Tell me a story.

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

The girl was naturally happy, and grew up in a house filled with love. She was smart and adventurous and thoughtful. She had a knack for seeing the bright side. Although she had her moments (occasionally involving blue eye shadow and often massive amounts of hairspray), she wasn’t what one would call a “girly girl.” In fact, she was a bit of a tomboy who loved to camp and fish and get dirty. Once, in first grade, a rogue lizard was discovered in the classroom. While the rest of the class ran around, shrieking (including the teacher), the girl caught the lizard and set it free outside.

She could, at times, be very brave.

Though she knew the words to Cinderella by heart, the girl never dreamed of being a princess. She rarely played dress up and hated the color pink. But she did dream of having her own life, one similar to what she grew up with. That meant being a wife. And a mother. It was really all she ever wanted to be. It was her own version of a fairy tale.

Somewhere along the way, the girl met a blue-eyed boy from a far-off land they call The East Coast. He was brash and loud and passionate, and also intelligent and loving and sweet.  He was different than other boys she’d met. His past was not as easy as her own had been, but he wanted the same future. She overlooked bumps in the road, things that, in retrospect, might have been warning signs of trouble ahead. She loved him, truly. So when the boy asked for her hand in marriage, she said yes. The usual fanfare was accompanied by fluttering golden aspen leaves on a crisp Colorado autumn day. Thus began a new part of life for the girl. Her fairy tale was beginning!

One by one, the mini-dreams of her childhood came true. She was a happy young wife, with a new home to fluff and a sweet dog to love. She clumsily taught herself to cook, hosted ambitious parties, planted a rainbow of flowers. She worked hard at her job, encouraging the boy to stick with his passion and turn it into a career. Years went by, some very good, and some bad. Such is life. Such is marriage. The girl tried hard to keep smiling through the rough times, and loved the boy as truly as she did at the beginning. It worked well for a long time. Milestones were celebrated and happy memories were made.

But the rough times became more frequent.

The girl couldn’t deny that she was struggling, though she tried to. There were cracks in her shiny happy armor that were starting to reveal the truth. Regardless, she kept working, loving, trusting, loving, denying, loving, supporting. Hoping. Praying. Pleading. Loving.

Then, on one fateful night, eleven years after the girl met the blue-eyed boy, his demons got the better of him. The girl was forced to flee into the night. She found refuge with dear friends, who tucked the girl away, filling her goblet and making sure she ate.  Like a little damaged bird, she was in shock. And she stayed that way for days. Weeks.

Though massively significant, the details of That Night turned out to be far less important than how the girl reacted to them. She tortured herself, day and night, trying to determine what she should do. No one else could make this decision for her. Her thoughts kept going back to one thing: the family she knew she was meant to have. With children she didn’t even have yet in her mind, the girl made a choice. She did the last thing she ever wanted to do. She did the unthinkable.

She left the boy she loved.

She didn’t realize it then, but it was very brave.

The girl fell into a deep, dark pit of despair. She tucked herself away in a tiny corner on the top floor of a crumbling building. She learned that one can survive on frozen pizza and red wine, night after night after night. Some days, she made a cave out of her bed covers and stayed there for hours. She was slowly wasting away. She felt that her fairy tale was now a distant speck in the rearview mirror. Despite the events that had actually unfolded, she blamed herself. She should have done more before it was too late. Her guilt and sadness tried to destroy her, and her big, thoughtful heart froze over. It may as well have been removed. She would never use it again.

Thankfully, the girl had friends and family who deeply loved her. They carried her around on their backs until she felt strong enough to walk on her own again. Slowly, so slowly, she emerged from the Dark Pit. With the help of her loved ones and a fairy godmother named Dr. Kathleen King, the girl survived. Over the next few years, she learned to be a version of herself again, though she was unquestionably changed forever. She was able to lift her face to her old friend, The Sun, though her heart remained a brick of ice.

One of the dear friends who helped the girl during this time had nursed a broken heart, too. The girl had watched him seek his own fairy tale for over a decade. Princess imposters floated in and out of his life, wearing masks to hide their true selves, loving the idea of this boy more than the boy himself. He helped pull the girl out of the Dark Pit, and somewhere along the line, their friendship changed. It deepened into something else. The girl pretended it hadn’t happened for quite a while. After all, she depended on this friendship. To live. But inside, she started to feel her frozen heart begin to thaw.

