So recently I noticed an adult writing contest at our local library. I used to love to write, but somewhere along the way I decided no one was interested in reading what I had to say, so I stopped. This blog has been such a nice outlet for me, but when I saw this writing contest I just felt compelled to share a story. It asked the writer to talk about a time in their life, so in an hour I sat down and poured out my heart.
After I wrote it I shared it with the people it involved and I submitted it. I didn’t have the courage to go back and reread it. I am sad to report that it was not picked as a winning story, though the librarian who emailed me did have a nice comment for me. I wasn’t sure I was going to share it anywhere else, because it really is so personal. However my friend Arielle said she missed my blog posts (Thank you for being so amazingly supportive Arielle) and I decided it might make sense to share it here. Note that I did finally go back and make an edit or two.
When you are reading this please realize that this was a hard story to tell, so if you comment…be gentle.
By: Christine Lawrence
As a young high school student you are forced to read literary works, not knowing that maybe someday you will look back and see parts of who you are in them. Maybe these light bulb moments of reflection come later because we have now experienced so much more in life than we had when we were first exposed to it. All I know is that when I read the Scarlet Letter, I never knew I would relate to Hester Prynne so much.
I guess I need to explain a bit of the backstory. At the age of 18 I was overweight, insecure, and boy crazy. Well truthfully I wanted to be boy crazy, I just hadn’t gotten to that point yet. I had just ended an on/off again relationship of 4 years with someone who was always finding someone better and then coming back. So when my supervisor, 6 years my senior, expressed his boundless love for me, I jumped all in. I was so overjoyed that someone loved me, I never stopped to think that maybe the love I gave should be nearly as strong.
Now that someone wanted me, I wanted the American dream. I am sure you know the one, house, picket fence, and kids. Maybe the man I chose wasn’t Mr. Darcy, but we could work on that. The romance was put on fast forward and we were engaged after 5 months and married 9 months later. There were whispers that it was a “shot-gun wedding”, but truthfully I just was eager to be adored. We started trying for a baby immediately and after a devastating loss, I found myself a mother at the age of 21. Looking back I seem so young holding my red headed little newborn.
As with all things, there was a honeymoon period. After the wedding I was so focused on becoming a mom that I never stopped to think that I would regret my impulsive decisions someday and that one sided adoration does not sustain a marriage. Once I welcomed my plump little girl she became my world. My life was all things mom and she was such a blessing that we quickly decided to have another. Fourteen months later we welcomed a beautiful bald baby boy. It is amazing how quickly things can fall apart. My beautiful baby boy cried all the time and I found myself losing my mind. Apparently the honeymoon period had ended.
My husband worked all the time and I was alone all day with 2 children under 2. It turns out that having such sweet blessings in your life may distract you from those deep insecurities for a time, but they come creeping back when you least expect. I found myself deep in my depression, anxiety, and insecurities. I cried often when no one was looking and I compared myself to others all of the time. It became so difficult to leave the home, because of the spiraling emotions I would feel when I went into public.
I needed to feel joy again and I sought that in a place I shouldn’t have, another child. My sweet little Scarlett. This time the honeymoon period was shorter. The arguments only worsened and I found myself even deeper in depression. As it turned out, 3 children 3 and under at the age of 24 was hard. At this point it never occurred to me that I was now a mess and no one would ever look at me the way that The Professor looks at Josephine March. Until one day a little bird whispered in my ear that maybe I wasn’t as undesirable as I believed. All of a sudden I was Pandora opening the box that I certainly shouldn’t be. In the years to come many would suffer from my decisions, including myself.
Six months after my curiosity had caused me to imagine a different life, my husband was informed that maybe his young wife wasn’t as content as he thought. I had made every effort to keep up appearances and though there were many things that could have clued him into my unhappiness in our marriage, he did not see it until that moment. It was then I faced him, with tears in his eyes, and told him that I wanted a divorce. The truth had been clear, I didn’t love him, at least not in the way he wanted me to and his love was not enough to carry us through.
The wheels were turning in his head and he was desperate not to lose me. In his mind he was older and had experienced far more of the world. He suggested an open marriage so that I could “sow my wild oats.” I was a stay at home mom with nothing more than a high school diploma and no clue how to support my 3 children. We would never be able to afford living apart and so I gave in to his suggestion. This would be the start of the unravelling or maybe I had been unravelling little by little already…
For a time we lived in peace, I had hope of a new future and he still had me. Six months later I met a man. He was four years my junior, eager to fall in love, and full of so much life. I fell hard and fast. I felt like I was on a sinking ship and this man was my life boat. In a short time period I approached my husband again to ask for a divorce. He had met this man and accepted what was supposed to be a passing romance. His heartbreak would haunt me for many years. This was truly all my fault.
As others found out about what they perceived to be my indiscretions, we were ostracized. I lost friends and family. Those who remained through all of this were endlessly disappointed with me. My father labelled me a whore. I was an adulterer and I roamed the world with an “A” burned into my heart. The years that followed were the darkest of my life. At the lowest point I begged my psychiatrist to turn me into one of Levin’s Stepford Wives so that I could be who they all wanted.
Suddenly I found myself in a prescription drug induced haze. My children were too little to truly understand what was going on and they loved my boyfriend. Yet they still suffered. I held my 4 year old son as he sobbed because no one came to his birthday party and it was all my fault. He didn’t understand then that I was a pariah and that my heart had been carved with that scarlet letter. The memory still brings fresh tears to my eyes.
I unravelled a little more every day and sometimes I wanted to die. My soon to be ex-husband was probably one of the kindest people to me at this time, as we continued to maintain a home together for our children. Unfortunately, this only killed me a little more everyday. I never deserved the love he gave. As the months passed I fell further into a dark pit of self loathing. My sweet boyfriends family hated me and how could I blame them, I hated me too.
We all moved 1400 miles away and started again. My ex-husband, my new husband, my father, and myself lived together in an odd new family unit. As it turns out, you cannot run from your demons. One day I tried to end it all and my unravelling would truly be complete. My husband stopped me and urged me to get the help I needed. I did and we began to redefine what family is.
In the last six years the wheel has unravelled and woven us into a different pattern and though we have experienced so much darkness, the pattern and our future is made up of so much light.