You can’t say I didn’t try. I’m a fighter. I’m a good soldier. Everything in my life had prepared me for this. Growing up, fighting to shine bright enough to be seen by blind parents. Gritting my way through back pain and asthma as an athlete. Delivering four babies in four years, two of them on the same day. Second winds were my second nature. I was nothing if not faithful to persevere, to have hope, to hang in there, and to look at the bright side. But I was tired.
I moved like a robot from the laundry room to the kitchen island where I usually folded clothes. The girls were watching TV in the living room, but as I walked through, the sounds of Peppa Pig felt far away. There were a million miles between the snorts and giggles of cartoon pigs jumping in muddy puddles and the swirl of anxious thoughts in my mind. I was in agony, but I tried to keep going. I set the laundry basket down. I began folding the tiny pants and shirts in various pinks and purples and tried to match unmatchable printed socks.
The questions got louder and the remembered weight of uncertainty landed heavy. My hands caught my body on the butcher block countertop as I lost the strength to keep folding. “How can I do this? Is it possible for me to make this work? Why is this happening when I have given my soul, my body, all of my strength to not let this happen?”
I steadied myself and tried to take a deep breath.
Another pair of pink pants. Another t-shirt with a glittery “Bonjour” printed on it. Now labored sighs. The monotonous movements of folding the tiny clothes mirrored the methodical way I sifted through all of the pieces of evidence. I had done it so many times that it felt routine, but just like my breath, it grew heavier each time. Over the months of quiet tears and silent screams I had mapped it all out in my mind. I could no longer avoid the reality of the pain I felt and the reality of the pain I had caused.
I had spent hours, days, months trying to make sense of my marriage, of what had happened that year, and of what had been happening all along. I had frantically written the stories in chilly coffee shops, looking for pieces of evidence that could delineate a path for what was ahead. I started from the beginning: When we met at 11, when we started dating at 17, when we married at 22. I recorded the good that was there and the good that should have been there but never was. Every time I wrote the truth of the past, I felt the truth of the future getting clearer. There was energy in the exit but I wasn’t ready to walk out yet. I couldn’t let myself off the hook. I was still trying to carry the weight of it all. There had to be a way I could muster enough strength to stay, even with all of the truth I had named.
I picked up the basket and tiredly made my way to our bedroom. As I walked through the door, my eyes landed on our neatly made bed, the wedding photos on the wall, and the verse that hung above the mirror. So many memories held within this room, many that made me cry. Barely inside the threshold, the weight of grief and fatigue knocked me to my knees as I dropped the basket and burst into hot tears of exhaustion. I had been trying to wrangle my body and soul into wanting something I just did not want, could not want, anymore. The words, “I would rather die than keep trying to make this work,” rang loud inside of me and I knew it had to be the end. As much as I tried to wait for it and work for it, the second wind wasn’t coming this time.
So much dread came right alongside the relief my body felt as I settled into the truth that I could not carry on. I pulled myself up to sit on the bed and held my head in my hands as the tears collected on the blue rug beneath me. I knew that many of my loved ones would not understand and would choose to no longer associate themselves with me. I knew that the spiritual system where I was formed and now held rapport and authority would rid itself of me. I sniffled and hardened myself as I swallowed down those truths anew in the midst of my surrender. My life was worth more than just my capacity for a second wind.
Jenn White Jordan is an aspiring writer who resides in Mobile, Alabama. Through her work both as a writer and as a therapist and fellow with the Allender Center, she is in pursuit of reclamation. She loves to see those who know the legacy of trauma carve new paths forward and reclaim their voices, their bodies, and their stories—that they may truly live. She is a lifelong resident of the south and a mother of four wild and remarkable daughters.