Breathe In, Breathe Out

                                                   “Breathe in: Lord, I receive.                                                                                                           Breathe out: Lord, I give thanks.                                                                                 So there’s that: You don’t get to make up most of your story.                                                                            You get to make peace with it.                                                                                             You don’t get to demand your life, like a given.                                                                                     You get to receive your life like a gift.”                                                -Ann Voskamp

I woke up this morning with this quote on my mind. In the past week, I’ve struggled. A LOT. There is a part of me that wants my old life back…but not really. Although I was unhappy most of the time, I had made peace with it as best that I could.

What began as an innocent discussion the other day ended up causing me to reevaluate my decisions from the past year and a half. You see, there is this young adult man that I love. And this young man wants to believe that his dad is broken and sad about the choices he has made. This young man wants me to know that his dad really does love his children. And I desperately want to provide him with the security of a father’s love. But that is impossible for me to do; it is not my role.

For myself, I have had to reconcile that an addict’s love is not the right kind of love. An addict’s love is filled with conditions, lies, and illusions of caring that deflect from their true actions. Unless an addict comes to grips with his need for help, for the rest of his/her life, they are incapable of making the changes needed to provide true love.

And my heart hurts. I want to erase the damage that has been done. I want to wash over all of the bad so that maybe my children can find peace, although it would be a false sense of peace.
Unfortunately, that is not my job.
My role is to be their mother. To love them unconditionally as they traverse through the painful realities of their lives. I cannot wash over what they have experienced. I cannot minimize their truths. I can only love and support them throughout this difficult, difficult journey.
In the past, I would have reached in and changed the story a bit, hoping that it would feel better to them. I now know that in doing that, I made the truth something false. But whenever I have softened things for them, I have also softened them for myself and allowed all of us to live in denial. That benefits no one.
As I sit remembering Ann’s words, I choose to make peace with the story our family has been given. I choose to see it as a gift that has made and is continuing to make me into the woman I am today. I pray that my children see the truth, see me accept it, and then see me grow from it.

Going There…

So I’m going to go there…a place where I never once thought that I would go with this blog. Honestly, I am a bit concerned. My hope is to be a voice that helps people get unstuck from the dark places where shame and guilt thrive.

I hope that you are ready.

The news these days has me internally reeling. It seems as if every single week, there is a new development about someone (primarily men) in power abusing their influence to get sexual wants taken care of. This is a perverse fact of life that many Christians bury their heads in the sand about. We (and I include my “before” self in this group of Christians) don’t want to believe that these things occur.

  • Pastors don’t want to believe that the men they trust pervert the word of God and make exceptions for themselves (heck, sometimes it’s even the pastors).
  • Wives cannot grasp the magnitude of the betrayals within their marriages.
  • Friends don’t want to acknowledge that they don’t really know one other.
  • Wives don’t want to sacrifice lifestyles.
  • Pastors get caught up in the ridiculousness of what’s happening outside of their congregation instead of being available and helping those that long for their care.
  • Men in these powerful roles convince themselves that what they do is not really that bad.

We have to open our mouths, even though it is scary as hell!!!

I’ve mentioned before that my church family asked me to minimize my story. I’ve heard of pastors saying, “_____ wouldn’t do that. I know him.” From first-hand experience, I thought that I knew my ex-husband as well (after all, I met him when I was 13 years old), BUT I WAS WRONG.

However, there were some who knew about my ex-husband’s struggles. Back in the 80s, therapy wasn’t as accepted as it is now. It wasn’t even considered. The man that did awful things, whom I married, is also a victim of ignorance. My ex-husband went to church and was a “good” guy.

But his voice wasn’t heard. And, I believe, his unheard cries led him into a life of addiction and fear. His internal turmoil persisted until he became a person who did horrible, horrible things.

One might argue that he has a weakness of character. He probably does; I am not going to speak to that. Today, at this moment, I want to focus on what was missed, not the choices he made.

