There have been two times in my life I awoke so refreshed it felt like the tight sear of a jar puckering open. Reborn.
The first was swaying gently in a Nantucket harbor on the deck of my father’s wooden boat. My lids raised in the pitch-black September morning, the smell of salt and fish, the air so crisp I may as well have just bitten into a granny apple.
My dad slid open the hatch and emerged in his rugby shirt and Dockers from down below. We left my new husband of one week asleep across the deck and ventured through cobblestone streets fetching coffee for all of us.
I never felt so complete. I’d finally done it, I’d gotten married! After this ten-day honeymoon visiting my family because we didn’t have enough money to do anything else, I’d be able to begin my life in earnest. Now that a man had chosen me, now that I had a ring on my finger, I could focus on the rest of my life.
The second time I woke so rested I thought I’d never need to sleep again, was at the same hour, five am. This time, my eyes didn’t feast on thousands of tiny crystals in the galaxy above me. I didn’t hear the water lapping against a boat or birds chirping on a peer. Instead, I looked up at fluorescent lights from a fiberglass cot on the cement floor in Jefferson County Correctional Facility, and I heard the grunts and moans of the eight women in my overcrowded jail cell. My not-so-new, and now drug-addicted husband had called the cops and had me bogusly arrested for domestic violence.
A night in jail is what it took for me to recognize that my worth was not reliant on a man or a marriage. This is how bad things had to get, for me to understand that no one deserved what I’d been through on that day or in the preceding five years. And if no one deserved it, then I didn’t deserve it and if I didn’t deserve it, that meant I was inherently worthy.
I didn’t feel complete on that day; I felt whole. The boat was a lifetime ago. What I thought had been a rebirth the first time, was nothing more than a bandage tightly wrapping an open wound.
Everything in jail as far as my eye could see was dismal, dark, and hopeless. It was a long climb out of that emotional place, but for the first time, the inner landscape was as clear as the Milky Way.