It terrified her.

But she could be very brave.

As time passed, the girl began to realize that her story wasn’t over. Her fairy tale hadn’t ended. It was simply far more complicated than she had ever dreamed. The realization gave her hope, and the optimism she was born with began to dig its way out of its hiding place and show itself again in her smile. It was becoming clear to her that she was stronger than ever before.

The boy was not a prince. He didn’t rescue her. He simply reminded her, time and time again, that there was something beautiful worth salvaging within her. He held her hand tightly while the girl rescued herself. And that was the best thing he could have done.

The two started to dream. They went on adventures together, talking, talking, always talking about what could be. Deeper and deeper they went, until one day, atop a snowy peak, the boy asked the girl if she wanted to take a crack at their own version of Happily Ever After. The girl trembled. She looked into the eyes of her best friend and, quite bravely, trusted her now-warm heart. She said yes.

The two progressed with slight trepidation, unsure how to navigate the future but filled with anticipation. They moved into a small castle in a snowy magical kingdom called Park City. They fell in love with a teeny furball with crooked ears who became their mascot, and the three of them began to build a life of love.

The girl never wanted to be a princess. But on the day of their celebration, in a glorious gown and twinkly glass slippers, one would swear that’s what she was. The shine of the diamond on her finger was rivaled only by the sparkle in her eyes- the kind that comes with true love. Someone official asked, “Do you?” The girl said, “I do.” And the boy said, “Me, too.”

It turns out that they were BOTH very brave.

And with that, and after many clinks of their glasses and dancing into the night, two best friends rode off into the sunset on a horse named Air France to begin a new chapter in their adventure, as man and wife.

You may expect, at this part of the fairy tale, to read the words, “The End.” But the girl knows better than to expect the ending before the story has even begun.

And I’m pretty sure it gets really good from here.

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. –Albert Camus

Categories: john, life, love

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77 replies »

  1. Beautiful, real, unthinkable, honest, hurtful, hopeful and straight from the heart! I am a strong believer of ‘everything happens for a reason’ and I think if you hadn’t gone through these very rough patches you wouldn’t have ended up with marrying your best friend. Congratulations to both of you and enjoy every minute of it. It is going to be a blast!

  2. The brave things are the hardest. So glad did the hard, brave thing though, lady. A beautiful, honest, heartbreaking-to-heart-mending post. Thank you for sharing this 🙂
    P.S. Not sure if you’d be interested, but this post really made me think of the Tiny Spark series I’m about to kick off on my blog. Would love for you to check it out and consider guest posting 🙂 (Just click the Tiny Spark tab on my page for info.)

  3. What a story! So sorry you’ve been dealing with so much pain, but glad you’ve entered into a new happier chapter in life. Love your “frozen heart” reference. I know it’s a different kind of broken heart, but that’s how I felt when my brother died. Amazing how good friends can help pull you out of the mud. Sounds like you’ve got lots of good friends :).

    • It’s easier to think about now that it’s been a few years, and it doesn’t compare in the least to losing your brother. Something shuts down in your heart. It took me awhile to realize that I needed to stop trying to be the old me again. For me, change brings out new, better parts of me.
      I have good memories of your brother. 🙂

  4. Amber, you are indeed a very brave woman. Those experiences indeed shaped you into a strong, confident woman, and set you on your way to meet your loving man. Everything happens for a reason! Thank you for sharing this story—I know it mustn’t have been easy, but you can reach so many people young women going through a similar situation, and help them be brave as you were. Here’s to your happy beginning, not ending!

    • I felt strongly about putting it out there, even though it’s a toned down version of reality. Everyone has a story that makes them stronger or wiser. I write so much about a “perfect” life- I wanted it to be clear that it’s not perfect. I just focus on that good stuff.