CHURCH, I AM TALKING TO YOU. We have to do better. We have to talk about the hard stuff. We have to listen well. We have to believe the women who step forward and share what’s going on behind their doors. Some of this stuff is impossible to make up. We have to become a safe place for those that acknowledge the wars within themselves and try to help them. We cannot minimize the words people share with us.

Maybe, I am the person who gets to be a weird combination of angry and compassionate enough to begin forcing conversations. Maybe, I get to be bold and tell the horrors of my life so that others can find hope. Maybe, I also get to be a hope for those stuck in the trenches of a secret battle, sending them the message that I am fighting to find a safe place for them to seek refuge and turn away from behaviors that harm others.

Or maybe, I am just naively hoping that I can make a difference. I don’t know. I do know that there are many, many casualties from my previous life…my kids, my kids’ friends, young people in the community, our families, me.

I do not want to be a person sitting in the shadows thinking that I am being honorable for not talking about my “stuff.” My kids are at risk. My ex-husband is out there living his life, denying that what he has done (and is possibly continuing to do) has hurt many people. There are women out there that are longing to know that they are not alone. Some of those women can’t make up their minds…are they imagining things or is the life they are living as awful as it feels? There are men out there who need more. More encouragement, more accountability, more safe places, less judgment, and definitely less anger.

This is a brutal war. Some of us want to “suck it up” and brush everything that isn’t nice under a rug…we want to pretend that all people are wonderful and that evil actions are rare. Others of us want to “shout from the rooftops” that the images many people portray aren’t as they seem…we long for accountability and integrity.

I don’t think of myself as a trouble-maker. I see myself as a relatively boring, go-about-my-business-and-ignore-everyone-else’s-opinion woman. But because my life recently revealed a disgusting, hidden soul, I feel an obligation to stand up and begin talking about the hard stuff.

Fellow Christian friends, please listen, hear, and ponder my words.

The Quiet

The quiet has been driving me crazy. Quiet can be good but can also keep me in my head way too much!

After divorce, there is a loneliness that sets in. I’m not sure that it is ever discussed anywhere except for inside divorce groups, which is unfortunate. I was totally unprepared for it.

(Please don’t start feeling sorry for me and calling out of the blue…seasonal loneliness is not necessarily a bad thing.)

I am here to tell you that the loneliness goes deep. You might feel more peace than you remember ever feeling, but sometimes the mind play tricks on you. And you begin to wonder (or at least I do) if it would be better to be married to a horrible person than to be alone.

The answer is a definite no. But those thoughts still come sometime.

And then there is the whole other side of things! You join groups…not even dating apps/groups…in order to meet others and immediately you feel like a piece of meat. “Hi ___. Your smile is really nice.” “___, can we be friends? I really hope that we can be friends.” Or the really creepy ones…”___, I am having positive vibes about you.” And that was on DAY 1 of joining!

NOOOOOOO!!!

Sadly, loneliness can drive you to do something stupid if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

So. In the grand 4 months since my divorce has been final, I have learned to scope out groups before I join them. I have learned to say early on, “if you are looking for something romantic, walk away now. I am not interested.”

I have also learned that I have to keep putting myself in uncomfortable situations in order to become comfortable and confident as a single adult woman.

After being connected to someone for so long, I am having to figure out who I am, what I like, and who I want to be. I am not simply someone’s wife, mother, or caregiver. There is an identity out there just for me; I just have to settle into it. I certainly don’t want to get ahead of the process and find myself trapped into something I really don’t want.

All in all, the quiet is a bit uncomfortable at times, but it is also a blessing during this season of discovery.

PRIDE Month and Me

So it’s PRIDE month and in places all over, people within the LGBTQ+ community are fighting to be seen. I want to begin with I see you. I hear you. You are valuable.

You might wonder what on earth Pride Month has to do with me.

This month I have been filled with internal contradictions. I love all of the people. I always have. It is simply who I am and how I live. Funny side story…many years ago, I was told that I loved too deeply and was too compassionate. So the fact that PRIDE month has me struggling disturbs me.

