After Eden

Eve after Eden is a woman who can not settle for being defined by a moment when she lives in a lifetime of second chances.

The hardest moments in life are the ones just after the light bulb clicks on that a mistake was made and you are the one who made it.

You’ve already gone through the roles other people played. What other people could have, should have, would have done but did not.

You’ve already gone through the reasons why they may not have done whatever it is that you needed or wanted them to do. And yes, a penalty fee was assessed! But, when everyone else has gone through your assessment, it’s your turn.

Your turn is the hardest. Don’t numb the pain that is about to be added to your already burdened back. Don’t run anymore from your share, not your fair share but your full share, of the blame. Here it is: It is your mistake. You have to fix it. And, you have to deal with the consequences.

Are you ready?

Do you see what you could have, should have, would have done differently or better?

Where will you go from here?

How will you move forward? Because, truth be told, everyone else has already moved on. You are the one who is stuck. Now, tell me, how does it feel to know that?

When will you reach your next mountaintop, plateau, plain, or valley? Have you the stamina or discipline to even start that journey?

I’ll be honest. When “you” is me and the mistake is mine, I need a minute. Depending on the mistake, I may even need a month or more. There are still some mistakes I have not forgiven myself for and I don’t know if I ever will.

Forgiveness is an aspect of life I struggle with because I don’t know for certain, for sure, on sight, what forgiveness looks like, feels like, or sounds like. So, I chew on the mistake like an overcooked beef tip. Turning it over in my mind trying to find the softest spot to break it open and break it down. I run scenarios in my mind. I re-evaluate every relationship involved trying to confirm people I am safe with as my authentic self and adjust to the ones where I’ll either need to put on armor or back away from entirely. (The kicker is that now that I know what it feels like, looks like, and sounds like to be my authentic self in a safe space with safe people, I don’t want to put on armor for just any old body. You better be worth the work because the “back away” move is too easy and so peaceful for me.)

When the idea came to me to write Eve after Eden, I hadn’t made any big mistakes in the recent past and I couldn’t see any on the horizon but this article series idea was something I could not shake.

I’d get this idea, jot it down, then do something that only happens when my husband and four children are all out of the house at the same time… I’d deep clean. I’m talking “q-tips to clear out the windowsill, dryer sheets to wipe down the baseboards, pull out the carpet shampooer and get to work before little feet and little hands can distract you” type of clean.

I’d get this idea, scribble down a list of names for potential interviews, then cook a labor intensive dinner.

I’d get this idea, write down topics for each article in the series, then decide to eat right and exercise. (The way I laughed at this last sentence! I’m not about to do that. Why would I even distract myself with this notion?)

I’d get this idea, bounce it off my soundboards — the people I trust to tell me about me and there are but a few — and they had the same question as me: Who was Eve after she was summarily kicked out of Eden? (There was also the question of whether or not this was the first eviction but that’s for another time and only if you have a sense of humor.)

With a clean house, I well-fed family, a rejected notion of eat right-get tight, and the outline to my series, I started with people I knew. I asked for interviews about specific moments in their lives that were transforming, hard, possibly mistakes, and to my surprise they all answered with a yes. Ashley, Pamela, Kassandra, and Tyra all said yes the first time and without hesitation. So now, I had to do it. I had to find out who was Eve after Eden. I wanted to know about life after the 9-to-5, life after divorce, life after major health concerns, life after miscarriage or life after weight loss. I thought the series would be Biblically based with the voices of today and that the correlation between Eve and each woman would be easy to narrate. What I received was far different.

I learned about life after the 9-to-5 that was never really meant to be from Ashley Scales. She grew up with a mother who was an entrepreneur, saw the hardship and sacrifice, and wanted a clearer path. No matter what she did, a 9-to-5 job was just not working out. When she was laid off, she went in the direction of her candle business and did what she never wanted to do: She became an entrepreneur. Her after Eden, so far, is what she never wanted for herself but certainly what seemed destined for her all along.

