3/24/2023 0 Comments
An Obituary For the Living: A Letter to My Mother and All the Black Women & Girls Society Forgot
I’ve started this letter a thousand times and still the words escape me. I saw a video of a brother who wrote a poem for his father, it was relatable. I considered doing the same, working through the disconnect while making peace with the shattered pieces of who we are, and of who we could have been. As I sit and look over those late-night scribbles, they reflect the heart of a broken little girl who wanted to be held and nurtured. I won’t say that little girl is dead and gone, she’s not, but she’s learned to hold her own heart with the tenderness the world refused to show her. I’ve ridden the waves of trauma that come with being a Black girl, a Black woman, in a world that seeks to destroy us the moment we take our first breaths. I wish you had been there to lift me up when the world assaulted me physically, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually… the tears I’ve cried have always felt like little prayers, begging for anyone to hear and hold me close.
In the dark silence, I’ve learned no one comes when we cry out. I wish you had told me there would be no one to build me up and that the world would take every opportunity to tear me down. I wish you had provided me a tether to hold onto when I’m drowning under the weight of all this life requires of Black women. But, if I’m honest, we’re in this mess because no one told you either that our vessels are more like prisons in a world hellbent on our destruction. Who and what ground you down until there was nothing left? I wish I knew. I wish I could fix all that we’ve endured. To sew up our wounds with the ease I patch up a tattered blanket, but we can’t be patched as easily. The tears run deep, weaving into each generation and screaming to be rectified.
Life has taught me in your absence that there is no going back, there is only the painful motion of forward with the wounds bleeding like breadcrumbs to a past we can’t fix. If the world had told us we mattered and meant it would you have been able to battle your demons and love me the way I needed? Would those demons have even existed? Even in this moment all of this sounds like selfish cries from a lost little girl. I know these answers. Our trauma exists because to the world we were consumable and disposable. I wish I could tell you it’s changed, but it hasn’t. My heart is traced with stress lines from the fight to exist in this body freely and safely. I draw lines in the sand and people tell me those are walls.
I call them safety.
Did you ever feel safe? I remember the first time I truly felt safe. It was last year. Yeah, I know I’m almost 40 but time is funny in this body. I broke down on my bedroom floor and felt like the fight was over. They expect us to carry the world on our shoulders and smile through the death and destruction they unleash. I was tired of smiling when I wanted to cry and scream. My husband came in and kneeled in front of me, he spoke not a word but wrapped his arms tight around me and I wept from a place I didn’t even know existed. I clawed at his clothing. I screamed. I ached. The pain we’re expected to carry like crosses upon our backs is fucking unbearable. As I released decades of abuse the fog started to clear. It’s easy to blame ourselves when the trauma compounds, but nestled under the trauma was a light screaming for air. That was the first night in my life I slept without a nightlight… The first night I knew I didn’t need to fear the darkness, it needed to fear me.
I’ve been tending to that flame since. It’s been difficult, they really don’t want us to survive out here. I want more than survival for us, I want us to thrive. The world tried to blow out both our flames. I’m sorry no one sees the way they’ve tried to snuff out yours. I understand now that your rage and violence are the mechanisms you’ve developed to survive in a world that doesn’t want you to survive. They demonize us for the very skills they force us to develop to endure the violence they casually unleash on us daily. I understand you couldn’t protect me, it was work enough to protect yourself, the world fractured us and there was only so much you could do.
You deserved better. We both deserved better. All Black girls and women deserve better.
We deserve a world that values us.
A world that sees our pain and changes.
A world that lifts us up instead of tearing us down.
I can’t undo what’s been done, but I promise to do everything in my power to nurture my flame so it burns as a beacon to others so together we can burn down this world and build a world deserving of the magic we possess.
Until then, may this letter be a spark, and may you know peace one day.
All my love,
Rayven Holmes (c) 2023
3/10/2023 0 Comments
Healing Ain't Pretty
Healing ain’t pretty.
It forces us to take an honest look at where we’ve been and where we wish to go and adjust our behavior accordingly.
It means building fences and leaving strategically placed doorways.
Healing ain’t pretty.
It calls us to be the villain- so we can be the hero of our own story.
With each wound we lick, another appears begging us to hear its story.
Healing ain’t pretty.
It’s maddening. Life changing.