Unfortunately, I have realized that PRIDE month has triggered me back into BIG feelings that hurt my heart. For those of you who do not know, triggers are things that cause a person to flashback to their original trauma (think PTSD). For me, sometimes a word, image or a sound will trigger a physical or emotional response within me that causes significant grief. Immediately, my stomach sinks, a knot forms in my throat, my heart begins to race, and tears begin to pool in my eyes.

You see, last year, I found out that my husband had been having homosexual affairs for the majority of our marriage (23 out of 25 years). The moment I found out, my mind immediately began to process that information something like this: “Ok, so you’re gay or bisexual. You must’ve struggled with that before you married me, but because we are from the Deep South Bible Belt, you married me anyway. I am familiar with that thought pattern. Way back then people actually believed that being married and trying hard enough could possibly “fix” you. Now, many years later, it is much safer emotionally. You are free to go and live your truth. Nice, clean, and ‘Grace and Frankie’-like.(Yes, my brain really does think randomly like that.)

Only that is not my story. My story isn’t nice. My story is bad no matter how you identify.

PRIDE month brings it right in front of me.

But that isn’t the fault of the LGBTQ+ community.

The fact is Code Red had many boundary crossing affairs within our community. Those affairs caused irreparable damage to our children and friends. If I allow my brain to ponder the magnitude of my story, it is more than I can wrap my brain around.

LGBTQ+ or not, I greatly value fidelity.

The reality is my ex-husband is gay.

Seeing the storylines of men and women coming into their reality while betraying their families is excruciating for me. My story wasn’t a long-term love story that my ex-husband had outside of my marriage. My story was a blatant disregard and disrespect of the commitment of marriage. Although I am free of the cruelty of the man I married, when I see open sexuality, it reignites the grief and pain I felt early on.

The triggers have surprised me; they have hit hard and have been a shock to my system. As much as I hate how they have made me feel, I now know that there is another layer of my heart wound that needs attention. I pray that I won’t always be triggered. However, my wounds are deep and it might be a while before my total self is completely mended.

One day I will be whole again. 🙂

Today is Father’s Day

I have an incredible dad and I have lived a life surrounded by good men who loved their families well.

And yet, I look at my children and my heart is filled with grief. They cannot say that about their dad. Code Red brought unbelievable shame into the lives of my kids and today, I am angry about it. I absolutely hate that his actions directly affected them.

Why, why, why does this have to be their story?

Not too long ago, one of them said that he was telling the story of when his dad slammed him into the wall and his head left a dent…his friends were appalled (and I was horrified). I never even knew that happened!! I had known that when Code Red got angry he was rough with the boys, and I’ve heard their stories of being held against walls. But I had no idea that it had gotten that bad. And I feel ashamed.

As I think about Father’s Day, I am so sad. I am sad that I couldn’t shelter my babies from their father’s actions. I am ashamed that instead of getting them away from him, I minimized it and tried to make it not as bad as it really was. It wasn’t until I began telling my story over and over again that I realized that we lived with abuse. I honestly thought that I was ridiculous and that I exaggerated everything. I am sad that they don’t have a positive and sincere relationship with their dad. One of them won’t even acknowledge him as “dad;” they refer to him by his first name.

Dammit, I am angry.

Today I choose to refocus. I step back and look around. My children have grown up with young grandparents. My children have witnessed good, solid men providing and caring for their families and neighbors. They have seen what it looks like for men to work hard and love well.

Even though their father failed them, the other men in their lives modeled what fatherhood should look like. I pray that they remember the legacy of security, firmness, and loving kindness their Papaw, uncles, and great-uncles have passed on to them from the distance. It won’t ever take away what they have lost, but hopefully, it will give them a bit of security.

With all of our struggles, it would be easy to forget the wonderful experiences that have blessed our lives. Although I am sad and angry, I choose to recognize the good men that have been a part of our lives.

Just Thinking…

Now that my summer break is here, I find myself thinking about some of the strange things that were a part of my divorce process.

