Through the Fire … Taking Steps Toward Happiness

When I started this blog, I envisioned a platform for inspiration … a place where we could all share a little about our lives, with the hope that everyone could find a small, helpful piece they could take back to their own lives. I imagined recipes, gardening tips and sharing ideas on how to stay motivated in our continuous journeys to health/fitness.

I never really imagined that PLANK could have a more serious impact. Last week, however, I received a letter from a reader who said that this blog had saved her. It’s always nice to hear that your words or ideas or attitudes have inspired people … but save them?

This letter, which described an extremely unhealthy and possibly dangerous relationship, moved me beyond words. I was taken aback by this reader’s willingness to share the intimate, not so pretty details of her life; and I was so touched that the platform we (all of you are a part of that we) have created here has helped her.

Her letter proved to me, once again, that even the smallest things we do in life can have a huge impact on others. Moreover, it reinforced my belief that, while we all walk different paths in life, we can always help each other out along the way.

This letter also scared me. The writer is in a situation that isn’t just heartbreaking … it’s dangerous.

I’ll admit, my first reaction after reading this letter was “not for one minute.” Not for one minute can I even fathom that relationship, much less staying in it. But I know that life and relationships are complicated; and while my gut screamed “GET OUT,” it’s often not that easy.

We’ve all lived a lot of life to get where we are … and our backgrounds and experiences shape our perceptions and reactions. Sometimes our past experiences make us stronger and more resilient, and unfortunately they sometimes make us believe we don’t deserve better.

I am not a therapist, I don’t know much about abuse and one letter certainly doesn’t give a full picture of someone’s reality, so I was really hesitant to even write about this. But if this woman’s words about how PLANK inspired her are true, then maybe discussing that here can somehow shed a light on dark situations for others.

So what to say to this woman and others who might be facing equally challenging times? I don’t know the answer, but I do know this … we have ONE shot on this earth! You must know it is never too late to start over and life is a series of reinventions, but it takes being brave and gutsy to push forward into the scary unknown. In my opinion, you shouldn’t spend your precious life in a place where you’re treated like less than the queen you are.

You shouldn’t stay in a job that makes you unhappy, you shouldn’t be resigned to a body that doesn’t make you happy and you darn sure shouldn’t stay in relationships that make you miserable.

But what’s the first step? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong first step … I know each person’s path to change will be different. For me, I’m not much of a planner … I’ve always been one to just say yes and figure it out along the way. I know that method doesn’t work for everyone, but do something. Take a step. Decide to change whatever is making you unhappy in your life and take a step away from that. 

Sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.  Sometimes, unfortunately the only way to make changes in your life is to walk through the fire.

It may be the hardest, most painful thing you have ever experienced, and it may take all of your wherewithal to stay focused on your resolve. But, when you make it to the other side the sun will shine …

We need to always remember … we are worth it … we deserve to have a peaceful beautiful life.  Even if we have to fight tooth and nail to get it!

And if you’re truly lost as to what that step should be … ask for help. Whether it’s professional help, the advice of a friend or maybe even some online forum or group of people who are in similar situations. And please … if you, at any point, feel you’re in danger, please get help immediately.



  1. Michelle Gray

    Wow, this blog really hit home, a lot of food for thought here. My thoughts are with this woman and i hope she gets the life she deserves. Thank you for posting about this, you are such a caring person.
    You have now got me thinking about my own happiness and achieving what i really want.

  2. Georgia L

    It is heart wrenching to hear these stories of abuse. Not to mention cases where this destructive behaviour is cycled from generation to generation.

    This blog goes to show that we don’t need to be doctors or psychiatrists or even close to someone living this nightmare. Just being an empathetic sounding board ( or PLANK!) can sometimes fan a tiny spark of courage into that fire of self-belief and resilience. A touch of humanity can go a long way.

    Thank you Mary Beth.

  3. Stacey AKA BraveWidowMama

    Mary Beth,

    The fact that someone trusted you enough to reach out to you for advice speaks to the powerful connection you’ve created with the members of this forum. I’m glad that you wrote about this important topic.

    Change is hard. It’s hard even if your current situation is unpleasant. I know widows who were in abusive relationships. Yet, they still grieve. I don’t ever judge anyone else’s journey because I know how awful it feels to be judged by those who don’t know.

    That being said, when a woman’s physical or psychological well being is at stake or when children are in a house where there is abuse…it’s time to be brave. I’m speaking directly to the Sister who wrote to you when I say: You can survive the end of a marriage. You were brave enough to write that letter. Now, be brave enough to reach out to a friend or relative and ask them for help. If you have no one, then call a local battered women’s shelter and get the Hell out. Be brave enough to end your own nightmare.

