respects me. He has helped me to love myself, and to learn how to love in a healthy way. Love is a choice, freedom is a choice and the choice to change what is wrong in our lives is up to each of us.
So to all of you that thinks it’s too late, you’re too old to change or it’s just too hard….. Phooey! It’s never too late and yes it will be hard, bad habits and old negative mind sets and stepping out of your comfort zone is scary……. But the freedom and rewards of doing so are so worth it.
I am free today, free to be who God created me to be. I am surrounded by people who love me, appreciate me and accept me and my quirky ways.
I am living proof that God can change your life and set you on a better path and fill you with joy and peace if you are willing to make the decision for change, do the work and heal and learn better and do better, create new and healthier habits and let Him help you through the process. We must participate, take control of our own lives and be active in how we want our lives to be. When we let our past dictate our today, it diverts us from our better future. We will remain in a miserable, pathetic and stunted life by living in the past.
God has a bright future, a promise for greater and better and increase and abundance for us. When we get sick and tired and fed up with the misery and pain and are ready to step out of the past to live in the present and look ahead to the beautiful future, we will implement whatever change is necessary.
You can do it!
Tonya F. Henshaw
August 26, 2015