It challenges us to ask, “who is this person looking back at me?”
Healing ain’t pretty.
But it ain’t pretty.
Rayven Holmes (c)2023
2/22/2023 0 Comments
Gray Matter Revisited
Five years ago I sat in a hospital room gazing upon the body that brought me into this world as machines kept her alive. She eventually woke up and will spend the rest of her life in a nursing facility, a shell of the woman she use to be. As the wheel of life turns and I age, checking off preexisting conditions with each new year, I try to give myself some hope. “You’re not her” my doctor mutters over his notes, doing his best to reassure me that while we have the same conditions we aren’t living the same life. I can count on one hand the number of alcoholic beverages I’ve had in the past two months. I’ve never touched hard substances. I still mask in public spaces, and around those outside of my vetted bubble of trust. I don’t overindulge, I exercise regularly, and I operate from a place of love, compassion, and an occasional ass-kicking. I take my medications every morning, attend every appointment, and see every specialist I’m instructed to see.
I do my best to do everything right to combat genetics and the stress of systemic misogynoir, and yet at night when the house is quiet and I’m left to my own thoughts dread fills my spirit as my memories drift to her. The fear that encompassed every fiber of my being as I grappled with estrangement and my own mortality still lingers five years later.
I sometimes wonder if the fear is merely guilt. I’ve spent my adult life doing my best to prove I wasn’t her. I wouldn’t abandon my kids, I would fight my demons and win, and the demons wouldn’t steal the moments that make life worth living from me. When my brother and I arrived five years ago at the place she called home, a transitional apartment complex, those in charge weren’t even aware she had children. Nothing in her records indicated that she once lived in the south where she walked her children to a small pier and told them stories about Medusa, or sold Avon and let us lick the bowl after making brownies. No one knew about the butter on the walls from thrown dinner rolls, or the specially named belt that left welts covered by stockings with little hearts.
No one knew anything.
That decade of life didn’t exist for anyone but us. I tried my best to soothe my inner child while reminding the adult me that I’m not her therefore I can’t end up like her. As I packed up various bits and pieces that were her life and saw pictures I never knew existed, a life lived without us, I did my best to breathe through the rage, sadness, and fear.
Death is the great equalizer and always does his best to remind us to stay humble, and even after he packed his bags and left us in limbo I struggled to unpack my baggage.
“You’re not her” I whisper into the wind every chance I get, hoping it will echo back and appease the anxiety that grows with each passing year. At the beginning of this year, one of her sisters reached out to me and asked if I would write to my mother. She thinks it would be good for her to hear from me. But what does one say to the person who left the hole that depression nestled into? What do I tell her?
She missed 28 years of my life. There’s a lot I could say.
Births I could recall, the strength I pulled from a place I didn’t even know existed inside of me. Parenting moments that challenged me to rise above my own abusive childhood to create a home where my children felt safe and secure. I have failed, god have I failed, countless times at being a decent human being and I still get up the next day and try again. I could recount each failure and the lessons learned. I’m stubborn like her, but I have compassion that neither of my parents ever showed me. I’m a ray of fucking sunshine hellbent on making the world a better place before I take my final breath. I could tell her all the ways I’m not her, I could show her who I am, and I could tell her that with every choice I make I still can’t shake the fear that my path will still end in a hospital bed, in a dark room, alone.
Those who love me will assure me that my fear is unfounded. Even if I experienced the same medical emergency she did I wouldn’t be alone when it happened. I would be rushed to the hospital, I would have people fighting to ensure I got the best care possible, and when I finally opened my eyes I would be surrounded by the living embodiment of all the love I’ve tried my hardest to put into the world.
I’m not her and yet as I stand at another crossroads, to either reintroduce myself or to continue pretending that we’re just people we use to know, I find myself questioning the decision I made over 20 years ago to go no contact. I know where she is now and I can contact her whenever I want, that’s all I wanted when I was younger to the point that I would cry myself to sleep from longing. Now I have it, I have what my heart ached for and I don’t know what to do with it. Instead, I’m left wondering if true healing is in forgiveness granted on my own terms.
Does a simple letter have the power to grant us both peace? Only time will tell, but I’ll never know if I don’t at least give myself the opportunity to say what my heart never got the chance to speak all those years ago.
Nothing is final until the curtain closes and the coffin is lowered into the ground. Until there is always an opportunity to write a new version of your story. Here’s to a new story.
Rayven Holmes (c)2023
1/26/2023 0 Comments
Gold From Pain
In addition to this being a year of no for me, it’s also a year for examining my proximity to whiteness from family and personal relationships, to where and how I’m using my professional skills. And more importantly, the areas where I need to cut ties or remove the looking glass and where I’m willing to dig in and fight back to create the world I know we can have. In order to figure that out I have to start from the beginning.
I grew up confused.
My father was born in the early 60s, before Malcolm X and Dr. King took their last breaths, in the front seat of a car to a white woman named Karen and a Black man named Sam. In a time before Loving v Virginia, my father was five before his father’s name graced his birth certificate. They eventually married and divorced before I set foot on the scene. I don’t know much about my grandfather, he was born in the 20s and I’ve been told he was mean but when I look back with informed eyes on the dozen or so times we were around him before they lowered his coffin into an unmarked grave, I’ve realized his malice was the symptom to a larger condition. He was traumatized. And he inflicted that trauma on everyone around him. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, because he caused real harm to his children, but it does help me understand my own rage better.
We spent summers with my grandmother and extended family. I don’t remember when it started, but when I think back on my childhood summers they center around a small house built in the 40s that invokes more fear inside my mind than my grandfather ever has. It’s where I built the tunnels for how deep my rage would go as I learned all the ways I wasn’t right. How the way I moved through the world wasn’t Black enough while I simultaneously received praise for performing the white way, straightening that hair, losing that weight, clutching my bible, and cranking up the country music while carving myself into tiny pieces. Taking every comment on the ways my skin, my feelings, and my mere existence wasn’t right and filling in the gaps left behind with quiet rage that lead to a labyrinth of trauma.
Part of healing means acknowledging that people are operating from the various traumas they’ve tended into sparkling personalities and growing from those places is often harder than maintaining the illusions they’ve created for themselves, so they tend to keep with the status quo. You’ll never get closure from them because in their minds they’ve done nothing wrong, so you have to find closure in your own way. Half of me began when two people, operating from trauma, fetishization, and rebellion brought forth life. In their minds, I imagine, as so many do now, they believed they didn’t need to do more. That simply creating that life was enough, they could be colorblind and everything would sort itself out. That’s not how it works, though, we can’t fuck our way out of generations of oppression. That must be a deliberate act and it requires a lot of painful work.
When we play racial politics in the bedroom and then aren’t intentional with how we raise the outcome we create confusion and pain that ripples through the bloodline. We can’t learn to love ourselves wholly as we are when the kitchen table we’re feeding from was built by white supremacy and the meal we’re being served is poisoned by those who claim to love us.
On my maternal side, I come from a long line of Black women whose skin was kissed by the sun and whose trauma is nestled deep inside my veins. I’ve given up asking myself how different my personality would be if I had been raised knowing that being Black simply meant being myself. I’ll never be the sugar and spice, light-skin-compliant Barbie with an alphabet of letters after her name that everyone wanted. I’m an unhinged ray of fucking sunshine that’s sick of being told by whiteness how she feels and who she is allowed to be. There is no going back now, there’s only forward out of the confusion.
Forward means embracing the rage. Yes, I’m angry. I’m tired of keeping a constant log of names while agents of whiteness flail about acting confused about the current state of things when they’ve cosigned this hate with their silence after every dinner, meeting, and opportunity life has thrown at them to course-correct themselves and their fellow white brethren. I’ve had a front-row seat to the creation of Black bodies from a “well-meaning” white woman who skipped her happy ass down to the voting booth in 2016 and 2020 to cast her vote for Donald J. Trump and had only the vilest things to say about President Obama. Completely indifferent to the fact that her son looked like the man she called an un-American agent of terror. I grew up hearing she didn’t know any better. She’s from a different time. I grew up hearing my own father spout the same anti-Black tropes while picking Black women to warm his bed. He patted me on my head and told me, like all Black women, I would only be good for one thing.
He was my father, but he sounded like my grandmother. I was told that my skin color ensured that I had no real worth. I told myself, before I understood the weight of my choices, that I would prove everyone wrong. I would get approval from those who sat atop the privileged mountain. I dug my nails in. I kept cutting myself into pieces. Smaller… and smaller… swallowing each piece with a dose of rage. I birthed babies of varying shades and tucked away every comment the outside world threw our way that screamed we weren’t enough as we were.
