Monday, February 10, 2014

Choosing Joy

^I love how happy and carefree she is dancing away at California Adventure. Random fact: the DJ on the truck was the DJ at my wedding!^
*I was able to take this picture because Rory borrowed a lens from work for the weekend*
For a long time, I let the actions of other people determine my mood. I let people get under my skin and I let things someone would say or do put a damper on my day. All of my negative experiences have held me down for a long time. Whether it's not being able to listen to certain bands, not being able to drive to certain towns, or not being able to watch a specific movie, I've let negative experiences ruin good things for me. I've prevented myself from making new memories because for too long, I've let the bad memories stay at the forefront of my mind.

This past weekend, Rory surprised me with an overnight trip to Disneyland for my birthday. I didn't know for sure that we were headed there until we exited the freeway. As we were passing hotels and as I was guessing which one would be ours for the night, I was so giddy to be spending the weekend with my family in my favorite place. I was feeling so grateful for my husband who stops at nothing to make me feel loved and appreciated. We pulled in to the driveway for the Grand Californian Hotel and I squealed; I had been dreaming of staying there since it was built. We pulled along side the valets all decked out in their Disney attire, gave them our keys and luggage; I was feeling so fancy. As we were making our way in to  the hotel to check in, my heart stopped. Could that really be my ex boyfriend walking right in front of me? As I was holding hands with my husband and holding my sweet baby girl, I started to have a panic attack. All I could see was him. All I could think of was the night he burnt a cigarette on my shoulder because he was angry, the times he talked down to me, all of the lies he told me... it all seemed like it was happening again. Once I could catch my breath, I told Rory what was happening. He stopped me immediately and said, "Are you okay? Do we need to go somewhere else?" I stared at the profile of my ex, he turned and saw me and quickly turned away, and then I chose to be okay. I chose to see my husband right there in front of me. I chose to feel my daughter hugging me tightly. I chose to not be my nineteen year old self. I told Rory, "I'm okay".. I had to be. This was my weekend with my family and I was not going to let someone who hurt me in the past ruin it. His haunting face did catch my eye a few times throughout the weekend, but each time I saw him, my heart never sank again.

There are many things that I can think of right in this moment that have been tainted with a bad memory; a song or a place that immediately takes me back to a negative experience with someone who is no longer in my life. This weekend put me in a situation I had never been in before.. it put all of those traumatic memories right in front of me (literally) and I was somehow able to brush them off and not let it cripple me.

For years I've struggled with coping after having a nightmare about an abusive ex or having a bad memory triggered. For years I've allowed myself to be broken, to be paralyzed by the trauma. This weekend I learned that it is as simple as making a choice; the choice to be present and to be stronger than my former self. It is impossible to not be traumatized by an abusive relationship; every single one I was in has shaped me, broken me, traumatized me.. but it doesn't have to take over the rest of my life. I choose to let go. I choose to feel joy in each day.

xo
-Ali

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