i woke that morning my stomach in knots. i glanced over at my husband, still breathing deeply beside me, and maneuvered my way out of his embrace as gracefully as i could without waking him.
i needed some time alone.
in the shower, the tears fell freely. i thought of what was coming: a conversation, some truth, grabbing whatever courage i hid in the crevices of my heart and laying it all bare in front of those who left me frozen more often than not. suddenly, it all became too much. i rested my head against the tile, the steam rising around me, and i gasped for strength i didn’t feel.
it’s not every day you share your most painful secrets. facing this hurdle seemed impossible. i had over 25 years experience hiding the wounds that keep me raw and force me to stay invisible. and now, in the middle of feeling the frustration of shame and knowing i couldn’t do it anymore, i was expected to just shine the light on those dark spaces? just like that?
he was awake when i opened the bathroom door.
“morning.” he muttered, reaching for my hand.
“morning.” i repeated.
he studied my face for half a second before pulling me close. “you okay?” he whispered against my shoulder.
my breath caught.
he held me there for a moment – two – three – until my breathing slowed and the tears dried. his prayers fell over me and the fear quieted to a dull roar. for the first time, i felt like i may make it through the day.
later, we sat outside target eating our breakfast. it was in the middle of writing our shopping list that the first friend called.
“can i pray for you?” she asked.
and i sat there, quiet as her prayers gave me strength. my husband glanced at me from the corner of his eye and understanding what was going on, grabbed my hand and squeezed it.
“let him fight for you.” she reminded me with ferocity at the end of our conversation. i smiled, humbled by friends who invade my space.
i told everyone that day we wouldn’t need company. it really was a simple conversation made difficult by the topic. all i needed to do was open my mouth.
“you know we can be there, right?” they told me. “you know we’d all randomly meet you there if you only asked?”
and i knew. i knew they’d be there in a second when they hugged me close and kissed my cheek and held my hand and their own tears fell on behalf of me.
so i wasn’t surprised when they showed up anyway.
sitting in the booth, the heavy weight of secret pushing in on me, i saw them out of the corner of my eye walk past and sit two booths in front of me. one caught my glance and smiled. we were at the end of the conversation then, my emotions sapped and heart rattled. my therapist would later tell me i’d just completed the most difficult thing in this process of healing – sharing my story with those who must know – and i couldn’t imagine spending one more second sitting in that space.
when our company parted ways, we walked back into the restaurant and collapsed into the booth with our friends. immediately arms were wrapped around me.
“i’m so…so...proud of you.” she said, whispering in my ear. i kept my gaze down, afraid the tears would scare the boys sitting across the booth.
“thank you.” i whispered, squeezing her arm, amazed at the sense of loyalty i felt radiating from my friends.
they really will fight for me, i thought to myself.
relationships have never been easy for me. i constantly question everything anyone tells me. it’s not a great trait of mine, and i’m learning to cope with my anxiety, but there’s nothing that opens up the gaping wound of friendship than meeting new people.
it’s just one more place to not belong – one more disapproving stare to endure – one more way to be found wanting.
lately, God’s been showing me the beauty and awkwardness and raw truth of real relationships.
these aren’t your high school best friends.
these are the i’m coming even if you say no because i know you’ll need support type of friends. they’re i can’t wait until this burden is lifted from you type of friends.
they threaten to break in new boots on those who’ve hurt me and turn red-cheeked over those who speak against me. they make me laugh, remind me to find joy and understand my need for quiet.
it’s a breath of fresh air, really.
after years of not investing for fear of rejection, my abandonment-weary heart is beginning to trust again.
and even though relationships are hard and awkward and require work…i would be lost without those in my life who fight for me and remind me of my strength when all courage is gone.