In the wake of #metoo, I'm hearing from women it's really stirred up old emotions and memories of abuse that had been repressed for many years. I've been there. It took me three years to write this letter to my abuser after finding out about what I endured as a child.
I've thought a lot about this: sharing my letter I wrote and mailed (in February) to the man who raped me between the ages of three and six. I've wondered if sharing it publicly was the right thing to do--if it was too revealing. (I shared it initially back in February on this blog.) Then I thought about the people who reach out to me who are searching for answers. Searching for something that might help them heal their inner child.
There is no handbook for this. I didn't know how to start the letter, what to write. I had to trust intuition and just write what was in my heart and mind.
Maybe sharing this letter will help one other childhood sexual abuse survivor. I really hope it will.
February 5, 2017
I’m writing to you because I want you to know that I know what you did to me when I was little. Maybe you thought I wouldn’t remember. Maybe you didn’t care either way.
And here’s what I know. You sexually abused me and raped me when I was just a tiny child. Multiple times. The pain and damage you caused—the subconscious scarring—is something I’ve had to work very hard to recover from over the past three years. You see, I didn’t remember any of it until I was 40 years old.
There were clues along the road of life, like having to endure vaginal surgery at age 19 due to scar tissue from you raping me. And many, many other telltale signs over the years told the story of what I suffered because of your sickness, but the dots didn’t connect until three years ago. Until it all started to come back to me because I was ready to face it and heal from it.
Here’s something else I know. I’m not the only child you abused.
When I ask myself how in the world you could do what you did to a precious little child, there is a part of me that actually feels empathy for you because NO ONE does what you did (and may still be doing) unless it was done to you in some shape or form. Or was promoted within your family growing up. Cycle of abuse. But that cycle stops here. You weren’t strong enough to break the chain. I am. I’m not letting the abuse break me.
I pray to God you aren’t still abusing children and that maybe, just maybe, your past is catching up with you. Your conscience is screaming. And I hope you will not turn down the dial on the noise. That you will really think long and hard about how you conducted your life and the wake of pain you left behind you.
Know this: You may have violated my body but you did not break my spirit. I am proud of the strong, confident woman I am today and I’m proud to help other childhood sexual abuse survivors reclaim their lives.
I’ve thought about whether or not I truly forgive you and at this point, right now, I can’t honestly say that I do. I’m sure I’ll get there someday. But not now. What I do know right now is that everything I’ve endured in my life has made me stronger. I am the person I am today because I overcame what you did, and I’m grateful for who I am and the light I bring to this world.
A few people have asked about the big picture story and I realize, because it's strung together in many separate posts, that it might be hard to follow. So for those of you wanting the overview of my last three years, here goes. I was asked by a furniture industry friend to share my experiences within an industry group in September so I'm sharing what I wrote below for the group, below. It encapsulates the journey.
September 26, 2017
When Laurie first asked if I would share part of my story here, I said yes. Then I said no. Then I said yes, again. I feared (and still do) it would look like a woman scorned/sour grapes story but truly—despite feelings of hurt and loss of what I thought was real—it’s not why I finally decided to step up the plate. It’s about sharing a human story about something that seems to be an epidemic in the world, and in our industry. The industry where I sadly still hear stories of “Market Wives.”
A few months ago, I finally started speaking up about my experiences with my ex-love and ex-business partner. I thought long and hard about it but ultimately decided that I wouldn’t be silent about abuse I endured, no matter the threats or the damage it has done to my reputation and licensing deals I had in the works. It’s just not worth keeping quiet, in the grand scheme of things. It’s more important than my career—it is ultimately about loss on so many levels but most of all, soul loss. If I can prevent this from happening to someone else or connect with someone who has or is going through a similar situation by sharing my story, I will feel like I’ve done my part. And I’m standing up for three women who have reached out to me but are scared to talk openly about what they endured for fear of exactly what is happening now. Retaliation.
On the personal front, we fell in love at High Point Market in 2014—we were both married when we met. It led to a whirlwind romance and business partnership, which many of you witnessed on social media. The relationship looked like heaven to many but behind the scenes, I was unknowingly diving deeper and deeper—both professionally and personally—into an emotionally abusive relationship. It didn’t seem that way in the beginning, of course. We broke up multiple times when I would get the courage to stand up for myself, knowing what I was allowing wasn’t right.
I kept quiet for a long time. I didn’t want to expose that something could be terribly wrong because honestly, I didn’t want to believe it myself. And as usual, it’s a cycle. Bad times would be followed by good, and I clung to the good. I was caught in the cycle. I didn’t tell family or friends. I kept hoping to get back full-time to when he was loving and supportive versus the times when I was yelled at, shamed, and told I’m a “thick fucking brick.” When I started to speak out about the relationship, multiple women stepped forward sharing their past experiences with him. Other women who have never been in a relationship with him chose to cling to the social media façade he had built, and I understand that, too. No one could have told me any differently, when we met.
Publicly, he was moving on and women were praising him for his maturity. Privately, he was writing to the president of the university where I took a job to support an apartment we lived in here in Flagstaff. In addition to the President, he wrote to 50 other colleagues using his email address sharing the post I wrote on my personal blog where I explained exactly how we went down the rabbit hole together three years ago. They notified me immediately. He was also posting the same post under different aliases on Facebook on university-owned FB pages and threatening that he will never stop until he gets justice (against me) for sharing what I finally had the guts to talk about publicly.
I was advised by police, lawyers, and the University to gather everything—including a police report that documented a time when a maintenance staff member in the apartment complex called the cops because he could “hear a man yelling, and a woman crying” (as stated in the report) and head down to the local Justice Court to apply for a no-contact restraining order. When he was finally served the order, he denied his identity and threw the order on the ground. There are photos of the incident in the affidavit. It was clearly him. He then denied his identity again when Flagstaff Police called him and told him the order was in place.
On the professional front, we launched our joint venture—Mod Life Collection—in 2014, although the collection was made up of his designs and a designer named Ari Signes. Technically, it’s his line but we agreed to work the line of sofas and seating together first, and then concentrate on building up Mod Mom (my kids company I started in my garage in 2007). I did quite a bit of the PR, chimed in on fabrics and designs, worked Markets, and helped financially any way I could. Obviously, we are no longer partners. I highly doubt I will ever see, nor my parents will ever see, the financial investments we made in his furniture line. I found out he’s relaunching under the same name at High Point. Ex-Mod Life clients are trying to get their money back from him on products that never shipped and they were writing to me about it. One said they knew they would never be reimbursed and my story helped them understand this fully.
