I looked at my phone and read the messages full of blame thrown in my direction.
I immediately noticed that the man writing the words was demonstrating a total lack of accountability. In that moment, I knew it was over and I shouldn’t spend any time looking back.
I could no longer see him for who he once was to me—a gentle, sweet, soulful man who seemed to find such promise in my love for him. In that moment, I forgot the feeling I had only months prior when I gazed into his eyes, believing with my whole heart that he would be looking back at me for years to come as our children grew and our bodies aged.
I realized then that the fairytale never actually starts in Chapter One. Chapter One is easy. Chapter One is the start of every love story. It is the touching of fingertips across a restaurant table. It is dressing up when all you’re doing is meeting for coffee. It is nice pajamas, matching underwear and bras, and shaving your legs every day.
I yearn for the chapters beyond One.
Chapters where vulnerable moments are not met with the slamming of doors or the projection of insults or threats.
Chapters where I am met with eyes that are concerned and sincere when I talk about my fears, not those of someone with one foot out the door.
Chapters where the restaurant table becomes a bedside table where coffee is waiting while I’m in the sweatpants I still have from the eighth grade basketball team, riddled with holes.
Chapters where life is spent discussing illnesses, money problems, the death of parents, and the problematic behaviors of teenagers.
Chapters where we have small arguments over who is stopping at the grocery store for milk.
On the bookshelf of my life, there are many short stories—a few that ended before Chapter Two even began. Several that seemed to stop just when things were getting good. One where the pages were torn out because the story wasn’t worth remembering or re-reading. One a compilation of so many starts and stops that the reader is left dizzy as they try to determine where in the world the story is actually going.
These stories all star the same protagonist, but you would never really know it from the way these tales are told. I tend to disappear into the setting, hiding pieces of myself in order to fit into the plot.
I am a master of camouflage. I even pretended in one story to be okay with the lack of chemistry and physical attraction because I doubted I could do any better. I allowed myself to be repeatedly placed on hold while my co-star went off in search of a suitable replacement, only to return to me.
I always let him come back.
I’d believed the other characters’ opinions of me—nothing more than a waitress, chubby, ugly, simple, in need of a makeover, insecure, damaged, broken, overly sensitive, abnormal, a f*cking weirdo.
Each book has a different binding, a different length—but their beginnings and endings are strikingly similar. Girl meets boy, boy leaves girl.
With a simple stroke of my pen, I write “The End” on the last page of the latest volume and place it on the shelf. I turn to walk away, knowing it might be some time before another story is written. I bow my head in reflection, but suddenly stop in my tracks and turn around again.
I glance at the bindings, confused. I know I am the subject of these stories, but I notice for the first time that not once have I been the author. The names staring back at me on the bindings are the names of those I gave my heart to, not the name of the woman who was giving the love.
How in the world could I have allowed my stories to be written without using my own voice?
Where are the pages describing my love of music and literature? The number of nights spent praying? The cards sent, the letters written, the cookies and muffins baked?
Where are the starry nights at ballparks or on beaches, smelling the ocean and kicking up sand? Gone are the pages recalling sacrifices made as a mother all while maintaining a sense of humor, a blossoming career, meaningful friendships, and an enviable wardrobe.
The story about my heart, missing. The story about my bravery, missing. The story about my faith, missing. The story about my capacity to care, to remember birthdays, anniversaries. To know your love for Friday the 13th and the day you put your beloved pet to sleep, all missing.
It was then that I realized why the stories ended the way they did. Because I was only ever a character, never the author, the stories weren’t really my own to begin with. One by one, against my will, they are taken off the shelf and tossed. They are buried or burned. They are stowed away, never to be read or told again.
Not because I am ashamed of them or because they are historically inaccurate. Not because I wasn’t a willing participant in the moments shared with these characters. And definitely not because I believe I am meant to remain in quiet, unaccompanied solitude in which I never allow anyone else to grace the pages or chapters of my life.
It’s just that without being the author of our own story, chapters beyond One could never develop as they should.
We must love and honor ourselves enough to pay attention when something inside is calling to us and telling us to reclaim our power as our own storyteller. When life is chronicled from our own lovely perspective and with the true acceptance of who we are and what we have to offer, the Table of Contents is built authentically. It’s only then that Chapters Two, Three, Four and beyond can be written and evolve into stories for the ages.
We must believe we are capable of being that protagonist with the knowledge that when we are able to truly trust ourselves to write our own fairytales, it is then that the supporting character intended to walk through life with us will appear—and stay.
Knowing this, after so many failed attempts at letting others try to write my story, I pick up my pen and open to a blank page.
Author: Jenny Roman
Image: Rob Bennett/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton