Lessons Gleaned from a Life of Sorrow
This is a spur of the moment post, which is not my typical mode of operation. Usually my blog postings take a couple of weeks of meticulous thought and rethought before finally sharing them with you. However, today I felt deeply moved by something and tapped this out rather spontaneously because it felt important and right, so here goes.
I just got back from running last-minute errands. Thankfully, today my children decided not to leave the car doors open and run my battery down (unlike yesterday) and all four of my tires were fully aired. Pilot wife for the win!
Amongst today’s exciting outings was a ‘quick’ stop at the local feed store to stock up on layer pellets for the upcoming holiday when stores will be closed or, more accurately, when I will be refusing to change out of my pajamas and adult. It becomes dangerously and terrifying akin to Animal Farm out here when we run out of chicken munchies. I promise, it’s ugly.
This particular country hole in the wall is a little place much like those general stores you might see in the movies, where little old men gather around a checkerboard to banter about the weather and local gossip. It’s cozy and homey, and the people there know you by name. Though I flirt with high society because I have been blessed with a professional city-boy for a husband, my own roots will always be planted in the down-home country. Places like this just radiate comfort to me and so, to my husband’s great angst, I always find myself gravitating there instead of to the big chain store. Sorry, honey. Old habits die hard.
Once you walk through those nondescript doors plastered with scrawled, handwritten posters for $3 yard eggs, livestock for sale, and tractor work for hire, you immediately become an active participant of whatever conversation is transpiring (whether or not you really want to be). You learn some…interesting…stuff from time to time. Believe me when I say that they are good ol’ folks who have never, ever met a stranger.
Today was no exception. The regular clerk, an older gentleman who emanates country with his snow-white hair and handlebar stache was clad in the typical jeans, boots, and plaid flannel. He was chatting away with a woman who was seated on a barstool at the counter. The fact that I was there to make a purchase did not influence the speed or longevity of their ensuing conversation one bit. Like I said, you just kind of become part of it, and the folks will have their say until they are completely done saying it, regardless of your presence. It’s a slow, comfortable kind of life that has all but disappeared from our fast-paced, instant gratification world.
I could tell it was going to be a bit the minute I walked in. I just took a seat on a second barstool and waited patiently for the diatribe to run its course, as it always does (eventually). The conversation that ensued, however, left me in deep introspection.
The woman in question was 67 (self proclaimed), animate, and overtly loud, like she desperately needed to make sure she was seen and heard above the thrum of reality. I imagine that she has spent a lifetime of being heard without really being heard – an unnoticed shadow in a world of shadows, despite her pretentious dissertation.
I learned more about her life in my 10 minutes of silent observation than most people learn about each other in a year of tentative friendship. Where most people are secretive and protective of their skeletons, she placed hers on a tall pedestal to be idolized like some gruesome memorial to hope lost. On the rough-hewn surface, I found her exceedingly abrasive, loud, annoying, petulant even. Her seething narrative was heavily peppered with profanity and startling exclamation. I found myself thinking that she’s exactly the type of dastardly person I imagine has sent me so many messages of hatred in the past – angry, full of hatred, loathing of both self and world. I wanted to dislike her immensely, but truly I couldn’t. Mostly, I pitied her. Because underneath the facade was a broken life that reeked of old, stale sorrow.
I’m not sure if it was her story, which sadly is one of commonality in our world, or her insatiable need to tell two complete strangers about it all that triggered something deep in my soul. Perhaps it was both. In summation, it went something like this: Dropped out of high school, married a drunk, beaten for years, ‘double-dipped’ by her husband multiple times (her words, not mine), divorced after a decade of emotional and physical abuse, eventually remarried to a ‘good man’ and has been married to him for 30 some-odd years.
She punctuated it all with a very colorful, “Now he is married to a fat, ugly, 400-pound piece of s*** who has diabetes and heart disease, they are both old and sick, and I am as happy as a lark and healthy as a horse. Now I am happy G** damn it, no thanks to that stupid mother****ing ***hole.”
Obviously. Except that the immense anger radiating from her entire being, the deep lines of sorrow etched into her face, the tell-tale slump of her weary shoulders, the desperate decibel of her voice told a completely different story – one of continued brokenness, abuse, and heartache. She was not proclaiming that she was happy for our sakes, but for hers. She needed us to believe that she was so that, for one fleeting moment, perhaps she could believe that her painful life had turned out okay.
“It’s good that you are happy now…” I told her, feeling an overwhelming rush of sympathy for her desperate plight. “You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be treated right.”
“Your bet your f***ing a** I do, honey! And I am. I f***ing am!” she exclaimed a little too loudly and dramatically to be real before walking out the door triumphantly, back to whatever well of darkness she reveled in on a daily basis. She wasn’t fooling anyone but herself. And probably not even that.
