By Cheryl Pullins
My thirty-sixth birthday was quickly approaching. Actually, it was a mere three days away. There was already turmoil and angst in my house because my husband and I, at the time, were in the process of planning to separate. Things were weird. Everyone was walking on eggs shells, including my two daughters, Valerye and Julianna.
Val, as we lovingly called her, was about eleven years old at the time and her sister, Julianna was a month from turning six years old. They were faced with the emotional upheaval of having their parents split after being married for twelve years.
This night their father and I got into a huge fight. It was really bad. So bad that I attempted to call the police, however, he tried to prevent that from happening and being that I am a fighter, I didn’t back down.
Before bolting out of the house to run to the nearby police station just at the end of the block, I hit him in the face with the white house phone in the living room. It busted up his lip pretty good. I could see a bit of blood welling up in the inside of his bottom lip. He made it a point to show it to me.
Why was that significant? Ironically, he made his living teaching people how to live according to the Bible.
There I was running out of the house with my oldest daughter pleading and crying for me not to leave. My heart bled like never before. But I had to go. At that moment I had to save myself.
Choice number one.
I chose me.
As horrifying as that night was, I was in no way prepared for the journey I was about to embark upon to regain my freedom.
At this point, you may be thinking, but wait, what about your daughters? Did you leave them in a dangerous situation? The answer is “no.” What I knew for sure was their father would not harm them. Once I made it to the police station I asked a couple of the officers to go check on my daughters. They returned to let me know that my oldest daughter, Valerye, had everything under control.
That comment was a glimmer of humor in a dark situation.
Weeks went by, and we eventually landed in family court, fighting for who was going to have primary custody of our precious daughters.
“God, how did my life wind up like this?”
Their father fought me at every turn. It was ugly and I was an emotional mess.
“Is this what life is like when you choose you?”
Now they’re lawyers involved.
One day I received a call from my attorney. She called to inform me that my children’s father was going to have my oldest daughter go before the judge to say which parent she wanted to live with. Of course, this was an effort to get her to say she wanted to live with him.
It was at the moment when I was faced with choice number two.
With tears streaming down my face and my stomach in knots and with a whispering voice, I said to my attorney, “I am dropping the custody case.”
This day, I chose my daughters.
I took on the responsibility, as their mother, to protect them from being used as pawns in their father’s game. The one he was playing against me.
Everything came to a screeching halt that afternoon, and it was the hardest choice I have ever had to make in my life because what mother chooses not to be with her children on a daily basis?
I allowed my daughters’ father to be the primary parent. It tore me apart. I cried every Sunday for months as I dropped my precious bundles of love off at their father’s house. Initially, the pain of being away from my children for days at a time was both unexplainable and unbearable.
Years past and things got better. Their father married an amazing woman. Eventually, proms and graduations became family gatherings. The angst and struggle of days gone by were in the distance.
I had made choice number three.
We never would have gotten where we are today, some twenty years later without it.
Some years ago, I made the decision to purge my heart of all the ugly and yucky feelings I had towards my children’s father. The truth was, it was only destroying me. It was like my heart was a black bottomless pit of vile hatred. I had become a bitter, angry and emotionally reckless woman and wanted to blame it all on my ex-husband. But at some point, I had to take full ownership of my life.
I could no longer ride the blame wave. I had to make a better choice and choose a more enlightened path. The most beautiful thing about choosing to forgive is that it took me full circle. Forgiveness took me back to my first choice – me.
What’s the moral of the story?
There may come times when life presents you with some really tough choices. At the moment you make the choice you may not be totally convinced if it’s right or wrong, it’s just the choice you make at the moment that feels like it’s the right one. But life always offers you a full circle moment. It’s the chance to discover that right or wrong, a choice can eventually become part of the story you tell to help someone else become okay with their choice.
Cheryl Pullins is a Personal Branding Strategist, Award-winning International Speaker & Life Coach to multi-passionate women who desire to use their message to create a personal brand and build a platform that impacts people and transforms lives.