Learning to Breathe Again

I talk a lot about embracing your past and making sense of it in order to move forward. But I wasn’t living out or even believing my own words because there is something from my past that I’ve been afraid to face for six full years.

It was the venue where I married my now ex-husband.  In my mind, the building was forsaken, just like the marriage.

For six years, I’ve never so much as stepped foot into this popular shopping and dining facility because I was utterly frightened of the feelings that I left there.  I was worried that the walls would somehow showcase a movie screen of all the precious moments – the ones where my father gave me away with his most loving tears, or the ones where the best man became emotional when toasting to our marriage.

I told myself that after all these years, the tables my wedding guests sat on were now seated with shame and guilt for wasting everyone’s time and money.  I even convinced myself  that the floors we danced on were now soiled with regret.  Ultimately, I thought that even the sights and sounds would be deafening to me, screaming out words that reminded me of the world I wanted so badly, but left behind so soon afterward.

So when one of my friends asked me to go to brunch with her there, I knew it wasn’t a coincidence.  At first, I didn’t recognize the location because it was now under a different name.  Same location, different name.  It was enough to throw me off when I pulled up.  In my friend’s defense, she had no idea what she was doing when she suggested the place.  She had no clue that I’ve avoided this place out of pure fear and denial. But God knew.

I GPS-ed the location and headed straight there. When I pulled up and saw the venue, my mouth dropped. I told myself that maybe the restaurant was around the venue and not directly inside of it.  WRONG – not only was it inside the venue, it was the exact place where I said, “I do.” My stomach began to turn sideways.

I wanted to wait outside for my friend to arrive because I was afraid to walk in alone.  What if I start crying or something? I needed her to be a distraction.

Then, I got a text that I wasn’t expecting: “I’m running behind, but I’m in route now.”

Again, not a coincidence.

What are you doing in this moment, Lord? I asked Him.  It took everything out of me to walk in, but I made the decision to be brave.

I walked in and looked around. Believe me when I tell you that it was like looking at the remains of the Titanic after it landed at the bottom of the ocean.  Everything was still and calm.  Every inch of that place had a memory.

I looked to the right and remembered the place the photographer told us to stand for photos – just the bride and groom.  I looked at the balcony and remembered the d.j. standing there announcing the dances.  Everything smelled the same as it did that night.  I inhaled deeply and exhaled with relief. 

I was doing it! I was walking through the venue, allowing the memories to come back, and still breathing. None of the negative feelings I feared would come ever did.

I walked some more.  People were looking at me pace and scope the scene, but I didn’t care.  This was my moment to learn to breathe again. 

My journey around the venue lasted for 45 minutes of me walking back and forth looking at every crevice of the place. And yes, that’s how late my friend arrived, but that was just the amount of time I needed to inhale the beautiful memories and exhale the peace of what occurred since then – a divorce and separation of lives.

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I told you earlier that the location was still the same, but the name was completely different.  This was such a revelation for me, because although the place is still there in my memories, there is a brand new me standing here today.

After laughing and joking over brunch, I walked out of the venue as a new woman with my shoulders back and my head high.  I have finally overcome this fear, and I’m a better person for it.

I’d love to tell you that getting over your past is as simple as a click of a button, but it’s not.  I have been known to simply avoid the obvious by pretending it’s not there, just as I did with this venue. But honestly, avoidance is the start of a slow death.  We have to force ourselves to be brave and to deal with even the most painful memories.  That is the only way we can be revived back to life.

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Elana Cole is a writer, educator, and professional coach who is passionate about helping others in their personal journeys towards a more beautiful life. She is the author of "The Midnight Experience" and creator of Empowered Narrative, a blog about transforming the way you live and love.

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