I tried to keep my trauma from pouring over my babies because someone had to get this right, but trauma is like grains of sand. It gets in so easily. When you think you’ve got it pegged whiteness rears its ugly head and reminds you that nowhere is safe, that your guard must always be up, and once the sand is in it takes diligence to remove it.
I went into my 30s bucking everything I had been taught. I went natural. I expanded what I read and where I received information. I pushed back against the notion that my worth was to be dedicated by those who burn in the sun, trying my best to remember that I was the sunshine. And yet, the sand still got in because for all my internal growth, externally the circles were still the same. The same pale faces that smiled when I was sprinkling magic into their lives, but would morph into serpents the moment I asserted my worth and boundaries. It was the same shit again, I was a kid crying for help while everyone asked why I was whining.
I’m tired of crying.
I’ve watched white folks who claim to want change attempt to be relevant and hip when in reality you’re making a mockery of Blackness for approval and giggles while patting your chosen Blacks on the head for knowing their place and letting you behave in such a manner. I’ve watched the way you cut us the minute we don’t want to play your game. It doesn’t matter if we’re kin or acquaintances, when dealing with whiteness if you’re Black you’re disposable. Everyone knows this and does their best to ignore it, but true trust and growth can’t exist as long as you always expect us to be compliant supporting cast members in your life stories. This means you must be uncomfortable at all times if you really want Blackness to thrive. If you’re comfortable, we’re suffering. Either make the changes or admit you like it that way and stop pretending otherwise. You can’t have it both ways.
I grew up knowing that whiteness will always seek out those in the Black delegation who are broken and willing to sit their humanity on a shelf and be paraded around as a “good one” for the twisted acceptance that whiteness will never really provide. I’ve spent years learning how to sharpen my tongue while keeping it sheathed so I don’t upset whiteness. My father’s voice is always so clear in those memories… “There’s mixed company here, watch what you say.”... “You know the white people in your life can see this Rayven! What are they going to say?”
Fuck. What. You. Have. To. Say.
My anger is real. It’s valid. The hit dogs will always holler the loudest and I owe no one an apology for speaking my truth. I’ve spent nearly 40 years spinning gold from my pain and I won’t dull my shine any longer for any of you.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
― Anne Lamott
Rayven Holmes (c)2023
1/10/2023 1 Comment
The Year of No
Hello old friend, did you miss me? I can’t say with certainty that I missed you - elements of you sure but the labor and guilt-inducing shame that comes from setting blogging goals and then watching them rush past you in the mad dash that is life? Not so much.
Truth be told, I’ve been tired, well we all have I’m sure. I approached the last few years as an opportunity to say yes to almost everything in hopes of drowning out the dread that encompasses this time of our lives. All my saying yes meant bending myself into positions that were palatable to others and disastrous for me—trying to carve out spaces at tables that I thought could feed me only to be left starving and questioning my sanity.
I reached the last quarter of 2022 and spent a lot of time crying and debating the validity of my existence. If you’ve been around a while you know about my shadow mistress. She and I dance together often, after years in this body I can usually spin her into submission but last year she pulled out footwork that left me stumbling on the dance floor as I attempted to lead us through the muck.
Where is my place in the world? Is it here? Is it there? Why am I fighting to be heard amongst individuals and groups that have shown they have a vested interest in not understanding me? Are they worth the pain they cause? And who am I outside of what I give to everyone else?
When I stopped fighting, stopped trying to lead my shadow mistress, and instead followed her down the rabbit hole I found that I already knew all the answers. The footwork wasn’t foreign I was merely getting in my own way because the answers to my questions scared me.
Is my place here? Nope. Is it there? Also, nope. It’s wherever I am when I feel at peace and celebrated. It could be here, there, anywhere, and nowhere. I was fighting because I was still trying to prove that my life has value and worth and that it matters. Still wanting to prove I’m enough even though I know damn well that my value isn’t tied to anyone but myself. Somehow I had lost my way, wrapped in scarcity, stuck in a trauma cycle of simply trying to keep myself and my offspring alive as a pandemic raged on around us. I was hearing the notes of the music but not the rhythm. She wanted me to see the rhythm that went with my blues. I can give myself grace for losing my footing, it happens, and my shadow mistress is always there to remind me that death is a viable answer should I want it. It’s up to me to decide whether I want the dance to end or not.