The encounter, though brief, struck a chorus of resonating cords deep in my heart. For her. For me. For you. For the plight of this site. Why? Because it is my deepest desire to live a life that defies everything that she is today…and to teach you to do the same. And because somewhere long ago, down a runway now irreconcilably crumbled by the effects of time, perhaps someone, somewhere could have given her a new set of coordinates that would have diverted her journey from her current bleak situation to a destination of paradise.
But they didn’t.
However, I realize with increasing urgency that I have been allotted that chance today and everyday as long as you give me audience, and my heart is ever burdened with the weight of truthfully, frankly loving you well. It’s never too late to input new coordinates; it’s never too late to seek a better horizon.
In summary, I looked at her and wanted so much more for you than her end.
The first thing I did once I left that store was text my husband and tell him, “Thank you for being a great man.” Because he is. Immensely so. Sometimes we let the frustrations of this lifestyle and the everyday chaos overshadow the deeper truth of our marriages. We have good men – men who work hard to provide a life for their families, men who love us, men who respect us, men who cherish us, men who would never lay a violent finger on us. Perfect? No. We are all humanly flawed and incapable of perfection. But perfect for us, yes. It’s time we look past the pet peeves and acknowledge the goodness, shouting it to the mountaintops for all to hear. How many woman would give anything to have the kind of hardworking, professional, adoring men we do? They are a precious gift. Let’s tell them and then love them well.
Secondly, I was once again struck by how readily we cling to the pain and negatives and shove the joy and positives into a closet with the cobwebs. Thirty years later and all she could do was rant about a man who was no longer part of her life. It was eating her up like a deadly cancer, slowly destroying her from the inside out, because she let it. Newsflash: it will do the same to us if we let it. We have all suffered some painful things in our lives. We can choose to let that define us, or rise above it and become more than our circumstances. It is a choice, whether or not we make it consciously or subconsciously. Let’s make it a conscious decision to be better, to seek joy!
We need to be intentional about forgiving the past, putting the pain to rest, and seeking out the joy in each day. Let our joy speak louder than any sorrow. Let us say ‘I love you’ without reserve and choose our battles with great wisdom. Let us reject negative influences and replace them with those who encourage and lift us up. What we pour into our hearts will be the overflow of our lives and mouths. She was living proof of that – and her heart was filled with bitter, toxic waste. What do others hear when we speak? Do they hear hope, love, kindness, positivity? Or do we portray something dark and broken? It’s a complex question, and one we should each take time to consider in depth. The answer reveals a great deal about where and who we are, but the beautiful thing is that the current answer is not the end-game. We have the ability to change this with awareness and intentionality. Let us fill the world with love.
Thirdly, you simply have to F.L.Y. – first love yourself, ladies. There is nothing more heartbreaking than encountering a woman who has enveloped herself in tepid misery. When we spend our lives catering to others without ever taking time to care for ourselves, we unwittingly entomb ourselves in a monotonous pit of black despair. We cannot hope to have great marriages, great friendships, or great lives when we have separated ourselves from all shards of joy. Give yourself permission to love yourself fiercely, to treat yourself well, to enjoy life thoroughly. Otherwise you are just stumbling through life suffocating in self-inflicted sorrow. You are a beautiful, worthy woman created to be loved and experience exceeding joy. Hear it, accept it, embrace it. Now allow yourself to F.L.Y.
Lastly, abuse. As you know, I am a great supporter of fighting for marriage and pressing through the turbulent stretches to the blue skies beyond. However, hear me loud and clear, my sweet brothers and sisters! No person should ever, ever, EVER endure the bondage of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. Ever. If you are being abused in any way, I implore you to get away as quickly as possible. Find a safe place, confide in someone you trust, report it to authorities and get out. You can make life decisions from a safe distance, but get out. You deserve to be adored, touched with a gentle hand, supported, encouraged. Abuse is never okay. Someone that loves you will never hurt you in these ways. Don’t wait decades to save yourself. This is not all there is to life. Just no. You are worth so much more.
Friends, today I gazed sadly upon the face of sorrow. There is so much to be gleaned from her broken life. I looked at her and my heart shattered into a million and one pieces. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Let us accept those lessons that she has lived with lucidity and place great intentionality upon their application.
Your pilot is a good man. Realize it, embrace it, tell him. Be thankful. Stop perseverating on the small nuances of this life and cling to the immense blessing. Your marriage is worth fighting for.
Never settle for abuse. Never let anyone hurt you. It’s not okay. There’s more to this life. You deserve to be cherished. There is a great life of joy and love out there waiting for you. If you are in an abusive situation, find help and get out. Now.
Life is short. Love your spouse fiercely. Love this community fiercely. And ladies, love yourselves fiercely. You are worth it.
I love you, aviation family.
Angelia (a grateful, introspective pilot wife)