  5. I absolutely loved this post. Thank you for sharing. It almost made me cry. I was in a very sad relationship for four years and didn’t realize how badly I had forgotten to love myself and love life. “The boy was not a prince. He didn’t rescue her. He simply reminded her, time and time again, that there was something beautiful worth salvaging within her. He held her hand tightly while the girl rescued herself. And that was the best thing he could have done.” My husband is this kind of amazing best friend for me, too. Reminding and encouraging. I found you through Truth and Cake. Now following you!

    • How awesome is Rian for doing the FP yourself thing? I love it- because I discover all sorts of new and interesting blogs. Thanks for reading and connecting to this story. Part of why I felt like I needed to put it out there is because I know there are women who don’t think they are strong enough or brave enough to make the right decisions for themselves. They can’t imagine another life other than the one they have. Sometimes that “other life” is better. Thanks again for reading!!

  6. This sentence, “He held her hand tightly while the girl rescued herself” is magnificent.

    I have a friend who is dealing with this. I will make sure she reads it. Not as a tool to heal her, but to realize she can (and will) be healed. Thanks you for this.

  7. Amber, I don’t know how I possibly missed this post! It brought tears to my eyes – utterly amazing. I’ve had a few hardships in my recent marriage, and then a miscarriage to turn those mole hills into mountains, and after a bout of depression and doubts about my path in life, I’m finally becoming myself again. Your story is such an inspiration, and proof that life finds a way to mend itself if you have a tad bit of hope and strength within yourself. Thank you – for being so brave and bringing out the bravery in us 🙂

    • I’m so sorry that you have had a hard time! Everyone’s dark days feel like the worst to them and I understand what it feels like to question what you thought you knew about your life and what you wanted. I hear an old-timer in my head saying, “That’s life.” I feel like we grow into better people when we go through hardships. I am happy you feel like you’re coming around again. 🙂

  8. This is a beautiful story of love and hope. I loved reading it and getting to know you through your own fairy tale. It’s funny that I also wrote a little fairy tale of my own and never saw that post of yours 🙂
    It’s the best post I’ve seen so far from T+C’s contest so I cross my fingers for you!
    I wish you many more years of friendship and love and happiness with your prince.

    • OMG, thank you! I love the concept of the T&C contest! I’d love to be featured, but to be honest, my views doubled yesterday and I picked up a couple of new followers. I also found some awesome new blogs to keep up with. So her plan already worked a little- the blogging community got tighter.
      I wish those same things for you and YOUR prince.

  9. This is a great way to tell a hard story. My sister went through a divorce about 3 years ago, and I remember many nights of carrying her on my back, along with others in my family, and many mornings of saying, “You need to get up.” And now she’s up and strong.
    And thanks to Truth and Cake for sharing.

    • Break-ups are so hard, and divorce is a break-up on steroids with all sorts of feelings of failure and guilt thrown into the heartbreak. I’m proud of your sister for getting through it, and of you for understanding exactly what she needed right then. Thank you for reading!

  10. What courage to do what you did, to turn from the known to face the unknown. I’m divorced myself and have a prince charming too from the dark pit, only I defined it on my blog as “not someone who saves me, but spurs me to be myself however perfectly imperfect”. I spent a life in a fairytale while living through slumbering eyes and a disconnected heart. When I awoke, I too had to leave… I do have a little girl and she’s an angel that has helped me heal and move on. Thank you for sharing your touching story, I hope you find all that you seek!

  11. I am so happy to have discovered your blog! Thank you for telling us the wonderful story of your life. You say it so well that life is full of wonders. Merry Christmas and countless days of happiness ahead ! (I am saving other posts for later, just like eating a tasty piece of cake slowly to prolong pleasure)

  12. So, I just read this and I have to tell you, this is the kind of post that I am drawn to. There is strength, their is fear, there is humility, but most of all, there is a real person in the written words. You are a remarkable woman, Amber and I want to thank you for bravely sharing this story that could have so easily been swept under the rug. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspiring. I am glad you finally found happiness, love, and crooked ears and I can’t wait to see what other adventures you will share. xoxo

    • Thanks, Jessica! Hopefully, one doesn’t have TOO much fuel like this in their lives to prompt good writing. It was hard to publish because I felt exposed and embarrassed about what I felt were failures in my life. I know now that sharing this part of my life has been healthy and empowering, and that there are no failures in life- just lessons to make us better people. 🙂

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