Back in the 90s, I listened to country music all the time. In 1997, I fell in love with one of Martina McBride’s older songs, Independence Day. The story in the song broke my heart, but it was the chorus that resonated with me:
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay
It’s Independence Day -Independence Day
I still can’t listen to this song without crying.
My Independence Day came in December that year. It’s been almost 20 years now. Twenty years of healing from that part of the trauma in my past. Twenty years of life that might not have happened. Twenty years of freedom and joy and love. But also 20 years of recovery that is sometimes truly physically painful.
Today I’m declaring a new Independence Day — a day of releasing fear of what others will say when I bare my soul to its very core about the pains I’ve experienced at the hands of others, but more, a day of giving myself the freedom to process it, to feel it.
Several weeks ago, I said to myself, “I’m ready to feel everything now.” It was a thought that made me cry, so I was off to a great feeling start. But the truth is, I really need to start feeling and processing the pieces I’ve pushed back.
My Independence Day was December 7, 1997. And to be completely honest, I’ve never stopped feeling an unexplainable drop in the pit of my stomach when I truly lean into that day. I’ve never stopped wondering if I could have done something different, if I could have run sooner, if I could have loved my ex-husband just a little more, a little more, a little more to make him good.
We had never discussed funeral arrangements for either of us. Death was only a possibility when he threatened it upon me. It was real to me, not to him. Invincibility ran strong in his blood. But here I stood, alive. And there he lay, dead. –The First 22 Years Are the Hardest
What I know and what I feel are two different things. I know that I couldn’t love him enough. I know that I couldn’t have run far enough or that running away was no real life of safety. I know that there might have been something that could have been done differently, but it wasn’t on my side of things.
Yet I still feel such a heaviness of responsibility that rather than face those feelings, I run from them.
It’s natural to want to be angry rather than sad. It’s an easier emotion to deal with. People resonate with anger, so you can garner more support with anger. Grab your pitchforks and let’s get ‘em! But sadness and regret make others avoid you, the same way you’re avoiding the emotions.
I am torn by the person that I am — I have great empathy for those who have pain in their past and then act out, and yet I accept no excuses for said behavior. My heart aches for everyone, and I become paralyzed with what feels like an inability to right any wrongs.
In McBride’s song, she says:
Now I ain’t sayin’ it’s right or it’s wrong
But maybe it’s the only way. -Independence Day
I’ve always maintained that I never wanted my ex-husband dead, but I’ve also always known it might have been the only way — the only way I could be truly free. I don’t know. I’ll never know.
Every year on the 4th of July, I don’t just hear fireworks. I hear gunshots, sounds that resonate through my body and shake loose the solid footing I work so hard to maintain each and every single day. A loud boom transports me to a time long ago when I didn’t know what came after, when I didn’t know that I was free yet. Others tell me I need to just let go and move on, but my journey is not anyone else’s to live. I remember because I need to never forget that I lived through something big, and I remember so that I always have compassion for others, and I remember because regardless of the situation, someone died that night, and I will never, ever forget who he was.
My Independence Day came at a cost that I can never repay. That feeling of debt may never go away. But I can live in the moment, this one beautiful life that I am still here for.
I walked to the door and looked down at him. This is how it ends, I thought. Nine years of hell, and this is how it ends.
I wasn’t glad he was dead, but maybe now I could begin to live. –The First 22 Years…
When was your Independence Day and how have you been healing and thriving since? I really want to know. firstname.lastname@example.org