Guest Post: On Sharing Our Stories

By Bonnie Thibodeau

“Every act of communication is an act of tremendous courage in which we give ourselves over to two parallel possibilities: the possibility of planting into another mind a seed sprouted in ours and watching it blossom into a breathtaking flower of mutual understanding; and the possibility of being wholly misunderstood, reduced to a withering weed.” –Mary Popova

“It is possible that if you tell the truth not only will you be delivered yourself from the prison of untruth, but the person who hears the truth will also be opened and can be delighted.” –Alice Walker

I remember everything about the first time I slept with Anthony*. We didn’t have sex that night, but I woke up feeling that warm glow that only follows magical nights. After seeing a Blues band in a smoky bar, we drove along the winding Appalachian country roads in my old Subaru, taking turns picking out music for each other. He introduced me to Deer Tick and the National, and I turned him onto the Tallest Man on Earth and Gaslight Anthem. 

We parked along the logging road by the woods where he was camped for the summer. We could still hear the creek while we talked for hours, lying on the warm hood of the car. Our first kiss was electric in a way that shocked us both. We walked out to the meadow, trying to stretch the night out as far as it could go. We kissed under a full sky of perpetually shooting stars in a field that twinkled with the light of a thousand fireflies. We scrambled up a narrow plank to the tree platform and crawled inside his tent. We kept the rainfly off so we could fall asleep still bathed in moonlight. We kissed some more. It was deep and passionate, but I knew it was right when he asked if we could wait to have sex.

In my past relationships I fell for men who would not or could not love me because they loved someone else more or they didn’t love themselves enough. I hurt the good men who tried to give me the love I wasn’t ready to accept, love I didn’t realize I deserved.

I was trying to do things different this time around, and I had a feeling he was going to be very different.

I woke up wrapped in his arms, tracing the tattooed outlines of the Japanese samurai and cherry blossoms drifting down his bicep. I turned on my side to face him, our own smiles reflecting back at us in each other’s bright blue eyes. He laced his fingers in mine and said he could only promise two things. He promised he would never cheat on me. He promised he would never hit me. In retrospect I see how low the bar was set, but I remember squeezing my eyes shut in disbelief; for the first time in my life I felt safe, truly safe, trusting my heart with a man. I curled back up in his arms like a happy dog napping in a sun patch, and he held me closer.

We fell madly in love in those first summer months. He wrote lines from Leaves of Grass and brought me a brick from the crumbled Civil War hospital where Whitman worked as a nurse. I made salmon and poured wine for us to share on the chairs outside my Morgantown apartment. He read Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson while I read from tall book stacks for my next round of English grad classes, both of us propped on our elbows on side by side towels at the lake, running into the water when we got too hot. He rested his hand on my thigh when we drove, stopping along the way to take pictures wherever we went. We went boating with our friends on the rivers where we first met as whitewater rafting guides. We spent most nights camping, still holding hands in our sleep. We ate popcorn on the couch watching Ken Robinson documentaries and Trailer Park Boys. We talked about our pasts, our pains, our pleasures, and of growing old together. We got a puppy. 

That was the start of our great love story. 

The dirty secret about abusive relationships is that they usually start this way. That is the bait. It’s convincing, it’s beautiful, it hides the hook well. He holds a line she does not see until it’s too late. He knows how hard he can pull and when he must reel to keep her on that line. Sometimes she gets away by struggling. Sometimes she gets away by chance. Sometimes she does not get away. 

My boyfriend technically kept both promises from that first morning. 

My boyfriend never hit me. He was arrested shortly before it was bound to happen. My boyfriend didn’t have sex with anyone else, so far as I could tell. He was arrested shortly before he had a chance to visit the women he was talking to. 

We were together for two years. In hindsight I can pinpoint all the moments when things started shifting, gradual at first. He would change whatever cd or radio station I put on, a precursor to his oscillation between total disregard and outrage when I did try to make choices about which restaurant to eat at or what music to listen to. He informed me if I was feeling stressed or guilty, even if I didn’t realize it, so that I thought he understood me better than I knew myself. 

I remember a lot of broken laptops, cell phones, dresser drawers, and chairs. I remember my hands getting sticky from picking up broken shards of a mason jar of homemade jelly he threw at the bathroom door just as I was slamming it shut behind me. I remember wearing sunglasses in the car and looking out the passenger window so he wouldn’t see me crying. I remember clutching the side of my seat or the door handle in the car when he pounded the steering wheel with his fists, speeding too fast around curves. I remember lying in bed, unable to fall asleep while he sat in the corner of our bedroom staring at naked women on the laptop all night, pausing only to glare at me, his face lit by the flickering glow of the computer screen.   

