Boxes strewn across the laundry room floor.

Shredders humming uncontrollably, as I fed their hungry mouths with old memories.  Pages of my life, chewed up into tiny bits and pieces – mirroring the state of my recollection.  Kids jumped on and around me, ignorant to the destructive thoughts in my head.  I held it in tight, like a spring ready to release.  Below the surface, my surface, I was boiling.  Not with anger, but an old familiar uneasiness I called home for longer than I’d like to admit.

Happy Birthday wishes, old letters, that were actually mailed by the mailman, from my brother Dave on his mission in the Bronx, Kori, my long time college roommate and soul mate, the yearly card from my Grandma Gourley that arrived precisely on the day of each of our families birthday, hand drawn pictures that I couldn’t bare to throw away, priceless homework assignments with each of my kids signatures printed neatly on yellowing lined paper, a random movie stub or museum ticket, my airline pass to Manzanillo Mexico to watch my Alzheimers suffering, beautiful Grandma Jane, when I was 18… memoirs lovely and nice, all snuggled up together.

But, there were other papers mixed in with my fairy tale.  Hundreds of old receipts, cataloging hardships.  Bills from Whitney’s broken face from the unsteady television cracking it open, copies of receipts from “Quick Loan” to support Jon’s prescription drug addiction, ugly lawyer papers involving split families debates, calenders of Sydney’s visitation schedule between two unworkable families, Shauntyl’s letters of love to me – during some long years of living with us and working through unmentionable things that even adults shouldn’t understand or hear.

But through all of the paper, there was one page I found that shot me back to a place I must have blocked from memory.  Something so hard, that I myself didn’t even keep somewhere hidden.

The brain is a powerful tool, and in this case, it protected me from a day long gone. 

There it was, right in front of me in my own handwriting.  My breath quickened, and my eyes stung.  Somewhere, in the bottom of this old box, was a note written in desperation, anger, sadness, hurt and surrender.  My heart was broken.  My trust was nonexistent.  I questioned how I made it through this mess.  I wondered how I survived this hell.

I glanced at my kids laughing and playing around me, all battling to put the next paper in the hungry shredder’s teeth, and I felt a calming peace come over my soul.  Somehow, we had done it.  Jon and I had overcome a real life monster.  Proof of it was all around me.  Healthy, happy fun kids, a home full of love and good memories, plentiful food in the cupboards, a warm home and too many clothes.  Yes, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have navigated our lives in a way we didn’t even understand at the time.  We were meant to go through these things, and we are different and stronger because of them.  Even when I was so lost, and hurt – there was a reason for it and we were being watched over.

This letter seems like it was written an eternity ago, and yet the extreme emotion of it is burned into my soul forever.  It has been ten years now, and we continue to build trust with one another.  Jon is stronger than anyone I know.  He is able to take a serious look at his flaws, and attack them head on.  I have been trying to do the same this past year, and it has been hard.  Some of my weakness comes from the challenge of using the atonement to let go of hurt.  I refuse to be an old bitter lady, talking about something that happened 50 years ago, with my friends.  I don’t even feel like I am bitter now, but I do feel the urge to take one more small step toward healing.  Maybe part of that is sharing it here, with other women that may be hurting in their marriage for some reason.

It can get better.  It is possible to turn pain into a powerful tool for good.  We are all going through something, and there are people all around us fighting the same battle.  Hang in there, count your blessings, take one day at a time, breathe, and remember that times moves much more quickly than we believe.  Your children will thank you for being strong – YOU will thank you for fighting your battle when all seems to be lost.

Heaven knows I do.