Chapter 5: Broken
“He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.”–Psalm 147:3
After the vision, I decided to stay in Oklahoma for a while. I was dealing with the heat issue the best I could, but it still wrecked my daily life in the summer months. I felt like a social leper when it was hot outside. I couldn’t go to outdoor events or concerts, and I didn’t know how on earth I was going to find a man who was happy to have a broken woman.
To be fair, my life wasn’t all bad. Some things were going well. For instance, I finally had a good paying job, a cute apartment, and I had reconnected with some of my old friends. It was touch and go there for a while, and I had been financially broke for a bit after the Arizona debacle. However, I had finally secured a good paying job at the local library, and I had a sense of stability and routine in my life for the first time.
You’d think this success would make me happy, and I guess it did a little bit, but deep inside I had never been more miserable. I realized I loathed stability and routine. Instead, I longed for adventure and amazing experiences. I wondered where my soul-mate was, and life seemed dull without the high of finding true love. Workaday life was pretty draining, and the end of the day usually found me watching movies with my cat, too tired for anything else.
I had still been struggling with the low grade yeast infections and immune issues from leaky gut, but I tried to ‘get out there’ and be a part of the dating scene regardless. In attempt to control the yeast issues, I went on what the natural doctors called a ‘cleanse’, and it was a pretty extreme carbohydrate reduction to stop any allergic reactions from food. The cleanse was physically difficult for me, and it caused my weight to drop very fast. Dramatic weight loss was very dangerous to my already thin figure, but I didn’t think about any of that. I just wanted the cleanse to work, and the upside to all of it was that I suddenly weighed 120 pounds and was getting all kinds of male attention. I had never looked more socially appealing, but I was absolutely miserable and literally starving.
At this time in my life, I was still mourning the loss of my life with James. It felt like a divorce of sorts. We did promise one another life-long devotion after all, and it felt like part of me was still beholden to him in some way, like a piece of me still belonged to him. Grieving the loss of my first love turned me into a bit of a ‘player’, as I had closed off my heart from the pain in my past. I was not going to allow another failed love to devastate me ever again. I had been dating a few men at that time, but I didn’t have any real feelings for any of them, and most didn’t get past a 2nd date. Even though I felt broken, I was compelled to keep searching for my soul mate, and I needed male admiration to feel good about myself.
I tried not to tell any of the men about my issue with the heat stroke, but eventually summer would come around and it would be stressful for me to date. Most men had a problem with my high maintenance health problems, and the ones who didn’t just wanted to fix me. I did meet one man who was the exception to this because he had a health problem of his own. He accepted me just the way I was, which was lovely. However, we didn’t have a lot of chemistry, and what’s more his outward appearance didn’t line up with the soul-mate vision. Because of this, he never had a real chance.
The interesting part in all this was that I wasn’t having a lot of sexual affairs with the men I was dating. In fact, I only had sex with one man back then. I hardly ever let anyone touch me at that time, partly because of the yeast infections and partly because I didn’t want to be touched. I was dealing with the trauma of my childhood abuse, and I didn’t know how to heal from it while being stuck back in Tulsa where my abuser still lived. Even though I felt broken inside, I still longed for human companionship, so the cycle of heartbreak continued. I hurt a lot of men with my behavior back then.
I had no clue yet about what a godly relationship was or the true healing that only Jesus could provide. I was still praying to Jesus then, but my heart wasn’t surrendered to the Lord. My prayers were always for specific outcomes I wanted, not for obedience to God.
I was chasing after worldly goals and love, and the idea of the dream soulmate had started to become an obsession, and also an excuse. As long as I was searching for this man, I didn’t give anyone else a chance. I developed a bit of a reputation as a tease or maybe as a heart-breaker, but it was me who was genuinely broken inside. I felt no real remorse for years, just the yearning to be comforted and admired. This soothed the wounds of my childhood and helped me feel valued as a flesh and blood woman as well.
After a year of dating many men, I grew tired of my hometown again. So, it came as no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to have an adventure the first chance I got. The good news was that my cousin and her fiancé had moved up to Portland, Oregon, and they encouraged me to move up there with them.
“Jen, we want you to move up here! my cousin pleaded with me.”
It would be a cooler temperature there, and I could finally live a normal life during the summertime. Plus, I had always wanted to get out of my hometown, so it was a no-brainer for me. ‘Anywhere was better than here’ was always my motto. So, in what seemed like a miraculous feat I secured a job at a health food store in Portland– the same local food store chain where I had once worked in my hometown! I then sold all my belongings and drove up there with my trusty relocation companion, my cat. I was ready for a new adventure. This time had to be different, I told myself.
After I sold my belongings, I packed up some clothes and toiletries in my little 4 door Saturn, and I gave notice at my job and apartment complex. I was ready to go. I quite enjoyed the nomadic lifestyle, ‘light enough to travel’ attitude. I was ready for the next big adventure in my life. My mom had agreed to ride up to Oregon with me, and I was glad because I would need help taking my cat all the way up there. For the second time in my life, I set off to find myself in the big bad world.
The trip went well, and my cat handled the long drive like a champ. Everything was going great, but for some reason I began to get uneasy due to the lack of communication from my new boss. I had emailed him a few days ago, and he hadn’t yet replied. However, I decided to brush my uneasiness off as paranoia, and pressed onward towards Oregon. The drive was a long one, so when we got there we wanted to unload and relax. Now that I was finally there, I called my new boss to check in and let him know I had moved into my apartment. I wanted to find out when my first official day of work was. He called back immediately with the shocking news: the health food store had been purchased by a bigger chain named Whole Foods, and that particular store location was going to close in two weeks. I was stunned, and the pit of my stomach suddenly dropped.
Trying hard to keep calm, I listened to how my boss wanted to offer me a temporary job, with the promise that he would find something more permanent for me at another store location. Reeling from shock and disappointment, I clamped down even harder to my plan, motivated to do everything in my power to make it work. I was determined NOT to crawl back home again like a failure. I ended up taking the temporary job to make the rent, but it wasn’t a good job for someone like me because it involved lifting heavy items. I had been in a car wreck my senior year of high school, and it had left me with a bit of a bad back. So, I knew better than to try and push my luck, but I was desperate so my thinking wasn’t very rational at that time.
I lived in Portland for a few months, and I truly thought I could make it all work out if I wanted it badly enough. However, one fateful day at my new job I lifted something heavy, and I wound up injuring my back. I thought it wasn’t a huge problem at first, but then the next day I found that I couldn’t get out of bed. Panicking, I decided to call my mom. My cousin was out of town, so I didn’t know who to ask for help. It turned out my mom was actually attending a conference in California that week, so she was not too far away. My mom came through for me, and flew over to Portland to help. When it became clear that my back was not getting better, I decided to head back home in defeat. Unable to drive my car due to the back pain, my mom offered to take me and my cat back to Oklahoma. I was so grateful she was helping, but I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t take care of myself.
Here we go again, I thought. Another failed move coupled with a shiny new health problem. So, Back to Oklahoma I went.