I remember making excuses for him. I remember swallowing his excuses. He was abused. He was orphaned. He was a veteran with PTSD. He had a good heart. He was afraid of losing me. He was the man who loved me. One day he asked, out of the blue, “What have I ever done that makes you think I would hit you?” He was the man who would never hit me.

I remember taking the blame. He told me: I didn’t love him anymore. I was codependent. I was emotionally distant. I was leaving him for the men at my work. I was disgusting when I cried. I could never understand his pain. I shouldn’t take it personally when he storms out. I shouldn’t take it personally when he storms back in. I shouldn’t act scared.

I remember waves of relief washing over me when his anger subsided. I remember the apologies, the explanations, the embraces, our tears, the promises of change. 

I remember waves of confusion that followed the relief. Why did he tell me to go on that weekend trip to Zion with friends, only to call me at midnight with threats of leaving forever with our dog and truck because I was a bitch? Why did he ask if I had a good trip when I came back early?  How was it possible to love someone deeply, but feel paralyzing dread when he entered a room, holding your breath until you could read him for signs of how to behave? 

I mistook his intellect and occasional vulnerability for virtue. His charm bought him others’ good graces. His photography was beautiful, honest, and distracted everyone—I think including himself—from the fact of his lies.  

He knew how to cut me down in ways that were difficult to pinpoint or explain, but so effective that I rarely resisted. He told me he didn’t feel welcome with our friends, so we spent less and less time with them. He mocked my family, and my ivory tower education, my whitewashed dreams for us to have a home and family one day, my sense of childish humor, my incessant tears. He ignored the hurting parts of me. He helped me feel invisible. He interrupted me often, and admonished me when I noticed. I knew that when he returned to a good mood as if nothing happened, it would be a snap change, and I better be quick to catch up.

I remember thinking we could fix it, we could find our way back to the happiness we once had. I could get a better job so we wouldn’t be stressed about bills and groceries, so we could afford a counselor. I could say all the right things again. I could be sexier. We could hold hands and take the dog for walks again. We could move farther and farther away, just the two of us. I could toughen up. I could choose to stop feeling sad, scared, and alone. I could stop feeling guilty for feeling sad, scared, and alone. 

Mostly, I remember the trappings of my silence. Disappearing is always a quiet course. 

Once, I accidentally came across an intimate conversation he was having with his ex. It took me weeks to gather the courage to ask him about it. Somehow, by the end of the conversation I was apologizing while he stormed out of the house, not sure if he could trust me again. I didn’t mention it again. Somehow, by the end of the relationship I was shocked to realize I had only scratched the surface of love and lust messages written for women who were not me.

He broke and sold his phone. He used mine instead. It stayed that way. When friends called he’d hand me the phone, repeating some iteration of “I’ll leave the room so you can talk about me.”  He’d come back in the room sporadically to rummage around for something. I would not talk about him. I wanted to cry out, but I tried to keep my mouth shut. I grew too tired of trying to make myself heard, too intimidated to be honest with him about my growing anxieties. Instead, I sat quietly on the bed—feeling sick at my own passivity—biding time between the moments of calm. Sometimes we’d lie in bed, trying to hold each other like we used to. I could still feel his soft touch, still hear the love echo in his voice. I didn’t want to admit out loud, or even in my head, what my gut kept screaming: get out.

Our story first ended out West. We were living with friends in northern Utah and taking road trips to remote hot springs in the Nevada backcountry in winter. He’d been to these places before, and I was excited to see his favorite landscapes. We walked through slanted doorframes of long-abandoned farmhouses, through foundations with no buildings above in a ghost town, and along the high rim of a hundred year old dam. We soaked in old stone pools flowing with warm water while thick snowflakes swirled around us. There was no one for miles and nothing in sight except brilliant orange, pink, and purple sunsets spreading across the backdrop of white-capped mountains. We went to visit his friend Paula*, an older woman living on the outskirts of a small mining town. She still grew her own food and heated her home with the wood she chopped. We enjoyed helping her pull parsnip and potatoes from her garden, peeling seeds from dried sunflowers, and sitting on the back porch with cold beers and napping dogs at our feet. I was organizing canned beans in her pantry when he decided we had to go. 

