Where to Start? The Beginning of the End of My Rope
As a writer and former reading teacher, I know that the best place to start a story is typically at the beginning. However, we don’t have time for all of that! I’m 40 years old, and that’s a whole lot to try to cover in one sitting. Instead, I want to start by telling you about the time in my life when I was at my lowest. I think this is a good place to start because it’s when I finally stopped. I stopped trying to pretend everything was perfect. I stopped trying to see the bright side of things. I stopped caring what everyone else thought. I was a mess. A tragic mess. And, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell how everything had gone so wrong.
There’s one day in particular I can remember as clear as if it were yesterday. Let me set the stage… The year was 2002. I had moved back to New York after spending a little over a year living with my son, Buddy, and his father, DB, in Virginia. I was pregnant with our second child, and we were still not married. After trying to make it on our own in Virginia, I’d begged DB to return to NY because I didn’t think we’d be able to keep going the way we were going without a support system. We were hurting each other, being unfaithful in all senses of the word, and there was just no accountability. When we moved back, DB chose to stay with his mother in Long Island. Because we were not married, I was unable to stay with him. Buddy and I went to live with my mother... who was staying with her mother in Queens. I was 9 months into my high-risk pregnancy, co-sleeping with my four year old son (it’s cute how I say that like I had a choice). On an air mattress. On the floor of my mother’s den— which was in my grandmother’s basement. I didn’t think it was possible for things to get lower than that. I thought too soon.
Around 4 o’clock on the morning that my daughter was born, I went into labor. Silently, so as not to wake up my sleeping son, or my mother who slept in the next room, I breathed my way through the contractions. When they got to about five minutes apart, I started calling DB. It took him about an hour to return my call. When he arrived, I tiptoed into my mother’s room to let her know that I was headed to the hospital, careful to not awaken Buddy. His (as yet undiagnosed) autism— combined with ADHD and the emotional rollercoaster (aka his parents’ relationship) he’d been riding— had turned him into a tiny, cute, tornado... dressed in Spider-Man pajamas. I felt so guilty for needing to leave him with her... while I went to the hospital to deliver yet another child I wasn’t sure I’d be able to take care of— financially or emotionally.
Ready-or-not, our beautiful baby girl was delivered by emergency C-section at 9:21 that morning. I spent 3 days in the hospital, snuggled in a cocoon with this tiny, precious human with eyes that seemed to look right into my soul. I chose to forgo the pain medication they’d prescribed after my surgery so that I’d be able to breastfeed and keep my daughter by my side for the entire hospital stay. I didn’t know it yet, but my postpartum depression was sparring with my bipolar depression for the top spot. I was at war with myself in my head, with nothing but the staples in my abdomen holding me together.
By the time I got “home,” my family was exhausted from caring for my little whirlwind of a child. I sucked it up, buried my physical and emotional pain, and chased Buddy around as I tended to the new, tiny, fragile human. I climbed up and down from the air mattress for a few nights before my mother offered to allow me to sleep in her bedroom. After a few weeks of invading her space, the large attic room in my grandmother’s house became available. My uncle took that one and left me with the smaller room in the attic. I got my bed and a few more of our things out of storage, but we couldn’t fit much. The ceiling was slanted in such a way that, if you were over 3 feet tall, you could only stand up straight in the center of the room. There were holes in the ceiling, sure, but we had our own space! Kind of. We shared the bathroom and kitchen with my uncle and other family members who lived on the floor below us. I tried to start the process of healing. But old wounds were starting to fester.
Around this time, I learned (from checking his phone records online) that DB had been carrying on a relationship with a woman he’d met when we’d returned to NY. The night I found out he’d spoken to her after our daughter had been born, I waited until Buddy and BJ fell asleep, and drove to DB’s mother’s home in Long Island to confront DB. Because when I’d called him to get him to leave this girl alone, he’d told me that he didn’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore. Our back-and-forth, on-again/ off-again relationship was officially over. As far as I was concerned, he’d abandoned me, chosen another girl, and left me with two kids, no money, and no idea of what my life would look like without him in it. But I wasn’t giving up without a fight.
That fight ended up lasting about two years. Before we go down that winding road, I want to bring you back to that day... the one I said I can remember as if it were yesterday. One night, after I’d finally accepted that I was a single mother of two children, on welfare, and decided that God had gone back on his word and forsaken me. My newborn had colic and had been crying for 20 hours each day since I’d brought her home from the hospital. My son had a developmental disability that the healthcare system didn’t want to diagnose and the public education system wasn’t equipped to deal with. I’d spent the previous four years in more doctors’ offices and school conference rooms than I have fingers and toes.