I opted to keep dancing on my own terms. To find the rhythm that vibes with my blues. As the music faded into something I recognized and my mistress gave up control I was left with one lingering thought, this has to be the year I say no.
No to the people, places, things, and organizations that require more energy than they give back.
No to anything that doesn’t spark joy - with some caveats because having a place to sleep, food to eat, and running water spark joy but the actions needed to achieve those things aren’t always agents of joy.
No to apologies that aren’t accompanied by changed actions.
No to pretending that life is back to normal, it’s not and it never will be again.
No to last-minute plans that feel more like obligations than adventures.
Just fucking no.
If what’s presented to me isn’t worth the compromise required of me the answer is going to be no. My mistress knows her place when I remember that my number one job is to protect my mental health and that isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it’s necessary. That’s been made abundantly clear to me.
The last few years have been long and trying, as we move into whatever will transpire this year and beyond ask yourself this, if it doesn’t feed you -either physically or spiritually-, excite you, please you, or pay you then why are you doing it? If you can’t give yourself an honest authentic answer that isn’t tied to obligation then it’s time to consider your options and forge a new path.
Find the rhythm that blends with your blues instead of trying to make someone else’s melody the song of your life.
Until next time remember, if it’s not an enthusiastic yes then it’s a hell fucking no and you should go ahead and say that.
Copyright(c)2023 Rayven Holmes
5/1/2019 2 Comments
Oops I Did It Again...
Second weddings are strange. From debating on if you can wear white, obviously, the virginal jig is up when you’re walking down the aisle with three kids. To who gets an invite, it’s a no on your ex folks. It can be overwhelming. Factor in the immense anxiety that accompanies remarriage and you’ll feel like you’re drowning in a sea of bullshit instead of a comfortable bottle of wine.
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
4/25/2019 0 Comments
Lemonade. An album that became a cultural phenomenon and changed the game. I’m not a music blogger, so this won’t be a dissection of an album that dropped three years ago. Instead, it will be a reflection on the way the meaning of songs can change as we move through the various stages of our lives.
Three years ago, Lemonade filled the recesses of my mind with empowering lyrics I needed to hear. From the raw pain of “Hold Up” to the give no fucks boss bitch anthems of “Sorry” and “6 Inch”, I had words to scream when I failed to find the courage to speak. I cried into bottles of Jack and Captain Morgan while listening to “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles”. Most of all, I found hope in “All Night”.
That was three years ago.
Today, with all the clarity and wounds of the past three years, I see Lemonade differently. It is still a stunning piece of work on the emotional weight that comes with pouring yourself into another human being and being left with nothing in return but heartache. Now, though, the songs seem less like declarations to the source of one’s pain and more like letters to oneself urging the tortured to turn their pain into something glorious.
I no longer see “All Night” with the rose-colored glasses of hope. I no longer blast it crying out for a love that seemed to elude me. This change, though, has nothing to do with my current relationship status. Over the last three years I had to find the courage to love myself wholly in all my brokenness. I had to learn to give up the fantasies I was sold from a young age about love and family. Instead, taking time to carve out what those things meant for me in the remnants of my soul.
I had to find the truth beneath the lies I was told and discover the truest love of all was the love I had for myself. As bitter as they may have been to accept and grow from, I had to learn to see my own scars and kiss my own crimes. I learned to trust myself and not fall victim to the people who wanted to consume me but never fully see me.
True love is a remedy for an aching heart and is absolutely the best weapon against pain. But life has shown me that it’s foolish to seek that remedy in another. We must arm ourselves with an unwavering passion for who we are, the good, bad, and downright ugly; if we ever want to make headway on the road of healing from that which tortures us.
It’s not an easy road to travel. So, remember to offer yourself the sweet love you deserve. Life’s too short to spend it forgetting to love the one person you’re guaranteed to be with forever.
