Embracing the Pain


I haven’t always made the right choices in life.  My past is littered with decisions gone wrong, and somehow I think my future, despite my best efforts may be peppered with them too. 

I don’t always wear the right shoes, or say the appropriate thing, or react in the necessary manner.  I get angry when I should remain calm, I rush when I need to slow down, and I make turns on the road both my physical & my metaphorical ones that land me flat out lost.

It’s frustrating, and embarrassing it’s ultimately the thing that makes me human.  Filled with fault, failure and many good intentions.

I carried those mistakes with me for many years, as regrets, as shame, as the “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s” of my life – but I’m not doing that any more.  The past few years I have realized something those mistakes, those dead-end roads, tears shed over it all have given me beautiful silver linings.  They have shaped the person I am now, the people I surround myself with and the way I appreciate all the good in my every day life.

My past is filled with people who have been a part of this journey.  Many of them in the ways you’d expect solid friends, faithful family, exciting adventures but some of them… not so much.

The two years before I met Corey were, without a doubt some of the hardest, most physically & emotionally difficult times in my life.  I had moved away from home, I was living on my own, working hard and experiencing “real life” for the first time.  I was also in my very first “real life” relationship – and it was bad.

The nitty gritty details of those years aren’t something I want to share here.  Some of them are details that I will never share, anywhere. 

It was bad, emotionally abusive, tumultuous and for the most part completely void of joy.  I spent my days altering between physical fear and shame, anger and defeat.  There were times at 20 years old I thought for sure that the string of choices I had made meant that I was destined for nothing more than those feelings – like it was all I deserved.

Every time I’d get to a place where I thought I might have enough courage to walk away he’d do something I thought was “sweet” and I’d convince myself I was over dramatic.  He had me convinced that my parents loved him more than me (Which was stupid.  They could scarcely look at him).  My brother loathed him, and I only saw him once in the two years we were together.  I knew it was a mistake but I honestly couldn’t see how to make it right.

Then one day I collapsed in my bedroom after a very long, sleep deprived night and physically demanding day at work.  The pressure of getting ready to open another store, compounded with the weight of being beaten down for so long were more than I could take and every part of my body gave in.  In those moments, as I sat on my knees, my head resting on my bed, sobbing I heard the voice of God, I felt a flicker of hope and I knew more than I had ever known anything more in my life that I was worth MORE than all of that.

I got in my car that night, drove the 25 minutes to his home, where I was supposed to be taking him out for dinner.  I pulled out the tiny shred of courage I had left, and ended it.  He was drinking again, playing video games and he scoffed at me – he didn’t believe I was serious. Then he looked in my face and his world started to crumble too.  He begged, he cajoled, he threatened and ultimately he stood on his balcony and watched me drive away.

Then I cried.  I talked on the phone to my mom the entire drive back to my home and I sobbed with a mourning I didn’t know I needed.  That night after many, many more tears I slept.  For the first time in 2 years I slept. 

When I woke up the next morning (eyes swollen almost shut from tears spent) I took a breath and realized I hadn’t been.  I could breath again and it was going to be alright.  That day was filled with affirmation, I’d done the right thing!  Every regular customer, co-worker & even my boss noticed the difference (not just the eyes).  I received comments of how I looked happier, seemed more relaxed, that something was different.  It was then, on that day that my world began to right itself again.

Two weeks later I met Corey and it’s spiraled upwards from there. 

It hasn’t been easy.  At times it’s been hard, really hard.  I came with a lot of emotional baggage, fear and shame.  He came with compassion, patience, love and sometimes anger (not at me) for all that had been.  It’s been a journey, it still is a journey but as weird as it sounds it’s one I’m thankful I’ve been on.

While I can’t say I’d “do it again” should I have the choice all over I will say I don’t regret that I walked that road.  Because of that man, those hurts, that life I appreciate Corey in a way I never would have before.  I learned what I was worth and what I deserved.   I also learned to be compassionate, to not judge others’ circumstances.  Life just simply isn’t as cut and dry as we may think. 

In a weird way I’m thankful for the hurt because it isn’t just shaping my future, but that of my daughters too.  I hope in all I have done wrong they will learn humility as I have to face up to those mistakes and say “I’m sorry”,  strength – it’s ok to say “No, I deserve more”, in fact it’s vital!  I pray that they will discover their self worth and see the true value in others.

We all have a story, a past that has shaped who we are in our present.  As I walk through my days I try hard to remember that people aren’t always what we see on the outside, they’re made of many little stories.  It’s those stories that make us truly beautiful & unique!

If you feel like sharing I’d love to know.  What’s your story?

One thought on “Embracing the Pain

  1. Wow. What a story, Ashley. Thank God for the courage to turn your path straight. (Ish. We are all heading in the right direction, though.)
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