Ruminating on “D is for Divorce”

One year ago today, my divorce was final. A few weeks later, I posted this. In it, I posed 4 questions for myself to work out:

1 – Does divorce have to define me? Yes. Yes, it does define me…a part of me. I have spent the majority of my adult life married to an abusive and unfaithful man. That has shaped me in ways that I am not sure that I even understand. The process of leaving gave me many defining moments, as well as the classification of being a divorced woman. But that is only a part of who I am; I no longer see that as the ONLY part of me that others see. I am so much more than that.

2 – What am I going to do about these hidden places in my heart? Last year I wrote, “The yucky part of coming face to face with reality is that I now recognize that I have hidden places of my heart where I have held people and ideas higher than God’s word.” Today, I write to say that I no longer even have very many people in my life. My life has gone from being full of people and activity to being mostly alone and relatively isolated. Most of the things/people that I held dear have disappeared; only a few remain. It has changed my perspective, and I spend a great deal of time being introspective and “cleaning up” those places. While I wrestle with God’s Word on some things, there aren’t any people or things, other than my own self, in place to hold higher than his word.

3 – Do I want to hold onto the horrifying past, or do I want to use it as a springboard for the future? This one’s pretty obvious…I have definitely springboarded into something that I never saw coming! My past is my past. It has taught me a ton about trusting others, as well as trusting myself. It does not continue to hold onto me. My history is only a part of the story that shaped who I am today. I see it as a growing into my true self, not who I was when I was a wife, struggling to maintain appearances, attempting to find joy, and hoping to keep the underlying anger regarding my situation in check. I am a woman who knows her mind, who is aware of her passions and is not too afraid to keep moving ahead.

4 – What do I want my story to be? “**Funny Fact: My very first thought/prayer after finding out and confronting Code Red about his secret life was, ‘PLEASE GOD, don’t let this be my story. And even if it does end up being my story, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t ask me to use it.’” My story…this story that makes people gasp and feel sorry for me…has lost its hold on me. I have chosen to tell my story as it is time and time again. It is one filled with heartache and humiliation, but also one filled with hope and redemption. My story isn’t over; it is merely beginning a new chapter. And oddly enough, now I want others to hear it. I want them to learn from it. I want them to know that I might look like a fluffy suburban mom, but I am a woman who understands betrayal. I am a woman who understands abuse. I am a woman who knows the difficulties of navigating neglect and heartache from the church because a woman’s story can be too much. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am intelligent. And most importantly, I am a child of God.

I know I am loved. (What a difference a year makes!)

Unexpected Emotion

Anyone on social media (especially Facebook) is familiar with the pop-up memories that occur daily on each person’s private newsfeed. The past several weeks have been filled with memories…almost all of them include a photo or 2 of Code Red.

Earlier this week, one popped up that startled me. It invoked such strong emotions, and I honestly did not know what to do with them. The photo was taken after I had back surgery. I was lying on the sofa when I snapped a quick photo of Code Red doing the dishes. As I looked at that picture, my heart seemed to jump and shout, “I love that man.”

I let my mind sit there with that emotion for a few minutes, marveling that I could have such strong feelings. While pondering my love for him, the sharp pain of reality hit me, and I reminded myself that the man in the picture is an illusion.

The truth regarding that man in the photo was pretending to be caring and loving. The real man was doing things in secret that were hurtful and beyond any of his family’s comprehension. The real man, on any given day, would appear to lose his sanity and hurt us with his words and actions. The real man didn’t even want us…we were simply an image of the life he wanted to be seen from the outside.

As I sat staring at this photo, I mentally made a list of why the man was not to be trusted with my love. I had to convince myself that no matter what the picture looks like, he did not love me the way a wife should be loved. That I deserve more. I deserve better. I deserve honesty, faithfulness, and truth.

And then this thought occurred to me: Do I love this man? Or do I miss the feeling of being cared for? Of someone somewhere taking my responsibilities for just a little bit so that I could rest. Of someone sharing the burden of a simple household chore.

To be able to sit and not force away all that I was feeling is significant for me. Acknowledging those emotions and allowing them to tumble around in my mind revealed what my heart misses and longs for. It wasn’t love that I felt looking at that photo; it was the desire to have someone care for me.

Some days it actually feels as if I am becoming emotionally healthy…

What a Decade.

2010-2019. What a decade of insane change!

January 2010 – I was recognizing my deep desire to be involved in church ministry. – I was a mom of a 13, 11, 10, and 5 year old. – I thought that because my youngest was in kindergarten that I was able to “do” more…career? volunteer? – I felt myself fighting for the life I wanted. – I felt constantly frustrated and had no idea why. – Anxiety was my companion.

January 2020 – I no longer have a church home. – I am a full-time graduate student. – I am at the beginning of a completely new life. – I am the mom of a 23, 21, 20, and 15 year old. – I am divorced. – I am free. – Curiosity and anticipation are my companions.

This last decade has brought me the most drastic changes I have ever experienced. My core has been shaken; thankfully, I did not crumble. As I reflect on those years, I want to lock them in my brain and hold onto what each change has taught me.

Parenting: Lighten up. Be steadfast and firm. Teach. Lead. Embrace. Enjoy.

Faith: Question. Wrestle. Search. Hang on.

Marriage: Love deeply. Trust. Believe in yourself. Love passionately.