The 1st thing was the result of pulling back, WAY BACK, in order to survive. I knew that people were concerned for me and wanted to care for me, but I was so overwhelmed. There was no possible way I could communicate with that many people during that season. As I’m coming into my new life, I realize by withdrawing, many of those people have moved on. Not because of anger or disagreement…it was simply the result of no communication. Some of them continue to be there on the sidelines and I know without a doubt that a phone call would immediately restore the distance between us. Some of them have disappeared from my life altogether. Although that hurts a bit, without a doubt I know that I could not have given more of myself to maintain those friendships (I was barely capable of caring for myself and my own children). I have to give myself grace about that season.

The 2nd thing that occurred was the decision to leave my church. This was extremely difficult to walk out. To give a bit of back story, 3 years ago, Code Red decided that he no longer wanted to attend our church. After listening to his frustrations with our church for years, I finally cut the tension and stopped going on Sunday mornings. However, I did remain involved in Bible studies and extra activities that kept me in contact with my friends and other believers…I just didn’t go on Sundays anymore. Months later, after finding out about Code Red’s behaviors, my desire to go back to church was deep, but it was going to take a lot of courage. Code Red’s actions would make running into certain people seriously awkward. But just as I was about to take the step and go, (before I say this, I want you to know that I TOTALLY understand this) the church leadership asked that my kids and I minimize our story so that it would not cause issues with others in the church. And while I understood/understand their request, I determined that under no circumstance would I ask my children to do that. Me, yes. My children, no. It felt as if they were asking us to carry guilt and shame for what Code Red did. And there is not one person in this family that is responsible for his actions. Period.

The 3rd thing on my mind today is the loneliness that goes along with divorce. For 26 years, I had a “person.” Even if I didn’t like him and he made me feel bad about myself, I still had someone. I knew that even though he would make me feel as if I was the most demanding person on earth, I could call him. Side Note: it’s strange to think that back then I thought it was better to have someone that wasn’t supportive than to be alone, right? How messed up is that? At this point, I am working on becoming at ease with myself. I figure that if I am healthy and happy, then I don’t need anyone to be my “person;” I can simply enjoy the people that are in my life for this moment. I don’t want to make the mistake of compromising myself to prevent being alone.

The 4th thing is the sense of freedom that I now feel. It feels like a contradiction to miss having a person and to also feel free. Now that Code Red has moved away, each week, maybe even each day, I feel a little bit more of “me” come back alive. I am embarking on an entirely new path that is completely and totally me…it has nothing to do with what someone else wants me to be or what is “best” for my family…it is strictly me following my instincts and natural abilities. Not being concerned about someone else’s approval is an amazing feeling. For the first time in my life (literally the first time), I am looking forward instead of to everyone else. I am not worried if everyone else is happy with my decisions. I.Am.Free. to decide what I want to do for the next 25 years of my life. I am happy about my decisions and I am proud that I am stepping out in faith and taking a chance for something new in my life. I am praying that my children see me step out of the shadows and into the light of what I have been designed for. I pray that I am modeling for them what it is like to walk away from something horrible and toward something wonderful. I pray they see that they, too, can do what they desire without the worry of disapproval.

Quite honestly, being divorced is the absolute best thing that I have experienced…with the exception of the births of my children. In the beginning, I was ashamed of being divorced; however, I now feel grateful for the second chance of life that I am getting. I still have a long way to go but I am steadily moving forward!

Forward Living is ultimately my goal.

The past is part of me, but I no longer live there. Why would I trap myself and stop learning and growing?

Summertime

Summertime blogging will be hit or miss…

As my schedule is slowing down, I think that I am going to take a break from blogging. You may hear from me every once in a while but I hope to spend my time simply “be-ing.”

The past 16 months have been a roller coaster of dramatic events and emotions and I hope to spend the next 2 months enjoying a schedule-free, technology-limited season. Lots of time outdoors, reading for pure pleasure, a few puzzles, and maybe even a vacation all by myself!

So-o. Happy Summer!

May you all have a time of refreshing!