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Relationship Reflection Moment - Navigating the Darkness

 

19 years ago, in the middle of the desert, I met my favorite Sailor. Some of you close to us know our story, but many of you don't. We have always been protective of our relationship.


In our moments of reflection and vulnerability, there are so many lessons that can be learned.


When we met, our dislike was mutual. We just weren't each other's type. From the outside, he was everything that I said I never wanted. He was short, Haitian, and had so many thug characteristics—three qualities at the top of my list that were deal-breakers for me. We decided to tolerate one another through a mutual friend, and we all started hanging out.


What was crazy about the time we met was that I was coming out of a dark relationship that left me broken. I was in a really dark place. I had broken up with my fiancé and had an abortion that left me thinking I was going to hell. I was raised that under no circumstance was that a choice.  I disappointed my dad and broke his heart. I had lied to my family, and I was heartbroken to the core and didn't know how to get out of it. My mother, of course, shared with my aunts that I had a miscarriage, and the calls started coming in one by one, with cousins and family members expressing comfort for my loss. With each call came more guilt and shame that I couldn’t express my truth because I was so ashamed of what I did.



What was dangerous about my state was that no one knew. On the outside, I looked whole, happy, and together—good, okay.




I remember day after day, I would plan my exit, and I would feel sad every evening after speaking to my niece, wondering how she would take the news. I worried how hard it would be for my sister to comfort her and how betrayed she would feel. How getting off the bus to run and call me wouldn't be an option anymore. Then, one day, that disappointment no longer bothered me. The pain I felt was greater than anything else, and I'd do anything to escape it.



I remember Wags calling and asking if I wanted to hang out that evening. I remember saying sure. I wanted to say bye to him. For the past few weeks, he has given me a temporary escape and tried to help me have fun without knowing what I was contemplating.


I remember laying on his chest and just pouring it all out. I told him about my abuse, my scars, my secrets, and everything in between. I didn't care what he knew because, in my mind, I would never see him again. I dumped and dumped and dumped until it was all out. By the end of my dumping, I had fallen asleep and spent the night.


The next day, I went home. Spoke to my niece all morning. She refused to let me off the phone. Once I said goodbye, I heard a knock at my door, and it was Wags checking on me, and I felt so embarrassed. I never wanted to see him again after being so vulnerable. The night before was supposed to be the last time I saw him, but he was at my door. I remember just standing there and staring at him. He asked me to come with him, and at first, I refused and came up with excuse after excuse until I finally decided that the quicker I went, the sooner I'd get back to do what I needed to do.

 

I got in the car, and we went for a ride. It was quiet. He didn't say anything, nor did I. We finally pulled up to Lake Lahontan, and he said come with me. I got out of the car and followed him to the shoreline. He pulled out a poem he had written for me, a dozen yellow roses and one single white rose.


I read his poem. It was about peace, forgiveness, and grief. He told me that I needed to forgive myself. He told me that my secrets were safe with him. He told me that the roses were for anything I wanted to make peace with and let go. We finally got to the end, and he handed me the white rose, telling me that it represented the baby and that I needed to forgive myself for my decision. He told me that God had already forgiven me and that it was time for me to forgive myself. I tore the flowers apart petal by petal, watching them float away on the lake. I sat down in the sand and just cried. He held me and just comforted me. I remember asking him what kind of thug writes poems and asking him why he was so different from what everyone told me about him.


I remember all the warnings from his so-called friends and people in town, who warned me to stay away from him. They told me that I had so much going for me and that being with him would only lead me to destruction. People called him every name in the book. I recall asking him why so many people had so many negative things to say about him.


He responded that it's no different from judging a book by its cover. Those people don't know me, so why would I spend my time trying to prove anything? Give me a chance, and I'll show you the real me. I can make you happy if you let me.


I expressed to him that I was suicidal, and he kept me with him for the next few days until I was OK with being alone again. We became the best of friends and eventually started dating. At that point, he had no reason to care. He had no reason to get invested in seeing that I was okay, but he did. He didn't let anyone mess with me. When I felt the most vulnerable and weak, he was my rock, whether we were dating or not. It didn't matter if you were his family, my family, friends, or foe. You messed with me; you messed with him. He was my strength when I felt so weak.


We started hanging out a lot. We talked about goals, finance, stocks, traveling the world, and helping each other study for upcoming promotions. We pushed each other to be better. I learned to ignore what others had to say about him and focused on how he treated me instead. We helped each other out of the darkness we both felt. He always thanks me for saving him from himself, but the truth is, he's my lifeline God sent when I was most vulnerable and thought I was alone.


Losing my parents and aunts was a deep loss that broke me in ways deeper than the previous incident. I thought I was broken then, just to be reminded that life could dish out different levels of brokenness. Life became a blur. Days ran into days, and I distanced myself from everyone, especially my husband. I woke up each day just going through the motions of living. I wasn't the wife I should have been, nor the mother I dreamed of being. I pushed him away every chance I had. I used drinking to suppress the pain and gained so much weight, which just added to my depression. With each fight, I could see his heart break slightly more. I just wanted so badly to be alone. I remember feeling like I needed it to be over because I couldn't be a wife. If I weren't close to anyone, I'd never feel the pain I was feeling from the grief I was experiencing.

