Three years ago today, I woke up, put on my best dress, and drove to the courthouse. I was purposefully early in hopes that the judge saw cases on a first come, first serve basis. All I wanted was for this nightmare to be over. I walked up to the courtroom and read the sheet of paper – “Painter vs. X – Case #13.” We had the very last case of the day. Eventually, my father came to join me, and we sat in the courtroom together. As the others filled the room, I saw my ex walk in with his roommate and his sister, both of whom were there to support him and to testify against me. I never thought that after spending eight years loving someone that it would end like this, but sometimes you have to fight for the things that you believe in. My freedom was in jeopardy, and after the multiple incidents, I made an extremely difficult decision – to file a domestic violent restraining order against my ex.
When the expiration date of December 22, 2017 was printed on the paperwork, it seemed like a lifetime away. Never did I imagine that I would have to go to court and be granted a 3-year restraining order from a person I had loved for nearly a decade. Never did I think that I would have to listen to my best friend, his sister, testify against me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would need to memorize a case number and carry a copy of the restraining order on me for the next three years in case there was a violation. But when he came for me that last time, I knew it was time to fight for my freedom and to put an end to the harassment.
To be honest, it shouldn’t have taken me a full year after the breakup to file the restraining order. In retrospect, I should have filed it over the summer when he was caught standing outside of the window of my friend’s apartment while we watched a movie. Yet, I made excuses, I gave him a warning, and I let it go. I should have called the police when he stood over me, dangling my phone in front of my face, threatening to hurt people I cared about in order to “teach me a lesson.” But I stayed silent. He constantly showed up at places he knew I would be, he dropped by the hotel I worked at, and he frequently drove by my house. Some people around me justified his actions. They said he was acting out of love, but his actions did not feel very loving. His actions felt like a violation. He was determined to be everywhere so that moving forward would be an almost impossible task. My breaking point occurred when he followed me in his truck, and when I pulled over and started running away from him, he ran after me. Fortunately, my friend was home that day, and I locked myself in her apartment until he left. That is when I finally called the police, and the officer who reported the incident looked me in the eyes and said, “If you were my daughter, I would have told you to file a restraining order yesterday.”
Winning the case that day did not necessarily feel like a win. I hated that this would be our ending. I hated that my decision would cost me my best friend (his sister); she felt like she would always be there, despite how things ended up between her brother and me. Unfortunately, in order for me to break free and to take my freedom back, my friendship with his sister became collateral damage. I know that if I hadn’t taken the issue to court, I would have never been able to move forward with the man who is now my husband. Despite all of the ashes from my dead relationship and the turmoil that ensued, I love the beauty that came from all of it – I found the man of my dreams on a trip to Europe that I booked because I just had my heart broken.
Today, this piece of paper becomes null and void, but my freedom remains. Sometimes you do not realize the weight of a burden until you discover your freedom. By grace, I was spared and led to someone who loves me like no one has loved me before. By faith, I listened to the police officer and put an end to the harassment. With strength, I faced my ex and the people he brought with him and sat by myself at the stand to plead my case. My desire to break free burned brighter than the flames around me, and I persevered. In this life, it is not worth living an unfulfilled life to try to please another. My problem was that I did not recognize my value for a very long time, and I thought that being in an unloving relationship was what I deserved. Thank goodness the One who is Love showed me how incorrect I was! And now, as I move forward and remove this wrinkled document from my purse, I embrace my messy past because it tells a beautiful story – my journey of self-discovery, of finding my strength and independence, and most importantly, of finding my great love.
“She never seemed shattered; to me, she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she’s won.” – Matt Baker