With all of this said, I’m not a victim. I made choices and mistakes, and I learned lessons. I failed to listen to my intuition and I don’t want others to fall into the same trap. I simply won’t be quiet about the reality of the situation, like so many before me for various reasons. I’ve written a lot about the signs I ignored and the specific abuse I endured on my personal blog. I hope that if any of you are in a similar situation, what I’ve written will help make it clear you’re not alone.
(Since I wrote this for the group, more women have come forward sharing their own experiences with his predatory ways. I found out he was cheating on me during our relationship, as well, and ex-Mod Life clients are coming out publicly supporting me and sharing their stories of loss and deceit. I've written about many parts of the story here on the blog. You can find specific topics like getting the restraining order, a few posts from my husband who has written what it was like for him to go through this, and flashbacks of specific instances of abuse, to name a few. I'm happy to say the silver lining in all of this is the story of true love between my husband and me. And it's a story I'll be writing much more about!)
I promised to be real and authentic through this journey with all of you and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m livid right now and at the same time, a bit confused. I mentioned in my last post that more and more information/proof is coming out about my ex’s predatory ways with other women. Here’s the confusing part: how do I handle this? There’s the camp of people who say, “don’t give it energy…don’t give him energy.” Then there’s the raw, human emotion I feel which says “OMG how can he continue to do this to so many women, year after year, and NO ONE SPEAKS UP!! As hard as it is, I have to be that woman that speaks up. It has to stop.” I vacillate between the two so you caught me in a “OH HELL NO!!!” moment. And to be honest, I think that’s the right call. I can’t just sit by and watch it all happen again without putting out some sort of warning to women.
Some people are probably thinking, “Kiersten, move on and focus on what you have now. Just let it go.” I get that, too, and for most of the time, that’s what I’m doing. I’m beyond grateful for my amazing husband and family and to see the big picture of my ex’s purpose in my life. I’m learning lesson after lesson, but one of those lessons is to stand up for myself and others, no matter how vulnerable and scary it might feel.
With that said, I truly didn’t expect to read what I did two nights ago.
I was raised to stand up for myself and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Over the years, there have been many women who have endured the same or similar treatment and they can’t speak up for themselves for one reason or another, so I will be that voice. I hope I make them proud and they feel some comfort in knowing what they endured is real, no matter what he or anyone else says.
As one former ex said, “Stay strong. I hope you fully realize that you’re not just doing this for you alone but for all who have been damaged by him.”
I only write what I know to be true based on evidence I receive and what I have actually
lived that can be backed up. I have written proof in the form of screenshots of conversations between my ex and others and first-hand accounts of what I, and others, have endured.
There are real-life snapshots of conversations that include predatory come-ons, promises of tantric massage, and most recently, evidence of cheating during our relationship.
That cheating part—it’s the last piece, really. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse than what I know already, it did. This latest news makes me see red because it goes against what I believed to be true for three years. Did I come to believe he was womanizer after all the women coming forward? Absolutely. Did I still think it was mainly before and after we were together? Yes. Sadly, I was wrong. I would hear over and over again (from him) that he was completely, utterly faithful to me. He would make it known to me and everyone else on social media that he gave 100% of himself and all of his truth. Hell, he even wrote that in his Facebook post when we broke up:
"I'm picking myself up off the ground. It's time to finally heal this completely broken and devastated heart. Time for healing, learning, clarity, and never giving up hope for authentic truth and love, I'm proud I was able to give all of myself, all of my love, and all of my truth. And I'm grateful for the beautiful lived, the peace I'll now find, and gifts I know will be on the other side of pain. #MyTruth #TNF #Love #Pain #Healing #Life" - R
Funny thing about declarations from men who repeatedly do this to multiple women—it’s all fake. And he forgot to mention to me the truth about leaving our apartment in Flagstaff to hopefully get into someone else’s bed and then return home to me.
He and I met April 4, 2014 but he was chatting with me most of March of that year. He professed his love for me in a letter he sent to me on the very day I met him in person, just four days after he was telling her (seen below) that he wished they were having sex. Oh, and he told me that first week of April 2014 that he was in a bad marriage and was breaking up with a long-time love overseas. Just a few days ago, I found out from ANOTHER woman in the Philly area that he was seeing her when he met me—he ditched her when I came along. So, I think that’s five women he had some type of romantic involvement with at the time he was pursuing me.
We were together for three years with a few very short break-ups in between. In November of 2016, after we had gotten back together in October after a short-lived split (he was living with me again) and I helped him get a job with a company in Lacey, Washington, he was apparently trying to “hook up” with a woman he knew on his way to and from his new job headquarted in Lacey!! I had NO IDEA. All I knew is we were back together and excited about the future and what his new job meant to our life plans of growing Mod Life together and building a home in Flagstaff for all of our kids.
Also, unbeknownst to me, in 2015, he was asking her if it was ok that he was fantasizing about her and hoping that no matter if they were both in relationships, if they were in close proximity to each other, they would meet up for sex. That is DEFINITELY not loyalty to me. It may work for some, but it’s not what I thought I had nor what I was being told by him.
We’d been together as a couple for about a year and a half, in November of 2015. She said she received risqué photos via text and intermittent reach-outs from him. And there’s that damn tantric massage line I’ve read in multiple conversations between he and other women. It’s part of the script, I guess.
Thank God for screenshots and scanned documents. There’s nothing like reading a screenshot to make it all very real, very quickly. This particular conversation was so jarring to me because, of course, even after everything I’ve learned, I still didn’t want to believe that he was doing this to me. He SAID I was his soulmate, his twin flame. When would he have had time to pursue others? Oh, right. On his way to his new job or on his way back to the “love of his life.” (She did not meet up with him and she ignored his phone calls when he drove through her town.)
He was so adamant he NEVER cheated on me, unlike he’d done with other women in his life, and continued this line of defense until we stopped talking in July. He’s innocent, of course and “never even felt the need or want to look at another woman after he met me.”
