Saturday, September 24, 2011

Not grateful. Peaceful.

In a conversation with BJ, he once said he felt guilty for feeling grateful I am in his life. In essence, he was concerned that by being grateful for the way things are today - that also meant he was grateful for the pain I had suffered.

Can I be grateful for where I am today without being grateful for the circumstances that got me here?

I've thought about this a lot. I've written and rewritten this post several different times over the last six months.

The first was really snarky. (I might have just made that word up, I don't actually know what it means... Sarcastic? Bratty?) It talked about feeling gratitude that there are abusive people in the world. If no one was abusive, how would we ever grow? I could go into it more, but there IS a reason I deleted that one.

The second was very tearful. I don't believe abuse is what made me who I am. I was already strong, kindhearted, empathic. My friends who have been abused were already clever, funny, compassionate, beautiful, wonderful people. Their abusers didn't make them that.

The third was a little closer to what I wanted. I talked about how I might not have never met some of the amazing people I know today if I hadn't been through the hell of abuse. I might not have ever seen how strong they are if I didn't know how hard they had to fight just to survive. We might not have connected if we hadn't been through so many similar (and extraordinarily painful) experiences. I am grateful they are in my life today. I am amazed and astounded at the people I have the privilege of calling friends.

I'm trying again.
I am not grateful for the past. I am at peace with it.
When I think about my life, I don't have a need to change what has happened. I've accepted it. That doesn't mean I think for a second it is okay for a man to rape his wife, but I am at peace with where my life is. That makes me at peace with my past. (Or maybe being at peace with my past has made it possible to be at peace with where my life is. I'm not sure which came first.)

I don't know who I would have been, or what life would have been like if I hadn't been abused as a child, or married a man who raped me, or any of the other circumstances. And, I guess what I'm trying to say is, I don't need to know. I am done mourning who I might have been.

I am grateful that BJ understood what emotional abuse was, and I also wish he had never experienced it. I wish he didn't understand how damaging it is. I am grateful to have people in my life who really understand the pain of rape, sexual trauma, PTSD, eating disorders, and depression, because it feels GOOD to be understood. I also wish for their sakes, they had no idea how it felt.

I don't know how or why there is so much pain and heartache in the world. I don't know why some people choose to hurt other people. I don't know why a God that can bring these amazing people into my life couldn't also have stopped them from being abused. If it was left up to me, I would have sent down angels with flaming swords to prevent children from being molested, spouses from being abused, or young women from being assaulted. I suppose I'm glad it isn't up to me.

I guess what I'm saying is I feel trusting. I trust the process. I trust where I have been lead. I trust God to balance it all out. I trust me to find my way. I trust my friends to find their way.
I trust. There is someone or something who takes care of it all. I don't know what that looks like. I don't know how it all works out, and... it does.

The words are just not coming the way I want them to.
Why does this feel so hard to write, and yet so important?
Because it is far more personal than I am letting on. There is ONE thing, one piece that I need to face, but I'm afraid. I'm afraid to admit how deeply I feel...

I would give up everything I love in my life if it meant that BJ had never been abused. I would trade the feeling of love and acceptance I have from him, if it could just mean he hadn't been hurt so deeply by someone who claimed to love him. I love my life today, and still... it just doesn't justify someone I love being hurt so much. I HATE it!  I feel so sad. By being grateful he is in my life, am I also grateful that he was abused?

The answer to that question is No! And still, I accept that it is the way it is. We are all connected. We help each other. We find the people that will help us to grow, to learn, to love. We also find people who hurt us. We learn to move on from them. We learn to trust, and we learn who and what to trust at any given moment.

I am not grateful for the pain in my past. I am not grateful for the pain in BJ's past. I am not grateful for the pain in other friends' pasts. I am at peace with my life today.


  1. I think snarky is a work, but my computer is telling my that it is not. I think it is a word my aunt uses... maybe she made it up too.
    I have a friend who likes to say that all things happen for a reason, and he is glad for that which he has gone through because he sees the good which has come of it. I guess I don't think the same way. Bad things happen, and the bad things that happen are bad. I do strongly believe that good can come from the bad things which happen, but that never makes me thankful for the bad which first took place. That was still bad, and maybe the good things could have happened even if there was no bad. we don't know. We never will.

    thanks for your thoughts. They make sense to me.

  2. Jen,

    I'm so glad we could meet. Even though our hardships were rough, they brought us closer to people who have such depth and beauty and authentic "human-ness" and I am glad I was able to have this sort of "awakening" in my life.

    Sometimes, I think, if I grew up complacent, or if nothing bad ever happened to me, I may never have been forced to have some serious introspection and consider life and the universe.

    The hardships suck. And they always will, but they do add depth and complexity to who we are.

    Love you tons.


  3. Snarky may not be a word but it means exactly what it sounds like so it doesn't matter if it's in the dictionary. (unless you want to use it in scrabble)

    You're whole post just makes me think about C.S. Lewis' book The Reason for Pain. He talks about the evil of pain and how it is not something to be desired. Though he also says that God allows it because he feels it could help us grow closer to God if we make that choice.

    No, I'm not glad you went through those things but I am grateful that you made the choices to become the person you are today. I'm grateful that when life became Hell you showed courage, wisdom, and spirit to become a hero.

  4. "Snarky" is a word.

    "Not grateful. Peaceful." Describes it all exactly. Wonderful insights, Jen. Thank you. Duck

  5. Yeti - I want to write more about this... One of the Taoist ideas that I love is that there isn't "good" or "bad" there just is.

    That doesn't mean I like everything in my life, but it isn't as black and white as I used to think about.

    Lari - Love you too! I do think if my life had been comfortable, I wouldn't have fought this hard to figure it out. So, although sometimes I feel jealous of those that feel no need to question, I'm also glad that I'm me.

    Jus - Thank you! (and sometimes I WOULD like to use it in scrabble...)

    Duck - Thank you!

  6. I lost all respect for the dictionary when they added "irregardless." I say use the word that best describes what you want to say, and who cares if it's in the dictionary.

    I really like this post. I've never really thought about what it means to be grateful for what we have. I think many of the things that we hold dear came from someone's pain that we may not even be aware of. Other times, such as the scenario you described, we are fully aware of other's pain but we are still grateful for some of the things that came out of it.

    It's quite a conundrum, but I think the best we can do is just be grateful for the good and sorrowful about the bad. Hopefully, someday God will explain it all to us and it will all make perfect sense.

  7. What a great way of putting it. I think this is how I feel about a lot of things. I'm not necessarily grateful, but ok (peaceful) with how they went or turned out.