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
4/19/2019 0 Comments
Ask The Smiths
We love our holidays and celebrate them with wild abandon. Each has traditions that have been tweaked and fine tuned over the years. New Year’s Eve is no exception. On New Year’s Eve, as part of our annual countdown to midnight, we do end of the year interviews. For the past six years, I’ve pulled out a list of questions and placed each of the Bringers of Mayhem in front of our Christmas tree. It is one of our traditions I look forward to the most each year. As they have developed as individuals their answers have morphed from simple words into eloquent thoughts. Watching this change happen every year has been immensely enjoyable. In accordance with my “if I want you to do it I’ll do it too” parenting style I would also position myself in front of the camera. I didn’t put much emphasis on the way my answers changed. This past New Year’s Eve my sister had a request that The Bearded One and I answer some couples questions. While this may seem like an adorable request to make of a newlywed couple he and I weren’t feeling the newlywed love vibes.
Our first holiday season as married partners attempting to blend our two worlds was a series of train wrecks. Factor in holiday financial stressors and we weren’t feeling anything but frustration. My sister knew this. My sister is one of my closest friends and my rock. She also firmly believes that 90% of relationship problems can be solved when you remember why you’re building your life with that person. The other 10%? Well that’s what divorce lawyers are for. I won’t say she’s right, because she already knows she is.
So on New Year’s Eve, The Bearded One and I sat next to each other, engulfed in our strife, and answered questions while my sister live streamed it on Facebook. By the end, we were laughing and she was asserting we are a strange couple. We are. But sis, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wandering around the woods at night as long as you’re prepared! Did the Q&A solve all our problems? Absolutely not. That’s what therapists are for. But, working on your shit should be fun sometimes and answering random questions about our life together was fun. Later that evening a few friends shared they would love to see us answer questions again. We figured why not, but the questions would have to come from others. The decision on when it happened was tossed into my court to figure out. After some thought, and seeing how busy our life is, I settled on twice a year. May and December. Yeah, next month. Surprise!
Here’s how this will work, on May 10th at 9pm we’ll go live on the Malice in Wonderland Facebook page. Questions are due by noon on the 10th. Either comment them below, send them through a Facebook message, or text me if we’re cool like that. We’ll hang out for about fifteen minutes on Facebook. If we make it through the questions sent in then we may take some during the live feed but do NOT bank on this. If there is something you want to know, and there is literally no limit to what you are allowed to ask, then send it in by NOON on the 10th!
I’ll post the aftermath either on here or YouTube or both. Who knows. Like with my life, I’m making this shit up as I go and calling it a plan when it all comes together.
If you got questions, get to asking!
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
3/27/2016 1 Comment
Beauty, Pain, and a Movie Reel
It all started with a halfhearted promise. “I’ll make things better,” he said while kneeling in the muddy field. He loved me I told myself. He got a ring, he promised things would be better once we were married, so surely he loved me. Over the next eight months I inquired about wedding details, “I don’t care about that stuff” he would mumble before rushing off the phone. On my 18th birthday, I moved in with him. This was the beginning of the rest of my life I told myself. A life full of fantastic adventures with my best friend, or so I believed.
Our first attempt to get married a few days later was deterred by the incorrect birth certificate on my part, because there is a big difference in a certificate of live birth and a birth certificate, apparently. I slunk home depressed in my pretty floral spring dress. He looked relieved and eager to get out of the khakis I had requested he wear because “It’s our wedding day we should look nice”. “It's a waste of time”, the words lingered in the knots of my hair I had spent an hour fighting with. He thought it looked a mess. But, I knew he loved me, so I simply needed to try harder next time.
When the proper certificate arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later I was thrilled, he was annoyed. “When do you want to go get married”, the words danced from my heart and oozed through my lips. “I don’t know”, he replied. I shook off his indifference. Another couple of weeks passed before we had a discussion about expectations. I had no desire to shack up for an undisclosed period of time and needed to know if he really wanted the same thing I did. Blame my Catholic conservative Christian upbringing. Blame personal standards. But after a month, you’re either buying the cow or getting your milk elsewhere because I refuse to play house. After some grumbling, he lamented that he did want to get married and we agreed on a Friday afternoon. He didn’t want to wear anything nice or take pictures. I granted his wish with the hope that we’d have a nice wedding one day. I spent that Friday on edge. My heart and stomach jumped, jived, and wailed with each tick of the clock. I had to remind myself to breath as the hours turned into minutes and those minutes into the moments that would define the rest of my life.
