Dear Younger Me,
4th grade is going to be your best year in elementary school. Not because you are popular, (you’re not) but because it will be the year when you make friends, and when you love math and it will be the year before puberty and girl drama will make you never want to make friends ever again.
5th grade will come along, and all of those close friends you had last year will leave you for the popular girls who swear and wear designer clothes.They will tell you to your face to bugger off. You will be outcast and you will hate it. You won’t understand and that’s okay. We aren’t supposed to understand moments like this when they happen. It will burn you into middle school, where you friend the older girls and you will get the nickname Tynee, and it will stick with you. You are after all super short and you will basically become the junior high mascot. It feels better than the place you were before, rejected and forgotten.
You will get a crush on a boy named Christopher Noise (wonder where he is now) and he will like you too, but nothing will ever come of it. You will play drums in the orchestra band, and by doing so catch your sister’s dad having an affair with his secretary at your big performance practice. This moment will change your life forever.
Your mom has been abused this whole time, and this gives her the courage to leave. You will bounce between abuse shelters, one will get you hit in the face for not having their faith. You will find your way to one that has nicer people, and then later move into some sketchy apartments in Stockton CA. You don’t know they are sketchy. All you know is it’s your job to protect your sister and brother and you will. Little mamma is what you will become. You are damn good at it, and it will be the foundation of what you become later.
You will move everywhere. Starting with leaving for Pittsburgh PA next. 4 days on a Greyhound bus. The adventures we had sleeping in the luggage rack because we were small. Being reunited with my Great Aunt Beatrice. The most Grandmotherly figure we ever had. Having my first boyfriend, Little Nelson, and surely knowing we would grow up and be married and have babies. (Nope, and THANK GOD)
Spending quality time with your biological father, only for him to tell you he has no room in his life for you. It was a hard blow, but better to take it now than later.
Memories of living on the second floor, the Disney channel, being homeschooled from my asthma by the district, the snow, moving to Mount Washington and living across from a cemetery. The imaginations of children who hated the basement and loved the attic. That was the year we sent our little brother down the stairs in a box to see if it would work. It didn’t. Sorry Miguel!
My mom had family in Arizona, and they “needed her” so we moved there. Another 3 day trip on Greyhound and new people and adventures to be had. It wasn’t always easy. Mom was a single mom, doing it on her own. When we got there it was cousins, tree forts, hospital stays and miles and miles of walks to distant parks during the summer. How none of us died or got kidnapped I will solely attribute to the grace of God keeping us safe.
Condemned trailer parks and stolen homes by sketchy family will leave your mom and you jaded. A letter from your biological father, and another stolen trailer will have your mom pick you up and move you back to Pittsburgh. Don’t worry though, this is going to be an interesting few years.
Little Nelson is still there and I love you but you are dumb and still think the world revolves around this boy. Lucky for you he has impregnated some older girl and is unavailable. I know at the time it will suck to you and feel like the end of the world. You should thank Erika (the girl he knocked up) because she saved you. You will make your first female friends in 9th grade and you will stay friends (even far away friends) the rest of your life.
You will unsucccesfully date a few guys, get your first peck kiss from your boyfriend’s best friend while he is on vacation. (That is totally your bad for flirting with Mike) You will move to Mount Oliver into a 3rd-floor apartment, have a great place, learn to game and one day at the library you will meet two twin boys who will change your life. Richard and Francis. You will steal Richard’s sweater and become best friends. You will get your first french kiss after your 17th birthday. Good job not growing up a whore.
It was terrible though. You break up with him and date your cousin’s ex who hits you. Just once. You break that off too. Your decision-making skills leave so much to be desired. Being a teenager is hard. You will finally date Little Nelson at 17 and you will bravely and finally break up with him for cheating on you. Consider this a proud moment. You will have one snugly night with Richard, watching Batman (I think the one with Mr. Freeze) and you will know you have feelings for him. Too bad for you though.
As your mom starts planning a permanent trip back to Arizona, Richard will share his feelings in a heart wrenching letter (that you still have), and you like the giant coward you are won’t say a word. You don’t even acknowledge the letter. You kinda suck. You will exchange letters for a few years after, but you will always wonder what if….
You will fall in love with your step cousin John, (proof that marrying your cousin is wrong) I wish I could tell you this goes well. But honestly, you are love-starved, and you have not spent enough time learning about who you are. You are a blank canvas and the daddy wound you have been carrying around and the generational bondage in your family that has followed everyone will make you just jump into what will be the longest 14 years of your life.
It will start out fine. He has a good job, makes good money and has potential. Way better than what you have seen before. You will ignore the attacks on your family, you will overlook the emotional abuse and manipulation he does to you because because he seems like a great guy.
