Note: I wrote this post a year ago, and at that time writing it was a healing experience for me. A year later, I would like to share it again–not because I need to for my own benefit, but because I think that sharing it may benefit others. There is a message in my story. It is a message of perseverance, of getting back up every time you fall flat on your face. It is the message of a battle fought and won–it is the message that some battles are worth fighting.
There was a past life, that I had, when I wasn’t a minimalist.
I wasn’t a sailor, and I didn’t even know the meaning of “living intentionally.”
I am not sure of who I was, but I think I need to introduce you to that person.
This is high school sophomore Bethany. “Beth” was actually the name I went by. I had short black hair, and I wore a little red flower in it. I did not have the roundy physique that I sport now; actually I was a bit too thin.
I had a dear (so I thought) friend, who “helped” me through some dark times. She was, at that time, everything to me. We’ll call her “Kendra.”
I met Kendra in 1993, when I was in the 8th grade. That’s a rough time for anyone, and I was no exception. I was vulnerable, dealing with my own perfectionism. I was underdogged at school, and really reduced to nothing. I didn’t believe in myself, it all was overwhelming, and I was beginning to contemplate throwing away the only true gift we’re given as humans, life. I starved myself, down to 98 pounds (at the same height I am now), and I began toying with my mortality. I cut, frequently, feeling like all the stress and tension was bleeding out of my body. I wanted out, out of the cycle I was in, out of the pressures, and out of the pain I was constantly in.
Then I met Kendra. She was a good friend, at first, saying she was worried about me, and giving me all kind of reasons to carry on. A lot of them were fear-based, that this life was better than going to the hell I would surely burn in, if I ended my life. I thought she was the first person who ever cared about me. I opened up to her, trusted her as I have never trusted anyone.
I don’t know when it turned dark. It’s all so muddy to me, that I still don’t understand it all. During that year, things became muddy. I assumed the roll of the messed up, troubled friend. And I could be nothing else. I would explain why I was worthless, and she would give me a peptalk. She would talk to my parents, and they regarded her as an adult, based on the authority she seemed to convey. She played both sides, from the beginning. We quickly began to view her as a superior, an authority. Everyone did.
Sometime that year, and more into the next, the threats to abandon began. I was so convinced that I needed her, and if I fell even short of perfection, she threatened to leave me. She told me that I made a promise that I never made, then faulted me for breaking it. After that, in order to make it up to her, she told me I should write an essay, with subheadings, about the ways in which I intended to change. I did, and she wrote her critiques on it.
Everything I did was wrong. Everything I did jeopardized our friendship. She was always threatening to never speak to me again. It was nothing to her. I was nothing to her. But I was convinced that I needed her. I was convinced that she was the only true friend I had ever had. And I needed to hang on to her, in order to survive.
I felt desperate. I thought about death and dying, all the time. I didn’t think I was worth loving, didn’t deserve living, due to the things she said to me. She did all she could to keep me in the needy friend roll, and she kept coming to my rescue at the last minute. My arms were scarred, and still are, from my self-destructiveness.
I could not say anything positive about myself, without her telling me that I was egotistic. I talked about my piano recital; she said I was bragging. She left not speaking to me, and I had to put down my abilities as a musician, in a note, in order to regain her favor.
I cried out in my poetry, that only she saw. She took what she wanted, and made sure that I was never at the point where I actually did end my life, although she was content to have me awfully close to that.
My parents saw my scars, but they heard her version of the story. They were obviously very worried, and they did what they could. But I was unable to reach out, to tell the truth of what was going on, because I was so clearly under her spell.
I thought about dying, all the time. I wanted to end it. I wanted to be free. But I was afraid of the fire that Kendra spoke of. The one I could not possibly avoid.
There would be days of distance, because she was mad. Then I would bake something, or buy something, as a peace offering, and she would speak to me again. Always keeping me as the weak one, the one in need of advice.
I was involved in a re-enactment group, for the Revolutionary War. I was Sergeant of the Guard, and she joined. That ruined it. Every event we went to, was a fight with her, a screw-up that I caused. She was madly in love with a boy in the group, and she asked me to pray for their relationship every chance that I got. I believe that prayers are answered, so I can’t think of the fact that I actually did pray for them. They did not marry, but she did a number on him…
And so it goes. She took my accomplishment. I had to relinquish it, or it would ruin our friendship. Again, it only me who cared. All summer everywhere we went and performed, I would make her mad, then buy something to appease her. It was one-sided, but I needed to hang on to her. Because no one cared about me. I was so bad, so inherently bad and dark, that no one really could care.
In high school, I used school of choice so I could attend the same school as her. She took psychology classes, and learned a little information. That little bit of inromation was dangerous. She was partial to Freud, which she seemed to think gave her license to “interpret” everything I said, as being from my subconscious. She diagnosed me with bipoloar disorder and anorexia, and even did a “study” on me for her class. I never actually saw this study, but I’m sure it was interesting.
My freshman year, I dated Kendra’s ex–boyfriend, whom I met at fencing class. She did nothing but try to thwart us, and she eventually succeeded. She was in the middle of our relationship, from day one, and that’s how my relationships all went. She was involved in the start, and the end was always due to her meddling.
Then, there was the homecoming dance of my sophomore year. I planned to ask my ex-boyfriend. Kendra said she would not talk to me if I took him, because she didn’t like him. So I went stag. I had a boyfriend, whom she picked, as usual, but he didn’t like dances.
