When I moved to Texas, every mile I put between Indiana and myself brought me closer to a new reality. At the time I thought it was just a move across country.
I spose if I am to be crazy honest, I knew more was happening. I just thought I had time, and I could try to heal and give my marriage one more shot. That decision wasn’t fully in my hands… There are always two sides and two people with choices to make.
It’s weird. While I asked for a separation, for a year to heal and to see if I could be part of a relationship within a marriage constraint, I was shocked when the decision was taken out of my hands. I’ve been broken for so long I almost don’t have any idea when I felt whole last. I just knew I needed a hell of a lot of time to begin to feel like a person.
People have asked me, “when you say broken, what does that mean exactly?” My immediate response is silence. How do you answer a question like that when you’re so broken that thoughts in your own head are fragmented?
I’m a writer.
Writing is not what I “do” so much as who I am. To go a single day without writing is like forgetting to eat food, to breathe air, to think a concrete thought. I have a plethora of journals, notebooks, a blog. I’ve gone two years without writing more than a handfuls of pitiful thoughts and all pertained to my chronic pain or to my brokenness. I’ve just stopped being a person inside. I stopped being me.
I’ve become an expert, thanks to chronic pain, at faking it. I can make just about anyone believe I’m fine, that I’m having a great time, and that life is going along okay. It wasn’t much of a stretch to cover up all that life was throwing at me either. To a few I would be honest, but not TOO honest. I never wanted to be the kind of person you see across the room and take a deep sigh and resign yourself to getting through the conversation.
I’ve always wanted to be organically and authentically real. The kind of person that regardless of where you meet me, what’s going on in life, regardless of commitments, kids, or circumstances, you will always know that I’m the exact same person, that my smile is quick and genuine, and if there are tears, it’s because life is too painful to be covered, not because there’s a ploy for attention or sympathy. I have an aversion to pity. My life has had some significant challenges and I never want anyone to see that before they see me; somehow thinking I want attention for it.
So I’ve retreated. I’ve not reached out and attempted much in the way of friendships since arriving in Texas. For anyone who knows me, my larger-than-life laugh, my excitement at meeting up with friends, the idea that I’ve kept home, mostly to myself aside from family, it’s probably hard to imagine.
I’m grieving. I’m grieving and learning to voice it. I learning to name it. I’m learning to call it for what it is and not what I have labeled it as. Trust me, these are two very different things. For example: I’m learning to say, “I’m grieving the loss of the idea of being married to one person for my entire life.” NOT “I failed at my 21 year marriage.” I’m grieving not having the dream life (I never had) but tried to convince myself could still happen if I just put in all the effort in for both of us. I’m grieving not being fought for and desired as I needed. Grieving that I wasn’t enough because I was broken.
Then I’m grieving the loss of my second home, the one I ran to when I needed to escape the hard stuff life was throwing at me. I would “run away” from home and to the local community theater stage. I’d leave my reality behind and assume a character, and let the kick ass girl who never got a chance to knock around in the real world, loose for a while. I learned to stuff myself down into a tiny pocket so that all the roles of motherhood, illness, troubled marriage stuff and the leash of jealousy my husband noosed me with, and be a version of myself I could only be there.
Once, when I was so broken and felt nothing like the girl who once dreamed of taking on the world, I named that girl so she could still exist. My fear was I’d forget she ever existed if she didn’t at least have a name. I named her Kate. Trust me when I say it was literally a life saving tactic. There were days I would talk out loud to myself, in the car alone, and say, “Kate, you’ve got to take over here. I’ve got nuthin left.” I’d let the tears slip and maybe I’d ugly cry there alone in some parking lot. Before I got out of the car, Kate would firmly be in control and somehow I got through the day.
I tried to explain Kate to some people. No one really ever got it. Some thought maybe I was schizophrenic, probably many thought I was troubled. One person, however, did. Always has, does, and will. I’m blessed beyond belief for that friendship. It’s then I discovered that I wasn’t crazy, I was just compensating for the harshness of reality and protecting, coping, preserving who I was so I wasn’t compromised. I needed to separate myself into two halves, lock off Kate, to make sure she was untouchable, all in an effort to ensure that when the day came and I could actually begin to heal, I’d still have my core left. I spose it’s sort of like a seed bank, where you store away the core heart of your plants so that if they die, they have the means to begin again.