If you ask him, he’ll tell you I’m crazy. He’ll say I’m narcissistic and I have a personality disorder. It’s a smart and common defense to flip it all around—I applaud his efforts. And I implore you to read the screenshots below.
We—the woman in the messages below, and I—do not want another woman on the planet to believe that he is who he portrays himself to be on social media—a fine, upstanding man who values women and who “walks his truth.” In light of this, she gave me permission to post the screenshots of their conversations.
It kills me to think that he’s continuing his predatory ways with other unsuspecting women. It has to stop. It just has to stop.
You know how when you’re in the thick of an experience, it’s hard to grasp the big picture lesson?
Yeah. Me, too. Except with the lesson that walked into my life in 2014, I was shown very small glimpses along the way, but I didn’t want to see them as truth. Then, after the lesson of an abusive relationship walked out of my life, it still took some time to see all the pieces and truths coming together. I feel like in light of recent revelations, I’m finally there. It’s like everything came together in a movie trailer form. I’m talking wide-screen, technicolor, 3D format. Don’t you wish that sometimes these life experiences came with movie trailers BEFORE the lesson? Here’s my movie preview:
Lights go off. Projector flips on. The screen lights up.
A door to a bedroom closes. The five-old-girl inside is sexually abused by a charming, distant relative and blocks it from her mind. Fast forward about thirty years. At the age of 36, the once “normal” mom, wife, and business owner suddenly starts channeling messages from children in spirit who were sexual abuse survivors during their lifetime and/or who were killed by predators. Her work leads to partnerships with decorated police detectives around the country fighting for justice. Three years go by until the reluctant medium/mom/furniture designer starts to channel messages and memories of her own abuse by that male relative—a true ah ha moment in her life. Four months after this epiphany, she falls in love with a smooth-talking, sensitive macho man. She leaves her husband for her new life. She joins forces with her new love on both personal and business fronts, and then slowly starts to realize she’s in a controlling, abusive relationship with a man that does not like her working on cold cases that involve sexual predators. She thought, as he proclaimed to her, she was his soulmate—turns out, she was one of five women in his life when he started pursuing her. They split up and she starts sharing her journey publicly. Unsolicited emails and stories from other women he’d been with—some more than twenty years younger than him—flood her inbox making the next ah ha moment come into razor sharp focus. OMG. She fell for a predator. For the second time in her life, she trusted a predator. Now, what is she going to do about it?
(This is where I’d like to be shown as some bad-ass woman with bow and arrow like Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games).
Ok, so back to what is she going to do about it. She’s going to share her story. Be a voice for others who can’t speak up. She’s going to refuse to be bullied into submission with fear tactics. She’s going to stand up for what is right—always. She’s going to tell her story honestly and authentically; owning and baring her mistakes, her triumphs, her regrets and her breakdowns. The ultimate aha moment comes in learning how and why she fell and then stayed in the relationship, unknowingly healing past wounds to ensure it never replay again in her life. She’s going to cherish the true love story that emerged from all of this—her lifelong relationship with her husband.
Lights go up again.
It’s really mind blowing to watch it all unfold from this vantage point. Every time I post a new blog, another new woman steps forward baring her soul and truth about her time with him, either in comment or private message. Never once have I received a message that says, “It was all wonderful. He’s a gem.” I truly had no idea so much was going on behind the scenes with so many for so long and right under my nose! (Let me just say, I always believe the women who bravely step forward. But the real OMG moments come when they share screenshots of conversations he had with them, where I can see his photo next to the predatory, manipulative things he said to them.) Thanks to social media, this type of predatory maneuvering is more rampant than ever. It’s so easy for these guys (and gals) to portray themselves as who they know you want them to be and line up back up "supply" on the side, and the soul mate never knows.
Just to be clear, I’m not a victim in this. This was one of my life lessons. A big one, no doubt. I trusted him blindly and I have learned so much. I believed he was who he said he was and he would never do anything to hurt me. Just like I believed in my relative who eventually raped me when I was five.
My hope is that if you have gone through something similar (maybe minus the talking to ghosts part) and want to share, please do. If you have information you want me to know, please contact me. You can do so anonymously by reaching out to me here on the contact form. To the women he’s currently engaged with, I’m here when you’re ready. No judgment, only compassion. I understand the pull, the connection, and the lessons.
Without the brave women who have stepped forward—some with names and some anonymously—I wouldn’t have been able to watch the trailer play on the big screen. I’m eternally grateful to them.
And I can’t wait to see how this movie plays out for the rest of my life.
This is my own observation. When a husband has an affair on his wife or chooses to “leave” his family, it is treated very differently than when a wife and mother does.
When we started going through our separation, I found that most people felt that my scenario was too foreign for them to wrap their brains around. I’m not sure if we’ve been programmed so much so by movies or previous generations to believe how the stories should unfold, but the standard formula looks something like this:
Insensitive husband leaves wife, surprised wife carries a torch for the husband while taking care of the children (for a majority of the time), eventually she rediscovers her womanhood (added to the accepted timeline of healing during the 1960’s), dates a younger barista/ yoga instructor/musician/or other sensitive ponytail man boilerplate (added to the accepted timeline of healing during the 1980’s), eventually finding true love from a new man her own age or older who “gets it.” Roll credits.
What you do not get schooled in is this…
Highly-sensitive wife leaves highly-sensitive husband, surprised husband carries a grounded torch while taking care of the children, momentarily he fulfills the dreams of other married men by “being a kid in a candy store” and dating all types of women ranging in ages and life experiences. Eventually, the reality sets in that this path is not his. He goes inward and waits for the love of his life to return. Roll credits? Nope, no one would allow that.
Most “audiences” can’t handle and process the unfamiliar, yet we all live in the middle of unfamiliar. I wrote earlier about becoming less judgmental of other couples during my own learning process. It’s a difficult practice because in some ways aren’t we always comparing our lives with others? Unintentionally, we say things like,
“Didn’t your child walk as a one year old?” or “Read at this age?”
In marriage its,
“We have sex two to three times a week.” Or, “My wife goes out once a week to be with her friends, doesn’t yours?”
