I just got off the phone with Matty and his dad. We walked him through his birth, his life, our love for him. We laughed, we cajoled one another, we fought over whose job was harder--mine giving birth with him at sea or him at sea on a 14-hour flight launch. Once he listened to my side of the story, he conceded that I win. I like to win, but truly we both won. We have an amazing son. The thing is that he made me see something about myself. A way that I have been truly selfish. For the longest time, everything had been about me and what I have done, but without the credit for what others have done as well.
Seventeen years ago, Matty was born to two people just figuring out how to be married. His dad was out to sea until he was five months old. I was his constant. We had our village: Aunt Theresa, Uncle Mike, Sherrie, Mike, Sam, Renee, and Ms. Amy and her girls who watched him and became an extension of our family. It was a beautiful family. They loved us big and deep. They wrapped their arms around us and welcomed us in. Matthew went everywhere with us. He became my great love.
I had my hard times when I missed Pepe and wished he was there to enjoy these moments with us, but I also became very self-reliant. When Pepe came home, he disrupted my schedule with Matty and the way I did things. I hadn't thought about how we were going to raise our son together. I was too busy just doing it.
Mothering came so naturally to me. I had always loved kids. I grew up in a big family, babysat most of my nieces and nephews. I was part of their village. Everything was about me and mine. I had all the answers. I knew how it should be. I...I...I... There was no we, only me.
For a long time, that was the crux of our existence. I thought I was the boss. No compromise, no discussion, no other way than mine. It lead to a lot of disagreements, difficulty, and unrest in our home. About 2 years into our marriage, we were living back in Cleveland and I didn't want to be married to him anymore. I could see all the things wrong with him and all the troubles we had, but I didn't see myself and my actions. Until the day my Uncle Mike told me I was being an a**hole and needed to re-evaluate things. I'd like to say that made a huge difference at the time, but it just started a small change. It took a lot more still to come before I "got it". That was back in 1996.
In 2001, Noah was born. Our marriage was in a very good place. We were building each other up and not tearing each other down. We appreciated one another. We loved one another. And then I wanted to stay home and Pepe didn't want things to change. He didn't want the responsibility to be all on him. I resented him and thought him selfish. Little by little, our relationship crumbled again. I was disappointed and miserable. Matthew acted out more and more after Noah was born. He was formally diagnosed with ADHD at the end of the school year. That made Pepe feel even worse. And I was to blame for this, too. It came from my side of the family after all. He sought someone else for comfort and not me. And then he told me he didn't love me and everything that was wrong with me in his eyes. That was July 1.
About a week later, I pulled myself out of the funk of self-pity and decided that I didn't like me very much either. I had lost myself somewhere along the way. I pulled up my big-girl pants and decided on July 9 that I was not a victim, I was a fighter. I had been hurting others because I hurt and that is not the way I wanted to live. I think this is where my spirit of forgiveness came from. I went on an internal quest that was similar to a personal 12-step program. I did the hard thing of coming to people who I had treated poorly and apologizing for how I had treated them. How I had wronged them. I accepted responsibility for the words I had spoken and my actions. It was also a period of confession. The hard things. The wrong things. The things I kept in secret about myself. It was a time of healing and contrition.
I found hope in the midst of losing my husband. I found myself again. My strength. My faith. My dreams. And they all lead back to the place where they came from...my Father's arms. God and I wrestled a lot this next year. I watched Pep move out in March of 2002. Matthew was so full of anger at me because his dad was gone. I cried so many nights. I wept on the floor begging God to bring Pep back, to restore our family. Instead, God gave me peace and respect for myself though I didn't see it at the time. When Pep seemed to have given up, I gave in and followed God's instruction. I handed him the dissolution papers he wanted. That seemed to be a wake up call. We got back together in September.
That's not the end of the story, of course. Much transpired over the next seven years culminating in our separation and divorce. In that seven years, God began calling me to Him. My relationship with Christ has become the most revealing and healing relationship I have ever had. It has restored the broken down places. It has allowed me to accept the truth of who I am and trust in Him for all things. Not myself. Not me. I am new in Him. I stand in that position. As His. And I am "confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil 1:6, NIV).