I still have time on my side. 21 years was a long time, and three kids extra to love, but at 43 I’m not even halfway through my life if my genes get a say in it. I am now free to begin to heal… and to unlock Kate. We can begin to be one and we will strengthen and grow my soul back again. My prayer is that as I learn, grow, and flourish once more, I will bloom and create a life so amazing, I never again will need to preserve a core, locking the precious parts of my heart away.
As I stood on a windy, sunny, cloudless ocean beach in October last year, I heard the still small voice calling me to a new life. I knelt on that beach and let the waves wash me clean. I let the waves dull all senses and fill me with strength.
As soon as I left my revelation beach, I was filled with determination, but the fear set in anyway. Terrified I flew home and made it my reality. I tell my kids that the very best things in life begin on the other side of fear. Without risk there is no reward. I waited a long time before I took this really big risk, but the rewards are already beginning. I have health in ways I never imagined I could ever gain. My chronic pain is changing monthly. I am more whole than I’ve been in 10 years just health wise alone.
There have been now 9 months of hard. Some days are so hard I can barely lift my head off the pillow and face the world. I do though. Every single day I face that day. I’ve had a few days where the physical health was so hard that I gave in. I let the pain talk and dictate. Nine days out of ten, however, I always rise and face the day, no matter what it brings.
If I’ve been silent, and you wondered why, I really can’t tell you… but I can tell you that I won’t be forever. Today I sat down and really wrote for the first time in years, letting my heart outside my chest and onto a page. For the first time in forever, I feel whole.
Divorce, regardless of how hard you try to be kind and humane about it, the process sucks. It’s hard and there is no way to not make it feel like your entire life is being judged and ripped to shreds. It’s bloody. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying.
I do not wish my Ex any ill will. I do not wish him harm or strife. I do, however, want to jump ahead 9 more months when this thing will be finalized and the ability to heal completely underway and more possible.
I baptized each of my three kids with the verse from Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the lord, plans to prosper not to harm you. Plans for hope and a future.” I am clinging to these and claiming them over my children as they ache in pain and struggle to work through this. I claim it for myself, knowing that on that beach on the shores of Galveston Island, TX, I heard the answer being echoed back to me as I prayed for Him to hear me and deliver the gift of His promises to us.
I pray over my Ex. I want him to learn from the mistakes within our marriage that drove us apart. I pray he can learn, grow, and push forward and have a beautiful and happy life. I know that it gives me absolutely no peace to wish him anything less. He’s not a bad human. We were a bad match. No amount of me doing 110% of the work to make it work out would ever end in success. It sucks. I wanted it to work. I wanted my kids to not go through the pain that is our reality. I can not do that and It’s okay.
Standing on the beach that day, I’ve never more clearly heard from God. He did not lay a hand on my shoulder and speak into my ear. Instead I have learned to hear Him in ways that fill my emptiness to overflowing. I heard Him in the crashing waves, the foam popping as they receded. I heard Him in the wind, strong and sure. I heard Him as I saw how the wind beneath the gulls kept them high above the waters. He lifted them, as He will and has lifted me. I watched them dive head first into a darkness and come up with fish. He provided for their needs if they just trusted their guts, instincts, and the fact that God had fish when they needed it. I saw God in the dolphins, who arched above the water and blew out hard, sending spray high up, and knowing they took in the life filling oxygen waiting for them at the surface.
I saw God in the sea shells with little hermit crabs crawling upon the sand, hauling their protection with them. God was in the warmth of the sun against the wind. He was in the rustling of the grasses upon the bluffs behind me. He was in the hidden treasures found as I dug my toes in the sand.
