Random Grief

On this day in 2018, three of my kids and I became officially homeless.

Weird anniversaries like this bring up odd emotions. You know, grief/trauma has its own agenda and the emotions associated with it come at the most inopportune moments. Today is one of those moments.

I have chosen to give myself today and allow myself to feel the sadness and loss of everything I considered security. Although I feel those losses deeply, I won’t dwell on them for long…there is too much that is good occurring for me to do that.

But for today, I feel the grief. I feel the sadness. I feel the shock of reality.

And it’s ok for me to do that.

Society tells us that it is not okay to give yourself time to feel; you absolutely MUST power through and not let it get you down. So ridiculous!

Today I grieve. Tomorrow, I get up, smile and focus on all the goodness that surrounds me. 🙂

FYI – Last year, we did have great friends that allowed us to live with them for 5 or so weeks. Even though we didn’t have a home of our own, we were loved and cared for!

Forgiveness…Sweet Relief

And just like that, the sweet relief of forgiveness has come.

Despite my movement forward, my grief and anger has rolled in and out like the waves of an ocean…actually, probably more like a tsunami. I have prayed for the ability to forgive and then I have turned around and told God never mind. I want to hate Code Red forever. He is a horrible, horrible human and doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.

But then. I know better. I know that forgiveness doesn’t do anything for Code Red, it is all about what is best for me. No, he doesn’t deserve my forgiveness, but I do deserve to be free of my pain tethering myself to him.

Last week I had a dream. I won’t describe the dream, but it was filled with an odd, sad kindness as it ended. As the morning progressed, my thoughts kept swirling as I wondered what it meant. It continued to disturb me and I couldn’t seem to figure it out.

As I do with most everything, I decided to journal about it. I began to allow all of the feelings pour out onto the page and I realized that the dream represented closure. I felt free. And then (because I am me and don’t trust my initial thoughts) I decided to try and remember every single bad thing that Code Red had ever done to see how I felt. And I did feel disgust and anger about his actions and that this was my story. BUT. It was a different kind of anger. It wasn’t directed at the person. This was anger without any “oomph.”

I had peace. FINALLY!!!

Since that day, there has been a significant release of my need to justify my divorce.

Everyone tells you that you don’t need to justify yourself if you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s better to stay strong and not say anything. For me, I had done something wrong. I filed for divorce, and I had to keep telling my story, justifying my decision because of my shame. I now have no need to continue doing that. (And it doesn’t matter what anyone said, I had to come to peace with this on my own…all the advice in the world could not have made me change the flow of this process.)

I divorced my husband. I had good reason. I did nothing wrong. I am not ashamed.

After settling into acceptance, I realized how easy it was to recognize forgiveness and let the “mess” inside of me go. It wasn’t easy before now. I could not have done it any earlier than I did. Let me repeat: I could not have done it any earlier than I did. No amount of prayer, no amount of guiding wisdom, no amount of just doing it made it possible.

Time. The only thing that helped me was time. MY TIME. Not your time. Not my friend’s time. Not the lady down the street’s time. MY TIME. You can’t force something as significant as this. You have to allow it to bounce around in your heart and mind until it’s all played out. And nothing and no one can play it out any faster than it needs.

I have learned a lot during this season of healing. The number one thing is that you cannot tell someone how and when to heal. They have to come through that process on their own and hopefully, with the assistance of a few friends and a precious counselor (or 2).

Forgiveness. Blessed relief. Grateful for the journey.

Experiencing the Flood

Our class was divided and working in groups when all of the phones began to vibrate. The campus was on alert and everyone was encouraged to stay put until the weather conditions improved. Almost simultaneously, my phone began to ring with a call the school nurse telling me to pick up my son. There wasn’t a question in my mind. I was going to drive home and get him. Maybe if I left quickly, I could beat the worst of the storm.

I picked up my daughter and checked the street maps for flooding. They couldn’t be accessed so we began to head home the way we knew. As we drove, we watched as the water kept rising, faster and faster. When the traffic came to a stop, I chose to turn and take another route home. We passed through streets that were beginning to fill with water. Thankfully, we were able to drive near the edge and continue on. We twisted and turned trying to get to higher ground.

Until we made one left turn that took my breath away.

