Gathered

“You never realize how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
Part 2 of 3

I won’t say it was easy to just walk away, drop his stuff in a box, and act like the last two years of my life hadn’t happened. Every five minutes or so I was freaking out, thinking I had somehow lost my engagement ring. (I loved that ring. If it wasn’t completely improper, I admit I might have kept it.) I suppose I was even slightly vindictive spraying his shirt with the perfume he’d bought me before I packed it to be shipped. Everywhere I turned, I was somehow reminded of him: something he’d said, something we’d done together, even if it was just a TV show we’d liked to watch.

My family… God bless them. My mother, my grandmother, my bridal party – they made the hard calls for me, cancelling the church, the reception hall, the DJ, etc. I told my bridesmaids, of course, and they handled a great deal of the tiny details. Invitations hadn’t yet gone out, just Save-the-Dates, so we were saved the trouble of calling the whole guest list. Days passed by in a blur. I didn’t quite fall into a depression – I had this insane 3-month old kitten to care for, and she was (and is) quite the fuzzball of entertainment and hilarity.

Then… the distraction. The one thing that could have made the whole situation worse, did. A long-lasting, muscle-cramping, body-thrashing dystonic storm. I’ve talked briefly about dystonia in the past. If you haven’t read about it, I suggest going back and doing so here. I ended up out of work for six weeks, which may have been longer had summer vacation not rolled around. At any rate, it was two months before I could see the specialist, and a few more weeks until even more new meds started to allow for some physical, if not emotional relief.

I would have thought then that my heart could not be broken any further, but as usual, I was wrong. I re-shared an article on my Facebook about a woman who was raped and decided to keep the child. Even now, I don’t remember if she raised the baby or gave the child up for adoption, but right now, it doesn’t matter. Several of my friends, including one I thought was a sister to me, picked a fight over it and when I took it to private messages to tell them to knock it off and no fighting on my wall, I was called a “horrible” person, a “false friend”, a “fake Christian”, “judgmental” and so many more names. I can’t say I came out entirely clean from this episode – there were things I would have done differently, but she wouldn’t even talk to me. The entire argument was done over text messaging and Facebook.

Do yourselves a favor. If you ever wish to have a shred of integrity, no matter how angry you are, at least speak to the person and hear their voice. If it’s worth fighting over, it’s worth that much.

So in less than three months, not only had I lost my fiancée, I’d now lost my best friend, too. Cut off entirely.

I ran. Thank God for vacation, because I ran. I hitched a ride with a cousin and when she went to a concert, I visited a friend in the same area… 8 hours away from home. I turned 5 days of working at camp into 9. (Should have been 10, but a sinus infection got the better of me.) I followed that with a week at the beach, spending most of it in isolation, even though I shared a house with my family and was sleeping in the living room. Actually, I did a lot of that in the intervening months. Spent a lot of time alone. Writing. Thinking. How things used to be. How I could have changed them. What it would have been like if I had gone through with it. Am I truly better off now than I would have been. Lonely vs. angry – which is worse?

Camp was probably the best place that I could have been. For all that nature and I don’t get along… I first went to this Camp when I was a junior in high school, and went the following year as well. I returned five years ago to babysit the younger members of the families that founded it. It’s a God-camp, and it’s the only real judgement-free zone I’ve ever experienced. It’s a place of renewal, a place think, to pray, to let go. We always joke about the camp being within a bubble and how hard it is to leave, but it’s true. It wasn’t often that I had a few minutes to sit and talk without my charges (little boys are VERY active!) but during those two weeks, it seemed like the blinders I’d been wearing since February started to lift.

A few weeks later, in early September, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the priests who had been at camp and who is also a dear friend. I explained what had happened – all the gory details about the broken engagement (he was supposed to marry us, so he was among the first to know the wedding was off, and he had even tried some premarital counseling when things started getting bad. Needless to say, Lenny wasn’t into it and just said what he knew I wanted to hear.) I told him what my friend had said and done.

And I told him that an old friend from long past had asked me to dinner.

“Blondie,” Father Joe said, “I have known you for how long now? Six years? Seven? I see you every summer with those kids – patient, loving; by the end of the week half of them are calling you “mom” too. Don’t ever accept being told that you are anything but gentle and kind. You have a heart of gold, and it’s to their detriment that they can’t see it. Pray for them. Now tell me about this man who asked you to dinner.”

gathered

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