This morning I woke up & went about my usual routine of hopping in the shower. Well, in all honesty, I didn’t hop into the shower… I cautiously stepped in, as I’m always afraid I’ll slip & fall, if I’m being too hasty. What I didn’t know was I was about to slip into a scene from my past. I’m not sure how it happened, as my lady spaghetti brain tends to go in many seemingly unrelated, but somehow related directions.
In real time, I was in the shower, on autopilot, rubbing the Head & Shoulders shampoo into my hair. In my mind, it was December 24th, 2012.
You see, about a month earlier in 2012 time, I had been given an ultimatum by my dad’s wife. They both sat me down & she explained that if I didn’t start communicating more with them in general, but specifically as it related to college, then I could move out at the end of December since Daddy was going to Afghanistan for 7 months.
True to the behavior of a Narcissist, my dad’s wife had created a family environment that was toxic & emotionally abusive. As I have mentioned in other posts, I’m one of the most introverted people I know. It takes awhile for me to warm up to someone & really bare my heart in any relationship. True to my nature as an introvert, I was quiet around my dad’s wife & her 2 children from the beginning. I suppose it would be important for you all to know that my father met, dated & married his wife in less than a year’s time… certainly not enough time for my dad to get to know her, much less my sister & I. After they were married, I began receiving verbal lashings from my father’s wife for not engaging with the family, making me retreat inward even more.
The weeks rolled by that December & I hadn’t given in to the ultimatum. I didn’t want to stay. It was not my home. It was even less my home if my dad wasn’t in it. My dad sat me down, just the two of us, on December 22nd, & explained that I could have another chance. I could stay, continue my schooling at UNCC, communicate more & just blossom the relationship with his wife. I could just do those things & SHAZAM! I would be in his wife’s good graces… right where he wanted me to be. It made it easier for him, because she gave him verbal lashings when I wasn’t up to her standards, which always has been & always will be the case.
The morning of December 24th changed my life.
I was in my bedroom with the door shut, as was usual for when I was at my dad & his wife’s house. I had made my mind up. I was nervous. I was brave. I was leaving.
My Papaw had a stroke weeks earlier and everyone had been spending time at the hospital and rehab centers, so Daddy wasn’t home. I pulled my phone out & looked for his contact. I pressed the phone icon to call him. He picked up & I don’t remember much other than directly telling him I couldn’t stay. I was leaving that day.
I began packing at a speedy pace. I was in the best shape of my life at this point, thankfully… I had to go up & down those stairs many times. I might’ve died had I not been working out so much. As I was packing, I decided to call a co-worker/friend who had been encouraging me to leave. I told him I was doing it… I was leaving. I felt overwhelmed, so I needed reassurance that I could do this. As I was on the phone, my sister came into my room and hopped onto my bed. I could see the questions in her eyes. I continued my phone conversation & by the end of it, she knew.
She said she understood why I was leaving, but she didn’t want me to. It was one of the deepest, saddest, movie-like moments of my life.
That moment is not one I revisit often. When I do, my brain ends up replaying the entire day. It took 3 trips to move all of my things to my mother’s. On the 3rd trip, I called a close friend & we met up. We rode around in his new blue Challenger while I verbally vomited all of my anxiety. Once I had unloaded the 3rd & final load of my belongings at my mom’s, I met my dad at the rehab center Papaw was at. We stood in the lobby & I handed him my house key. That was the last time I saw him before he left for Afghanistan. I didn’t see him until 10 months later. He was in Afghanistan for 7 months & never spoke a word to me for the first 3 months after his return home.
Back to real-time, 2016- Tears begin flowing non-stop, mixing into one river with the water coming out of the shower-head. I step out of the shower & my face is the only part of me that won’t dry. Even as I begin my morning devotion, I have to take my glasses off to let the tears come as they may.
I felt like I’d abandoned my sister. I felt like she has secretly resented me for leaving. I knew that she knew why I left. She had said that plainly. But still. I left her. In an emotional war-zone. Alone with an emotionally abusive woman. Without our dad, who hadn’t defended us in this emotional war-zone & had, quite frankly, emotionally checked out. He was leaving to go to a different type of war-zone. One that he might not come home alive from. We didn’t know if the next time we saw him he’d be in a wooden box draped in the pride of our country, the red, white & blue.
We are on the other side of things now… in some ways. We are both out of their house & on the road to emotional recovery.
As the tears came slower this morning, I prayed that the Lord would wrap His love around me. I told Him that it hurts, even after all this time. What an amazing God we have that He would listen to us. We are all imperfect listeners & it is a grand comfort to know the perfect Listener is only a prayer away.
I’ve been thinking about it throughout the day & the truth that comes to mind is that joy comes in the morning. Fact: Unless wearing night-vision goggles, we cannot see in the dark. God is at work in the darkest parts of our night when we can’t see it.
It usually isn’t until we get to the other side of what we’re going through that God illuminates the bigger picture that depicts the purpose in our pain.
I pray that you are reminded, as you’ve come to the end of this entry, of God’s eternally perfect listening ear. I pray that you will embrace the night as a time to grow closer to the Lord, as He often becomes the only source we have during our night.