You Are Tougher Than What You Think

TW: Divorce, domestic violence, childhood trauma

This will be the hardest of all the letters so far, that I will have had to write. This letter is hard because it involves my children and the demise of my first marriage. This letter is to my pregnant 27-year-old self. Saddle up.

-JBHarris

Jennifer:

You did it now, didn’t you shug? You married a man that you wouldn’t have trusted with your purse. You pushed past the hitch in your spirit that God put there in order to warn you he wasn’t it. You married him, still in love with someone else! You loved Zack, yes. But Zack never made you feel, could never make you feel the way Michael did. You knew that. You knew that–but that is a moot point now.

We got these girls. One that is baking, and one that is walking and in the world–who so loves her Daddy.

What I want you to know is they are going to keep you anchored when all else is spinning off its axis. Their faces will allow you to keep dreaming, to sacrifice and do all you can for them. I want you to know that I’m proud of you, Shug! Your mother is trying as best she can to support you. She thinks that the tough love she gives you is equipping you. She doesn’t know or see how you cry. She doesn’t see what putting the father of your children out did to you.

She doesn’t realize how you fought to hang on to a man that didn’t know how to be one to you!

Your mother thinks that trauma builds Black women and girls– doesn’t want you to ‘be a weak woman’–so you shoulder on…

She doesn’t see the depression. She doesn’t believe you have time to be depressed! You and your mother will have a contentious relationship years after the birth of your youngest daughter. You will go months without speaking–this is sad, yes. But the best thing was to give you all space. She wants what is best for you, but doesn’t know what that means aside from making your own money. She wants you and Zack to reconcile, so does his mother. But, I am proud of you for rebuilding.

Kids clean.

You are still put together.

Still employed.

Enrolling in your major at UM-St. Louis. You moved into your own place. Your mom gave you her car. You got utlities in your name. You rebuilt your life without their father. When the people in your world thought you would fold!

And the crazy thing? The thing that no one knows? You’re glad it’s over. You never stopped loving this man, it is was not fair to stay with someone whom could not treat you well or respect you. The man that punished you for your thoughts. Couldn’t encourage your creativity, your talents or skills, and never gave you peace. The best thing you could have done was end it before your oldest could remember how her father threw her pregnant mother over a bed and called her a bitch. You will worry that she will remember the fighting. You will worry that she will remember you throwing a DVD player at her father and telling him to leave.

You became a Mama Bear for them. And with every sling and arrow thrown at y’all, you maintained. You remained their mother, when it was easier to give up.

The people that see you rebuilding your life won’t say what a good job you’re doing. They don’t wanna pat you up–even when you need it. Yet, God was there.

I wanna tell you that it’ll get better. I wanna tell you Zack grows up and becomes the man your girls need. But this is not true. It is not so. I want to tell you that the man you are with after their father will be there always–but he won’t be either. What I want to tell you, Jennifer, is that the words, the WORD, is going to maintain your sanity! There will be people that love you that will care for your kids as you do. They will give them love, and time, and space and be with them always.

I want you to know that just like the Phoenix that is on your back, you are only rebuilding. This is only a blip. This is not going to define you–but it will make you tougher than you ever thought. It will make you perceptive, suspicious and make any writing you do amazing.

Zack will try and ask for you and ‘his family back. ‘ I am proud of you that you didn’t fall for this. The same way I am happy you didn’t go back to Dominic. You are what you wanted to be, dearest one: you became strong. But in that strength, you forgot how to be loved. What vulnerability that required. Opening up is not what we want to do again. So right now, finish the nursing degree. Be happy with yourself and company. You earned it.

You really earned it.

See you when you get here, and I am so glad you didn’t give up.

Always For the Best,

You (age 38)

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