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Looking back, Thursday, April 7th, 2016 feels like the dividing line between two lives. My first life started from the day I was born and went on for almost 23 years before it reached such a marked change that words like “shift”, “transformation”, “new chapter” don’t even come close to portraying my experience. It was an explosion, a demolition, a departing. So many things ended on that day, that in truth, it feels like a death. All the smaller cliff-hangers and page turns and developments of my story up until then culminated so distinctly, so intensely that I have found it makes more sense to me when I view it this way: the end of my first life.

At almost the same time, the sense of being born into a new, second life was just as strong. I was full of contradictions: I was a weak and vulnerable child and somehow already an adult.  I was on my own for the first time and finally not alone. There was nothing that I knew for certain and I was somehow sure that was right. Somehow, everything that has happened since has transpired in only four years.  These years are a marvel to me. They must be made of elastic, somehow seeming to fit what feels like the equivalent amount of life as the first 23 years. At least that’s how it seems looking back and reflecting today. 

If you had asked me what such a change would feel like before I found myself there, my best guesses would have been laughably inaccurate. As a tapestry is torn fiber by fiber, so I felt the tearing and pulling of my body into two opposite directions compelled by an overpowering movement from one life into the next on that April day. My mind shook between sanity and insanity as every belief and thought came untethered and most of my consciousness seemed to float off to some other place apart from my physical awareness. My stomach rose to my throat and I could barely breathe for the nausea, trying to calm myself as I bore the pain of the ripping down to the molecule. I was not sure. Nor was I present enough to be afraid or brave. The accusations of betrayal, of rebellion, the voices of terror and condemnation, I could not refute them. I had nothing left to say to them. I found myself finally taken over by the current I had been moving into step by step. I wondered whether I was doing this or whether it was being done to me. Could I know the difference? Perhaps this was always where I had been going since what had been done to me was begun so many years ago. I had no memory of any life before the doing and now the momentum the doing had created would bring about this ending. Or perhaps this ending was the only thing I had ever done. Maybe this was the first action that had come from within me. Maybe it took 23 years for me to respond. For deep inside, the littlest, truest part of me had slipped away and escaped. It was taking refuge in some hidden place and would wait until my body passed through this threshold and could get to the other side. She had brought me here. Tiny and invisible, for better or for worse. She had stepped bit by bit and I had followed. In her frailty, she was proving to be the most powerful part of me. I had no choice but to let her only decision come to fruition.

But that feels like a lifetime ago, a lifetime of four short years bursting with good things. The beauty and fullness of this new life sometimes makes it hard to remember without effort what came before it. It takes time to call the past up into view. The impression of amnesia is usually welcome because the memories of who I used to be can still cause pain and I am surprisingly slow to believe and accept what actually happened for all those years. I have done so much work and much work still remains. And so it shocks me when I get a glimpse of who I was and remember what she went through.

And I am grateful.

That’s what happens when you get the chance of a second life. Grace is ever-present and permeates all things. I am still finding some part of each day where I am stunned by a reality that would never have been possible before. Really simple things are magical because to me they are the impossible come true before my eyes. That’s why it’s important for me to take the time to reflect and remember.  To see how far I’ve come.

I survived that day. She lives. She is learning, she is growing. 

I am celebrating four years free.

– Jessica

Note: I know this post may be a bit cryptic if my story is not already familiar to you…for more context about what I’m referring to, READ HERE.