a brilliant wreckage

I left a brilliant wreckage.

A white-hot, smoking tangle of family and love and hopes and forevers – the shatter of which was so great — at least in my mind — that after the words were out, there was no longer any sound. And in the wake of it, I told myself that the darkness of this story – of my coming out and the subsequent disintegration of our family as we knew it – destroyed its light.

I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody. But, in a matter of just a few words, I believed I had taken everything down with me. Everything we had each loved and trusted and treasured about our little family disappeared in the breeze coming through the patio door that night.

Every day after I told myself that, now and forever, we would all be incomplete somehow. Because you couldn’t really just split a family down the middle – mom on one side and dad on the other, with the kids equally divided between. It was like when you rip a piece of paper in two: no matter how hard you try, the seams don’t fit together again. Because of what you can’t see. Those tiniest pieces that got lost in the severing. Their absence keeps everything from being complete.

To contain all of my human ruin, I built a dark room with no windows – the walls covered, and the floor strewn with comfortable lies. The lie that said I couldn’t see how family fit for me anymore. The lie that said it was all my fault for not being able to be who my family thought I was. The lie that said that, forevermore, I deserved to carry guilt as big and deep and wide as my love for them. The lie that said I was never going to be anything as much as I was going to be a terrible mother.

None of those lies sound comfortable now but they once were – in the way that they kept me from having to face the intensely uncomfortable work of unravelling the truths they held. The lows they gave me became a surprisingly comfortable place to lay my head. Looking up from the depths of them seemed a lot safer than having to wonder when I’d fall again.

The uncomfortable truth was that swallowing all of that cold fiction of unearned guilt led me into a corner — an intersection bound on all sides by my own emotional walls. Subtly at first, and then rising to a deafening crescendo, my body began to pay the price for the imaginary war I had been fighting in my head. It began to act accordingly, leaving me only two choices: change or self-destruct.

And so, the change began. Slow at first. Irrevocable, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, once impossible change. All I can say is that there is no map out of your own human ruin. There is only grace and mercy. That bestowed upon you by others. But most importanly, that which you learn to give to yourself.

I left a brilliant wreckage.

And slowly I could see that perhaps it was not the smoking hulk of a family destroyed in an instant by a secret but instead, a wreckage glowing with the possibility that, whether we could all see it or not then (or even now), ruin is often the road to transformation.

For all of my days as a mother, I’ve wanted so much for my kids to know that the tangled wreckage that sometimes litters our lives can always be the precious raw material from which new beginnings can come. If we let them come.

I have wanted to show them that living with authenticity in this world can help others chip away at their own prisons of pretend. It can create opportunities for others to walk out of the darkness and into freedom, too.

I have wanted desperately to show them the right things about love. And how anything broken — love and hearts and trust included — can be mended again, often by giving more of the very things that feel most broken. I have wanted them to know that we live by mending.

I have wanted to teach them so much about how to find happiness within themselves.

I have wanted to balance telling them so many things about this life and its pitfalls — with the times when I was quiet. Because I have wanted, more than anything, for them to be confident to chart their own path.

I have wanted to show them that while it’s true that we all do make mistakes – mistakes don’t make us. But, most importantly, I have wanted to teach them that what you perceive as your failures absolutely will make you – depending on what story you tell yourself about them.

I have wanted them to know why it is so important to do the hard emotional work to turn the stories that haunt us into the truths that eventually accompany us. It is, if nothing else, the best way I could think of to lessen the burden that they would carry somewhere down the road.

I have wanted to teach them that it is possible to break the family patterns and cycles that they see and experience that don’t serve them — or support the life they’re creating. That’s where your true freedom lies.

I have wanted them to know that one of the most important things we can ever do in our lives is to find our way to intuition – to gut knowing.  And to trust and follow it. I wanted to show them that you don’t know what hangs in the balance if you don’t do something.

I have wanted them to be able to reject hopelessness when it comes — to know and recognize courage, and to find it within themselves when they may need it.

I have wanted them to know that the truth is not effortless. It is rarely pure. And never simple. But it will always be the truth. Regardless of whether we understand it or are willing to face it. I have wanted to teach them to face it when it knocks.

Above all, I have wanted them to know in the deepest corners of their souls, that there is nothing so dark or terrible about who they are, or anything they will ever do, that they can’t tell the truth about it. I wanted to show them that the truth, and the courage to say it, is just fear walking. And that no matter what happens in this life, they will always belong to their mother like they will never belong to another living soul.

I have wanted to teach them so much about the power of stories and words. And how the darkness can never destroy the light of any story. I have always wanted to show them how to celebrate the light wherever they may find it. And how to make their own light wherever they don’t.

All of these things I thought were lost to me – and to them – because of the comfortable lies I told myself for so long about what I had done and what kind of mother that made me.

But through the passage of time, and by the light of that wreck I thought we’d never escape, I learned that these things were never lost to us.

They never left us.

They were not destroyed.

They. Were. Found.

In a brilliant wreckage.

This piece was inspired by Episode 19 of The MeaningMaker Podcast — called ‘Comfortable Lies’. The podcast chronicles the coming out story of two middle-aged, small-town moms — with two husbands, a lot of years of marriage, and four kids between them — who are now married to each other. Find us on any streaming platform.

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