At first, it was just the pain.
It felt like amputation, like a collapsed lung. I couldn't do anything — I was frozen. I stood in our kitchen and leaned against Russ' chest as I struggled for air.
"Did I just ruin everything?" I asked between sobs.
"You ruined nothing, love," he answered, his arms squeezing me tighter for support, holding me up when I couldn't even stand anymore.
It was a decision based from the deepest places of my intuition and story. When it all came crashing down around me, I oscillated between stunned silence and sobbing into my pillow. Thoughts kept circulating in my mind like a stalled record — It wasn't supposed to be this way. The shrapnel shouldn't have spread so far.
For weeks I walked around like a zombie, inhaling negativity left and right. I woke up anticipating the battles I would face that day, and fall asleep exhausted and beat, the tears still running hot down my cheeks.
Until one day, an email found its way into my inbox and as I read it, I could feel something shift inside.
You are a wolf in sheep's clothing, it said. To this person, I was a reminder of the dangers of duplicity.
There was more. But I couldn't handle it. My hands shook as I forwarded the words to my husband and dropped the email into a folder where I could forget it. I never forgot it, but I also never responded.
I never responded because of the anger. The anger that came fast and hot and ready for war.
I lay face down as she worked her hands up and down my neck, focusing on the spots that needed the most care.
We were talking about life. Namely, disappointments. Specifically, the anger I kept feeling about everything happening around me. The problem? I couldn't hold on to it long enough before I would douse it with a healthy dose of good will and peace-keeping. That's what a good woman does, right? Close her eyes and move along, pretending not to feel?
"I normally advise people to let it go, to not allow it time or space. But for some reason, I think you need to speak it. I think you need to be as specific as possible — naming what angers you — and allowing the space to empty on its own."
I swallowed, the tears coming fast all over again. Nothing I said would be a surprise. She's one of my best friends and knows the roots of all my stories, especially the ones that bring me pain. I started listing them one-by-one, my voice shaking and my nose growing more and more clogged as I tried to hold back sobs.
There was a long list. Relationships and jobs and adoption and faith and fear — it all surfaced.
And then I remembered the email. My breath caught. I cleared my throat and whispered, "I'm angry this still holds power over me and my story."
Her rhythmic motion paused for a split second before she let out a breath in solidarity.
"I'm angry too," she said.
I closed my eyes and let the air fill my lungs. My phantom limb wasn't throbbing anymore. Today, I had won the war.
Check out the song that inspired this post here.