I recently read through several of my older posts and realized how long it's been since I went through that horribly abusive relationship. For the most part, I think I'm slowly healing. Although I can recall things that happened years ago like they happened yesterday, I'm mystified sometimes at how I made it through: how I kept fighting and continue to keep fighting. Every time it rains, it calls to mind the Washington climate, adding another layer of gray to the already cloudy skies above. It's definitely harder the days it rains, but I can tell that it's not nearly as bad as when I first came home. My vulnerability is not something of which I'm proud. It's been hard to admit when I can't handle it, because I feel stronger when I can handle the anxiety attacks and stress on my own. I feel like I'm constantly learning how to approach different triggers and how to tell my current boyfriend, Tanner, about them, even when I don't want to do so. My son is growing up, his physical attributes more and more similar to mine than Theo Keyes. With Tanner as his father and my parents as my support system and his role models, I know he has a stable life and will continue to have one as I approach a time when I move out with him. I love him more than anything, and I can't imagine life without him. He will always be the single greatest blessing that came out of the tragedy.
People often ask me how I met Tanner, and I'm not sure if I've ever told the story. We've dated since June of 2012. He is the subject of many conversations I have with family, friends and coworkers, and it amazes people that he was willing to "take on" such a relationship. We met at school before I left, and despite his and my parents' protests, I left with Theo for Washington. I did think of him when I left. He had long, bleach blonde hair that almost reached his shoulders. The first time I saw him, in a public speaking class at college, he was wearing a Pink Floyd shirt and talked about his favorite band, Tool. We became fast friends after he heard my speech on Nine Inch Nails, but I think back then both of us weren't sure what we wanted. We tossed around the idea of starting a band, but after I left with Theo, I was sure he'd forget about me.
For whatever reason, the week I got back, I messaged him on Facebook almost immediately after I got back from Washington. We had pretty much an instant connection, but I was still so nervous and broken from Theo that I was scared to date anyone else. I remember one night, we sat in my backyard under the stars, and he leaned over and kissed me. I don't remember if it was a long kiss or a short one, but I remember telling him that I'd never had the guy make the first move. He replied and said something to the effect of "maybe you should start dating real men". Whatever it was, I fell in love and never stopped. Both new to the kind of depth this relationship held, it was hard at first. Communication was, ironically, one of our biggest problems (even though we'd met in a public speaking class), but we both wanted it to work so badly that we kept trying, and trying, and trying. I can't adequately explain the type of love and devotion I feel for Tanner, and the type of love and devotion he feels for me.
On Valentine's Day of this year, we had a romantic date-night-in, as is the case for most parents with a two-year-old, but after Matthew had been put to bed, I was sitting on the couch and he came to me with a little white box. It held a promise ring, the most delicate and beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and he told me that he wanted to marry me. Now, at the beginning of October, we face a new chapter in our life together. Tanner is my best friend, my soul mate, and I can't imagine how I ever deserved someone so amazing to come into my life, but he did. The greatest victory I've ever held over Theo is the establishment of my own family with a man who loves not only me but our son, Matthew. It's something sacred, untouchable, incorruptible and eternal.