Unfortunately, in the intervening years since learning from that book, I'm not sure I'm okay. Or at least, I haven't been. I'm getting there. And, while my father directed a lot of love and wisdom toward his children, he also battled many demons over the course of his life that in the end overcame him. He constantly struggled with massive mental, emotional and physical illness until he took his own life in 1994. I was 23 years old. He was 47. So he wasn't okay either.
In early 1990, this cold-blooded Idaho girl found herself transplanted to an exotic valley of the sun, in Arizona. I lived with my grandmother and embarked on my young adult life. At a bonfire party one evening, I met a young man. I was never much for small talk and I liked to get right to the meaty questions. I asked him, “Have you ever almost died?” I had in my mind a little story I wanted to tell about my brush with death. But he answered, “I had cancer.” So then my story seemed very pale in comparison and I didn't tell it. Before the party was over, the young man, whose name was Darin, had asked for my phone number, and the rest, as they say, is history. We married in June 1990 and began having babies.
It turns out that Darin wasn't okay either. His cancer and his radiation and chemotherapy treatments had destroyed his body and his brain in a way that he would never fully recover. Darin had been a very active and social young person, playing basketball and football and participating in music and drama and serving in his church and working on his Dad's ranch. It was a frustrating betrayal to be bound, as an adult, by a body that challenged his ability to think, to feel and to act and didn't permit him to go very far on any of those capacities. During the course of our marriage Darin had a couple of major traumas including a head injury that put him in a coma for some days; as well as a second cancer diagnosis in 2001. Every day of our marriage was about Darin's sickness, and it barred us from living any other story. We couldn't rise above it. And in 2005, Darin did pass away from the immediate cause of a stroke.
As sick as Darin was, within a few of years of our marriage I realized that I was sicker than he was. Every single second, I hurt. Every day, I was tired and empty. I was stuck, like an elephant sitting on me stuck. I felt helpless. I was angry. And I was so, so alone. There was no relief for me. There weren't some good times and some bad times. My life was painful and overwhelming in every breath. I was so ashamed of myself. I hated myself to the point of nausea. I felt like my life had been stolen from me. I lost my dreams. I lost love and marriage. I lost irreplaceable time with my young children. I lost my health. I lost my peace. I lost my mind.
Very not okay.
I realized that my challenges were not going to be temporary. I wasn't just going to wake up on a morning and get a different life. This was it. This was what I had been handed. This was nothing like I had imagined life would be when I was a young girl looking forward with anticipation and dreams, so I was very lost, trying to make sense of my life and my self.
I don't know if you can identify in any way. I don't know if you feel okay, or not.
I felt like my life was a mess. I felt trapped. I felt like I didn't have choices. Again, I don't know if you can identify with that or not. If you have ever said to yourself, “My life is a mess!”
If yes, I believe that what I have learned can also help give you relief as well.
I have made so many mistakes. But the one thing that I did do is to refuse to be defeated. I can't even take credit for that soul quality, because I don't know where it comes from. Heaven knows there have been a million moments, a thousand days, when I wanted to give up. But for some reason I never could. I simply tried to find a way even when the way I wanted, or thought I wanted, wasn't open for me. Or even worse when by all accounts there was absolutely no way forward. I had to come up with magic and faith of the deepest kinds.
I started making decisions. When things were so dark, I made decisions that were basically refusals of defeat. And I live my life by these decisions, to this day.
This actually didn't become completely clear to me until I knew that I wanted to sit down and write a book about what I had learned, in order to help others. But as I pondered about what I wanted to write, I realized that I hadn't just learned things. I had decided things. And once I made a decision, I carried it out. I lived it versus all the forces pulling at me the other way. My decisions revised the way I thought, the way I felt, the way I chose, the way I saw things. My decisions revised the world I lived in.
I'm sure that if you take a look at your own life, you will see that one way you can describe your life is as an accumulation of the decisions you have made, for better or for worse. The decisions you make are the determining factor of what life you have and what world you live in.
So the book that I wrote is titled Thus Far: 14 Decisions That Allowed Me To Heal From Weakness and Despair. I chose the title “Thus Far” because that is an inside between God and me. I always pray and thank him for bringing me thus far. Because I know I still have a long ways to go.
This book will give you a chance to get to know me a little better and my story and where I'm coming from. But I hope the real power of the book will be to provide a template for you, to consider decisions that you can make if you choose, that I believe will bring strength and relief to your life.
My love and honor to you.
Jennifer Boyatt's book Thus Far: 14 Decisions That Allowed Me To Heal From Weakness and Despair is now available on Amazon and Kindle. Get one for yourself and give one to someone you love. CLICK HERE.