For the most part, these types of questions and comments aren’t intended to be an inquisition on the other parties, that person or persons are just stating what is “normal” in their household. It’s possible too they are also trying to figure it out for themselves.
For the 18 years of our marriage, I cannot count the amount of times we were told we were “the happiest couple” or “so good together” or “so lucky to have found one another.” These are wonderful compliments and, for the record, I don’t disagree. But, when news comes out publicly that “we” are now separating, it is unfathomable for most on the outside. On top of that, we’ve also reversed the standard male/female roles and I am nor is she playing our “roles” correctly.
So, what is our audience to do?
Again, these reactions are all very common and history has somehow burned these into our psyches and supported these responses through our pop-culture. But, what if the reasoning for a separation is to grow consciously? To retrieve that which has been taken from your soul, find balance again, learn to live in moments of joy rather than time their frequencies, and just be.
Back in 2015, I actually wrote about it in response to the news of two Hollywood celebrities calling an end to their marriage. Here’s what I wrote.
Much to do was recently written about the way Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced the end of their marriage, it ended due to a “conscious uncoupling.” Let’s just say the reaction to that rational wasn’t all nice. “Conscious uncoupling” has become the latest punch line to many a late show night set-up. I admit I was there too at first with my reaction to “conscious uncoupling,” it seemed like just another Hollywood spin about an out-of- touch culture. I’ve come to rethink that.
Here is what was released to the press.
It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.
Gwyneth & Chris
Regardless if it is truly Hollywood spin or not, I believe phrasing their separation as an “conscious uncoupling” is a very adult, courageous, loving and enlightened thing to say. The very art of striving to be “conscious” is an accomplishment in itself, right? Shouldn’t our goal in our lifetime be to raise our consciousness and live a more enlightened life for ourselves so that we may serve each other better?
Words like “divorce” and “separation” have been marred in our culture. These words are engrained in our brains as children to be fearful of, to avoid. Perhaps it is in our psyche of avoidance and ego that we choose to only face this fear when things get so bad in our marriage we can’t even stand it. Plagued with a history of song lyrics, movie lines and literature come the additional emotional word association tagalongs of uncertainty, doubt, and stress. This is the word culture we’ve created.
So, let’s change it! Rather than make fun of Gwyneth and Chris’ turn of a phrase, let us applaud a new vernacular that doesn’t carry with it a stigma of fear or negativity. If I’m not mistaken a “conscious uncoupling” is a good thing because it implies that two consenting adults are awakening (positive, right?). They feel that they can serve their time here on Earth better as human beings if they “uncouple.” The definition of “uncouple” means to simply disconnect, to become disconnected. To me, it’s no mistake that the term disconnect also implies an energy shift. When something is broken or not working in the field of electricity, the first rule of thumb is to always disconnect the object from its source of electricity before you even start working on it. Why? So, you won’t be shocked and worse yet killed. It is the smartest, non-reactionary thing you can do. Why should it be any different with what we teach our kids about why mommy and daddy are no longer sleeping in the same bed? To consciously uncouple you are simply raising your awareness of the relationship you are in and accessing what is consciously happening with you (not him, not her) so you can better serve your life’s purpose.
Do all people who are awakening have to become uncoupled to become conscious? I hope not, but I’m a hopeless romantic. The more I read and study Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” or Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul, the Journey Beyond Yourself” the more assuredness in knowing that we are all in the midst of a great shift and awakening, so there should be plenty of like-minded souls on the very same path to love-- we should be in good company.
If you are reading this and you have children (specifically, highly sensitive kids) I can’t say for certain, but they may already know this lesson coming into our world. They are naturally more attuned. The sooner we can change our fear based cultural vernaculars to words without emotional baggage that inspire great change, the better they will feel and our new world will be. After all, the journey of self-discovery, becoming conscious and enlightened should be wished for with everyone you meet, that’s just how good it is.
As I reread this now, it strikes me that I wrote this at the start of my separation. I’m struck by how optimistic I even sound knowing what I was going through. But, notice I never mention what I was currently going through, perhaps that was for my own good and self-preservation. I didn’t want to write the word “divorce” or “separation” as it directly related to me, to us. It was fearful to think about those words, they hold a lot of emotional weight.
Now that I’ve actually gone through it, do I still agree with what I wrote almost 4 years ago? I would have to say I do. Would I if the ending of my personal story were different? Probably not, but I also probably would not have ever written it if I knew it wouldn’t be.
I never really got into that tv show, Breaking Bad. It was a little too dark for me but when I thought about what I should title this post, it came to mind.
The recovery from what I endured over the last three years is not a walk in the park. It's not the hardest thing I've ever done, that's for sure, but it's not easy. Sometimes I feel like I'm split in two. One side is moving on and so grateful and happy to be back with my true love, and the other side is breaking the bad habit of everything that comes with the awakening of having been in an abusive relationship.
As I continue to process it all, learn more, and heal, I still find myself in disbelief that I actually BELIEVED what I was being told for three years. I'd like to think I'm a pretty smart, intuitive person and yet despite that, I fell hook, line, and sinker. I can forgive myself for it because I don't think there's anything wrong with being vulnerable and opening your heart to someone, but understanding how I didn't see the signs and even when I did, how I still hung on for so long is something that is hard to wrap my head around.
I think too much, I know this. I'm supposed to let myself "feel" things more, according to my therapist. So here's what I feel right now...
Breaking down all the reasons I fell for the smooth-talking designer-guy is the gift in all of it because I've been able to find myself again. Find my voice.
One thing is for damn sure: no matter how he tried, there will be no breaking Kiersten.
Continued from "Here's Why"....
The phrase “Is it worth it?” comes to mind not because it was so much said to me by observers but implied. And my enlightened response of “Is that so?” didn’t really answer the question. So, I went with, “I think so.”
When one goes through this process of an overseen separation (if they are fortunate enough) they will immediately find themselves surrounded by a team of supporters made of family, friends and even strangers. They range experienced with their own first-hand knowledge, their own first-hand/second-hand/third-hand knowledge of the spouse or partner in question, their own observations of the relationship in question, and some even with their own agendas. But, they all share a common love for the “victim.”
