This always happens. The night before a grand adventure is about to happen, I cannot sleep. Can. Not. Sleep. I’m too excited! I can see the road in my head. Every single turn, and familiar corner. Each roadside stop, each of the many, many McDonalds drive thru’s we will pass, and all of the roundabouts we need to navigate.

Home. We’re going home. To our tiny piece of paradise on the eastern most point of our beautiful country. To the place where clocks move more slowly, and the queue for KFC is longer than queues at traffic lights. There’s only 2 sets of traffic lights anyway.

To the little town nestled within walking distance of the purest beaches, where you can see the ocean while standing under the town clock on the main road. To the place so isolated you can drive for 2hrs in any direction and still be considered a part of the town. So isolated that no one ends up there accidently. Everyone that is there means to be there.

Near the demolition site that used to have a sweet little cottage perched on top of it where I first fell in love. Just a 30min leisurely boat ride to where I hooked my first marlin, and even nearer to a secret channel brimming with tasty Tarakihi.

A tiny little district somewhat sadly named Poverty Bay, that is now bright with maize crops, cattle, fields filled with commercial vege crops, and other kinds of crops…

Gisborne.

Where Emmy’s best friend lives. Where my best friend lives. Where Emmy’s whenua sits waiting for us. Where Emmy’s Papa grew up. Where my Nana used to bake. Where my aunts have their families. Where I used to live. Where we have spent a huge chunk of Emmy’s life. And mine.

Where peace finds us.

I haven’t lived there in nearly 6yrs, and Emmy never has. But it will always be home for us. There’s something about traveling south that always makes it feel more homely, but this place is so much more than a direction for me.

It’s where I was broken.

And now that all of my pieces have been reassembled even more perfectly placed than before, it is the place I feel the strongest.

It is the place that reminds me that I made it. Not in terms of success. In terms of spirit. I survived being made utterly worthless, and completely broken in every way. It is the place where I can remember how far I have come and be proud of the life we have built, and continue to build on.

To be able to smile in a town that nearly killed me, and know I am better for all of it, for every single experience, is freeing. Completely freeing.

Putting up with being mistreated is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.

Living with domestic violence has taught me so much about myself, and people, and life. It’s given me limits, reestablished my boundaries, and given me a clearer view of what is ok, and what is definitely not ok. It taught me that physical abuse is viewed as being so much worse than emotional and verbal abuse, but that both were equally damaging to my soul.

It taught me when to say no.

I thought I was being brave by staying. The bravest decision I ever made was to leave. But I went back again. And again. And again. Until I was nearly choked to death.

I had to leave completely. I packed a small bag, got on a bus, and left town. At twenty – something I ran away to my mum. It was all I could do. I was lost, still in love with a broken dream, and too embarrassed to tell anyone. I drank, and sunbathed, and pretended I was ok. I made new friends, started studying again, and then my little miracle baby came along and something magical happened.

I loved her.

And in doing so my heart healed. Bit by bit, memory by memory, I forgave. I needed to forgive him, and myself, for such a toxic love. I needed to let it go so that I could give this beautiful little girl every piece of my heart. I needed to believe the world was a better place, and I needed to let everything go.

It wasn’t easy. Months would go by and I would be fine. But then something would remind me. One day Emmy accidently knocked a chair into the window, and the sound of the shattering glass took me straight back to the day I had my head smashed through a window. I sat among the shards with my bewildered baby on my lap and I cried.

Then days went on, and weeks went on, and I became more and more ok. The smiles became more genuine. My heart was too full to be restless. The love in our home pushed every piece of sadness into places I would never find it again.

I was strong again.

I was tested just one more time. I had to reach out to the person who had broken me at a time when they had been completely broken too. And on that day, and for weeks after, my tears were for them. For their sadness, for their hurt, for their loss. There was none of my own pain there anymore. I could support someone who had shattered my spirit, and feel nothing but genuine empathy for them.

I had to leave home to find my strength again. Now I go home to renew it.

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