 

But what those moments have shown me is that obstacles and challenges are the true test of people's character and love. In those times of my neglect, my husband pulled me closer. Even when he expressed unhappiness, he still worked hard to make me happy. Leaving me sweet notes, writing me letters, and sending me flowers. He made me dinner and reassured me through my insecurities that he was still there. When I was too depressed to keep up with laundry, dinner, or our daughter, he jumped in and did it all. He gave me space but continued showing me he was there for me. My pain didn't allow me to see a lot of it. But as I reflect from a healthy space, it’s all clear.


I remember discussing a divorce with him and asking him what he wanted. He responded nothing. I remember asking what you mean by nothing, and he responded.


I'll work hard and build it all up again. I told you from the beginning that I'd do anything to make you happy. All of this was for you, making your dreams come true so you can have it all. Tell me what your monthly number is. I want you to be okay.


Even after all the neglect. Even after checking out as a wife for so long, being in my own head, and pushing him away. Even at this moment, when he had every right to be upset and walk away, he was still protecting me and wanted to make sure I was OK. I cried, and I told him I'd get better. I'll put the work in, and I'll start showing up. My parents wouldn't want me to give up on my family because I couldn't figure out how to deal with life without them. I was still deeply in love with him; I just wanted him to have better than what I was giving, but I was so broken that I had nothing more to give. Yet, day after day, he tended to my broken pieces and reminded me of my strength. He showed up for me when I couldn't show up for myself.


Marriage is hard, and when life happens, it can test you both in ways you aren't prepared to deal with. But with the right person by your side, you can look back at moments that once made you question your existence and celebrate your triumphs one day; I pray that I can be as amazing a wife as he has been. He praises me a lot, but he's truly the best and deserves more credit than he gets. I don't always do well with his moments of telling me what I need to hear, but when I go back and reflect and get out of my feelings, there's so much value in what he's expressing.


I've had the honor of being in his life for the past 19 years, and it has been wonderful to watch him grow in so many ways. He's always the hardest-working man in the room. He doesn't do it for evals or praise; it's just who he is. He always leaves wherever he's at a little better than it was before. When leaders need someone they know will do the job, he's your man. He doesn't take BS and won't let you feel sorry for yourself, nor will he let you quit and forget your goals. He'll always give you honesty without regard for how the truth will make you feel, so don't ask for it unless you are ready for that. What he will do best is speak power into you that you didn't know you had. He will root for you and help you win. He's not afraid of hard work. He works hard and knows how to enjoy life when it's time to play. You'll miss out on gold if you judge the book by its cover like many have. Anyone who has got to really know the real Wags will tell you that in addition to the toughness, he's the smartest, hardest-working man you can have in your corner. He's a great mentor and the best person to have on your team. I love getting a front seat and how seriously he takes mentoring junior Sailors to become leaders. He's committed to his craft and even more committed to his duty as a husband and father.

 

He doesn't give himself credit for all that he's done. I sit back and watch him get back up over and over, regardless of how much adversity, discrimination, racism, and unfairness he faces. Whenever I ask him why he works so hard, knowing he won't be rewarded for it, he always says because I do it for me. I do it for you and my daughter. No one will ever be able to meet you and my kid and be able to say I'm lazy. I always want my work to be a reflection of my values and a representation of those I love.


My husband makes me so proud. Lord knows I give him a hard time. I even try to convince him to retire all the time. But honestly, I love to see how great he is at what he does and how happy it makes him. I hate missing and not having him here, yet lessons can be learned even in the distance.


Life has forced me to be strong. I feel like my entire life has been a battle of survival. I've always had a problem with trust. I have always felt anxious in moments of weakness and uncomfortable relying on others. Last month, I sat next to my husband enjoying a cigar, and I turned to him and smiled. He said you look really happy.


I said I am. I'm in my soft girl era, and I trust you. You're stuck with me for life.

We both reached for our glasses of whiskey and cheered.



19 years ago, against the guidance of so many, I took that chance and said yes to reading the book with the scary cover. We have had our share of ups and downs, but I'd go back and still choose you all over again.

 

Thanks for loving me as deeply as you do

Thanks for giving me a safe space to be vulnerable

Thanks for always protecting me

Thanks for keeping my secrets safe

Thanks for never using my scars against me

Thanks for teaching me the meaning of love and commitment

Most importantly, thanks for always holding up the umbrella during the storm.

 

I share this reflection because I see many people on my timeline hurting. The truth is that many others are hurting, and we know about them and those who choose not to share their pain with the world. Just know that you are not alone, and brighter days are ahead. Whether you get to the other side with the help of a spouse, family, or friends or pull yourself out of it alone, know you are loved. Know that those who love you would much rather have you here than gone. Be kind to others; you never know what they are dealing and coping with. You may be someone's lifeline.

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