I learned very quickly during these times that social media is NOT your friend. In fact, in my case it only served as a fuel for a majority of these friends to try to convince me I needed to move on.
From my friends, I found that “move on” included a range of possibilities.
During the first few months, Kiersten and I learned very quickly that not only would friends and family choose sides, but Facebook added a whole new thread to the tapestry. Social media general account settings become strategic moves. What is public? What is for friends only? When to tag her? When to block her? Who are my Facebook friends? Who are our shared friends?
What made matters worse was that she and her new-found love were aggressive in their domination of the social media space. And, why not? For them it was for them a shout-it-from-the-mountain-top acclamation. Yay for young love! Unless you are sitting as the former love, then I would be asked the question, “Are you sure about this? Is it worth it?” (I did find out later on that it wasn't comfortable for her, either, to shout from the rooftops because she didn't want to hurt me further but felt pressure in her new relationship.)
What makes it worse….no matter the social media self-preservation algorithm one has concocted, there will be always be a breach in the emotional security wall and friends and family will (with only good intentions) exacerbate this issue. Their intentions are justified out of love as they don’t want to see a loved one hurt, but what is wrong with occasionally believing in the what-you-don’t-know-can’t-hurt-you approach during times of being emotionally raw?
I would hear things like,
“Did you see that thing she posted on Facebook? Instagram? Wrote on her blog? On her website?”
“Did you see that comment he made on her Facebook? Instagram? On her blog? On her website?”
My typical response was, “No, I did not.” I would always hope my response would end the conversation, but undoubtedly it was followed by,
“Well, she said, he said, they said, this photo showed,” and so on.
Their recollections and retellings would immediately affect me physically manifesting in a warm internal wave of nausea-lite symptoms. At this point, I could have responded with,
“Oh, do tell me more.”
But, once again I found my strongest response to be, “Is that so?”
Over time, I found that a majority of these updates would become less frequent, but they never went away completely. I personally did not find it hard to avoid and simply not look on-line for any updates in Kiersten’s life. It was a conscious decision that I have never regretted.
Perhaps the reason why most of my support group found it nearly impossible not sharing their on-line findings with me was that they were truly concerned I was not “moving on.” To them, and again I am speculating here, they wanted me to be done and not pine for what was. I was by no means a saint. I believe it was close to six months in my new life when I did in fact announce to Kiersten in a text that I was “moving on.”
How was I “moving on?” I will defer to the previous list, numbers 2 and 3. By this time, with the advice of my council I was now getting set-up and registered on just about every dating website/app. They included Match, Zoosk, Plenty of Fish, Bumble, and Tinder. Though each platform offered a different user experience, I did come to find quickly that they commonly shared the same 30 women in a town of 70,000 population. In other words, I was not finding it easy to find a suitable date with long term potential for me. And, when I say “suitable,” please understand that I am not suggesting that the women of Flagstaff are not great women. I just knew what I had lost. And, for me, no one came close to filling her shoes. I would suggest it’s an almost impossible task when you look at what we had gone through during our marriage add to that two teenage kids. The best way I can describe it is for eighteen years Kiersten and I had been working on a huge jigsaw puzzle to together. Suddenly, she was not at my side and she has taken her puzzle pieces with her. Now, I find myself looking for someone who will potentially like the “puzzle” I have been creating and has pieces that will fit the missing spaces. I guess over a long period of time the spaces one has to fit with new pieces becomes less constricted by the edges of the past, but I liked the puzzle we had built. I was unwilling to throw the old puzzle out and start over or make a lot of concessions to a new puzzle piece holder. It is in this philosophical approach that I would respond to friends and family when they advised me to “move on” that I was “open to the possibilities but just hadn’t found the right pieces.”
“You’re being too picky,” was a common response.
My response, “Is that so?”
Eventually, I did cast my dating mile range beyond the city I resided. And, with greater populations came more possibilities, but in the end, it was simply not in my cards.
Speaking of cards, a brief history. Around September 9th of 2009, at the age of 36, Kiersten started to spiritually open up through a series of events. While we won’t dive into her own personal journey of becoming a medium in my retellings, I will say that it was a pretty eventful year in our marriage of discovery. Although I had always been highly intuitive, I even turned it up a notch. Whether you actually believe in fortune tellers, card readers, palm readers, psychics, mediums, angels, God or any deity, we all have this thing called intuition. Whether you really listen to yours and trust it is irrelevant to this story. I did listen.
Since 2009, she/I/we had always been told that we (as a married couple) would be together into the unforeseeable future, at some point would renew our marriage vows. That’s why on that horrible evening in April 2014 when she told me she was leaving it just didn’t sit right. I remember thinking that this decision would not be a forever one. More so than from past readings and such, I had that gut feeling called intuition. The thing about intuition and even prayers being answered is that the actual timing of this prophecy/miracle is never made very clear. It is human nature to want most things to happen as quickly as possible, especially if they are good things. But, time plays the precarious role in life of being both on your side and not. This is where my lesson of patience comes to play a major role in my actions. After more than a year passed, I really settled settling into the idea of just floating and not setting a watch to my life. I simply determined that eventually I knew how this love story would end, I just didn’t know the timing. I made peace with that.
There were a few windows for restarts as well (in the form break-ups from him), but with each failed possibility, I kept the faith. I didn’t worry about how many, though my circle of friends and family would remind me. These occurrences would especially draw out the question,
“Now Scott, is it worth it?”
Over time, I learned my best reaction was to keep these moments quiet between Kiersten and I because eventually she would inevitably return to the cycle of abuse she was now calling home. I also learned I was not really helping anyone—friends, family and our kids much by sharing these moments. It made it easier to just keep it to myself as I didn’t want to be branded as the “boy who cried wolf.”
Despite the number of possible openings for us to start again, I also didn’t lose faith because I also could not get an image out of my mind. In fact, the image was memory-like in its clarity and was permanently burned into my mind. It was so clear that I had even wondered if I had seen it in a movie. Perhaps I had seen it and replaced the movie actors in my reimagining with my own family of four. For a few months, I even sought out to find which movie had tortured me so that I could simply dismiss it and let that dream die, but I never found it.