I watched as waves of water splashed back and forth in front of us. There was no way to turn back. About 20 feet away, we saw a big truck attempt to pass through, only to come to a stop and float toward the side of a building. Water was level with the hood and trunk of the car directly in front of me. My daughter and I watched as it began to smoke, sputtering and then stopping just as it reached a ramp leading to dry ground. They could go no further.

I could feel my engine begin to falter. Honestly, my thoughts were not of physical safety; they were filled only with dollar signs. How on earth could I afford to lose my vehicle? I quit a job to go back to school. I live on a tight budget and have no wiggle room for expenses like this.

In front and to the left of me was a steep drive up into an alley.

Could we make it that far? I had no idea. But I knew if I didn’t, my car would stop and sit in deep water and I would experience a complete loss.

Without really thinking, I chose to take a chance…and we made it! We were one of the first vehicles there and were able to park on higher ground while both in front and behind us, the water continued to rise between 2 – 3 feet.

My daughter and I watched as cars, trucks, and SUVs sputtered into the alley with us. We listened as some of them clicked and shut off. We saw person after person become overwhelmed with what was happening around us.

After an hour or so sitting and listening to the weather, we knew that more rain was supposed to fall, and we could be trapped in our car overnight. Thankfully, we were able to secure a hotel room, abandon our car, and walk to safety.

(Thank goodness for my second son that was able to go and pick up my youngest that was sick!)

As I ponder this experience, I realize that although I had compassion for those that experienced flooding during Hurricane Harvey, I didn’t comprehend it. At all. Now, I do.

Two years ago, during Harvey, I was married and living a financially secure life. I did not have the fear of losing everything; because I knew that even if I did, I would have the means to re-establish. It’s different now, and the insecurity and fear almost paralyzed me.

Being on this side of things…a single mom, trying to figure out how to establish herself after spending years supporting and managing her family instead of creating a career and financial security for herself, is extremely frightening.

I continue to struggle with how I ended up here. I know that it wasn’t my choice to be in this position. And yes, I know that I am working hard to move forward to a much better life than I had. But oh my word, in times like this, there is a tiny part of me that wants to go back into ignorance…there was a bit of security in that life, even if it the consequences of living it were miserable.

**This is simply me being honest. This experience has left me shaken by the fact that something as small as losing a car could possibly derail the path I am on.

It’s My Birthday!

Today is my 47th birthday. It is my first birthday since age 20 that my name is back to the one I was born with. Truthfully, it feels awkward having a different name after so many years…I can’t quite get it right. I keep writing and saying the wrong name!

How should I celebrate? With cookies? With cake? With a simple, quiet day?

The decision has just been made for me. It is storming here and there is a possibility of flooding. I hope not, but it is there.

That makes for a quiet day at home. No makeup. No contact lenses. Glasses…both regular and reading. T-shirt and jeans. Hot tea. Homework. Maybe a non-textbook book or magazine. Cooking my favorite meal. Making fresh bread. Time with 2 of my children.

I do believe this is a day I didn’t know that I had been waiting for.

Pure joy. Pure peace. Rest for my soul. The best birthday a girl could wish for!

Good Person/Bad Person

My thoughts have always been that every single person is a good person. They may choose to do bad things, but they are naturally good. I think that I have been wrong.

As I become aware of the world around me (instead of walking through it in a fog), I see good people who do good things, good people who do bad things, bad people who do bad things, and bad people who do good things.

Before I get too far into this, I want to issue this disclaimer: these are my random thoughts; they could be wrong, or they could be right, they are simply my observations and ponderings.

Good People Who Do Good Things – These are the people you see going about their everyday lives helping others as they can and as they see a need. They don’t make a big deal out of it. They simply live their lives this way. We may never know all that they have done for those who cross their paths.

Good People Who Do Bad Things – These are the people who are good; they love well, help others, and want to do what is right. But then they are easily coerced into doing something they shouldn’t, or they may suffer an addiction and struggle to find a way away from it. They are the people that keep ending up in places that get them into trouble. They genuinely want to do the right things, but they find life so, so hard.

Bad People Who Do Bad Things — These are the scary people. These are the people that are bad and do not care that they are bad. OR they are the people that are bad but try to look good to deceive those around them. They do good things to get by until they can no longer hold that image and the bad oozes out, usually causing harm to someone else.

