I’ve never considered myself an independent person. I read Jane Eyre as a teen, and as hard as I tried to mimic her ferocity and strength, I just assumed I wasn’t made of the same stock.
I married young. Nineteen. I had skipped a few grades in school, and my wedding was the week after I finished my junior year of college. I thought I knew what I was doing. I would make it work, come hell or high water. I didn’t realize that it took two to ensure a good future. I didn’t realize that it took two willing people to make a healthy home.
My idealistic image of surviving a young marriage fell apart quickly. Like how a single strand can unravel a tapestry, I watched as an invisible thread was pulled in my young marriage, and I ran in horror to hold it all together as it frayed into a wild chaos. I didn’t breathe a word to anyone. I cleared my throat, wiped away tears and swallowed lumps the size of golfballs when I was in public. I couldn’t—I wouldn’t—let anyone know how much I was failing. I see now that my fear of letting them see my failure kept them from seeing my suffering, robbing them of the privilege of supporting me.
For four years, I held the threads together, willing, hoping and praying like hell for it to last. Being alone seemed impossible. All the emotions. All the logistics. Financial stability. Childcare. Living situations. And then worry. Worrying about judgment from others. Worrying about what would happen to my child if I divorced. Worrying about how I would raise him as a single mom. Worrying about his future—his best interest. So I worried, and I fought, and I stayed a little longer, giving chance after chance, holding on, sticking it out all for that little boy with the sandy blond hair and big blue eyes.
It wasn’t until I walked through the door and looked into those eyes one cloudy afternoon that I knew what I had to do. In his eyes, I saw hope, innocence, and the complete and utter trust he held in me. I saw his heart, currently open, currently soft, currently unscarred, and I saw a glimpse of what could be. I saw what years in a broken home could produce—the potential outcomes, the potential scars, all his hurts and pains. A brief glance that carried the weight of one thousand moments past, and thousands more to come. It was in that moment that I knew what needed to be done.
It wasn’t until the fear of what would happen to my child if we stayed overpowered everything else that I finally made the choice to stand.
My hands shook, as my lips mouthed the word “no,” and I threw clothing into bags. That day felt like the end of it all. I held a tiny flame to the tapestry, lighting it on fire, the tiny threads fraying into a blaze. I scooped my son into my arms, shielding him from the pain and doing what I had been trying to do the whole time, willingly taking any blow that would come for his sake, for his best interest, so that he wouldn’t suffer. That day, I cupped his face in my hands, gently kissing his cheek and promising that no matter what happened, I would find a way for us. I would always find a way.
It’s been seven months since the day I stood. Seven months, and the weight of it all no longer hangs like the damp in the air. Seven months, and we have survived. Seven months, and there is nothing but assurance and peace. Seven months, and I’m finding a way for us, just like I promised him. Seven months, and we’re stronger than we were before. Seven months, and I look in his eyes and see the same things I fought so hard to preserve. I see the same hope, the same innocence, and the same complete and utter trust he had in me seven months ago, and in that, I can breathe a little more easily.
Loving him makes me brave.