Ashton RayComment

On this Side of My Story

Ashton RayComment
On this Side of My Story

When I first moved into my apartment, I remember scrambling around to all of the windows trying to let as much light into the space as I could. I’d gently twist the blinds open and then yank the chord to make sure that nothing—absolutely nothing—was going to keep the sunlight from coming into my new home.

Though I didn’t show it, I was quickly disappointed. Even with the big French doors open in my living room, there wasn’t much light.  My bedroom had one tiny window and the woods behind my apartment building prevented it from getting a lot of sun. Without light, I wasn’t sure how much I could love this place. Without light, I wasn’t sure how quickly my own darkness might settle in.

It’s November now and this week makes it three months since I moved into this apartment. This season has been nothing like I’d thought it would be, but it’s been good. I’ve struggled and crashed and wanted to quit more times than I could count. But, with each fall, I’ve gotten back up and continued on. I’ve cooked (or bought) meals, I’ve gone to sleep, and (most of the time) I’ve gotten up when my alarm goes off every morning.

In May, when Birmingham was just an idea and most of my plans were still unknown, I walked out of my counselor’s office for the last time. I’d spent three years on that couch, in that office, fighting to become the woman that I am now. I never cried, but that is no marker for the work that we did. It was in that room that Jesus chose to show me a side of Himself that I’d never seen: the counselor, the One fighting for me to become whole, to heal from the trauma that had been caused by sin. It was in that room that I’d met Homegirl, a woman that will be a part of my story for as long as I am around to tell it. She was such an important part of my learning freedom.

During my last session with Homegirl, we talked about what my future with counseling would be like. The truth is that neither of us knew. I told her that, on this side of my story, I trusted myself to know when I would need to find a counselor in this new season. She agreed with me, and though it was unsaid, I think we both agreed that it would be a while before I found myself on a different couch in a different office in this new city. I left Homegirl’s office for the last time feeling strong and proud, ready to go into the world with everything she’d taught me.

Three months later, I found myself in this new apartment searching for natural light, fearful of what would happen if I didn’t find it. Three months after that day, I found myself on a different couch in a different office in this new city—and I am okay with that.

I chose to go back to counseling because the darkness was feeling a little more like home than I’d like for it to. I chose to go back because I want to set myself up to succeed, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and that success looks like taking the time to care for those parts of me. The work I started with Homegirl has been so important in the story that I’m living, but if I allow myself to get too comfortable or lazy, a lot of that progress can slip away with the darkness.

It would be really easy for me to feel disappointed with myself for needing counseling again. I am strong and stubborn and I like to think myself able to go through life alone. But, I can’t. I need people, I need counseling, and the truth is that that doesn’t make me any less strong than I would be if I didn’t.

It is a lie to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. There is a bravery that comes with choosing to prioritize the health of the weakest parts of us. There is a strength that can only be found in our weakness, and this week I am proud of myself for finding it. I am proud of myself for going back to counseling, for once again choosing to embrace my weakness in order to give myself a good story later.

Since that first morning that I walked into my apartment, I’ve learned to call this space home. The lighting isn’t the best and I sure to miss watching the morning light dance. But, these walls have come to be a safe place as my own darkness creeps in. I cannot change the light in my apartment, but I am learning to fight to keep the light inside myself. It is not a glamorous, easy, or fun fight, but it is one I will not give up on. As long as I live, I will fight for my story, and I will fight for the light that lives within me.