The last half of 2005 was so many things. Interesting. Fun. Sad. Bittersweet. Exciting.
But mostly it was a tequila-fueled blur.
The title to that chapter of my life would simply be “Choices.” I chose to end my marriage. I chose to drink myself silly and unaware two or three nights a week. I chose to socialize with people who were not good for me, to ignore my increasingly fast-paced downward spiral and to refuse to take care of myself.
It’s almost like I had a death wish. When I think back to those times, I see that caution spent more time thrown to the wind than in its proper place in my life.
In reality, it wasn’t all bad.
Some of the people who came into my life are still my friends all these years later. Plus, I have more than my share (and your share and several other people’s shares) of wild-oat-sowing stories that ensure my kids can never tell me anything that will shock me or fall into the category of Mom-could-never-understand.
It was what it was. And thank goodness what it is now is over.
One choice I made during that time changed my life in ways I could never have foretold. On a random, late-November Tuesday, I had gone to Tuesday Night Trivia at Hooters, just like always. From there, I went to the Foxhole on Cypress Street.
Standing at the corner of the bar talking to a friend, I noticed a young man at the other end smoking a cigarette and watching me. He grinned at me over his Coke a few times, but I mostly ignored him. My male friend to whom I was speaking finally asked, “Do you want me to leave so the guy in the yellow hat can come talk to you?”
Why not, I thought. He’s good looking and clearly here alone. Let’s see if he comes to talk to me. If he doesnt, no big deal.
Even though I had said I wasn’t going to drink that night, the bartender pushed a shot of tequila across the bar.
“I didn’t order this,” I said. The bartender nodded to the end of the bar, where yellow hat cutie was grinning. I took the shot, grinned back and made my way to his side of the bar.
I chose to accept the drink. I chose to talk to this person, who I later found out was drinking Coke not because he didn’t want alcohol but because he was only 20. I chose to keep talking to him and see where things went.
And boy did things move quickly. He was good looking and fun. We spent quite a bit of time being silly and getting to know each other. We went Christmas shopping and hung out with friends. We cooked dinner, watched movies and enjoyed being together. I stopped going out quite so much and rediscovered a love of staying in. Being with him made me forget the recent demise of my five-year marriage and the fact that my professional life was up in the air. He was fun. He didn’t expect me to be perfect. He didn’t challenge me or argue with me. He was the opposite of everything else in my life at that moment.
One day I stopped by his apartment to drop off his birthday present. He wasn’t there, and two hours later, he still hadn’t made it home. It was his 21st birthday, so I assumed his coworkers had taken him to the Foxhole for a drink. The bartender said she hadn’t seen him in a few days. He didn’t answer his phone, and no one seemed to know where he was.
I found out the next day that where he was when I was looking for him was jail. He had been walking home from the Foxhole (which, at the time, was right by the police department), and an officer had stopped him to ask what he was doing behind the building. He did a routine search and found a roach in his hoodie.
Yellow hat cutie was telling me all this after he was bailed out. I found out he had spent his one phone call the day before calling his best friend to ask him to call me – not to bail him out but to let me know where he was so I wouldn’t be mad when I couldn’t find him. His friend had gotten in touch with someone else who had gone to bail him out, and I found out what happened after it was over.
I went to his apartment to tell him I had no desire to be with someone who was into things like that. I had a great job that required me to maintain a certain reputation in the community. And even if I hadn’t had that job, the one thing I did have was enough respect for myself not to put myself in a position to be brought down to a negative place by someone who couldn’t handle themselves.
But there he was with those big brown eyes looking back at me while I told him all this. And out of those eyes came the tiniest, saddest little tears.
“I knew you were going to break up with me,” he said. I thought to myself, “Break up with you? When did we start a relationship?” My brain told me to get off the couch, walk out the door and never look back.
As my brother once pointed out via Lisa Loeb lyrics, I have “compassion for strangers” and “affinity for danger,” both of which were powerful enough forces to keep me rooted onto that couch listening to him plead his case of how it would never happen again and how he would do anything I wanted as long as I would give him another chance.
I had to make a choice.
Brain. Heart. Brain. Heart. Brain. Which one to choose…
Go with what your brain tells you, Rebecca. Get up. Walk to the door. Make sure you give him a hurtful look right before you slam the door. Be done with it. Move on to someone else.
You don’t need this.
Thank goodness I chose not to listen to my brain.
Because I stayed on that couch and let him keep talking, I found myself one year later preparing to embark on the greatest, most rewarding journey of my life – motherhood.
If I had left that day and never spoken to him again, the world wouldn’t have my Sarah. I might have met someone else before I could connect with the man who is now my husband, the father to my younger child and the best dad Sarah could ever want.
It didn’t end well with yellow hat cutie. I learned unwanted lessons about the court systems, filing police reports, working with lawyers and how to understand restraining orders. I cried many anguished tears and spent countless hours begging him to be the person he told me he wanted to be and could be that day in his apartment.
It all came down to choices.
I chose to stay with him even when I knew it wasn’t in my best interest. He chose to continue down the path of negative consequences. I chose to remove him from our lives and raise our child by myself. He chose to threaten us and to keep treading water in a cesspool of negativity and poor choices.
We both made choices.
I’m glad he chose me that night. And I’m glad I stayed on that couch and listened to his plea. I’m glad I chose to spend time with him, to get to know him, to share my Life with him and to create a beautiful miracle who will be five years old next week.
Every day of Life is another chance to make choices. I’m thankful for every self-destructive step I took six years ago. Sarah was the light at the end of my tunnel, and my relationship with the man who helped create her was a choice I made. Just goes to show you never know where the seemingly inconsequential choices you make today will take you.
I choose peace and love. I’m working on the forgiveness part but make no promises on how long it will take me to fully get there. I am thankful I can at least look back and see that the end destination far outweighed the rocky path I took to get there.
What choices have you made today? Were they all good? Are you regretting something you did or said? Just live and breathe and be. Life’s choices will work out how they are supposed to be despite your best efforts to make things work the way you want.
As people sometimes say, “Let go and let God.” It’s in His time, not yours.
His time. Not yours.
I still struggle with this “kairos” concept of things happening in God’s time, but I’m getting there. My brain says I could/should have control of Life’s consequences by making good choices.
But my heart is so glad I didn’t listen to my brain six years ago.