The judge who married us was buried in a sea of child support filings and petty crimes when we walked in. The defeat of his day shone on his face as I slid the marriage certificate onto his desk. Immediately, he became animated and leaped from his seat with the joy that only the creation of marriage and new life can illicit in humanity. He retrieved his crisp black robes from the nearby closet and announced our impending nuptials to the collection of depressed bodies that were waiting their turn to plead their various cases. Then the judge reached for his phone and attempted to contact a buddy of his who worked at the local paper. He had no luck. My groom squirmed in his seat at the thought of having someone from the newspaper present at our nuptials. Even a small wedding announcement had been out of the question. After hanging up the phone the judge asked if he could read a bible passage during our ceremony. Still being some version of Christian I had no problem with this but, I turned to my groom to ensure it was ok. He nodded in that dismissive way only someone who is indifferent can and the judge smiled as he opened his bible. Clearing his throat he asked us to rise, I jumped from my seat attempting to catch my heart as it leaped with excitement and turned to my groom. He was still seated.
My mind always slows this moment down. I’m sure it was less than a minute, but in my mind, it becomes an eternity. An eternity of chances to run. An eternity to dance through the reel of what actually became a 12-year marriage plagued with abuse, infidelity, and loneliness. An eternity to live again.
An eternity to see every player clearly. The judge with his confused and apprehensive glare. The groom’s parents exchange of knowing looks for they kept his secrets better than he did. The groom’s disdain as he willed himself from the seat and my wide-eyed naiveté. As the reel plays in my mind, I always freeze this moment and stare at the child giving away her youth to someone who didn’t want to stand next to her. I look through the eyes of a woman at the life of a girl who simply wanted to know she was loved, and I know she never was. The woman knows that which the girl can not. She knows of the lonely nights ahead of the girl, whose tears will stain every pillow she would ever own. She knows the pain of her husband’s hands pressing against her pregnant belly. She knows the way his words will hang heavy in her heart for a lifetime. She knows the way laughter sounds when she’s in pain. The woman can never save the girl.
No matter how many times I play this reel over in my mind, no matter how many times I reach for that young girl, no matter how many empty bottles I attempt to watch it through; I can never save the girl. She always stands there eagerly awaiting her groom. She always takes his hand. She always says her vows with sincerity and passion as her brown eyes bore into his hollow blue eyes seeking confirmation that his heart beats as fiercely for her and her’s does for him. She always signs her name. She always stays after he pushes in her stomach and gleefully declares that hopefully he killed their unborn child. She always runs interference and handles everything as to not upset him. She always fixes the holes and stops asking about the stories that don’t mesh up. She always makes sure the children believe they're loved by their father. She always makes excuses for his noninvolvement, for her tears, for the sadness that hides behind her brown eyes. She always stays. Until she becomes the woman who doesn’t. The woman with the movie reel in her mind and scars upon her heart.
Divorce is easy. You pay someone to file paperwork and fight with your spouse’s paid henchman/woman on your behalf. You sign some papers. Then a judge, worn and weary from a life dedicated to law, declares you free from the shackles wrapped tightly around your left finger.
Healing. Now, that’s the hard part. Accepting your part in the chapter that was your marriage is hard. Acknowledging your ex-partner for who they were and always will be is hard. Stitching the holes in your heart with the rusty needle you find in the pile of your belongings is hard. Getting up each day and putting one foot in front of the other is hard. Smiling when you want to cry is hard. Living in spite of the pain is hard. Fighting your demons by yourself and realizing there are far worse things than being alone is excruciatingly fucking painful. The healing is hard and the tunnel to the light is long. But, there is beauty in the struggle. Even if we can’t always see it right away.
All Atheist Balance #BlackLivesMatter Christianity Depression Divorce Emotional Abuse Equality Family Freedom Freethinker Freethinking Freethought Gender Godless Grief Healing Home Education Homeschooling Humanist Identity LGBTQA+ Life Love Marriage Martin Luther King Jr Day Meet The Smiths Mental Health My Herstory Parenting Passions Psychological Abuse Racial Equality Racism #ReclaimMLK Relationships Religion Single Parenting Truth Telling Work Work/Life Balance Writing
Photos used under Creative Commons from slgckgc, Eskling, Tomasz Stasiuk