There are nudges all around me that tell me that Joel is with me, even though I know he's not physically here. Like this cup for example, I'm just walking through Walmart, of all places, to grab some cat food and a lemonade pitcher, and I fly by the aisle and it's flashing at me as a reminder of his love for me.
He called me wiff-ee (or his computer did when he would say "Wifey"). In that moment, that cup became mine. I love coffee mugs, even though I don't drink much coffee.
Then there is this week which is roaring in like no other. It's the week we were married 6 years ago. And, of all years, our date falls on a Saturday, just as it was 6 years ago. I have been scrolling through old photos for the first time in a while. Photos have been hard for the last 8 months, but when I look at those from our wedding I see things I never saw 6 years ago. And roles have been reversed.
You see, my parents were scared out of their minds to let their little girl choose a path that meant that we would rely on someone else to help us be able to have a married life. And, I get it. My parents couldn't bare the thought of the life I was ready and willing to take on. My mom and I were best friends in my early 20s and it was hard for her to let me go, to take on the responsibility of being a caretaker at 24. In her eyes, used. I can't say as a mother, now myself, that I can't see that anymore. Not by Joel. But her fear was that I would be that I was take advantage of. But I wouldn't listen. My heart would only choose Joel. Even if that meant moving in with his family and then 2 states away and rarely getting to see my family. Even if that meant day after day that I couldn't leave the house. Even if that meant that I couldn't be a 24 year-old. But in my eyes, neither could Joel. And I was set out to help him enjoy his life, to the fullest.
And I did.
Friday night I decided to take some time for self-reflection and growth. I opened my Magnolia Journal and read the Editors's letter from Joanna Gaines.
Y'all, it touched my grieving heart like no other. I can't describe the epiphany state I was in, in that moment. She described that in the culture and age we live in, we are constantly after happiness and joy, and we don't like to sit in the less than appetizing seasons of life. Don't get me wrong, I love a happy ending.
But life isn't about chasing rainbows and being filled with happiness all-the-time!
And, that's why I'm convinced, there are so many people out there that are facing depression. Because, in a world stricken with trauma and loss, we only want to feel better. We only want to feel good things and when we don't, we are discouraged, beaten down and feel less than good enough- like we just can't be happy. Like something isn't right if we aren't peppy and vibrant and on 24-7.
That's just it though. Perhaps, we aren't meant to feel happy all the time.
Perhaps, if we weren't so consumed with feeling only good, we might find those deep, dark places where growth happens in the dark, under the soil. Perhaps, we would feel whole, rather than happy. Perhaps we would grow to blossom into much greater versions of ourselves by developing the character it takes to get dirty.
If only we were willing to be overcome by the weight of the dark depths of our feelings, to feel the ebbs and flows of pain and grief, so that we could know the full extent of wholeness and true joy on a level we cannot imagine because our soul refuses to bear the goodness in relief from the pain.
To those who have abandoned Joel's son and me:
I look at this photo of us and I was the epitome of young and naive. Not because I was blinded by love. No. Because in this moment, I look at this photo and believe in the love that others could see between us. I see genuine smiles and belief that you knew I would take care of him and love him.
But, that's just it. You didn't want me to take care of him the way that would lead to our independence. And it ripped us, as a family apart. Joel wanted to be a man. A twenty-four year old man that was married and could have a home of his own and family of his own. A car accident that stole his life from him, it didn't take that desire away.
You held my dress, you held the flowers, and you gave an excellent speech, not for us lovebirds, but for the crowd. It was a stand up, mic drop, hooping and hollering for The Wedding that Almost Didn't Happen.
Life set in. Living with your extended family for an extended time is never a good idea. Living with your extended family and never able to fly or be applauded for making a way for your independence is crippling. Always being told what you're going to do instead of asking you how you want something done is depleating. When all you want as a man is your father's approval and all you get is demeaning words for choosing your own path, that's unbearable.
When your family wants you to hide in the shadows and in the crevices of the 4 walls of a room and never leave, it sucks the life out of you. When your only heart's desire is to inspire other people through your story and you get told it's dumb over and over, no wonder he chose to fly. Away.
When you want to start a family, unconventionally and it's not what they want and you choose a child whose age isn't appropriate for them bond with and you choose to do it anyway, it's not easy.
Now, more than ever, I'm proud of me. I'm proud that I helped Joel see life to the fullest, even if it isn't what you wanted. If only you took a moment to ask him.
I don't care if you think my child is too old. I don't care if you think your son shouldn't eat by mouth because it's too dangerous. I don't care if you uninvite me to his life celebration and have photos our wedding that don't include me. And I don't care if you don't even acknowledge that he was a father. I don't care if you haven't spoken a word to me since January 18th. Whatever man or woman that you were to me, it doesn't matter anymore. If you think your son/nephew/brother would be proud of how you've handled yourself these past 8 months, you didn't know the man I knew. And chances are, he doesn't care anymore either. He was over it, long before me.
That man loved me and his son, your grandson/nephew/cousin more than anyone in this world. And he loved harder in those last 8 months of becoming a father and you never got to see it. His greatest calling in life was fulfilled and you missed it. I hate it for you.
And if you think this story, this letter is about you. It's not. It's not even about me. It's about a God who never left me. He never abandoned my son. He never disappointed Joel. It's about every single person who has ever been abandoned in their life by people who they expected to be there with the world stopped and came crashing down.
Joel isn't grieving anymore. So we shouldn't grieve for him. We should grieve with those who are still here, grieving.
For those of you who feel alone and abandoned, God is with you. You may not know it now. You may not even believe in Him anymore. But, I'm here to tell you that He is not man, He does not disappoint. He is with you and carrying you. And one day, you'll look back and see He was there all along. Don't you dare lose hope. Don't you dare give up. Ebbs and flows, friend. I too, know what you're feeling- the girl who looks like she has it together all the time. Trust me, I don't.
I've realized that it's ok to sit in the grief. I've learned that it's ok to not feel happy. It's ok to be disappointed. It's ok to feel hurt, abandoned, alone. So did Jesus. By those who were closest to Him, by those who He called friend. I've realized that we aren't meant to be happy all-the-time. I'm going to stop chasing joy. I'm going to stop thinking I have to choose it every single day.
I'm sorry if that disappoints you, but I'll be over here grabbing, reaching, and feeling the weight of this pain, because it makes the loss of Joel feel real. I will not be peppy all the time. I will not be put together all the time. I will not be myself- whoever she is or whatever that means, all the time. I will be a human- bounding with emotions and breathing. I will be real and authentic and not easy to read. I'll be unpredictable and probably unreliable at times.
I'll just be over here unpacking this grief, one box at a time. This is me, releasing this burden. This is me releasing resentment and anger and frustration and hate and unforgiveness, feeling unappreciated, never measuring up and never doing things right (your way). This is me letting 6 years of pain and suffering go... in the pursuit of wholeness, instead of happiness.
That's all now.
PS... this was not a post to be sad for me. Be proud with me to let it go. I'm ok and I realize this is a side of me you have probably never seen or read before. It's me! Really... this is for anyone who ever felt abandoned. Send it to them. Share it. Love it. Do whatever you wish for me. I just had to get this out!!!