For the sake of keeping somethings sacred and private, I won’t go into the details and location of what this future scene entails. I will only say it is the beautiful day that Kiersten and I, along with our children, will ceremoniously renew our wedding vows. I do not pretend to know the timing of this specific event, as I’ve stated, I’ve learned to be patient.
Ironically, here is some timing that did come as a surprise. Upon Kiersten and I officially deciding we were FOR SURE going to get back together—meaning moving back in as a family and going public with our relationship—we ran off with one another for a quick getaway trip. This was not us “eloping” as we had never filed anything during our separation, we were/are still legally married. It was time to just get out and have some fun.
We had a great few days together. I could also see in her a “joy” that had been lost over the past years. She was silly again. She sang. She danced. Being together again was both familiar but new at the same time. It was exciting and comfortable. I could still see some of the pain and sorrow in her eyes at times, but I could also see that her true light was returning. We sometimes even refer to these three years of our separation and her being away as “her captivity in North Korea” (a 30 Rock reference to Jack Donaghy’s wife Avery Jessup, 26th episode of the sixth season). Needless to say, it was a fantastic trip. As we are driving home, we stopped at a P.F. Chang’s restaurant just north of town. Still making googly eyes at one another and not really still believing we were where we were (figuratively speaking) in our lives, she says,
“Hey, what would you think about getting rings, again?”
“Seriously? Ok,” I responded, but at the same time knowing that P.F. Cheng’s was NOT the location of our renewing vows nor did any of this feel familiar in my predictions.
“Yes,” she said excitedly, “Where can we go around here to get rings?”
Kiersten and I were kids when we met. We were both living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time. She was fresh out of Ohio University and had landed in Charlotte essentially because it was a straight shot down I-77 South. I had been out of college now for a few years, living in a house with a bunch of guys, and working for a professional speaker and company that trained professionals in public speaking.
I got a call one night from a friend and she invites me out to join her and some of her friends at Vinnies’ Sardine Bar. I decided to go last minute even though I was going alone and not being surrounded by my wingmen. It was the best decision. Kiersten was one of her friends joining us that evening. Our shared friend had invited two friends that evening, Kiersten and some other dude. By arrangement, it looked as though Kiersten was with him, and I was with our shared friend. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. There was just something so captivating. Right now, I even struggle to put words on paper to surmise what that “thing” is that so beautiful and immediately drew me in. All I can say is that it is simply “Kiersten.”
Over cheese sticks and beer, we talked that evening. Very quickly we learned that neither was with the other of our friends. When we parted that night from Vinnie’s I remember standing in the parking lot with her and struggling to let her go and say goodnight.
Upon arrival back at my house, my roommates inquired where I had been. Without hesitation or even preconceived thought I said,
“I just met the girl I’m going to marry.”
Fast forward four months later, Kiersten and I are sitting in my parent’s den on a Sunday afternoon. We are looking to leave soon and take the seven-hour drive back to Charlotte when I lean over and whisper in her ear,
“Can I please tell them what did?”
She just laughs at me knowing that she had kept it a secret to her friends and family, but now I was about to make it public to my parents. She gave me a “yes” nod and smirk that said, “I knew you couldn’t keep it a secret for long.”
I began, “Mom…. Dad, Kiersten and I have been looking at rings.”
My announcement immediately drew cheers of support and even an “it’s about time” from my dad (keep in mind we had only been dating for four months). The excitement in the air was palpable. Before we knew it both sets of grandparents and even an aunt and uncle were on their way over to the house to celebrate. Kiersten and I were sent to the grocery store to go buy Champaign, but for what? Because we had looked at rings?
On our return to my parent’s house, as we made our way up the front stairs, and with a bag of groceries in my arms, I stopped her.
“Kiersten, will you marry me?”
She said yes. Now, we truly had something to celebrate.
We decided that same day to not drive home that evening. We also determined that we needed rings and so we both asked, “Where can we go around here to get rings?”
As it turned, out the only jewelry store in town had sold two generations of Hathcock men our wedding rings. It was a perfect place. And, for a majority of 18 years the rings served us well. Two or three months into our separation, we hit a financial lull. Although the rings symbolized a history, it was clear their monetary outweighed their emotional value at the time and so we sold them—both wedding rings and Kiersten's engagement ring.
Now, almost 20 years later, we needed new rings. There was an outlet mall just one exit down with a jewelry store. Here we were again looking at rings. But, this time something snapped in both of us. Why would we ever spend or make payments on the kind of money we dropped on rings when we were young? So, after realizing these symbolic rings of our new commitment were going to costs us upwards of thousands of dollars we left that jewelry store and headed to a nearby Kohl’s. Two-hundred and fifty dollars later, we found ourselves wearing new silver bands and she got the “diamond” shape and size that she wanted.
Sufficed to say, this occurrence along with the actual carat weight, cut, color and clarity had not played into my future vision of us renewing our vows. But, this moment had also not interfered with its future potential to unfold either. We simply just let it happen. It was a wonderful moment we shared in time together just off I-17.
Now, with rings on our fingers there wasn’t much anyone could say to our faces; although, some of our acquaintances were shocked to learn we were actually married. Honestly, after year two, most of my circle of support had pretty much given up on me anyway by then. I was truly blessed to have such a network of support and advisors. I can’t thank them enough. In the end, my own intuition had clarified my course and I even learned to muffle the noise of naysayers and online chatter. I have learned that everyone knows both everything and nothing. You simply have to trust your own gut or you’ll get lost in chasing what is right for someone else.
I have also learned in life that nothing is a “done deal” but more of a process. I will do my best to watch that dashboard and keep myself in check. I have learned to be less judgmental of others in relationships too. From the outside, you just never know what is truly going on in a relationship. They are complicated, but what isn’t that is worth it.
Scott put pen to paper to share a little bit about his journey through our three-year separation. I'm so thankful and grateful for his willingness to be this vulnerable. Love you, Scott.
The story goes like this…
There was a Zen master by the name of Hakuin. He lived in a village where he was praised by his community in having achieved a pure life. Enter a young Japanese girl of the same village. One day, her parents discover she’s hiding her pregnancy. They were a prominent family in the village and served as the main food store owners. Ashamed, they demand that their daughter confess and identify the man that made her this way. Knowing it would only hurt the young fisherman to reveal his identity, she remained quiet at first. Ultimately, the pressure is too great. Rather than telling her parents and the village the truth, she reports it was Hakuin. When they confront the Zen master with her accusation, his response is simply, “Is that so?”