He and I broke up, naturally, and I had a halloween party. Kendra said she really liked the boy I didn’t take to the dance. And that we should get back together. A friend invited me to an all-night roller skating party, for New Years 1995, and I accepted, thinking that maybe he and I would get back together, and we’d have her approval.
That was the beginning of the end. At that party, I met my other friend’s “French boy,” that she had been obsessed with. Rob “Rose-ah-lee.” And there was something. Something, with a capital S. I sought him out on my own, and we ended up skating to “September 1963,” which is still a significant song for us. I kissed him that night, in front of my dad and all. He thought I was strong then, but he says that I never seemed strong after that, until I left her.
Kendra resisted immediately. She found fault with Rob during our first outing, because he was not under her control. He had too much of a sense of self for her to control, and it bothered her. She wrote me a note immediately, saying all that she found wrong with him.
I called him,saying he had to decide. I needed him to be approved by her, or it was no use. It was almost the end for us, had we not been so strong. I called up and apologized, because he seemed to important.
And he was my salvation.
It was years of my life, of my allotted time, that I lost. That I will never, never get back. There were so many struggles, so many times when I tried to buy her back, to apoogize, to beg. And she didn’t care, but she always accepted me back, which Rob says was harmful. I was damaged, I was broken, I was reduced to nothing. To nobody.
But, he convinced me that I was something. I wanted to live. I want to live. I WANT to live now. This is my time, and it is mine. I deperately need to live, to become something, to transcend. And here’s how I got there.
Kendra resisted Rob. He wasn’t her choice. She started telling people he was abusive. That he hurt me, that he was awful, even though that couldn’t be further from the truth. Finally, I stood up to her. It costs me friends, who were “under her spell.” But I did it. With Rob there to hold me afterwards, I did it on my own. At a re-enactment in Bay City (our original home port, ironically), I ended it.
Rob’s mom heard this story. “She needs someone to love her,” she told him. And gave him a pin to give me, saying “I am loved.”
I am loved. But I am not whole. I have resisted Rob, and set up strong walls against anyone else, ever since then. I have frequently sabotaged myself, because I was not comfortable being anything but the me that she convinced me I was.
But, in the end, I learned to trust again. The walls are slowly coming down, even now. I realize that Kendra is an anamoly, and that I should not punish the rest of the world for her deeds. She didn’t destroy me. She ultmately took nothing. I’ve created a life, and it’s a damned good one. She doesn’t have what we have. And that’s why I have no vengeance, only pity. She can’t have relationships. She can’t even have true friendship. I actually pray that she changes, so she can experience joy. If she came to me, capable of love, I would love her back.
I forgive her.
She did not destroy my soul. My spirituality is based on hope, not fear. I do not fear death, because I do not fear. (Yet I now view life as the gift that it is, and I passionately cling to it). My only fear has only been myself, brought forth by her, and at this point I have transcended it.
Why am I telling you this? I am telling you this, because I believe that everybody has a story. And this is mine. This will complete, for you, the picture of who I am. I am telling you this, because you need to know that, whatever darkness you might be experiencing right now, the sun will rise again. We all have within us the ability to overcome, the ability to create a life after even the worst of circumstances. There is a strength that all of us have, deep within our hearts, that allows us to bring forth a new reality. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth fighting for.
So let’s fast-forward to New Year’s eve, 1999. Rob and I were still dating, and had been for 5 years. He was a cashier at a grocery store, and I was taking classes, majoring in elementary and special education. Kendra was out of the picture.
It was the new millenium, and the whole world was panicking, thinking that doomsday was just around the corner. Rob wanted me to pick him up from work and head with him to the house on Thunder Bay, “in case anything happened.” We would return the next day.
I was 21, still living with my parents, while commuting to classes, and I had a horrible case of the wedding bell blues. But, I knew I was smothering Rob. I loved him, and I was going to set him free.
I spent the entire 3-hour car ride explaining that I was not going to pressure him anymore. That I was going to get a full-time job, and find a place of my own. I was going to live my life, and if it was meant to be, we’d end up married to each other, all in due time.
We arrived in Ossineke, just before midnight. So Rob asked me if I wanted to take a walk. We strolled out on the ice over Thunder Bay, facing the lights that were Alpena. We reminisced about the past 5 years, which were more better than worse.
Some fireworks went off at the house, signifying that it was midnight. (We later learned that Rob’s brother, Chris, had been so nervous that he had set the fireworks off slightly after midnight).
Then Rob said, “I hope you don’t mind bringing the new year in like this, with a kind of quiet dignity.” I thought of all the crazy parties I had seen on TV, back at my parents’ house. How interesting it would be, to be at one of those!
Then, Rob took off his coat and laid it on the ice, immediately rooting me in the present. He got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. Shaking, I knelt next to him on the ice, and said, “Yes, yes! Yes, I will marry you, Robert Rosselit!”
Back at the house, everyone was waiting. Chris had made a fire and had the champagne and glasses ready for a toast. (He would propose to Kelly at the same house, on Thunder Bay, years later). The ring was gorgeous–Rob had sold the Impala that he was fixing up, so that he could afford it, second hand, from a co-worker.
Inside the house, the song “I Could Not Ask For More” played on the radio.
These are the moments, I thank God that I’m alive.
These are the moments, I’ll remember all my life
I have all I’ve waited for
And I could not ask for more.
May this new year be the year all of your dreams come true.
Here’s to the future!