This picture is the exact moment I remember feeling hope after escaping domestic violence.
I had become so beaten down, meek and hopeless. I wasn’t always like this, I had lost myself through the course of an abusive 6 year marriage.
Day after day of being broken down, punished if I dared to shine or excel in any way. I was so conditioned to believe that I wasn’t capable, I had nothing to offer, I wasn’t worthy of happiness or hope.
I wish I could say I left because I knew no one deserved this kind of life. The truth is I never would have never left if it hadn’t been to protect the sweet baby girl in this picture.
I said vows for better or for worse, though at 21 years old, I had no clue what my “worse” would look like. I was true to my vows for 6 years, 2 deployments, 3 desperate calls to 911 and a myriad of mental and physical abuse.
So much of who I once was had been broken, mocked and stripped away. I desperately clung to my vows as they were all I felt I had left of my core values and Integrity.
However, “for better or for worse” was my burden to bear. Not my baby’s, my greatest source of resilience and joy. The moment her safety was on the line, I found a tenacity and strength I didn’t know I still had.
I left because I valued and believed in her right to a safe and love filled home! (***No One should Ever stay in an abusive relation ship! I am sharing this simply to reflect my mindset at the time***.)
As a means of survival, I had mastered boxing up my pain and presenting the world with the image of a strong, confidant and smiling woman. It enabled me to become tenaciously self-reliant, but I also became a shell of my former self.
I had lost hope for the kind of selflessness and compassion, I so readily gave others. I became guarded and kept others at arms length for the first time in my life.
I poured all I had into building my little one a safe world full of love, consistency and encouragement. I had nothing left to offer anyone else. I convinced my self that I needed nothing and no one, so long as my girl was safe and knows how much she is loved.
The man in this picture, now my husband, taught me how to believe in myself again and the value of discernment balanced with hope. It was through the course of getting to know him that I saw the value of actions speaking louder than words.
He never let on, if he was offended, by being held at arms length. He never pushed an agenda. His actions consistently demonstrated true compassion, selflessness and integrity.
One brick at a time, he took down the walls I had built. With each brick that came down I would defiantly remind him, “I don’t need you.”
Day by day, he demonstrated that he also didn’t “need me”, but choose to stand beside me. With patience and compassion he made it safe to believe in myself, to trust and to see hope not as a weakness but the very foundation of strength.
It took time to build up enough trust, in him and in my ability to judge someone’s character again. Eventually, I introduced him to my sweet girl. From day one he showed her the same respect and autonomy he had shown me.
He gave her the freedom to define their relation ship on her own terms. She chose if she did or didn’t want to engage with him, the activities we would do together, her comfort in proximity to him. He also gave her grace in her creativity for testing his reactions.
On the fall day pictured, she asked to go for a walk to “discover adventure”.
I will never forget how It felt as she left my side and ran up to take his hand. No words exchanged, he simply took her hand and let her lead the adventure.
This is what hope and real love looks like. A simple moment of pure and genuine action. It speaks volumes about how he was and still is, there when she reached out for him.
No expectations, just the connection and support she sought, as she continued to lead the adventure and their relationship.
This moment, was the what sparked the first resilient light of hope in my heart again. Driving home with my baby that evening she said, “momma, he makes my heart feel happy, like it feels big and smiling.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I know what it feels like to feel hopeless. I can promise you there is hope to be found even in the darkest of times. It won’t necessarily come in the form of a partner.
It took me a long time to open up about my experiences. Letting my guard down and allowing myself to be open to others wasn’t easy.
With each new connection, genuine actions and compassion of the community I build around me, my hope grows stronger and as a result so do I.
Lets let our actions speak louder then our words and build each other up. Because hope is the foundation from which we draw strength.
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