I’m grateful to move on from this place. It’s time.
Actually, it’s past time.
There’s something about moving that makes a person think about their life. A new city, a fresh start, making peace with what is behind, purging the weight of old baggage-all of these things combined can make for a lot of emotions and if you let it…transformation.
This is my story. It’s not an exhaustive story by any means, but it’s the beginning…and an ending.
I felt compelled to share parts of this story as I prepare to close this chapter in Champaign-Urbana and launch the next one.
I am glad to leave. Sometimes you just know it’s time to leave a place. It’s difficult to sum up into words, but you can just sense it. It’s like that moment before a Spring rain: the air is still and tender; the iridescent sage green leaves turning against the pale blue skies… You can breathe in the air, feel its thickness and just know…rain is coming. And you welcome it.
Living here represents my biggest transformation. The cost was high and the heartache was immense. The magnitude of the disruption that brought me here nearly five years ago left a hole in my heart that I thought would never be restored. This place marks a moment in my history when trusted relationships betrayed me, when my eyes were finally opened to the toxicity of my former church. It marks the time when my family was forever changed, my marriage dissolved. I stepped away from that toxic church, even the relationships that I loved within it. It marks my independence.
With the string (and sting) of sadness and heartache, new careers emerged, new acquaintances were made, new love unfolded. I discovered parts of me that I didn’t even know existed.
I have gratitude for what was produced in me during this season. At one point, I thought my grief would overtake me. I thought I would permanently lay to rest whatever vague dreams were kindling and settle into an ordinary and mundane life. My time in Champaign-Urbana came with some of the most profound sadness and also the greatest surprises. I had no idea when I came here, this would be a place of rebirth.
For years, my life revolved around the work of the church. After two and a half decades of dutiful service, my family was chewed up and spit out with little regard for our well-being in only a matter of months. I can hardly put into words the depth of pain that we went through, how deep of an impression it left on me. At the end of my family’s time in Madison, I was emotionally exhausted, mentally weakened, spiritually defeated and financially ruined.
I was spiraling. I was furious. Wounded and confused, I could not be consoled. With tears streaming down my face, I shared with a church elder that I needed to find a therapist. I knew I needed help. That elder (a licensed therapist, no less), quickly assured me that I didn’t need counseling because “we would be taken care of” by the church. And I believe him.
I waited for that help and support. During that time, my frustration grew more profound and my grief was compounded. I was told countless times that I needed to move on. I was told my bitterness would overtake me if I didn’t forgive those who manipulated, gossiped and betrayed our trust. Trauma heaped upon more trauma. Now the victim was being shamed for not moving on more quickly. It seems, I was making other people feel uncomfortable around my pain.
Two years passed and healing had not come. In fact, my anger and frustration only grew. I could no longer stomach the polite niceties, the shallow conversations that refused to allow me to speak into my pain, but instead desperately wanted me to sweep it away like it never happened. Just move on. Move on ALREADY. That was the message I got like a steady stream of saline from an IV drip.
I instinctively knew that I could not move on until I moved through. If I didn’t, my anger and resentment would swallow me whole. That, I was sure.
I finally got help. And you know what?
I started to heal…like really heal. Like…deep down, dig it all out, face the hardest shit of my life and really fucking heal.
And then… I started to come alive. I started to dream. I started to listen to myself. It was as if a haze that had covered over me for twenty years began to lift and the Amy I had always been searching for started to emerge.
It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen without a lot of heartache. Birth and rebirth are never free of pain and rarely is it only felt by the person being birthed.
As my vision became more clear, so did my strength. My resolve grew. I knew that I could not go back to old ways of thinking, to that part of me that was subdued and confined. I knew I could not go back to being the compliant good girl. That life had not served me well. I was ready to bury that life.
The decision was clear, but it was never easy.
Live fully and completely OR give my power away to others again.
Own my life and my decisions OR shrink back and pretend life is great.
Model for my kids to live fully who I am OR model to my kids that it’s okay to appease others and stay small.
I chose Me.
I chose to live my life on my terms.
I chose freedom.
I chose adventure.
I chose to put myself and my needs ahead of everyone else’s for the first time in my life.
I chose to do the hard work.
I chose a different kind of pain, a healing kind of pain
I chose happiness.
I chose to move through, so that I could move on.
Goodbye, C-U. I’m moving on and not looking back.