Bad People Who Do Good Things — These are the bad people who don’t want to be bad. These people that have an inherently bad core. Deep down, they are mean and don’t like people. But they wish that they weren’t that way, so they try to do good. Maybe they aren’t really bad…they see good and want to do good. They just mess it up with their negativity; maybe they fit better into “good people who do bad things” category.

What does bad and good mean? They are childlike terms and do not give enough information for us to actually know what I am talking about, or do they?

Good – 1. morally excellent, virtuous, righteous, pious; 2. satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree; 3. of high quality; 4. right, proper, fit; 5. well-behaved; 6. kind, beneficent, or friendly; etc…there are 59 total definitions for good. (Dictionary.com)

BAD – 1. not good in any manner or degree; 2. having a wicked or evil character; morally reprehensible; 3. of poor or inferior quality: defective; deficient; 4. inadequate or below standard, not satisfactory for use. (Dictionary.com)

Random Bible lesson: The words from Proverbs…upright and wicked would be another manner to consider good and bad people. Chapters 10 – 18 in Proverbs are titled (in my Bible) as Contrast of Upright and Wicked. These chapters list actions and behaviors, traits of both the upright and the wicked to assist us in recognizing good and bad. 9 chapters. 269 verses. I look to them as a checklist…a way to inventory my actions in life. Some of my behaviors aren’t very upright, and it is up to me to take note and change them if I want to live a life of righteousness. I also use “my checklist” to recognize the conduct of those affecting my life. Those verses assist me in maintaining boundaries from those who wish to be “bad.”

These thoughts are all on my mind for a particular reason this week. Falling into the trap of the “wicked” 0r a “bad person” is an awful experience. Once you have awakened to the fact that you fell prey to them, you must become vigilant in your thoughts and actions to maintain a boundary. Through much work, you learn that their actions have created a strange ability to control you, and if you are to cultivate a healthy life, you absolutely cannot compromise that boundary.

Personally, the past 2 weeks have been a bit warlike for me. Code Red’s sneaky actions and words got into my head and created chaos in my mind. Psychological abuse goes hand in hand with emotional abuse. It confuses the mind and creates an enormous amount of fear. Throughout the week, I received many emails from him filled with legal terms and disguised threats that have threatened to derail my progress. In the past, these types of intimidation tactics have always worked to bring me back “under control.”

I am currently fighting to stand firm and not allow them to thwart the progress I have made. I do not want my thoughts to be filled with concern over his threats. I do not want to give up working on my Masters. I do not want to compromise the emotional health of my children. This is a battle. I have to stand firm and work to keep my mind focused on what is healthy and good.

But gosh, it is hard (and exhausting).

This is why I write about them. Putting my thoughts into writing helps me stay strong. Even if no one reads them, there is the possibility that someone might, and that alone holds me accountable. It reminds me that I can do this. By voicing my struggles and concerns, I am recognizing that the fight to my freedom is not over. Domestic abuse is not always the threat of physical death, but also of emotional death…and dammit, I am not going let the abuse I have suffered, and continue to deal with, control me.

That is how I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong. There are bad people in this world. Although it grieves me to admit this, I do believe that Code Red is a bad person. Even with all of the mess he has created, I sincerely wanted him to be a good person that did bad things. But his actions seem to reveal that he does not want to be good.

Thank goodness, I now know that I am my own person and can hold my own beliefs without being intimidated into believing what someone else wants me to!

Trigger Survivor

School began last week with a 2-day introductory class. We didn’t get credit for that class…we were required to attend to prepare us for what was to come.

Y’all. I was NOT prepared for what was heading my way. And I certainly didn’t anticipate my physical reaction to it. You know that feeling that begins as a burning in your stomach that moves up as a heavy thickness inside your chest, and then fills your eyes with tears? That. Is exactly what happened. My brain was telling me that I was sitting in the middle of 300 people, and if I cried, someone was definitely going to see me. Heaven knows I didn’t want anyone to see the reaction I was having. Surely I had more self-control than this?! It used to be that I could hide every single emotion. What has happened to me? (And if I am genuinely honest…why am I not better than this?)

It got worse. The instructor asked us to turn to the person sitting next to us and do partner work. Seriously, y’ all…I thought that I was going to have a full-blown panic attack.

But I didn’t. I stayed and ended up owning it.