He was worried the police would show up. He grabbed our bags, and we were out the door in five minutes, Paula rushing to give us hugs and a wrapped plate of the burritos she had been making for dinner. He drove fast, trying to get as far from the nearest towns as possible. He was absorbed in his panic. More than finally seeing what it cost to wait for a man to stop running, my heart sank with the recognition of my aloneness in this partnership. There was no room for my wants or needs in this relationship. I would have no turn to lay my burdens down. I must be the rock. I must outlast dynamite. 

He pulled over halfway past nowhere to set up the tent. There were no trees for cover, only gently rising mounds of packed earth and scrub brush. It was biting cold, but we kept the rainfly off, this time out of exhaustion. We hardly spoke a word to each other as we crawled into our separate sleeping bags, our dog under his own blanket between us for warmth, our backs to each other. After he fell asleep I lied on my back staring up to the fullest sky of the brightest stars I had ever seen. There were no lights to compete with the desert sky. The stars felt so close I felt as though the warmth of my breath hitting the air might melt them, like thin crystals of frost on a window. It was breathtaking beauty, and I had never felt so empty.

Our breakup intertwined with his arrest months later, among other revelations. In the year that followed, I was bound to a giant knot of rage and grief. It sat in my stomach and would rise up in my throat as memories kept looping in my mind. It felt like I would choke on my own misery if I didn’t purge myself of the memories. Sometimes I screamed riding in the truck cab with close friends after a perfect day of tubing and doing somersaults on knolls. They let me cry on their shoulders answered my calls when I woke from bad dreams, crawled in bed with me on the mornings I wouldn’t get up, and laughed about the absurdity of it all while sipping coffee at kitchen tables before heading off to teach class.  But even when I had the words for what I felt, it was hard to reach out. I was ashamed I didn’t have the one simple story to tell. I felt I had to choose between the narrative of the monster or the broken heart. Because who would be patient enough to listen to a woman who’s missing the man who hurt her? A man she loves but can’t forgive?  

Breaking that silence has proven difficult long after the severing of ties with Anthony. It was hard to name the experience, to say “abuse,” to identify a loved one as an abuser. I never used this word with him. I’m still not ready to pair the word with his real name publically. It felt like a dirty word for many months, a word I wasn’t entitled to say. He never hit me. But now I feel the gathering strength and urgency to speak up. 

The other day I was listening to an NPR interview with author Katherine Patterson. She said she’s come to find that the “most wonderful thing about being a writer is having readers.” My initial response to this was absolutely not. I had been grappling with writing this guest post for Kelly’s blog for months. The most terrifying thing about writing this essay has been imagining him while he’s reading it. Imagining his response after reading it.

I would freeze, thinking about his reaction to the narrative of my own experience. I can’t see if there is understanding or remorse. I can imagine anger as I set my words free for others to find. I can hear him saying it’s nobody’s business. I can imagine the many ways he might tell me I’m wrong, the many ways he might deny the narrative of my life. When I imagine him reading I stop writing. I slip back into the familiar holding pattern of self-doubt and deferring to him, even in his absence. I slip back into silence.

The first time I shared a personal Facebook post about abuse, my palms got sweaty and my heart pounded. But I felt a little stronger and liberated when I clicked “post.” In the comments, phone calls, and conversations that came from friends after, I found more of the understanding and support I was starving for. 

I remember the first time I met Kelly. She shared an office with three other GTA’s at WVU, one of whom was our incredible friend Rebecca who even signs her emails with a <3. I spent a lot of my breaks between classes in the office with Rebecca. I was sitting at Kelly’s desk in the back corner one day. On her desk she had a wooden frame around a picture of a red fox. It was a striking photograph. I studied the fox’s face and I became acutely aware of the space between the fox and its image—a translation of wild and beauty instead of its actual presence. A life captured, an implication beneath a glass pane. 

When I first saw Kelly she reminded me of her framed fox. She had beautiful red hair and big blue eyes. She struck me as someone with a sharp mind, kind heart, and a spirit at home in the wild. But when she smiled at me I had the same sense that something in her was lost. Not gone from her, but pinned beneath an invisible pane of sorrow, noiseless and still. I could see a static image of a hidden life force.  

I was still with my boyfriend when I learned Kelly left her abusive husband. My heart broke for her. A year later I left Anthony. Around that time Kelly started writing her blog. I couldn’t read her posts without crying. I couldn’t finish reading them without feeling less alone and more hopeful. The details were so clearly unique to her experience. But I could relate to her narrative. It was the first time I saw myself represented in the open, everything I wasn’t able to name articulated poignantly. I felt the weight of all the shame, guilt, and confusion lifting. I felt less alone.

