Misconception: Grieving The Life I Should’ve Had

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This week, I’ve spent a lot of time with my two-and-a-half year old Godson, and it’s been wonderful. He’s learned to call me by name: he calls me “Godmommy Sarah.” He’ll run into my arms, run up and hug my legs, give me kisses, and all sorts of other adorable, heart-melting things.

And I love him. I love him so much that it leaves me breathless. I would give him anything, do anything for him- I would literally die for him. I love him like he was my own.

But he’s not my own.

He is my best friend’s baby. And because I love my best friend, and I see how her life has changed and the incredible joy her son brings brings her and her husband, I can’t be anything but happy for them that Nolan belongs to them. He is the center of their lives, and that’s how it should be.

As much as I love spending time with my best friend and her son, or any of my friends who have children (that would be nearly every single one of them) it reminds me of what I don’t have. They are nearly all married too, reminding me that I do not have a spouse either.

None of this is their fault. I do not blame them, I am not angry at them, nor do I wish any of them ill.

It’s not that I’m not happy for them. It’s that I’m sad for myself.

The ironic thing is that, when I really think about it, I don’t even feel ready to married or adopt children. I’m not at that place in my life. I need to focus on my education, career, and continuing to get myself healthy. And yet, when I see my friends with what I don’t have, I feel this deep and abiding sense of grief, and a feeling of something missing.

Perhaps it’s not what’s missing in this life I’ve got right now, but the life I was supposed to have. The life I would’ve had if I hadn’t grown up in violence and chaos, the life I’d have had if things had been normal. If I’d gone up through high school and college, dated and found a husband, and maybe, if I hadn’t been abused the way I was and wound up so unhealthy, I might’ve been able to get pregnant. And I’d be in the same place as all my other friends in their early thirties, and I’d feel like a person who did things on a normal trajectory, instead of someone who’s always playing catch-up, always missing something that would make me enough.

I never said this was rational.

I grieve that life that was stolen from me. I grieve the fact that I’m not where my friends are. I grieve my inability to have children.

Because all the Sunday school teaching, Children’s Chapel leading, babysitting, teen mentoring, and Godmommy time in the world does not make me a mother.

To my friends: Please know that sometimes I may be inexplicably sad around you. Just let it happen. You can’t fix it; just be there with me and it’ll pass. It’s ok to talk about your kids, talk about your marriages. If you’re trying to get pregnant or you are pregnant, it’s ok to talk to me about it. If you need to complain about it, to be honest, I’m probably not the best person for that. But please continue to include me in things. Invite me to your kids’ parties and your girls’ nights. I love you, and I am happy that you are happy. I want nothing but the best for you. I will never let my grief get in the way of our friendship.

Thank you for understanding, and loving me through this. Thank you for letting me be part of your families and your lives. You make my world so wonderfully rich and beautiful. And this grief will eventually subside. In the meantime, I have plenty to do; nursing school to tackle, a business to run, Sunday school to teach.

And a Godson to love.

 

Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.

Luke 1:45

 

More Than Numbers

Body Composition Activity 2.2

The above document is an assignment from the “physical fitness and wellness” course that I’m being required to take in order to graduate. In it, I’m being asked to calculate my BMI, body fat %, “fat weight” (could there be a more triggering phrase?), lean body mass %, waist circumference, and more ridiculous numbers that are not even a reliable indicator of health.

Basically, I am being asked to calculate all the numbers that I used to obsess about when I was anorexic.

So I used to have this scale. I took it from my parents’ bathroom when I was around 11. I had this scale for over twenty years. I saw every number on this scale from somewhere in the 150s to somewhere in the 50s. I watched my body magically grow and shrink like Alice after eating a truffle and drinking a potion. I watched my body as it marched towards death and grew into life and back and forth until my final ascent into recovery. I watched those numbers like some mad mathematician, calculating my worth, if I deserved love, or even life. Those ridiculous numbers determined everything about me. They were me.

Until I realized they weren’t.

The last time I saw that scale was ten years ago, when I threw it off the balcony of my apartment onto the concrete of the parking lot below, and I watched it smash into a hundred pieces.

Am I happy with my weight right now? Not particularly. But the danger that lies in attempting to manipulate it from where it has naturally settled it too high for me to risk doing anything about it. Maybe that will change in the future. I don’t know. What I do know is that those numbers no longer make up who I am. I don’t even think about them. My body is more than numbers. My life is so much greater than that. I have a big, beautiful, wonderful life, and it has nothing to do with how much I weigh, or my body fat percentage, or how many calories I eat in a day. It has nothing to do with that because no matter what those numbers are I am deeply loved by God, my family, my friends, and my church. Being thin felt nice, but it was lonely as hell and painful and small, and so destructive and unhealthy.

Love is so much better than being thin, y’all. So. Much. Better.

My body isn’t perfect, but what the hell is. I’d rather be happy than a size zero. And as for this assignment, I’m fighting for an alternate assignment, as I’ve fought for other alternate assignments. My health and recovery are more important than any class.

 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

“Arise”: A Poem For Everyone With a #metoo Story

This recent social media campaign of so many survivors coming forward to tell their stories and acknowledge that they have been affected by sexual violence has had me thinking a lot about empowerment.

I believe so strongly in the empowerment that comes from sharing the truth, from using one’s voice to overcome the silence that surrounds issues like sexual violence. I believe in the healing power of unburdening ourselves of these truths. I believe in the power that comes from so many people raising their hands at once to say, “Yes. This is real. It happened to me. And we need to do better.”

In my own journey, I have been wrestling a bit with an energy I have felt building recently: this sudden surge of confidence, boldness, strength, and conviction that has made me feel more personally and spiritually empowered than I ever have in my life. This energy is so new, and is still a bit unwieldy for me. How does a person who spent the majority of her life being victimized, violated, and disempowered suddenly manage feeling strong, capable, and full of a courageous energy that makes her want to shriek with joy? I really don’t know yet. It’s going to take practice. I will have to train myself to channel this energy into constructive, creative pathways because I am vulnerable to this energy becoming destructive. 

This latest poem was inspired by my own journey into standing in personal and spiritual empowerment after being destroyed by the actions of others. So this is for everyone who has ever felt destroyed, then found a way to go on. No matter how dark it seems, remember that there is always a spark left inside you.

And it only takes one spark to start a fire.

“Arise”

From the start

Every spark

Ground to ashes

Until I thought

I had nothing left

But that wisp of smoke

That was my ghost

And the body

That lay burned

And bereft

What I found

As I rose

From the ashes

Is that I am

A phoenix

Aflame

A fierce

Burning light

That blazes

So bright

I cannot be

Snuffed out

Again

I fought

For the right

To be

Full of light

After the depths

Of darkness

I dwelled in

God’s shining

Through me and

All around me

I’m unleashing

The power

I held in

May this flame always

Be used

To warm

Not to burn

To help others

Find their light too

What I now know

Is I’m ready

To show

I wasn’t

Extinguished

By you


© Sarah Ann Henderson 2017


Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. 

Hebrews 12: 28-29