You will get married to a proposal that came from a lack of options. He felt like church gave him the options of us getting married or me moving out. He had dragged you away from your family to Texas and isolated you. You should be glad he picked to keep you. After a terrible ceremony that included his brother trying to take over the planning, and fighting with your mom. You will nearly pass out from not eating, and go home and spend your first night as man and wife with your father in law in the next room.
Your honey moon will be spent in a cemetery looking for dead relatives. Despite all of this, you will still think that you got the most amazing man. You will get pregnant a year later. And 1 emergency C-section later you will have a gorgeous and perfect baby girl. This is when everything will start to change.
You didn’t notice the subtle abuse before. The late nights of you sleeping on the couch because he won’t come to bed. The days flirting with your attractive friend to make you feel insecure or the threats to leave you when you did something he didn’t like. This is all normal, right?
When Faith comes, you and your world change. And so does his. He is no longer the sun of which your tiny insignificant planet orbits. You have a little moon now, and you are focused on the care of that little bean. You become a hippy overnight. A breastfeeding, co sleeping, baby wearing hippy. (That is a great thing by the way)
Now, something that happens in emotionally abusive relationships is that if you can’t be the center of attention the way you are, something has to change. They have to ramp up their game. Your husband’s health will slowly tank. It starts when Faith is 6 months old, and he can’t sleep. It progresses and when you give birth to baby girl #2, Aimee, 2 months later he will be on short term disability, and you will be caring for everyone.
During this time your mother will get a letter from your ex little Nelson (remember that bullet you dodged?) She will relay that Richard was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. And you will be devastated. You will hide it well. But you will again be plagued by what ifs.
Short term 3 months of disability will turn into long-term, which will turn into social security disability. Then it will turn into you needing to find a way to take your photography hobby and make money with it. And you will. You will get a camera and you will learn to be an incredible photographer. Your life is going to change dramatically. You will have pictures from parking lots where you and your girls wait for the next treatment he has to go through, or next pain appointment as you chauffeur him around. He will have unsuccessful back surgery, become addicted to painkillers, and sleeping medication and daily your new normal will be hearing you are not a good wife. You are failing to make him happy. You know what, you will believe him. You will try harder, and harder every day. Praying for his relief and the restoration of what you “think” existed before.
I want to say this is as bad as it gets. But nothing can change before it gets worse. You will realize hes been drugging you with ambien, and that’s why you wake up naked on the floor lost and confused as to what happened. You will never know what actually happen and you will be grateful for that.
You will become pregnant without remembering having done what needs to happen to get that way and lose your baby on your birthday in 2007. It will break your heart. What is worse is he won’t care. He will blame you and your broken body for it. Inside you will be devastated. It being your third miscarriage they will finally send you for tests and create the assumed conclusion that you have a blood clotting disorder.
You will get pregnant again in February of 2008 and she will stay. Injections twice a day just in case, but she will stay safe in your womb. You will be so grateful that until she is nearly here you will block out the bad and focus on her and her sisters. Taking pictures and creating memories. The rest won’t matter.
A month before your scheduled C-section (yes they will carve all of your babies out of you like a pumpkin) He will decide to have another surgery. This is your catalyst moment. You will truly open your eyes to what you are living. It is the wake up call you need.
After Sarah is born, and he continues to berate you daily about your wife skills you will have no sex drive. He will leave one day and come up missing, only to be “camping” in a motel to get clean from drugs. You will demand and try counseling and it will fail. The woman who is supposed to be unbiased will choose a side. And it isn’t yours. You will fight worse in the parking lot of the therapy office for sometimes up to an hour about everything that was supposed to help during the session. You will make compromises no cherished wife should ever make.
You will write a letter to Francis after having a dream about Richard. You will apologize for his loss and express your shared grief. You will get a letter back and find out hes alive and never died. (Talk about a movie moment) You will find him on Facebook and to your luck (or not luck) he is single.
You will write a letter bearing your soul to him and he will accept it willingly with open arms and the long distance emotional affair will have begun. This isn’t your proudest moment. But it was needed and you won’t regret it at all. You were taught what unconditional love looks like. Yes, from a distance but what it looks like nonetheless.
Restoration starts with a single step. You step out and it is one step at a time.
You get caught by the T-Mobile guy using too many minutes on your phone. And you are a terrible liar so you don’t even try. (You totally could have gotten away with this since you were going to a wedding and you were going to make your affair official, but you don’t lie, unless by omission, so you just pour it all out.
“I’m talking to Richard and I don’t love you anymore.” Boom Done.
You will break your own heart choosing your marriage and be mocked daily with it by your husband. He will force you to perform your “wifely duties” because its your job. You will feel shame and you will cry. A lot. But its ok. I promise with each stolen moment, you will also become stronger. And then one day, he will yell at Faith, and something inside you will break. You won’t ever let him yell at your little girl again. You look in the mirror and realize that this isn’t you. You don’t know who you are or what you like, but you know one thing. The blank person staring back at you is NOT who you want to be.
