As Long As We Both Shall Live
“You are a figment of my imagination then,” I heard my daughter’s boyfriend say to her. They both giggled at his silliness. His theory was based on the fact that I didn’t have her birth certificate. Logic was, if there was no birth certificate then there was no birth and she wasn’t really there with us.
To resolve that issue – and to prove her age and my parentage to a service provider – I set out about getting a certified copy of the birth certificate. This piece of fancy paper is a legally binding document that confirms her birth, but it was easy as cake to get it. (In this day of uber-security, I would think that getting someone’s birth certificate would be a tad more difficult. It’s not.)
There was a request form that I had to fill out. It asked questions like where she was born and the names, birth dates, and birth locations of the people who created her. When I got to the section about her father, it gave me pause. First, it gave me pause because I had to think harder than I have had to think in the past to remember these tidbits of information. I felt curious and an edge of relief when I realized that his demographics were no longer front and center in my brain.
Secondly, I paused with my pen hovering above the blank line of “father’s name” and stared at the blank space, realizing that our wedding vows, “As long as we both shall live,” are now always active through her, even if we’re not married. I felt intense sadness as I wrote his name because of how things have turned out. My marriage went nothing like I had imagined my marriage going when I had been a tiny girl, dreaming of her wedding day.
In truth, as a tiny girl, dreaming of her wedding day, I had not looked passed the pretty white dress, beautiful flowers and “You may kiss your bride,” to imagine what life would be like as someone’s wife. I had only known that if everything was perfect and beautiful on my wedding day then every day that followed would also be perfect and beautiful.
Such was not the case.
My wedding day was beyond perfect and beautiful. It went off without a hitch on that crisp and clear November day. It had snowed the day before, coating the ground in white flakes that sparkled every now and then, but our day dawned vibrantly sunny, with crystalline blue skies. He looked gorgeous. My family looked stunning. I felt like a fairy princess. My Grandpa Vic looked breathtaking in his tuxedo he was so reluctant to wear, but I insisted so he could stand by my side and support me in the walk down the vast staircase. The music was harmonious. The candles were gleaming. The people laughed and danced all night long. We drove away in a luxurious white limo, sleeping in one another’s arms during the purposely-slow drive up Parley’s Summit. From dawn until the clock struck midnight, the day was perfect.
Within 48 hours, the truth of what I had chosen into reared its ugly head and I suddenly discovered that the fear and pain that had peeked around corners every now and again that I ignored through the previous year of knowing him would be frequent guests in my world. The violence wasn’t always there, not always present for us. In fact, the times of “good” between us were actually longer and vibrant and happy. But those dark times were so dark, so scary, so dehumanizing and degrading that their impression is what sticks with me the most.
More than a wife, all my life I wanted to be a mother. When my body would not allow a baby to be created, I was devastated. After several years of trying and, finally receiving a positive answer from a pregnancy test, I was alone in my celebration. Dancing in the bathroom, tears of joy running down my face, I celebrated the miracle that I had been blessed with a life within me. I quietly tiptoed into the bedroom and shared the news with him. He drowsily mumbled a sort of congratulation and rolled over, turning his back to me. Not the response for which I hoped.
The fact of the matter is, there was a time that I knew that choosing to marry him was going against myself. Early on in the relationship, I actually had a vision of what was ahead of me with him if I chose into it. I saw the violence. I saw the ongoing fear. I saw the desperation and despair. I saw it all and I chose it. I knew that choosing it would destroy parts of me that I didn’t even know existed yet. And it did. It destroyed my willingness to hate myself. It destroyed my willingness to allow abuse. It destroyed my weakness. It destroyed my self-doubt.
For as long as he and I shall live, I am tied to him. It was my choice. I chose into that relationship. I chose into that marriage. I chose him as my parenting partner. Parts of this journey with him have been unbelievably terrifying – something that, had I not experienced it, I would have a hard time believing it existed in the world. And that is one of the things for which I am truly grateful. Because I chose this path, I have come to understand the darkness in the world. I’ve come to understand it with my body, my cells, my eyes, my skin, my hair, my bones, my organs. In every part of me, I have an innate knowing of the violence and inhumanity of humankind. And, because of that, I am able to hold space for myself to heal – and those who are willing to bravely face into their own violations and heal themselves too.
This knowing is not something that happened as I laid curled in a ball, praying the violence would stop with my eyes staring wide so he would know I was “awake” and not trying to psychically hide from him. This knowing did not come in the dusky dawn, as I cradled my aching body and tears coursed down my cheeks in the silence of the empty house, his rage causing him to run as far as he could away from what he had done. This knowing did not come that day I took my baby close to my chest, called my loved ones and arranged to disappear forever. This knowing did not come the day I signed another protective order or when I signed my divorce decree with a trembling hand. This knowing did not come the day my heart broke – over and over and over – with the realization that I had chosen a life that did not match my dreams, that he had created yet another child and I would never have another, that he was getting married, that they were living another one of my dreams as they drove his motorcycle with his friends across the country for several weeks, that they were getting a new house while I lived with my father.
No. The knowing did not come on those days or in those moments. This knowing has evolved bit-by-bit in each of these experiences. It has built upon these experiences and so many more. Until, one day, I realized my own strength and my own brilliance. One day, I discovered my magic and my love and my Light. One day, it was suddenly all worth it.
And, interestingly enough – even though there are many who think me insane – I would do it all again. Because, I bless the day that man walked into my life. Through our love, I have awakened to my purpose. What a gift.