Amazing Grace

Have you ever felt as though a veil had been lifted from over your eyes?  Like all of a sudden you were seeing the world with greater clarity?  I have.  Very recently a veil lifted and I began to see my life in much more vivid color.  The good and the bad.  It was like I had woken up from a long slumber, similar to Rip Van Winkle, confused and wondering where the time had gone.  I know that I am 35 (Can I possibly be middle-aged already?) with 3 beautiful kids, a caring husband, a neurotic dog and a cat who has more generalized anxiety than I do.  I know I have a good, full-time job as a paralegal in a very difficult economy which thankfully continues to pay the bills (Thanks, George!).  But how had I gotten here?  All of a sudden I felt as though I had just cruised through the years since graduating from college in 1999, not really paying attention to the details or taking the time to store them for future recall.  For that matter, what did I really remember about the years before college?  From high school and even the years before that?

I know I was a child once, but for the life of me, I can’t remember a lot about that despite my best efforts.  I know I had a lot of fun in college and partied with the best of them (Sorry Mom and Dad), but surely those four years hadn’t erased THAT many memories.  So where were they?  Hidden in the deep recesses of my brain?  And then it hit me: I have several good and solid memories of my early childhood growing up in Rock Hill, SC and then Charlotte, NC.  I remember attending Pineville Elementary School then Nations Ford Elementary School.  I remember moving to a new neighborhood before I started 6th grade and making new friends in the neighborhood, one of which (who shall remain nameless) would become my college roommate, and then, shortly after graduation, my ex-best friend.  And I remember the day in 6th grade that my parents told me that they were getting divorced.

My dad told me about the impending divorce over the phone, if I remember correctly, when he called one day.  I remember he had seemed to be out-of-town a lot on business prior to that, and it clicked for me at that moment.  He hadn’t really been out-of-town that much.  I don’t really know when the beginning of the end of their marriage started, and, quite frankly, as a 12-year-old, I probably didn’t really need to know.  They were good about keeping things behind closed doors.  I just knew at that time that my parents were splitting up and my dad was leaving.  And stop playback.

So there it ends.  In 6th grade.  Sure, I have SOME memories from the years after that.  I would have to be a complete amnesiac not to.  But in all reality, the years between 6th grade and college are a blur.  I think I started to wake back up a little in high school and then definitely some more in college, as I set out to “find myself” and prepare to enter the real world as (GASP!) an ADULT!  But when I had a recent epiphany, I realized that I had not actually even begun to find my true self until I reached my 30’s.  And thanks to God’s grace and love and the continued support of my wonderful family, husband and children, I can say that I have finally, without a doubt, reached that moment in my life.  At the ripe young age of 35.  🙂

My mom has told me in the past that I “checked out” when my parents divorced, but I didn’t completely understand what she meant until very recently.  When things started going sour with my once healthy, stable marriage, I realized that I had to closely examine myself to find out what it was about me that was contributing to the decline.  In that vein, I started thinking about my childhood and my parents’ divorce, and the very real impact that it had on me.

After the divorce, my younger sister Cameron and I began splitting time between our parents as required by what I assume was a separation/custody agreement.  We juggled our time with them as necessary and we spent time with each of them as we could.  They were both very good, as I remember it, at making sure that we saw both of them equally and fairly.  But although I may have been present in the physical sense during those years, I had, in fact, checked out emotionally.  I can only assume that this was the coping mechanism that I used to deal with the hurt and non-understanding of why my parents couldn’t stay together.  My 12-year-old brain certainly didn’t understand divorce, and it was a major bummer for a 12-year-old girl.

I managed to get lost after that, without really even trying.  Lost to myself and to others.  I didn’t fully connect with other people, despite their best efforts to draw me out.  My grandmother, Jinny, who had practically been my third parent, tried particularly hard to help bring me back to life.  My mom tried to help.  My dad remarried and my step-mother, Jeanne, also tried to help.  My father did, too.  But despite their very best efforts, I didn’t check back into life until about 4 months ago, when I realized my own marriage was starting to slip away from me.

What I realized 4 months ago was that only I had the power to stop the train wreck before it happened right before my eyes.  And with that realization, I finally woke up.  MANY changes were needed and there was a LOT of work to be done, but I knew that there was no other choice if I was going to make my marriage last.  I don’t ever want to have to tell my children that Seth and I are getting divorced.  I don’t want them to be on the same end of the message that I was given many years ago.  As an adult, I can now appreciate why my parents divorced even though I know very little about their particular situation.  Marriage is work.  Very hard work at times.  Both people really have to be on their game, willing to listen to each other and strive to make each other happy and to feel loved every single day.  Being married is hard enough, but when you throw in full-time jobs, kids, bills, debt, illness, past baggage, past disappointments (and the list goes on), things can get very complicated very fast.

I don’t know how to express in words how truly happy I am to have woken up from my slumber.  I regret that it took my marriage traveling this far down the wrong road for the awakening to occur.  I am thankful, however, that it happened before the damage was irreparable.

My very favorite hymn has always been “Amazing Grace.”  The hymn is special to me because I used to listen to my great-grandmother, Mimi, and her son, my Granddaddy Bill, sing the hymn at Christmas celebrations we used to have at his house years ago.  And now it has an even more special meaning for me, as I realize that it applies to me in an even more personal sense.  I once WAS lost, but most definitely now can see.  As my grandmother Jinny recently told me, my awakening has been “magical,” and I have to say I agree.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.


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