This I Believe

Sally Jo - Ramah, New Mexico
Entered on April 9, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: change

Many years ago, in Seattle, I had a nervous breakdown. I can objectively see it clearly in my mind. My husband was a few years younger than me and not ready for marriage. Emotionally, I was much younger. I fell apart when he left. It was my belief that marriage could solve everything. I could not face myself as a single woman. Seeing couples together purchasing groceries at Safeway brought tears. I took an ungodly amount of anti-depressants with all of its side effects.

Six agonizing years later, I met who was to become my second husband. We shared a love for music and began playing together. I became a teacher. We were good enough to get paying gigs. But he had an anger problem. The first time he hit me I was caught off guard. It was peaceful for a few years. Instead of feeling sorry for myself seeing couples together at Safeway, I saw single women having the time of their lives being single. I wanted their strength and independence. No longer did I want to depend on a man, especially an angry man, to do what I now believe I could do.

He hit me again. I was strong enough to get a restraining order. Divorce proceedings began. The first time I shopped at Safeway alone, I began crying because I could go down any aisle and choose anything. It never occurred to me how much of a hold he had until that day, alone in Safeway. I had believed marriage was supposed to be him over me – until my walk down that aisle at Safeway.

Two years later, another man entered: my school principal. He was brand new, young and brash. To show how tough he was, he handed out reprimands like candy. I visited New Mexico, looking for another teaching job. Beginning another year with this principal was nothing I looked forward to. I received a job offer in rural New Mexico. Without blinking, at 52 years old, I took it.

Two weeks later on a Friday afternoon, I arrived to a community of 400 Navajos. My furniture had not arrived and for the first two weeks, I slept on the floor in my sleeping bag and ate peanut butter sandwiches in a trailer in the “teacherage.”

My Navajo students’ academic skills were sadly low. But we bonded and taught each other. I found a log cabin in the mountains. It was perfect.

I love my home, my job, and the kind Navajo people. They accept me into their lives. I learned how much more meaningful life is when it is a 100 mile round trip to the store.

I believe that one person’s inner strength, when found, can change for the good. Living alone brings me solace. I can light my own fire and bake my own bread. It takes strength and courage to remain alone. It can be accomplished. I am no one special. Anyone can do what I do. I am at peace.