    When I was in my darkest place, a friend told me something that I think about when things get tough. Depression is like being in a dark tunnel. The darkness prevents you from seeing anyone else. So, you think you’re alone. You have to keep moving forward because the light is there even when the darkness prevents you from seeing it.

    Move forward step at a breath at a time. You deserve to feel happy and safe.

  4. ILoveMySnK

    I, too, want to thank you, Mary Beth, for doing this blog and giving us a place we can come and be among friends and speak openly. We are all different, come from various geographical areas, but are joined by one common theme: our love, respect, and admiration for one woman. That commonality has allowed us to grow, learn and experience new things, and we’ve been able to go on new adventures even if vicariously.

    That said, I hope this friend, the member of our not so little group, finds the courage she needs to take the first steps through that fire. I know many of us are thinking of her and praying for her. I also think it important that we remember that abuse isn’t always physical. Words, threats, don’t leave marks, but they are abuse just the same. Emotional abuse can be devastating. It’s the head games, it’s the making you feel like you’re worthless, making you feel you’re not worthy of being loved. Those experiencing these things need an escape route as well.

    It’s a sad topic but a very important topic. The way you broached the matter to us was very eloquent as another comment stated. I’m not sure anyone else could have handled this any better. Thank you MB.

  5. This is beautiful. I am a firm believer in talking about our experiences with others. We live in this totally flawed world yet it’s taboo to talk about the ugly parts of life. As a result so many people think they are alone and have no hope of changing their circumstances. Sharing our personal stories can be down right hard, but I believe we go through them to help others down the road. When we can see we all have struggles and there is no perfect person or relationship it enables others to find the courage to make changes and take the steps needed to move forward. One of my favorite quotes says something like “we can’t help everyone but we can all help someone” we don’t always know how to or that we’re even doing it, but being open, kind and compassionate towards those around us can definitely inspire and encourage others.

    Keeping this situation in my thoughts and prayers ❤

  6. Marnessa

    Mary Beth,
    Wow! This is so true!! Thank You for sharing!!

  7. Mary Beth,

    A beautiful blog and so true, each of us has to take that first step. I have been in such a situation and I had two small children – I took that first step and believe me it was not easy, but there is not one day that I regret leaving. It took me three years to realize that abuse wasn’t normal but when I did I knew that I had to leave not just for me but for my children. I grew up in a home where abuse was an everyday occurrence from one parent to another parent and then to the children.

    I earned the respect of my children (for a couple of years there was resentment for leaving their dad) but finally they understood.

    Leaving is not easy, and sometimes there is more danger, so make sure you go to a safe place, even if it means starting over with nothing, because nothing is worth losing yourself and if there are children involved they will one day thank you.

    I have seen people who have not left, who live with the abuse, thinking it is going to get better, or maybe they deserve it, but no one deserves it, and it will not get better.

    Mary Beth, once again, as someone who has lived through it, this blog is so relevant to so many people’s everyday life, thank you for reinforcing that everyone needs to be responsible for their own happiness.

  8. Andrea Welmaker

    My heart is breaking for this woman. I personally have never experienced it so I don’t know what she is going through. No woman should have to go through what she is having to suffer through. But unfortunately so many women do. If she does read these comments I want her to know. She will be in my thoughts and I’ll be keeping her in my prayers. I hope she’ll be able to get out of this bad situation soon. Thank you Mary Beth! I know it’s hard to share sad situations but we need to hear them. We need to be reminded there are people hurting. We might not even be aware of it. It’s the reason we should always be kind and thoughtful to others.

  9. Kelley Garner

    Thankfully I have never had to experience any of this in my marriage or my family’s but as a teacher I see it everyday and it is truly heartbreaking! I have several I would just love to take home, and a brother/sister that I often do for an afternoon. It just gives them a few hours to experience what it’s like to have a”normal childhood” I pray dear Lord let nothing happen to them on my watch because I’m afraid Grandma and grandpa are just waiting for something to happen so they can ” get me” but it’s a gamble I take because I know God will protect me. They love me and coming with me and my family so I’ll keep getting them from time to time and make them feel loved and important. As a teacher so much of what they deal with comes to school with them and it’s just so sad! But I’ll keep on keeping on because I know I’m important in the life of a child!