Sharing our stories is not about vengeance. I do not want anyone, even Anthony, to wither at my words. It is not about replaying the pain. I do not wish to cast myself in the role of the victim.  Sharing this story is my choice to transform so that I do not transmit my pain. Writing our stories is an act of reclamation. It takes courage to break the silence. It takes courage to listen.

When I write now, I am moving beyond fears of being misunderstood or ignored. I am thinking about Kelly’s stories—the courage it took to write them and the courage they inspire, like a brightening window in a dark hall—for both survivors of abuse and allies who hope to better understand and support their friends. I am writing to deliver myself into truth. I am thinking of the people I have not met, who may recognize some of their own truth in the words, who may be opened and delighted. I am thinking of my friends of every sort, and I find it is wonderful to have readers. 

On Forgiveness

Idaho or Montana, or somewhere in between, on my first Christmas without Reed.
Living in an Appalachian Hollow is like living in an embrace that is sometimes beautiful, and sometimes overly familiar. The landscape around me is alive and hugs my home tightly. The organic world creeps into my house. I have to lock the doors tightly, or I wake to find them blown wide open, leaves scattered across the floor. When it rains, I hear the rain pattering on the sky lights above me, and the sound is beautiful until I discover water pouring in through the kitchen ceiling. Reed and I have named the spiders so that we’re no longer afraid of them. We have both stopped screaming when we see a bug larger than my fist. Mouse nests inhabit my drawers. The mice are particularly partial to my collection of vintage table cloths.  

It is sometimes hard to know here whether I have an intimacy with nature or whether I am being assaulted by it.

Last winter, we were snowed in too many times. Last winter, Reed said, “I think we’re going to get cabin fever again.” Last winter, I was trying to write a book proposal, edit a magazine, take graduate courses, travel to conferences and speaking engagements, and meet my translation requirement, all with a son who was home from school on snow days for nearly a full month. Last winter, my translation instructor told me, Kelly, you don’t get a pass, and I cried for an entire day. Last winter, I drove through blizzards to take my son to see Caleb in West Virginia, but when I asked Caleb if his parents would watch Reed for a couple of days, Caleb said, “I will not ask my parents to help you.” 

Last winter, my pipes froze. Last winter, my furnace couldn’t keep up with the sub-zero temperatures, and Reed and I huddled next to each other under a down comforter while the temperature in the house dropped to near freezing. Last winter, my electric bill was $500 one month, my child care was just as much, and I won’t even tell you how much money I was making. Last winter, I asked Caleb to help supplement the extra cost of child care for the snow days, and he said, “Take me to court.” Last winter, I knew that I could have taken Caleb to court and received more support, but I also knew, as well as he did, that I had neither the energy nor the time for that, so, instead, I sucked up the costs myself. 

Last winter, a newish friend inexplicably ended our friendship, and although I have no idea why, I have convinced myself that it’s because I wasn’t cheery enough, that it’s because I was a downer. I haven’t felt comfortable since then in reaching out to my friends in Athens when I feel troubled. I save my troubles now for my closest friends who talk to me on the phone, but who, always, feel too, too far away. 

I require a fair amount of solitude, but I also like company. 

Last winter, I discovered the difference between solitude and loneliness. 

I’d still take the loneliness over Caleb’s company. That, at least, is true.

Last winter, I told someone I cared about that I couldn’t talk to him anymore. Last winter, on the same day that I told the person I cared about that I couldn’t talk to him anymore, Caleb handed me a box that he had supposedly “found.” It was a box full of love letters to me (both from him and former lovers). Last winter, Caleb fell in love with someone else. Last winter, Caleb must have decided he no longer needed to steal my love letters because he loved someone else. 

Last winter, I shoved that box of love letters into the back of a closet. 

Last winter, I watched the movie version of Wild. Although I liked the book, the movie affected me in a more visceral way. It made me want to change my life. It made me want to create something beautiful. It made me end that relationship that wasn’t serving me well at the time, but which I have been able to revive as a somewhat complicated friendship. Last winter, I discovered that Appalachian winters can be brutal. 

In my experience, much of Appalachia is brutal. I know that I am turning Appalachia into Caleb; I know this is unfair.