Once the child is born, it is delivered to Hakuin to raise. By this time, Hakuin had lost his reputation with the villagers—now vilified, he is no longer celebrated. Neither seemed to bother him. He accepts the baby as his own and cares for the child as if it’s his own.
Eventually, the young Japanese mother can no longer bear the weight of her lies and being away from her child, so she tells her parents the truth—the the name of the real father. The mother, father, and the girl all rush to Hakuin to ask for forgiveness. They apologize at great lengths and ask to have the child back.
Despite raising the child for a year, losing his reputation, and receiving ridicule from the villagers, Hakuin was willing and responds only with, "Is that so?"
I share this only to say that in the past three years of my personal journey and separation from Kiersten, I found great solace in NOT reacting and taking it personally. Of course, it was difficult at times. She said some harsh words to me, to my face. I would listen and with verbal or non-verbal cues respond with, “Is that so?” Intuitively, I somehow knew this was HER journey. I felt as if I even knew how the story ended. Once, I even confidentially stated that to her—but in that particular moment—that declaration only fueled a stubbornness within her, so I learned. She needed a good listener and a friend, not a consultant.
As time passed, I would find her at my door. These visits would be under the premise of dropping or picking the kids up, but they usually allowed for a bit of lingering on her part. And, in these moments she would exhale, give me a sweet smile, and through no-verbal or verbal cues, tell me how she was doing. I knew my place was just to listen- not to fix. I saw her struggling with things that had happened to her in new relationship that I recognized as abusive. It was hard to witness. I remember her asking me if I ever thought she had too much eye contact with men, because she was being told that does. Being made to feel like she was doing something wrong. I told her no, that’s not who she is. She’s a kind, open-hearted woman but not a flirt. In addition to dealing with losing her, it was hard to watch the woman I love becoming a shell of herself due to an abusive relationship she didn’t understand.
Finding this Zen space did not happen for me overnight. In fact, I would suggest I spent the first 4-6 months operating out of a very raw and emotional space. I was reacting. I was working from a headspace of mostly “taking it personally.”
Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements” started me on this path.
The Four Agreements are:
These rules have a way of resurfacing in my life; they are similar to when you exercise and are reminded to work on your core. To me, these agreements make up the mental core.
I can by no means say I have mastered any of them. But, for the purposes of addressing the common question I receive from friends and family who have read or heard about our love story (and it truly is a love story)…
“How are you (meaning Scott) able to take Kiersten back?” or “How did you manage?”
…I defer to the second agreement. I never took it personally.
But, I can also honestly say that because I also tried my best in our 18-year marriage to not break the other three agreements around issues of integrity and intentions when it came to her specifically. I do feel like you could take the second agreement too far if you set out to do harmful things to others maliciously, not caring for others in general, and then becoming offended that you are not personally liked by those people. So, one does have to have a working moral compass when abiding to the agreements; otherwise, it’s like playing with chess rules when your opponent is playing checkers.
When Kiersten surprised me with her new direction in life, I also did not immediately go to this centered way of thinking to process what she was saying. I was a raw, emotional mess. Her news shocked me. It felt as if I had entered a completely new universe and was now living in a body I was familiar with but a life that was unfamiliar and strange. I couldn’t grasp the “why” of it. Why this? Why now? Why us? Why him?
Because I was asking her these questions, she was giving me hard-to-hear answers. Some of her answers flowed out like personal attacks on me, some were more introspective, and some came from a place of matter-of-fact reasoning. To her, they all had to be convincing since she was changing her path in life.
There have been many times in my life when I need to justify a decision I’m about to make or have made. The higher the stakes and choice of my decision impacting others, the greater the sales pitch. It’s human nature. We’ve all done this. That inner monologue we all have is a great motivator for action in ourselves; the more self-convincing we can do betters the chances we get started at doing that thing.
Over the course of months, as she tried “selling” me on her new path, I learned to distance myself from the more negative justifications (Is that so?) and provide support to the “child” within her that needed a supportive “man” role. Before I continue, I may need to also inform you that just four months prior, Kiersten I started coming to terms with the fact that she had been sexually abused by a male family relative as a young child. With that realization, I knew there was a chance that I would take a few proverbial “hits” if something I said or did triggered that “little girl.”
I say all of this because intuitively I felt as if I understood. Despite the personal pain it was causing me to potentially lose the woman I loved, I knew it was a process of healing I was witnessing. In the big picture, these were chapters of self-discovery and healing in her life book that she needed to experience and it had very little to do with me.
Were there lessons, healing, and improvements that I needed to make? Of course, there were. I’ll tell you what they were.
I could go on; the list continues to evolve, because I do, too. For the most part, the improvements I needed to make one could consider cliché when it comes to relationship breakers. Only from experience and life come lessons that move the needle forward and continue self-growth. But, for many of these, you don’t ever actually stop working on until you are in the ground. There will always be areas for improvement.
I recently read another book called “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. In the book, they have the reader create a dashboard that measures (0-5) the fullness of one’s life in four main categories—love, play, work, and health. Essentially, in designing a life you will make unknowing sacrifices to one of these four pillars at any moment in your life IF you are unaware that they exist and can be measured. A balanced life is a happy life and one with complete fulfillment and all 5’s in each category.
Let’s look at a car. If cars were built without gauges to tell the driver they had no fuel, were almost out of oil, the tires were running low on air, or there’s little to no coolant left, you would have a lot of bewildered, surprised and possibly angry drivers sitting in cars that don’t work. Throw into the mix a surrounding condition that exists outside of the car (like weather) and you’ll have further levels of complexity generating even more confusion. With a car, you need a dashboard that helps you understand what you are doing to the car. And, with life, at the very least, you need an understanding of a theoretical dashboard that brings awareness.
Do you know what also brings sudden awareness? A divorce, a DUI, being fired, and a stroke. With Kiersten’s latest news, I was about to check the box in my lifetime for 3 out of 4 of those. While a DUI had personally never happened to me, it would have not been without effort, so for arguments sake, let’s say all four boxes had now been checked. If that’s not an awakening slap, then I don’t know what is.
