It’s 2018 and all around us, we hear about how we are free to make our own choices. We are free to choose who we want to marry, if we want to allow the child in our wombs to live or if we want to abort them, we are free to choose if we want to end our own life and “die with dignity” and we are free to make all kinds of choices in between even choose what gender we are. But what we do not hear is how powerful our choices are and where those choices can lead us. We are not taught about how to orientate those choices or what the final end of those choices are, just that we are free to choose.
I am 41 years old, my husband left me a month ago, my son hung himself nineteen and a half months ago and I find myself looking back at all the choices I made that landed me here. What motivated them? How did I decide each one of them? Who taught me how to make them? What was I orientated towards?
To be honest with you, I had no idea how powerful each choice what and what the end was supposed to be. Part of me was geared towards a fairy tale ending life where my husband and I grew old together beating the odds and sitting around the firepit in the backyard laughing with our kids and grandkids, but so many of the choices I made did not have that end in mind. When I told my husband to take all his things if he was going to stay out all night, that dream was nowhere in sight. I was scared he was going to go out and cheat on me. I was mad that he thought it would be ok to leave for the night, I never imagined the end would be him actually leaving and coming back for his things a week before our eighth wedding anniversary and asking for a divorce. I was not thinking at all, I was just mad, hurt and disappointed that I had been lied to again and again. I made that choice from a place of anger, fear, and grief.
When I made the choice to give birth to Anthony when I was sixteen I did not think about the life that he would have. I just knew that I could not get an abortion. A cousin of mine had done that. To this day that is a family secret that everyone knows but nobody talks about out loud. When it happened I knew that I could not make that same choice. I choose life for Anthony, but I did not know the power or responsibility of that choice. I did not know that I had the power to choose things that could traumatize him and cause him so much pain. Even further back than that, I did not think about the choice to have sex with his biological father and how that choice would impact Anthony’s life. All I wanted was to be loved and kept safe. It never occurred to me that if I had sex and got pregnant that my choice of who I was having sex with would cause my son to feel abandoned for the rest of his life because the man who co-created his life would choose to not be a part of it.
When I was twenty years old I made the choice to marry a man that I only knew for two weeks. Again, that choice was made out of desperation to be loved and kept safe along with the motivation to have a father for my son. I did not think it through. I did not ask questions, I did not try to get to know that man that I was giving my life and my son’s life to. I just believed that love would somehow protect us all. I was so wrong. Love is strong but love requires so much more than us just showing up. Love is a choice with huge expectations and my first husband was not emotionally equipped to handle those expectations.
Ten years ago I made the same stupid mistake and gave my life, and my now four kids, to another man who was not ready or equipped for the job. I looked the other way so many times when that was painfully clear to me. I forgave the first hundred lies creating a pattern in my relationship and eventually my marriage where lying was accepted behavior. I did not know how to not accept it. The wording we use when talking about Catholic marriage and relationships did not help. I felt that I was being a Christian by forgiving seven times seventy times, not understanding that boundaries and expectations of a certain level of respect are not unforgiving things but healthy things that every relationship needs. I was not equipped with coping skills or boundary setting skills for another marriage with an addict. My codependency was not something I faced until it was too late.
Now I sit here scared to death of my power to choose. I have failed over and over again to make the right choices and yet, I am now the head of my family once again as a single mother and now grandmother who has to make good choices, choices that will heal all the damage that other choices have caused in the lives of my kids and grandkids and I am terrified.
We talk a lot about the freedom of choice but when are we going to talk about the power of choice? The personal responsibility of choice? The importance of discerning choices? Are we teaching our kids and young adults to make good choices and how to know right from wrong? Or are we just letting them make choices based on feelings and emotions? Because I can tell you, that is a recipe for disaster.
Maybe it is normal to realize the power we have in choosing this or that at my age and that is what mid-life crises are all about. Heck if I know but I do know that I feel like I am beginning from the beginning and I am trying to learn how to listen to the voice of God guide me forward because one thing I know for sure, I need Divine help.
Please pray for me.