  10. Christie L

    Brilliant. Such an important topic. I was on the child side. It’s a scary place to be. We finally left in the middle of the night. I echo everything you said, MB.

  11. I personally have a best friend that is dealing with a similar situation that this blog speaks of. For two years now my heart has been constantly torn apart with fear, worry, and anxiety. Children are involved in this situation so she has decided to stay in this toxic situation. Personally, I have not been in the situation, so I struggle with giving all the advice I think she needs. Although, I’m thankful that she feels she can talk to me, I struggle with whether I am doing the right thing to protect her and encourage her. The one thing that my family and I always assure her is if she needed a safe place to come, no matter the time or day that we will be there!! Sometimes I live in fear wondering what the next phone call may be about. I’ve had to learn the hard way that I can’t make her leave. That is a decision she has to make on her own, and as for me I need to continue to show unconditional love and to be there whenever I am needed.. whether its a shoulder to cry on, someone to make her laugh, or someone to get her to safe place when the days are extremely tough in her home life.

    Thank you for this blog today. It reminded me of how serious this issue is, and it only makes me want to be a better friend in my situation. It’s disheartening to know that there as so many stories like this in our world. MB, thank you for creating PLANK. I know stories like this have to make all the hard work worth it to know that you’re helping someone. Its a great place to come and escape. We will miss you this weekend in Charlotte, but send you so much love!

  12. Melinda

    Actually, I believe this person your are talking about is my best friend. Unfortunately, this situation is all to real. I have watched the pain this has caused her and her children and it is truly heartbreaking. Over the years, I have offered help, encouragement, and unfortunately set up a secret code for her if there ever is a time she needs my help. It is so painful to watch your dearest friend go through so much. I honor her wishes and respect that the time is coming soon that one day she will be free of this situation. I pray daily for her protection and yes I pray for him as well. Hope comes from many sources. I lnow one day she will get the courage to say, I AM WORTH MORE…
    and when she does, I will be there to help her through.

  13. Susan Nolen (Suzzy1969)

    Wow….a very important and touching blog….I truly hope this person gets the help she needs….thank you MB for this blog and for always listening and letting us express our opinions on such matters!

  14. Jennifer

    Unfortunately I have had three family members involved in abusive relationships. Thirty years ago, my husband and I rescued his mom and her two small children from her physically abusive husband. We went at night and helped her escape and arranged for her to go to another state and live with her sister but that lasted 5 days before she returned to her husband. She stayed with him another 20 years enduring abuse, until he committed suicide in a final act which created more abuse to her.
    My sister was in two abusive marriages, both which were full of death threats by her husbands. She managed to end both of those relationships after enduring beatings, threats and a seriously damaged self esteem. Her 22 year old daughter is now repeating the same pattern. She is pregnant by her live in boyfriend who tells her she will never keep this baby from him, yet in the next breath tells her he doesn’t want a baby and threatens to punch her in the stomach to end the life of the baby.
    In all three experiences, the family members were offered places to live out of state and away from their abusive husbands/boyfriends and the offers were turned down. I can say that there isn’t much anyone can do except offer help and support. I don’t fully understand it and find it so heartbreaking that anyone would live in a relationship like that. As I have with my family members, I encourage anyone in a toxic relationship, to leave before it is too late. No one should ever treat you badly, you are worth way more than that and deserve love and happiness. Life is too short and beautiful to waste even a moment in an abusive relationship.

  15. Connie Leinicke

    Mary Beth, Today’s blog post should be required reading for every person – male and female – age 10 and older.

    Several of my aunts, two of my siblings, and even my own daughter have experienced living in an abusive situation with a spouse. For some, leaving their situation to take a different path was too frightening to accept, while others bravely began the process of accepting help and rebuilding their lives, and have found much happiness.

    Many factors influence a person’s decision to leave a dangerous, abusive relationship. From what I’ve seen, asking for and accepting help from others is a major factor.

    May your words of help and hope reach many who need to hear them. And may they provide the strength and guidance necessary for positive decision making.

    Bless you!

  16. I love that this is a place where people can speak so freely about their lives, their troubles and their triumphs! Domestic violence is such a difficult topic to talk about, but I think it needs to be so much more. So many out there think they are alone and don’t know where to go or what to do first. Thank you for bringing this to attention and for reminding us that we deserve better. We are better!

  17. A very eloquent and beautiful response Mary Beth. I’m proud to be a part of this community you have created. I have learnt, remembered, grown and reflected on so many blogs and comments. If someone has gained courage to change from reading this blog I feel proud. Thank you.

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