I had a conversation with a very old friend tonight. She's been through the wringer of life lately and it was so good to hear her brave voice rising above the chaos.
She filled me in on the vast swaths of her life that I have missed due to distance and other complications and I found myself in tears listening to the sacrament of her story.
She's been so beautifully brave and selfless in the face of her dream castles tumbling down. She's done exactly what I would hope I would do in the same situation, though I can't imagine myself being that tough. She's my newest hero.
I caught myself thinking that old cliche. "There, but for the grace of God, go I." I stopped myself short when this ran through my head because it's not true. I don't know what role God played in the differences in our stories but I don't think He sent her into an abusive situation and spared me. I don't think God works that way.
Girls like us, girls from backgrounds that contain abuse, are drastically more likely to find themselves in abusive relationships when they grow up.
In addition, it is not unusual for people, who grew up in abusive relationships and domestic violent environment to recreate this experience in adulthood and unconsciously choose a violent partner and recreate the dysfunctional home they grew up in. This is not putting a blame on anyone for anything. It is simply stating that trauma has its way of repeating itself from one generation to another (what we call transgenerational transmission of trauma), unless you put an end to it and address it in psychoanalysis or psychotherapy.
See, I didn't make that up, it's a thing.
We all seek out what is familiar. We long for the things that we know. We don't feel safe when we're in unfamiliar territory. But when what you are familiar with is straight up abuse, when feeling scared is your default, it messes you up and it takes a lot of work to make decisions that go against that knee jerk emotional reaction.
But some how, you can know this, you can make good decisions, you can do the work and you can still end up in that trans-generational cycle of abuse even though you did your darnedest to avoid it.
My friend and I both wanted to be wives and mothers. We wanted to raise happy, healthy children who had two good parents in the home with them. I am privileged or lucky enough to be doing that and my friend isn't.
We proceeded with caution into the dating world, we'd seen the risks play out so we took the job seriously. She took her time, she dated her future husband for years. She loved and supported him through all kinds of trouble, she helped raise his child and she thought she'd found one she could trust with her life.
I only knew my husband 18 months before we got married. The most stressful things in our dating life was a 1000 mile road trip to attend a funeral and we broke up for a short time after that. We did a lot of eating together and hanging out in bars and then we got married.
If I were a betting woman, I would have said that one of those girls would end up in an abusive marriage and it wouldn't have been her.
So, I'm sitting here tonight with a big case of something like survivors guilt, though I recognize it doesn't perfectly fit this situation.
How did I end up with the reasonably happy marriage and the intact family? I didn't do anything to deserve that. I didn't make better decisions than she did, I think I just got lucky.
I don't really believe in luck, that's a problem when you've just admitted to the internet that you feel you've benefited from luck. I believe in good decisions, in doing the next right thing, and I believe in our total lack of control of the outcome of those decisions.
This is something I've been digging into in therapy lately, my control issues. I'm terrified to have control and I'm afraid to loose it. So this little story, my tale of two messed up girls, pins itself nicely to the bullseye of my control issues. You can do all the right things, you can make the best decisions you can and it still might all blow up. That. Sucks.
But, that doesn't mean we stop. We keep on doing the next right thing. We keep making the best decisions we can. We keep taking the best step available to us because we know, no matter how uncertain life is, going forward is still our best chance for something good.
So tonight I'm going to pray for my friend as she bravely marches on, doing right things and doing them on her own. And I'm also going to count my blessings and be thankful that luck or God or fate did what it did because the wholeness of my family is beautiful in it's chaos. For no particular reason, I got the thing that we were both striving for and the gift of it is humbling.