I looked at this young, maybe 22-year-old girl, and said, “I want you to know that this topic is triggering me, and I am having a difficult time.” You know what? That pressure inside my chest, that burning in my stomach, and those tears in my eyes all went away. The panic disappeared, and I saw compassion and kindness radiating from this sweet girl who could have been one of my children. I was then able to share a piece of my story and how it related to the discussion topic.

I have now had 4 days of classes. There have been triggers, and panic has threatened to consume me more than that once. I have now shared a fraction of my story 4 times. To me, it feels as if I am lying. All of these parts cannot possibly belong to one person, can they?! And that one person surely can’t be me?

After all, who on earth has facets of their story that can incorporate domestic abuse with infidelity with teenage children with LGBTQ with alcohol abuse with a church with a DACA recipient?!?!

I have yet to tell my complete story. Feeling as if I am an exaggerator is the most challenging part of this. It feels ridiculous and shameful that all of these things can combine in one person’s life. Should I not tell all of it so that it isn’t so outrageous sounding?

No, I believe that I should tell it. It is my truth. It is what has made me the woman I am today. I will not hide and allow shame to consume me.

In class this past week, I gathered enough courage to use the term survivor. Survivor: a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks. That’s the word. That is the term I want to claim for myself. That is how I identify who I am and where I have been.

Reflections…All Over the Place

Twenty hours. In the car. By myself.

A lot of time for reflection.

Abuse. Infidelity. Therapy. Worse-Than-Regular-Infidelity. In-Patient Therapy. More Therapy. Hurt Kids. Group Therapy. Court Battles. Therapy. The divorce. Therapy. Another Court Battle. Therapy. Peace. Therapy. Reflection. Therapy. Therapy. Therapy.

Sometimes the past 18 months seems like a blur, and then sometimes, it feels like this has been going on forever. The heaviness of my marriage is gone and peaceful living has replaced it. Honestly, it is difficult to adjust to not living in a constant state of stress and worry. There is no waiting for the drama to begin…there are only what I would call normal stresses.

What do I do with myself? I am learning to live without the constant threat of my world falling apart. I can do things that I enjoy and not suffer repercussions for doing them. There is no one to overly question me. There isn’t a backlash for neglecting my responsibilities. There aren’t thousands of texts making sure that I am aware that I cannot have a life outside of him.

I am experiencing only acceptance from my kids. It feels both unnerving and exciting. I do not think that I have EVER felt as accepted and supported as I do right at this moment in time. Have I mentioned how nice it is not to have someone questioning my every move?!?

Is it possible that I am beginning to trust my own judgment? my own mind? my own intelligence?

I will admit that there is still a bit of fear. I’ve never done life on my own before. I never even considered that I would have to. What if I mess up? What if I go broke? What if I cannot support my kids? What if I fail?

Ok, so that last paragraph is a partial truth. Other than financial provision, it certainly feels as if I have been doing life on my own for a long time. Goodness knows that from the very beginning, Code Red never stayed at home. He was always leaving to study (and do other things) in his office at school and later on, he traveled…you know, when I really allow my thoughts to go there, even while we were dating, there were conditions on the time that he spent with me. I am now realizing that he avoided me as much as possible. That realization stings a bit (ok, it hurts. A LOT) and it is difficult to accept. Did he not even really like me? Why on earth did I settle for that? Why didn’t I wait until someone loved me enough to want to see me as often as they could? Was I really just a “prop” for him to maintain the image he wanted? Good grief that hurts.

About 14 years ago, a friend said to me that I was “the only married, single parent” that she had ever met. Those words have rolled around inside my head all of these years. All of the times that I asked for help and was yelled at, all of the times that I really was alone, all of the times that I made the efforts to make sure that the children knew their paternal grandmother, all of the times that I managed all of the activities, and the list goes on and on. No wonder doing it all as an official single parent feels so much easier! I no longer have someone questioning every tiny decision that I make.

Twenty hours in the car alone is a LONG time to spend reflecting…

Enough of the melancholy feelings…there is too much that is awesome right now for me to be dwelling on all of that!

I began my classes last week and I have found my people. Listening to the professors and other students made me realize how deeply I do care about others. I saw that I don’t have to diminish my core beliefs. Every person has value, period. Socio-economic backgrounds be damned. I love people. ALL the people…even when I don’t agree with them. AND THAT IS OK. I’m not ridiculous or too compassionate nor do I have too many feelings.

I am ME. I like ME. I think I am nice…and a little bit weird.

Twenty hours is a lot of hours!