The irony is that in my dashboard “love” reading, I would have felt it had always been steady in the 4-5 scale. The sudden announcement from Kiersten that she now wanted a divorce should have killed me, but instead I went inward.
Again, I didn’t know about this data as I am writing this today. But, as I look back on this time in my life and with the lens of this dashboard—love , play, work, and health—I can guarantee that I had too much weight in the love area. I had lost focus in managing the play, work, and health pieces. I had become too reliant on Kiersten in helping me stay “happy.” She did an awesome job of that for years as she is a pleaser by nature, but maybe her work on me had resulted in a deficit in her scale of fullness.
With her news, I woke up. I started reading. Two books found me—The Four Agreements and The Untethered Soul. Both books allowed me to “escape” from the day-to-day of still living under one roof with her but at the same time stay emotionally grounded while being spiritually elevated. I also started meditating, walking in the woods, and briefly stopped drinking. I started listening to my body. I noticed that when I had more than two glasses of wine I could feel the weight of depression add a layer. I started bringing fun experiences to my children that we could share. These experiences didn’t even have to cost money. I made it a point to just be present for them and keep smiling. Eventually, I was strong enough that I no longer worried about what the future brought but instead created this sense to just float. To float; however, did not mean you couldn’t manifest good things in life, so I also got really good at manifesting opportunities. Those opportunities included all the areas of love, play, work, and health. In other words, I got my mojo back.
But, in the end you’ve asked some variation of the question, “How did I manage to stay with Kiersten through all of this?” You can clearly see it was a mix of borrowed things I had read and perhaps experienced through observation of others. I created very little of this, only absorbed it. There really is no simple answer.
Well, I take that back. There is. I love her.
And, to borrow from someone else’s teachings, I know what love is. Thank you, Forrest Gump.
Scott and I had a date yesterday. At the doctor’s office. We sat impatiently in uncomfortable chairs waiting to find out the results of a whole slew of tests I had done to detect STDs. Looking around the sterile room, I noticed a lack of Highlights magazines but then again, it’s a family healthcare center. We must have had the room reserved for adults on dates.
I admit, it’s not really my favorite date we’ve ever been on, but he held my hand as we thumbed through pamphlets of diseases we don’t have but thought we could have in the future and one brochure about how to detect colon cancer. Did you know you can mail #2 in a box? You can.
Sorry…STDs. I need to stay on track. Where was I? Oh yeah, so it turns out that sometime between my last Pap test in 2014 and now, Mr. HPV has become part of my DNA. Not only do I have HPV, but I have lesions on my cervix that will need to be taken care of so they don’t make their way to full-blown cancer. I know I’ll be OK but boy is it a real kick in the gut to realize that most likely, according to my doctor, it’s a sexually transmitted disease I likely contracted two to three years ago (although it can lie dormant in your body for up to 20 years), given the state of the abnormal tissue growth. Apparently, cervical cancer is slow growing and I’m at the mid-way point. I’m very grateful for Pap tests every three years even though I hate them.
So what does all of this mean?
And if I’m lucky, we’ll get the adult “date” room at the doctor’s office again. Dinner and a cervical surgery doesn’t have the same ring as dinner and a movie, does it??! :)
I’ve been a huge Dixie Chicks fan for a long time. Their song, Truth No. 2, sprung to mind as I started writing this. The first part of the song is, “you don’t like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth.” Yep. Who likes truth when they don’t want to accept it?
Over the last few months, I have discovered so many truths about myself and about my past relationship that I didn’t want nor thought I would discover. It’s truly life changing. We know reality is based on our personal perception of events, people, and situations that we process through our own filter but does that mean truth is really truth?
I’ve come to the conclusion there is REAL truth. There are some things that just aren’t subjective. They are fact. Here are just a few “truths” I’ve learned over the past few months as I’ve been healing and growing:
I have always been WAY too trusting. It’s a lovely idea to have blind faith and believe what comes out of someone’s mouth but it’s also naive. I have learned that in order to not just take someone at their word, I have to listen to my intuition and the physical reactions that spring up—pay attention to the signals my body gives when someone tells me something. This happened repeatedly during the abusive relationship I was in but I ignored the kick in the gut feeling and overall body shakes. Instead, I would go back to earlier times in my mind when I felt supported and loved and believe the words, not the actions. Never again. Your body tells you what your mind and heart don’t want to comprehend.
I’m not a victim. I own what I did—falling into a relationship while married—was so wrong but I also finally see the big picture. I made choices based on false reality. I believed in who he presented himself to be with my whole vulnerable heart. That’s not wrong nor is it playing the victim card when I talk about what happened. I’m wiser now and I own the pain I caused my family but I also recognize that having never dealt with anyone who operates this way, I didn’t have a way of knowing that what I was experiencing wasn't new to him. Past affairs and relationships told the story of manipulation and control and I chose to ignore the warning signs and believe the facade.
The next woman in my ex’s pipeline will have specific characteristics and will likely endure similar behavior/tactics. How do I know this? Patterns. And proof/truth coming out of the mouths and computers of different women from his past.
So here goes…
I couldn’t have avoided this. I truly believe I went through what I did to heal and to learn lessons for growth in this life. As a medium, I have an advantage of hearing from spirit who want me to fulfill my soul purpose and who guide me along the way. Warnings were given and encouragement to believe in myself was handed down in subtle and then eventually, very pointed ways over the last year. Unbeknownst to me in 2014, one of my life contracts includes enduring what it means to be in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. And how to climb out of it. The climb out of it part was my choice, and a choice I had a very difficult time making for three years. Read: I struggle with truth #1.
Fear is an illusion and truth will set you free. I felt so much fear for so long. Fear of letting people down. Fear of my dark side. Fear of speaking up. I feared what would happen when I told the truth of my work with spirit and it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I feared talking about this relationship. I feared getting out of it. I feared losing everything including my kids, if I stayed in it. I don’t fear anything anymore. Telling the whole truth, even when it’s embarrassing and humbling, truly sets you free.
Click here for earlier posts on the subject:
Protect and Serve
I Had An Affair
Part 2: Wounded Attachment
Kiersten Parsons Hathcock