Tonight, I took the trash  outside and stopped. The air was crisp and cold. I could smell the smoke from my neighbor’s wood stove. The stars hung above me, so silver. I shivered in that cold and remembered my winters in Idaho. Winter was my favorite season in Idaho. The smell of the wood smoke. The sound of the snow. The way, when we skied, the snow muffled every sound except the whoosh, whoosh, of our skies. The way the sound of a clump of snow falling to the ground from a tree branch was so familiar. The crunch of snow shoes up a mountainside. Snow so dry that, with the proper clothing, I could comfortably sit in it, even sleep in it. The feeling of sitting in hot springs right next to icicles. 

The sound of my father stoking the wood stove in the hours before dawn broke. The way our house was always warm. The gurgle of the coffee machine. The door opening to let the dog out. The muffled sound of the morning news. The feeling of having a father in my home. 

Oh god, how did I not know that I was lucky just to have a father in my home? That my own child wouldn’t even have that?

I was born during an Idaho winter.

I have only ever fallen in love during an Idaho winter.

I am coming upon another Appalachian winter, and this terrifies me.

My essay  came out recently in Best American Essays. I was honored to discover that Ariel Levy singled out my essay in the introduction. She mentioned my innocence as I peed in the snow outside Caleb’s mountain cabin in the Idaho winter while he slept so peacefully inside. I fell in love with Caleb in that cabin. We slept on a couch, and it was so hot because the wood stove was too much for such a small cabin. I was bitten by fleas because he had covered me in a blanket that the dogs had been sleeping on. There was so much that I could have singled out about that experience besides that peaceful moment in the snow. I could have singled out the married couple whose property Caleb was living on, and the husband who was an alcoholic who slept with any woman who would sleep with him, and the wife who was a beautiful, gentle, doomed soul.

I didn’t single them out because I wanted to focus on the joy I felt rather than the hairs raised on the back of my neck. Also, because in the morning, when Caleb and I had breakfast with that married couple, the wife looked at me with such pity that I realized she thought that I was the doomed one. The truth is that we were both right. We were both doomed. If I can give any woman a single piece of relationship advice, it’s this: If a woman looks at you with pity and/or seems sad for you, then run from that person you are with, because we know. We know.

So many women looked at me with pity when I started dating Caleb.

Shit, Caleb’s guy friends even looked at me with pity. That’s a really bad sign.

But this was going to be a post on forgiveness, so how does forgiveness fit into all of this? I don’t know. I’ve been trying to forgive Caleb. I’m writing about him, and I don’t want him to be one-dimensional, and that requires that, in my memory, I access the side of him that I loved, which would maybe, maybe, allow me to forgive him.

Part of the beauty of writing about suffering is that it allows us to take control of our own narrative. Caleb took my story away from me. He made it his story. But I now have the opportunity to take my story back.

So how do I access forgiveness without making excuses? 

The answer is that, I just don’t know. I felt like maybe I was making some progress towards forgiveness, which is why I started this blog post, then I started writing, and I clearly haven’t forgiven. Earlier, I reached out to some women who have been through the same kind of suffering, and although all of their opinions were differing, what I came to learn through their stories is that our anger is also our protection, and maybe I shouldn’t try to force forgiveness for someone who doesn’t want it. 

The problem with being in a forced relationship with an abuser (through our child), is that I can’t do all of the recommended things that people should usually do with an abuser. I can’t cut out contact. I can’t ignore him. I can’t pretend he doesn’t exist.

We are raising a child together. We are stuck together.

So maybe, for me, forgiveness just isn’t possible right now. I have full certainty that, if he came to me, owned up to what he had done, and asked for forgiveness, I would forgive him. I didn’t survive almost nine years of marriage to that guy by being unforgiving. But forgiveness is not what he wants. He wants to perpetuate my suffering, so I can’t offer forgiveness to him in this moment.

To offer him forgiveness would mean re-enacting our abusive pattern.

And forgiveness of the self? Well, that’s a whole other can of worms.

But what I can tell you is that I’ve now made it through two Appalachian winters, and I came out kicking both times. I’ll make it through as many Appalachian winters as I need to because, at this point, I’m pretty sure I can make it through anything.

And though the Appalachian winters are hard, they offer gifts. I found this one on my floor two winters ago, and the hope it offered me then has come true.

On Surrender

It is difficult to live a full life if we haven’t grieved our losses.”
Miriam Greenspan

My mother is worried that I am depressed. She is a very loving fixer. She wants to fix things for me, so if I’m depressed, I think that weighs more on her than it does on me.

She wants me to only be happy.

