…… it’s not what you think
I stood before my Maker, shivering with excitement as we planned my entrance into the world. He looked at me with kind, piercing eyes and asked, “Child, do you want an extraordinary life?”
I jumped at the chance! Me? Extraordinary? “Of course I do!” I began picturing snowy mountaintops and exotic foods and breathtaking romances and ….. then everything went hazy.
Blurry images of my life raced by …… big brothers ….. my mama’s homemade bread …….. skating on an icy lake ….. dusty road trips ……. love and marriage ……. the unmistakable waft of baby powder …….
I woke in an Emergency Room, confused and covered in blisters, sputtering for air and sensing that I was in deep trouble. Just one week earlier I had discovered my husband’s secret life.
Strangers in masks jabbed an IV into my arm and began pumping in a cocktail of drugs. An oxygen mask was shoved over my face, and once again I slipped into the blackness.
The Maker appeared in the darkness to remind me that I was living the extraordinary life that I had chosen. I begged to go back and change my answer. I didn’t want this kind of extraordinary.
I wanted peaceful and easy, and normal and safe. I wanted predictable with unending happiness. I wanted a anniversary trips to far away places. I wanted a body that could dance at 95. “Please,” I cried. “Please don’t make my life extraordinary!!”
I would awake years later in a different Emergency Room with dirty ceiling tiles and a smell of plastic, having survived yet another life-threatening event. We had no idea what was causing the uncontrollable episodes, but would eventually dig down to a medical mystery – a genetic disease that had taken my father way too young and now had its claws firmly in me.
In the unrelenting stress of my divorce from a sexually compulsive abusive man, my illness grew more complex; so complex that my DNA was added to the gene bank at a major university research center …. because my case is “extraordinary” and might hold answers for others.
I sometimes think back to counselor Bill’s office, a dark sticky room where I sat on edge of a dated brown sofa just days after my ex divulged sketchy details of his secret life. Still in shock, I went numb as Bill said, “I’d rather tell you your husband died than tell you what he’s done.”
Bill pointed to circles and charts while he rambled about something he called “sex addiction”. He cataloged an overview of my husband’s sexual compulsions and advised me that my husband was a very sick man who was a danger to me and my two small daughters; and so my husband left our home unceremoniously on a Tuesday.
Bill called my husband’s behaviors “extremely deviant” even for a “sex addict”. I suspect “extremely is just another word for “extraordinary”?
Years later my divorce attorney would call my ex her second most abusive husband in over 20 years of practice. Mediators and attorneys apologized and used the word “delusional”. One of the court reporters, clearly shaken, cried at the end of her day recording our crapfest, telling me she had never before seen such extraordinary abuse dressed up as a “Godly” man.
At the very end of it all, a kindly financial adviser – who had counseled hundreds of post-divorce women – reviewed my case and called it “extraordinary”.
When the hard times come, my Maker reminds me that I am not alone, and that He always had a plan to help me through my extraordinary life. He whispers that we cannot come to depth and strength through ordinary experiences. He reminds me that not all are strong enough to bear the burdens of an extraordinary life.
I still don’t like it. I still sometimes dream of a re-do, a chance to toss my youthful beauty in with an honest man. But I accept it and have come to understand my own strength. Getting here wasn’t pretty, but I’m still here and I’m awfully proud of that.
Today I find myself in the company of other extraordinary women. Women whose stories would make you cry.
- Women who have undergone hideous lifelong abuses, who will tell you that nothing damaged them as profoundly as their sexually-compulsive, abusive, manipulative, double-life husbands.
- Women with destroyed health, wrecked finances, lost homes, and estranged families.
- Women whose adult children have been turned against them in the all too common blame-shifting done by these men as they recreate themselves as victims and prey on other trusting victims.
Yes, we are extraordinary. None of us would have chosen this life. Yet here we are, holding space for each other’s brokenness. Here we are, a group of powerful women who’ve walked through hell and come out alive to find peace and happiness again.
I stand in awe of the mighty women walking this path and realize that sometimes, extraordinary isn’t climbing Mt. Everest. Sometimes it’s just putting one foot in front of the other when everything seems stacked against you and you can barely breathe. We scale a different mountain, treacherous in its own right.
And just maybe, at the end of it all, our stories are worth a lot more than an ordinary trip to Hawaii and a couple of Pinterest- worthy anniversary parties. Our stories are extraordinary, and we, forged in the fire, are beautiful.
Dedicated to Nancy, a fellow abuse survivor who recently passed after bravely showing us the way out. Well done, sister!
extraordinary ( ik-strawr-dn-er-ee )
1. beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established
2. exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree, etc.; noteworthy; remarkable:
PS: While my health continues to improve, I suffer lasting damage done to me by the one who said he loved me.