I took my kids back to the exact spot God spoke to me. I asked Him to do the same for them. For them to feel Him there. I asked Him to meet them where ever they were in life and to wash over them peace and comfort. He did, and so much more. He knit the four of us together in ways I can not express in words. He blessed us. We searched for shells to bring home and filled a terrarium with dry sand to be a home for those treasures. We created a whole theme in our living room that reflects the promises God gave to us and the sand, shells, and pictures remind us that he is with us every day as He was on the beach that afternoon, as the sun set brilliantly.
We now regularly go back, and always to our spot. It’s healing. It’s free of the world and it’s our mountain top. It’s where we hear from God and gain perspective. They ask to go often. Being only 45 minutes from our new home, it’s going to be a constant for us. They now all have a “happy place’ to think of when called upon to need one. There is no way to express it. God came through for us in ways we didn’t even know we needed.
So here I am. I am standing fully inside a ring of fear. NOT fear that God doesn’t have it covered, just fear of the unknown. I try hard to not be fearful. I’m a work in progress. I will get there. I’m just not there quite yet. I spend a lot of time praying. I spend a lot of time sitting on a porch and not doing anything. I spend a lot of time doing what observers would assume is just spacing out. I think maybe it’s mindfulness. Maybe meditation. I’m just acknowledging the thoughts I’m thinking and allowing them to be heard and not stuffed down inside me. For the first time, they have a right to simply exist.
I think I get the verses that say, “In everything give thanks.” It’s not that I am saying thank you to the hard stuff, per se, but thanks that God is walking it with me, holding me up, and letting me know I am far from alone doing this life thing. I also sense that it’s okay to be afraid. What’s not okay is for the worry and fear to control my heart, my choices, or how I treat others.
Being kind is not a choice. It’s part of who I am and WHOSE I am. So every action, reaction, and choice I make needs to be weighed against that. It’s okay to walk out the door in the morning and have absolutely no idea how I am going to get through the day. Sometimes I only have enough strength for the minute I am in. I’d love a whole day’s worth of strength, heck a week’s worth in one shot; but the fact I can do one minute, then the next, then the next? Well those add up to hours, then days, then weeks.. And before you know it, I’m actually doing it. I’m making progress.
Last week? I wasn’t sure I could do it even minute by minute. I’ll be honest with you. I was on a breath by breath status.
My oldest daughter tried to die. She still has scars. There are broken capilaries in her face and bruising around her neck. I wasn’t home. She called me in the midst of her attempt and I was not capable of doing anything but sitting in a chapel near where I happen to be taking a class, and just exist. I did that for hours. I just sat there and survived.
I had to swallow my pride and ask for help getting home. I couldn’t drive. I was stuck, simply putting all my focus on one breath after another. Her decision to try to make an exit is not something unusual or that I’m not used to. Frankly, it’s a part of our lives. Her brother, sister, and I probably have PTSD from living a life where this is a normal thing for us. Suicide watches are just part of what we do. Mental illness sucks. It does not, however, mean I love her less.
Ive been praying for a release from God to leave the person I was behind. She is a shell of a woman. I’ve decided to change my name back to what it was the last time I felt confident in who I really was. I’m going to allow myself to voice the fact I need that. I’m going to claim it. Soon I will change things back to my maiden name and the name I was before I met my husband. I’ll return to “Chrissy Pettys.” As silly as it may sound to someone people I need to do this for me to move forward. It’s actually biblical. When people went through transformations by God, they were given different names. I’m reclaiming myself. I hope you can remember I’m still the same person and not let the name throw you off. Maybe you will understand why.
If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, why I’m silent, or how life is going in Texas, I share this with you. We are doing good, overall. Texas is good for us. Family is everything. I love finally being near my brother again after 25 years. I have his kiddos to love on and to really become an Auntie to. I absolutely am falling in love with my sister-in-love (“law” seems harsh) But it’s not sunshine and roses. I’m living in a thorny thicket bush and it hurts. I’m not going to stay in the bush though. One day at a time, minute by minute, I will rise.
Thanks for your prayers. Thanks for those who’ve reached out. Thanks for those who’ve given me space. Thanks for just being you and letting me know that I can pop back into life at any point and you’ll pick up right where we left off.