I am a mom to Caleb – an amazing, witty young man who is, quite honestly, the mini, male version of me. We live in the heart of Arkansas. From the outside, my life probably appears happy and carefree. For the most part, it is; however, looking outside in, you wouldn’t know that I am a survivor of domestic violence; my first husband beat me so bad that I should not be alive today. You wouldn’t be able to tell that, five years into my second marriage came years of separation, followed by a horrible custody battle that left me beaten down and depressed. You wouldn't have a clue that, just a few years ago, my third husband decided "...we should go our separate ways..." The end of my third marriage put me directly in the face of self-doubt, shame, rejection and feeling worthless. What you don’t see between the smiles, laughter and kindness, is that the hardest battle I have ever faced occurred on March 15, 2016…and that I still struggle with it even today.
See, I had finally gotten my “puzzle” completed. It was beautiful. I cherished it; I admired it, and I thanked God for it every day. Then, out of now where, that “puzzle”, it fell to the floor and the pieces scattered in every direction. The day I lost my son, my world was shattered into a million pieces. All the pieces of life that held me together – that have made me who I am, that have brought me to where I am – they all just fell apart. There was no warning, no understanding, no preparation, no explanation – JUST SHATTERED. What was once a beautiful, colorful, long awaited image was now pieces of all one color scattered without reason. My oldest son, Isaac Arnold, took his life, in our home as we sat in the next room…just a few months before his 20th birthday. Our home was never the same and three years later, another failed marriage left me with a loneliness I can't begin to describe. Although I have put many pieces back together, there are a few pieces out of place and one piece, one piece that will forever be missing.
Is my life hard? Well, somedays are harder than others, but I do it. I make the decision to get out of bed at 6 am every day, get myself ready for work, make sure my son is up and getting ready, arrive to work by 7. I spend my day smiling, greeting people, talking to co-workers, customers; I talk on the phone, answer questions, read and respond to emails, get home by 5 pm, go to the gym, cook, clean, do laundry, be a mom, a wife and a friend. I go about everyday living – I CHOOSE to do all of this daily, and with a smile. I have been a true warrior in both the spiritual and physical realm. Throughout all of the struggles, the hardships, the toughest of times, the all-out wars (some of which continue today), I have never considered myself a victim. I have always maintained a mindset of being victorious. Now, that doesn’t mean that I have not had hard times, bad days, or mini-breakdowns, and believe me when I say that I have had my fair share of pity parties…it just means that I have always chosen to rise above the muck and the mire. I have learned that when sorrow, grief or sadness hit me, I see it. I spend time crying, fighting screaming…I don’t suppress it. I don’t push it away. I don't avoid it. I feel it. I work through it. The key is, I don’t stay there with it…I acknowledge it, spend time with the emotions of it, move on and let go.
As I said, I have faced many battles in my life…experienced more in 43 years than most people will probably experience in a lifetime. I feel as though I can honestly say I have been through hell and high water. I have been abused in all definitions of the word: physically, mentally, verbally, and emotionally…even sexually. I have been used, disrespected, rejected, bullied, and have been taken advantage of in too many ways. I have been fighting my entire life. Sadly, it did not end with childhood; I still face a lot of these things daily as an adult. Believe me when I say that I know what it is like to feel alone in a crowd. Yet, I have always been the “bigger person”. I have shown love in the midst of hate, compassion in the midst of judgement, and forgiveness in the midst of wrong-doing. I have taken the high road, fought my way through the trenches, made my own path, and have walked the path of others; I have jumped burning bridges just to find myself searching for a way back to the other side. I’ve let people down. I’ve fallen more times than I can count. I have learned many lessons the hard way, including how to listen to more than just words. I have been wrong. I have been depressed. I have suffered heartache in the most indescribable ways. I have been ridiculed. I have been homeless. But along the way, I have consistently encouraged people, even inspiring some at times.
I am not perfect, and I know I have many flaws – in my mind, body and spirit. I have felt shame, guilt, failure and disappointment. I know pain, unimaginable pain…in life, in love and the loss of these things. I am a warrior, and I… I am my own hero.