October 23rd, the day before your 30th birthday Richard will break up with you for a real girl. You will turn 30 and start your tattoo rampage, (you are still getting them now). One day in December, God will come over you and the Holy spirit will fill you with an incredible super natural strength. You will get your own bank account and an apartment in December 2010 and decide to leave.
Keys to your new place in hand, you tell him you are leaving, he will say, ” You are teaching our girls to quit.”
But you are not. You are removing them from the toxic marriage so they never learn this is ok.
The girls won’t care, and because you are lining your steps with where God wants you, everything will be easy. You will spend that first night in your tiny apartment as a single mom and it will be glorious.
Waking up the next day and truly understanding the impact of single motherhood will hit you. It will look so hard in this moment, with no job, no education, no love and no hope. But your ex best friends ex husband will become your rock and despite God telling you no, you will fall in love and he will be there to help you feel stronger. He gives you a steady post to lean on.
You will get a job at Starbucks and resume your job with Tammy. She will support you once you leave but was always sure not to offer where she stood so you can make your own choice.
You will miss the girls fiercely, and during that time at Starbucks, you will make some bad man choices. You will date the Auto Zone guy and make him the second ever notch on your bedpost, you will realize that is a waste and Chuck (your ex best friends ex husband) will be back in your life and take notch #3. You will break up again, and sadly Boomerjacks Brandon, the bouncer, will then become #4. By the end of 2011 you went from having been one man’s wife for 14 years to having made some sketchy choices. I digress that these are all necessary for you to learn you don’t need anyone but God’s validation. I wish I could say there was a better way. This is just what happens. You will finalize your divorce for Christmas, make one last attempt to be with Chuck and after yet another round of drama from the ex wife of Chuck and from God solidly speaking to you that he told you lots of times it was never going to work, you will finally let it go. It will be hard and in that moment, you will hate it, but when you finally breath it out, you will be left standing there alone. Ultimately the year of back and forth with Chuck will lead you to be just friends, and you will finally stop filling your man void with someone who validates you. That shift is what you need. Let it happen. I promise. The alone, the feeling of not mattering to someone else will be heavy but so worth it. You will find your worth in who God created you to be.
It will give you peace. You will vow to make no more man choices based on what you think you are worth or the need to NOT be alone.
You will be single until March of 2012. (You wouldn’t believe how much growth can happen when you are open to what God wants for you. But what you will do is decide that a non relationship would actually be great. That all starts with the best pick up line from a coworker ever. “Friends totally snuggle.” This will change your life and the entire course of it, forever.
Snuggling will turn into friends with benefits, and while this is not the preferred method, I say to you being able to be part of something with no expectations, and growing through it was liberating. It was like someone unlocking the prison and seeing the sun for the first time. It will grow into Joseph saying he loves first and in little ways that are funny in order to remove the seriousness and power behind the words because girl, you scare him.
“I just love all of this so much”
“I love Tiarra cause shes so delicious” (yes that is the goldfish tune)
These moments will change your life because the lack of responsibility for someone’s happiness in this FWB relationship will morph into your forever. His stuff will migrate to your apartment, you will be lost when he isn’t there and he will be lost when he isn’t with you. His views on marriage will change from “I can see myself with you for forever but I don’t know about that marriage thing” to replacing your last name with his when discussing your future and then eloping in the park.
I told you that your life was going to change. You certainly did not think that you would fall in love with someone at a coffee shop. Cheesy right?
You will want to have a baby but so far it hasn’t happened. As I write this I still stand here in faith that God will give Joseph (aka upgrade husband) a baby of our own if its in his will.
As I write this remember this is the cliff notes. So many other things will happen in between. Richard will call you that he got married and then later that he is having a baby. She is beautiful and it truly will make your heart happy to know that despite all that you lost from that long distance relationship, the one that opened your eyes, now he has a real girl who adores him. And a beautiful little girl too!
When you read this it will have been 7 years since you left, a little more than 6 divorced, just barely 6 since Joseph first kissed you (at your curious request). This year you will have been married again for 5 years, and when he looks at you it still looks like he sees his whole world just by looking at you.
Your girls see daily the affirmation and Godly treatment of their mother. You finally broke the generational cycle of abuse. Think of not just the implications on your girls but the generations that come next!
The biggest thing I want you to take away from this letter when you read it is that you have been through a lot. You are now stronger, more beautiful and more amazing than ever before.
There is nothing you can’t do. So if you find yourself in a rut, read this and remember how far you have come. You can do anything. Believe in yourself. It isn’t anyone else’s job to help you understand what you are worth. And you know you are worth it and that you can do it, because you did it before.
You are loved and you are incredible and you will do great things.
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