Today, we’ve been married 21 years, minus a three-year Ross and Rachel-like break. (Friends reference that Gracie will love.)
In honor of this, I thought I’d share a few posts that show the true picture of marriage, separation, unconditional love, healing, and coming back together.
Life is messy and beautiful, just like marriage.
Love you from here to the moon and back, Scott Hathcock.
Today, while I was looking for a photo on my Google Photos storage drive from one year ago, I found the beginning of the end staring back at me.
Screenshots of messages from other women who had first-hand knowledge (with the same man) of what it was like to live what I had just started talking about publicly would serve as stepping stones for me to finally climb out of the darkness. I was still struggling with the loss of a relationship I thought was real and I was coming to grips with understanding just what I had endured and allowed for three years.
I remember a few things about this time last year. I was living on my own and feeling sad, powerful, embarrassed, relieved, and confused all at the same time. It was like a veil was being lifted but I was still struggling. I was still getting shamed and blamed. I was still listening to him. I was still unknowingly falling back into old subconscious patterns of blocking abuse and only remembering the good stuff.
Thankfully, I was also listening to women that were bravely sharing horrible experiences in order to help me heal…and to heal themselves. Women helping women. Little did I know, it was only the beginning of the full-circle healing that would happen over the last 365 days.
I remember my dear friend and industry colleague, Ari Signes, sending me the song “Fix You” by Coldplay and she highlighted this line:
“When you’re too in love to let it go
but if you never try you’ll never know
just what you’re worth”
It cut to the core. It was like she knew how to get me to realize I was fighting for my worth…my soul…my life. The gift I was receiving from all of these women was the gift of knowledge and validation that what I suspected was real. And what I was learning to be true was far worse than I even allowed myself to suspect. That was the hardest pill to swallow.
I was beginning to cut the cords but I was still susceptible to the ploys. I guess it’s the equivalent to being addicted to anything—there’s a period of vulnerability after you stop using. I was no different. When the fake suicide attempt and fake heart attack happened, I acted the way anyone who cares about someone would act, no matter how much hurt was between them. I was terrified and sad.
I recently spoke with two people who have dealt with the “threatening suicide” ploy. I wasn’t smart enough or level headed enough to look up the name of the bridge he said he was about to jump off of when it was happening. I was just scared and distraught when I read his goodbye letter to me. As it turned out, the small bridge is one that 10-year-old kids jump off of into the summer waters below, while their parents cheer them on. It’s pretty much all over Youtube. And the heart attack I caused him? Nonexistent, according to the people who would definitely know. And every hospital in Philly.
I really didn’t realize this was a “thing” until I recently spoke with others who went through similar, which is why I’m sharing it. There’s a great article by Lucy Rising about this very thing that explains it much better than I could: http://lucyrising.com/2015/07/when-your-narcissist-threatens-to-commit-suicide.html
A year ago, I was still in the trenches fighting for my life. I was gaining strength and then plummeting as I tried to navigate the minefield of ploys aimed to make me feel horrible and put me back in my place, accepting all of the blame.
I finally stopped blaming myself as the veil lifted, and I helped Little Kiersten stop blaming herself for what happened to her when she was little.
Today, I am whole for the first time in my life. I can even see how much of a gift—yeah, I said it—that relationship was because it helped me heal on levels that I didn’t even know I needed healing. I’m truly grateful for it and understand now that it was fated.
This year, my Google Photo library shows a different picture of life—one that I will never take for granted. It shows laughter, love, fun, family, friends, goofy faces, and a Kiersten who isn't afraid to take chances and speak her mind. A woman who now knows what unconditional love really means and is in love with her true soulmate. And maybe one or two snapchat photos where I'm wearing bunny ears.
Last week, we sat in our living room relaying stories from our separation like war tales. We had our friend, Cynthia, in stitches.
There's Scott's Britney Spears story.
My LA drug den story.
An almost-bar fight Scott got into in Phoenix.
A crockpot full of pot roast in a cigarette smoke-filled room at Circus Circus in Vegas.
Seriously, we have many tales. Many. Tales.
Grace has heard most of mine but not many of Scott's so you can imagine her surprise when he relayed how friends in LA offered to introduce him to Britney Spears. It was a "we know her through our kids" kinda thing.
Grace: "YOU mean to tell me Britney Spears could have been my step-mom?!?!! OH. MY. GOD."
I immediately start singing, "Oh baby, baby...how was I supposed to know..."
Grace (laughing): "Mom, please. No. Just stop. Seriously, BRITNEY SPEARS???!?!?"