I heard about life after the “Marriage of Expectation” ended for Pamela Newsome, not life after divorce or self-love like I expected. I was introduced to a woman who was ready to release the weight of all she experienced trying to fit an image she saw on television as a child, modeled herself into as a young woman, and broke out of as an adult. What she needed most was to see herself in her life and marriage, not a one-dimensional character. Her after Eden started off tumultuous. It became a revelation on who she truly is and, today, it’s the life she allowed God to create for her while she patiently waited and worked on herself.

I received a lesson on life after Eden was lost for Kassandra Johnson. She loved the idea of motherhood. She took great care of her mind, body, and soul. Her relationship with God was next level! She was living a life that was on track from the outside looking in. She and her husband were growing in their careers, creating a family together, and had plans to start house hunting in Spring 2019. An undiagnosed brain tumor imploded, caused a stroke, and rocked her world so much it strained her faith. Prior to interviewing Kassandra, I heard of people losing their faith or being angry with God but never being strained. Her experience shed light on that dynamic. It is reverence for God with questions of why and what now, how do I and with whom all while coming to terms with what was and what will be. Her “after Eden” is an uncomfortable but required recalibration of priorities and purpose.

I saw life after the facade of happily ever after was shattered multiple times in multiple ways for Tyra Richardson. Constrained by the standards of our society, she believed she could live well in a life meant for someone else; someone who did not have her clarity of mind or her strong will and she settled for less than she was worth. But, the heartbreaks she experienced in her marriage and her acts of self-betrayal to portray a happier life to friends and family proved too heavy for too long. She became Eve after Eden when the last thing she had left to sacrifice was herself and she was not willing to be on the chopping block. Her dignity and character, her happiness in any form, were no longer going to die for the sake of anyone or anything. In Tyra, I met an Eve who left a hard earned life for a chance at unpredictable joy.

Through the interviews, I realized that Eve may not have bitten the apple out of carelessness or being naive enough to believe a serpent. Perhaps she bit the apple because, as beautiful and lush as Eden was depicted, it was not hers and certainly not her happily ever after. It may not have even been created for her. After all, she was created because Adam could not find a companion or helpmate in all of Eden.

I think Eve bit the apple when she had this realization, that she was created in Eden for Adam. Based on my interviews with different Eve’s and their most trusted friends, the decision to bite the apple was made after countless large and small experiences that hurt, changed, strengthened, and informed them that there was something else worth seeking.

I think Eve bit the apple after she went through her own assessment. The serpent egging her on was just the final push. But this is an answer to a question I did not intend to ask.

The question I asked was, “Who was Eve after Eden?”

The answer I received from the first four women was: Eve is more complex than what was captured for posterity and context in the Bible. She changed course using her free will. It just so happens to have been both a sin and an eye-opening, life changing decision for all mankind.

After Eden, Eve learned who she was and what she was made of out of necessity like Pamela Newsome. She grieved her decision, mourned the life she lost, and then figured out her next step like Tyra Richardson. She worked without really knowing the outcome of her labor like Ashley Scales. And like Kassandra Johnson, she had to let go of what was familiar in order to embrace what her new reality had become.

Who Eve was as a person, more so than a Biblical character, is as complex and multi-layered as women of today. I think she learned lessons from her decision that were passed down to her daughters but I cannot prove it. I think elements of her are found in the women of the Bible who ask questions like the woman at the well; press forward when cultural and societal norms urge them to stay in their place, hide in shame, or give up what was promised like Mary; and prepare for the present and the future like a Proverbs 31 woman.

I am led to think Eve’s life was more than a bad decision, a lifetime of making amends, and living in grace when death was the penalty. More importantly, through hearing the stories of other women who have made life changing decisions, I have an understanding of her as a woman who could not settle for being defined by one moment when she lived in a lifetime of second chances. This is Eve after Eden.

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