And when I wasn’t advocating for my kids or arguing with their father— because I hadn’t signed up to do this on my own— the three of us were crammed into an attic room with one window, one light and an extension cord that reached through a hole in the wall from the next room, poor insulation, roaches, mice, fleas, and squirrels. Yes, squirrels. They’d gotten into the walls from a hole in the roof, and as I stared up from my bed in the middle of the room, they’d poke their heads through the holes in the ceiling in the wee hours of the morning. Every morning. I remember willing them to leave so that they didn’t wake the (finally) sleeping baby or the (inevitability) hyperactive toddler. I was drained. Scared. Broke. Embarrassed. Angry. And alone. So. Unbelievably. Alone.
“F-ck God!” I’d shouted that fateful day, after my grandmother had tried to offer me some sage advice that I wanted no part of at the moment. “THERE IS NO GOD! I’d rather believe he didn’t exist, than to believe that he’d allow me to go through all of this! What did I ever do to deserve this!?” I was exhausted, of course; hysterical, yes; depressed, absolutely; but I genuinely wanted an answer. Had I really been such a terrible person? Why else would God have allowed me to endure so much pain? If he truly loved me, why had he allowed me to be broken down?
My grandmother told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was entitled to feel however I felt, but that no one would be allowed to curse God in her house. She then proceeded to tell me that the question I’d asked was one I’d spend most of my life trying to figure out. That’s why I had to start here. Not at the beginning of my life. This moment was the beginning of the DEATH of my old life. The fact that I’d even asked those questions proved that I believed in God’s existence. My problem, I’m learning now (over a decade later), was that I didn’t know the true purpose for MY existence.
I am here today to tell you my story, in the hopes that me sharing it— including the gritty, gruesome details that any normal person would rather keep to themselves and live a quiet life in fake okay-ness— will lead you to explore a relationship with the one who took that hopeless, helpless, broken-down woman that I just described, into his family. When I finally admitted that I couldn’t do any of it on my own. I’ll be the first to say that don’t have it all figured out. I’m definitely going to get some of this wrong (and have the entirety of the internet to point out my errors) along the way. But I promised to be all in, to live my life to the hilt. And I’d never forgive myself if I went even another day without telling you about a God who loved you (yes, YOU) so much that he sacrificed way more and endured suffering far worse to take the punishment for our sin, so that we might reconcile with God and LIVE. Really live.
I’m learning that my grandmother had done the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me, giving me that hard message in such a gentle way. She was planting a seed. In her wisdom, she’d recognized that I was right where God wanted me. You see, I’d been pretending to be strong for my entire life. I’d gone through emotional and physical trauma that had never been addressed, let alone healed. I’d been acting like I was holding it all together for too long. My mental health was dwindling, and the medicines my psychiatrist prescribed for my depression had driven me further down into the abyss; I’d contemplated suicide daily. It pains me to admit that I attempted it once. Up to that point, I’d been relying on my own intellect and survival instincts, and neither of those had kept me from falling into the depths of my despair.
My story isn’t going to “convince” everyone that they should turn their hearts over to Jesus right now. But somewhere, someone just read this and saw a glimpse of themselves as I recapped the darkest period of my life. And that person, YOU... you are my why. You are why I was able to endure everything I did. Because, through me, God wanted to show you that he has a purpose on this earth that ONLY you can fulfill. But he needs you to live.
Whoever you are, know that you are loved. I was led to share my story in faith that you will see beyond your current circumstances and grab onto that sliver of hope. It’s there... I know you can see it. I’m living proof. The girl who dropped the “F-bomb” in front of her grandmother and cursed God’s name almost 18 years ago (my daughter will be 18 in a couple of weeks). The girl who stalked her ex-boyfriend and hurt him just as much as he hurt her (my husband and I will celebrate our 16th anniversary in December). The girl whose son drove her bananas... wait... he still does that 22 years later; we’ll have to save that one for another day! I have finally accepted that all of it has uniquely shaped me to live in such a time as this. God has been preparing me to be willing and able to help at least one person open their mind to the possibility that he does exist, he does care, and he doesn’t want anyone to miss out on the message my grandmother tried to tell me what seems like a lifetime ago.
It is still unfolding, but my story has so many crazy plot twists, so many examples of how far God will go to reach his children, that it just needs to be told. And so does yours, the story of your NEW life, in Christ. It starts with accepting the love that’s been there since before you were even born. Then, reach out to someone who can help you take the next step. If it’s me, use the contact form or let me know in the comment section. I’m all in. But all God needs from YOU is a little bit of faith. He’ll take it from there.