As we were taking turns sharing our individual journeys, I jumped in with, "Cynthia, did I tell you about the time my ex was in need of pot (his "medicine") so he took me to a drug house in LA?" Her eyes were like saucers.
Now to be completely upfront, he had offered to drop me off at the place we were staying in downtown LA (a son of an old friend) but I thought I'd feel safer just sitting in the car while he ran in to get the goods. For the record, I'm not completely against pot and have tried it a few times in my life but I am NOT a pot smoker. I knew it helped him (because he said it did), so I was accepting of it but that's as far as it goes. I've never seen cocaine or anything like that in real life. Read: Straight girl from a small town in Ohio.
Upon pulling up to the run down apartment in a pretty bad part of LA, I decided that maybe the safest route was going in with him. It was pretty late at night. God knows what would happen if I was sitting in the car on my own and I was noticed.
Long story short, this straight and narrow then-40-year-old mom from Flagstaff went into high octane small talk mode.
"So Joe, how long have you been here in LA? Was it hard to move from Philly?"
"Does your dog try to bite a lot, or is it just me? I'm normally like the dog whisperer."
"Clever use of this cot as a couch, I'd say! I know it's hard to furnish a home, isn't it?!"
(Unknown woman walks through the living room/AKA drug room and doesn't say a word.)
"Is he (guy laying on the floor motionless) OK? He's ok?? Ok, great. The mom in me wants to put a pillow under his head."
The more uncomfortable I get, the higher pitched my voice goes. By the time I'm asking if the dude on the floor is alive, I was likely only heard by the dog that was trying to bite me. This went on for a bit, because, of course, they had to test out the batch together.
"No, I'm good! None for me, thanks! (Cloud of pot smoke engulfs me and the not-dead-yet guy on the floor.)
Enhaler. Check. Scary "Mod Mom Busted In LA" headline flashing in my head. Check.
"Oh, you make edibles, too, Joe? Where did you learn to cook?" I was an unstoppable question machine that night. Just plop the old Kiersten down in the middle of a drug deal in LA and I will make everyone feel valued and comfortable. Accomodating and smoothing was my coping mechanism, especially when I felt powerless.
In stark contrast, Scott was being offered meet-ups with celebrities and weekends with wealthy women he knew but wasn't interested in at $500 per night hotels. (By the way, he didn't take either which speaks volumes about his integrity.)
Our night and day experiences during our three-year separation make for good stories, but more importantly, they make for a better marriage. Just being able to share it all openly—the good, the bad, and the Britney—has helped us get to know the older, wiser versions of Kiersten and Scott.
Good news! We truly do love each other and I haven't once had to ask, "Is that guy dead?"
Scott and I broke out the karaoke equipment last night and sang our hearts out. No audience. Just us. (Sorry, neighbors, for that one Greatest Showman song.)
I found a few new-to-me songs that are in my limited range and we belted out a couple duets. And then we tried this song: “From Here to the Moon and Back” by Dolly Parton and Kris Kristopherson.
When Scott and I were separated, I would frequently be at his house to pick up the kids or drop them off. I’d knock and then let myself in. Sometimes we would talk, sometimes we wouldn’t.
At the time, Grace was playing the movie Joyful Noise on a loop and I remember standing in the kitchen waiting for her to get ready to come stay at my place and seeing Scott sitting in the living room watching the movie for the 100th time. The heartbreaking scene where Dolly Parton sings about her late husband fills the room and spills into the kitchen. While I’m still waiting to collect Grace, he gets up to walks to another part of the house. We make eye contact but there’s not much to say. His eyes were wet with tears. My heart was heavy.
Last night, we tried to sing the song but were both reduced to choked-back tears. You know when you can’t even speak let alone sing? That was us.
We couldn’t speak that day and we couldn’t sing last night, but we could feel it. From here to the moon and back.
I could hold out my arms
say "I love you this much"
I could tell you how long
I will long for your touch
and how far
would I go to prove
and the breadth
of my love for you?
to the moon
Who else in this world
will love you like that?
I promise you that
to the moon
to the moon
I want you to know
you can always depend
On promises made
and love without end
No need to wonder
how faithful I'll be
and on into
to the moon
in this world
will love you like that?
I'll be where you're at
to the moon
to the moon
I would blow you a kiss
from the star where I sat
I would call out your name
to echo through the vast
Thank heaven for you
and to God
tip my hat
to the moon
And I'll spend forever
just proving that fact
to the moon