I am not only happy.

But I am also not depressed.

I know what depression looks like. I’ve been depressed. When Reed was about a year old, and Caleb’s secrets had started trickling out, I was beginning to see Caleb’s other side. That was when he was backing me into corners, throwing things. He was intimidating me, and I didn’t yet understand we were settling into a pattern, but I fell into a kind of hopelessness that I had never felt before. I had no gumption.

I thought, Well, this is just my life now.

I found myself at the Student Health Center taking a quiz on depression. I aced that quiz. The doctor came back in the room with concern in her eyes, and she said, “We cannot let you go on in this way.” I left her office with a prescription for Prozac, but everything else in my life was just the same as it had been when I had opened those glass doors an hour earlier.

When I think back on that period of time, what I remember most is the light. It was October, and the light had this quality of intensity and dimness at the same time. I was trying to be not-depressedI took the baby for long walks, and the light was almost painful. The light was a razor’s edge. On one side of that edge was beauty, and on the other side of that edge was despair. I was teetering along on the blade, unable to collapse myself into either.

Eventually, I settled into a certain comfort. I became more comfortable with despair, and I stopped being depressed, I was able to stop taking Prozac (which hadn’t really helped me anyway), and I haven’t needed it since.

My mom worried that I’m depressed now, because I’m open about my struggles with sadness. After my discussion with my mom, I had lunch with a good friend, and she said to me, “I would never think you’re depressed. You don’t act depressed at all.”

So I reassured my mom that I’m not depressed, and I think she believed me. What else could I do?

And I’ll just say to anyone else who might be concerned about me, that I am okay. I am okay. 

Today, a writer, Vanessa Martir posted this interview on Facebook, “Through a Glass Darkly: On Moving from Grief to Gratitude” with Miriam Greenspan. Greenspan is a psychotherapist who believes that we need to pay attention to our emotions, but especially the dark emotions. I’ve written about this before, but I think we live in a culture that is so obsessed with positivity that we’ve become pain avoidant. Avoiding our pain manifests in other, uglier ways. Avoiding our pain manifests in shame, addiction, and abuse.

Greenspan posits that we should surrender to the dark emotions, “Surrendering to suffering is usually the last thing we want to do, but surrender is what brings the unexpected gifts of wisdom, compassion, and courage.”

Greenspan also says that those who surrender to their suffering rather than avoiding it are less likely to act out of that suffering in destructive ways.

Here is the tricky part for abuse survivors. We’re often terrified of surrendering to our suffering. Our abusers punished us for our suffering. I know that I’m not the only woman who was punished by my abuser for crying. He mocked me for my tears. He beat me for my tears. He screamed, “Stop crying!” at me as he wailed on me with his fists.

So, do you think it is easy for me to surrender to my suffering now?


And because I’ve struggled with surrendering to my suffering, I have, at times, let myself become overwhelmed by it, become angry, lashed out at people in ways that were only going to perpetuate my suffering rather than ease it. I’ve also caused suffering to others, and that regret lives in my chest with all of my other regrets.

But part of surrendering is forgiveness, is accepting that I am not perfect. Caleb was not the perfect abuser, nor am I the perfect victim. I am no martyr. I am only human.

I am complex.

And I surrender to that. I surrender to the fact that there will be good days, and there will be bad days. I surrender to the fact that I can’t change what happened to me. I surrender to the fact that I can’t fix Caleb, and I might not even be able to fix myself. I surrender to the fact that I will always have complicated feelings towards Caleb, that the love I held inside of me for so many years will never allow me to truly hate him.

I surrender to the fact that there is nothing outside of me that can fix me.

I surrender to the heartbreak. I surrender to the lost friendships. I surrender to the loss of my dear, sweet sister-in-law. I surrender to the loss of the home I raised my child in. I surrender to the lost years of writing productivity. I surrender to fact that I will never have the life my parents wanted for their daughter. I surrender to the fact that my son will never have the life I wanted for him.

And I forgive myself. I accept what the world offers me in return.

And what the world offers me is vast. The world offers me new friendships. The world offers me opportunities with my writing. The world offers me a chance to have a new relationship with my parents where I don’t feel that I have to pretend to be something I’m not. The world offers me the chance to raise my son alone. The world offers me a companionship and intimacy with my son that we never could have had with Caleb in our home.

The world offers me the same October light, but this time, I surrender to it. I’m no longer teetering on the edge of the blade.

I surrender to the despair.

I surrender to the beauty.