All the Stories Lead to this One
It is like I have lived another life and blinked into this one as a curly blonde hair 2-year-old slowly stirs in the toddler bed placed a foot away from ours. With the blanket kicked off and rolling over groggily, my beautiful girl sits up and says “Momma, Momma,” her hands stretched out waiting for me to swipe her up. I stumble over half asleep and pick her up; she immediately clings on to me like a koala clings to a tree, her arms wrapped so sweetly around my neck. I climb right back into bed, bringing her with me and settle down under the covers, all snuggled up. I try to close my eyes for those extra few minutes of sleep while she touches my face, and on some mornings says in such a wide-awake voice “Good morning, hi Momma!” with that little smile of love that can fill your heart and soul.
I have prayed for a life far from being alone, knowing all too well what it’s like to hear only silence and bear its tangible weight every day. I was that single divorcee that would do anything for a late night out around people. A sofa made for only a temporary comfort through the night and every habit lost its worth when there was no one there but me to worry about. It is funny how human contact directly changes every single cell within yourself, altering your entire being and after a few years you forget how to live as if you never had another soul living so close to yours. The sudden change of environment from married to single makes you physically and utterly sick.
Those dark memories always tend to come in flashbacks while I live my life as a loved wife, a busy mom, and step-mom. Looking back I remind myself where I came from and of how I have grown into a resilient human being who now does everything in her power to model the same endurance I want my own children to have. Even looking at my husband, I feel confident in who I am now. There are different challenges I face - ones that no longer involve just myself, and they are more humbling.
“Momma come on!” she says as she climbs off the bed and starts pulling my arm, ready to say good morning to her sisters as they finish getting ready for school. As we walk out of the bedroom one of her older sisters is already sitting on a chair, ready to go and hurrying everyone along, always on her own timetable – afraid of being late. I imagine the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland rushing everywhere: “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!” A rumbling toddler comes prancing over to her, ready to sit on her lap and get going too. The oldest sister is just getting herself together and slowly making her way to the bathroom while having something smart to say back to the one rushing her, completely governed by her own timetable as well. I have learned to roll with the slight tensions of early rising and just continue on with our morning routine - reading a Bible text and heading out the door either quicker or slower than the day before.
As if time stops still for several seconds while I’m driving to the school like I do every day - a piece of myself growing more comfortable in my step-mom role - I process another flashback of heartbreak.
“I’m just not good enough,” whispers the nagging, heavy weighted thoughts in my head, another bad day drowned in “its all your fault.” This kind of reasoning claws its way out of me trying to prove in some way it can’t just be all my fault. Because my inner person developed some kind of personal critic through the years – always there to punish me when things go wrong. I remember days being filled with such emotional exhaustion and heavy pills of adjustment harder and harder to swallow.
And then I blink right back here into this moment, driving along hearing the little one talking and asking questions and the other two ready yet wishing they didn’t have to go to school.
The hours spent at home are filled with smiles, giggles, and cries of toddlerhood; a pure innocence and image of appreciating a moment where simple things are met with awe in my daughter’s eyes. With time, that fog of past weight slowly lifts with a humbling clarity. I feel an inner gratefulness warm the center of my chest, breathing in the mindfulness and self-control I have been practicing for myself, appreciating the good in all I do even if no one else acknowledges it. Knowing the bad days were only stepping stones into this better day, this better moment.
Sometimes things stay the same for years, feeling as if we are destined to live in less than favorable circumstances, a burden always upon us. But as I look back at the tragedy, betrayal, and pain from my past it no longer has a hold on my present life, and that beautiful truth of growing through and from those difficulties is finally acknowledged without any doubt. Most people take for granted that truth and believe in only the worst.
Life has its way of bringing on challenges, especially within families, but while we sometimes wish things could be different or just feel stuck, life can be altered in a more positive way than you think. A change in self - always learning new and different ways to be, adjusting our own habits, adding better qualities and growing wisdom to who we are. How much the accepting and humbling of myself has created a more resilient mother! In light of building upon my own failings and strengthening my character through the terrible blights of pain, the asset in teaching the ability to grow proves through each experience to keep learning in life.
They say motherhood changes you, and I believe it truly does.
Melissa Johnson is a freelance writer, mother, stepmother and blogger at Inspire Me Mom, where she focuses on the positive lessons we all can gain through life’s struggles and being real. Say hi on Instagram @inspirememom.