In this installment of Our Stories, Denise Heaven describes how she discovered her strength at the lowest point of her love life. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!
Stories have a way of connecting us. They allow us insight into the lives and the beauty around us; they reveal how interconnected we are and inspire us to continue on our journey towards fulfillment of self…
“It takes courage to love again when you’ve been hurt; it takes pain and strength again to pack it all away; somewhere in the pain, somebody has to have the courage to be okay…” This excerpt, from a popular movie, adequately describes the confidence required to gather one’s pieces, assemble yourself and carry on after going through heartbreak.
Strength, then becomes something less abstract, and more tactile; It becomes a substance, a glue that keeps us together even when the world would have expected us to fall apart.
It is my honor, to introduce to you, Ms. Denise Parkes-Heaven: a woman that has redefined the way we look at strength, faith, and understanding of oneself.
This is her story:
If you were to write a book about yourself, how would you name it?
It’s funny that your first question is about me writing a book because I’m actually doing that about my life. I think I’m going to name it ‘Divorced into Destiny’ because I believe that’s where I’m at in my life.
What would be your least favourite chapter?
‘Chapter Thirteen’ ‘cause after thirteen years, that’s when it finally ended and I would title that chapter ‘Marriage on Life Support.’
Would you consider that the biggest challenge you had to face in your life?
I think it would be accepting the fact that the marriage had actually died and it was on life support for a few years; the emotional effect that it had on me, falling out of love with the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.
It was somewhat difficult to deal with – the trust was broken beyond repair. You’re trying to break that whole cycle of the single-parent home that you grew up in and that was my reason for keeping the family together and I could see that it wasn’t working. It was somewhat difficult for me. [We] separated and filed for divorce. And then when you think that after the separation, you’re no longer cohabiting with this person, then to see my son started acting out – that was another challenge. So, yeah, all the challenges were interconnected around the failing of the marriage.
How did you overcome it?
Late in my marriage, I had started a whole new exercise regime. I started going to the gym, and I changed my diet – I no longer eat meat and had already started trimming down. That had caused a problem with the marriage but I continued with that exercise regime with more intensity than I did before. I was focused on me, my lifestyle changes. I was strong in my Christian faith so I believed in my God and that kept me as well. I’ve always wanted to continue my education so I did that. We had discussed it in my marriage but it never happened, so I decided that this was the opportune time for me to apply to graduate school and pursue that Masters I’ve always wanted to do. It was difficult, but my God was there. Faith, determination, trusting God, friends, and the fact that I needed to be strong for my son were the things that I would say helped me to overcome.
What advice would you give to anyone facing the same issue?
You’ll survive. You become a better version of yourself once you are desirous of that. You are still valued. Let no one tell you otherwise. Nothing is wrong with you – you’re no less than you were before. You will love again but first, you have to start loving yourself, believing that this too shall pass. I know that there’s this stigma on divorced women as if you are “The Returned Item” that someone used and returned. But not because you were “returned”, means that your value has changed. You are still valuable there’s still someone out there that will value you. and even if you never get married again, you should still view yourself as worth and value and just move on with your life.
How do you believe this challenge has made you a better version of yourself?
I am way more focused on my dreams and aspirations. I am empowered and I feel that there are no limits to what I can achieve, proving that this mind is so powerful. Once you put your mind to it, you can achieve it. I’ve had women come up to me and say that I’ve been such an inspiration to them, not knowing that I was doing that – I was just being me. Even when you’re hurting, you have to be strong for somebody else but you have to move on, no matter what. If you have to cry, you cry, dust yourself off and move on.
What personality trait(s) do you believe aided you the most with combating your challenges?
They say you have five known personality traits. I would say extraversion and openness best describe my personality. But I have some character traits that I embody in me: my spirituality, my determination, my devotion, optimism, persistence, my sincerity. I’m just adventurous, and that has always helped me to come back to whatever challenges me in life.
What motivates you?
I am motivated every day because I want to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday. So at work, I am motivated to meet and exceed my target goals. At home, I am motivated when I see the joy in my family when I can provide for my mom and my son these are the things that really push me every day and it comes right back to my mantra, “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.
How do you define success?
I believe success is to be defined for me by, me leaving my God-given purpose, walking in my truth. being an inspiration to the people around me. I have this say,” while living, be an inspiration to someone else.”
What has been your most satisfying moment in life?
I’ve had many moments. I remember after I did my undergrad degree, we were married and everything, and I was supposed to go on to do Postgrad. And when I applied initially, my ex was working at the bank at the time and he was supposed to get the financial aid for me to pursue my degree I remember him saying,
‘Why are you applying?’
and we had already agreed that was what we were going to do and when I applied, and they said this is what it’s going to cost, he said
‘I’m not going to pay for it.’
After the marriage ended, and I realized that I was doing this on my own, there was such a sense of gratification. I’m doing this without help, without this man and I never thought I could at the time. So, upon graduation, knowing that it was financed with no help from this man, was a very satisfying moment.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Denise!
John Green, an American author, once wrote, “ We need never fear, for we are never irreparably broken.” Ms. Parkes-Heaven is one embodiment of that statement. May her story bring you strength and inspiration in your darkest hour; may it be a light that guides you back to your first home, yourself.