Love: Love always. Compromise. Never compromise your personal self.

Learning: Read. Listen. Ponder. Be open to change.

Pursuing Dreams: Follow them. Don’t allow someone else to determine what they are.

If I could speak to my younger self, I would say, “Trust yourself.” “Get out.” “Protect your kids.” I could live in the “if only’s,” but I choose not to. I didn’t even know what my inner self was feeling back then, so I certainly did not think seriously about leaving.

This last decade was my 3rd decade as an adult. Maybe I should have learned most of this early on, but I honestly only remember keeping up appearances. By my middle 30s, I had worked to create a world where sarcasm and cruelty was “normal” and enjoyable (or the pretense of being enjoyable) to live in. The illusion of joy was the only way I knew to survive. I made the cruelty in my life as normal as I possibly could. If it wasn’t normal, then something might have been considered wrong. And I desperately wanted “normal.”

At this point in life, I had learned that my desires were not of value and, well…they were boring. If I am honest, the depth of my heart craves boring. I despise constant upheaval and living on the edge of an explosion. Boring = Steadfast = Content = Safe = “Normal”

As I am remaking my life, I find that walking away from life on the edge of drama is difficult. I don’t know how to live an engaged life. I find that I cannot focus on what is in front of me for very long. I continually wait for something dramatic to occur and steal it from me. I even go so far as to isolate and search for signs where something might happen. I don’t know how to be steadfast. I don’t know how to feel safe. I don’t know how to be “normal.” How does a person make themselves follow through and live everyday life without fear?

The desire to withdraw into myself is a constant personal battle.

However, as 2020 begins, I choose to delight in my life. I choose to push through the awkward, anxious, fearful emotions and see the truth of what is around me. I choose to find joy in the aspects of my life…the kind of joy that is deep within my soul, the kind that doesn’t require a quirky plot twist in a story to make it more palatable to others; the kind that sees truth and delights in it.

My favorite verse has always been Lamentations 3:22 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” This verse has provided me with the security I have needed to move forward. God’s love for me never ceases to exist. God’s mercies are there for me time and time again. I have healed and can continue to heal to move forward because of Him.

The past decade has provided me with so much growth. It has shattered my heart; but it has also changed me into a completely new person. The old me has disappeared. In fact, I have a difficult time even remembering who she was.

My word for the year 2020: Delight!

Longing for Margin

Never in my wildest imagination did ever picture myself being a single mom.

Although my marriage was rough, I had the privilege of staying at home and managing the household. Just saying…managing a house full of kids while also providing for it is a totally different experience.

I am exhausted!

The learning curve has been steep and good grief, it has not been easy!

Just getting the Christmas decorations up has been a “thing.”

It has been difficult for all of us. My kids are accustomed to me being available 24/7. Me not being available is hard to adjust to.

I am used to being able to get things done in my own time and at my own pace. Now, I have to look at my schedule and see where I have extra minutes to do anything and everything.

There is no margin.

This is not me complaining. 

I actually think that I like this new life. But it is not easy.

Y’all. I am tired. And the bills keep coming. And it’s HARD to keep doing the next right thing. Weariness is simply a part of life these days.

As Christmas gets closer, I realize how blessed I am. I have a job. I get to go to school. I have a house. I have food. 3 of my kids are here. (And 1 is coming home Thursday!)

But I also notice how little time I have to ponder the beauty of the season. I do really, really miss that. Oh, I read, and I pray, and I go to church, but I long for those days when my brain could relax and be fully present…it seems as though distraction is my norm lately.

I really do miss having margin in my life.

It is Finished.

6 pregnancies

4 children

6 states

12 moves

23 years of parenting

26 years of marriage

26 years of abuse

26 years of infidelity

1 married couple

4 lawyers

1 judge

1 divorce

In September 2018, I stood before the judge for the first time.

At the time, I was struggling to figure out how to support my youngest son, my college age son and daughter, and myself.

I was working part-time making $15/hour, while also taking classes to become a certified teacher. This was logical and practical to me.

My husband, although officially “unemployed,” was consulting at $30,000/month.

The majority of our assets had been blown on a lawsuit my husband was (and still is) pursuing.

My future was in the hands of a white male judge.

A judge’s job is to provide an objective perspective on each case.

As I sat in the witness box, I was fighting for sole custody of our youngest child and for freedom from the man I had married.

I testified about the things my husband had done:

-sex with teenage boys

-the friends of our own kids

-the children of my friends

-the coercion and bribery with money, cigarettes, and marijuana.  

Yet, when it was my husband’s turn on the stand, he could not recall any of those things.

And because he was temporarily in therapy for sex addiction, his therapist had shredded the paperwork proving it. **I should add that sex addiction therapists would report clients they believe have broken the law. My husband didn’t know the actual ages of some of his sexual partners; I did because I knew who they were.**

He knew that I was trapped.

He knew that I was more afraid of him than any judge. He knew that I would eventually comply.

As he created stories of me being suicidal, I watched as he lied time and time again to protect himself.

I watched as his lawyer attempted to discredit the testimony of our son’s therapist.

As the judge began to announce his ruling, I realized that I had never truly believed in the social construct of white male privilege and the subjective nature of a judge’s ruling.

I was harshly reprimanded because our children knew about my husband’s indiscretions, even though, it was they who told me.

My husband kept the majority of his money. My husband received graduated visitation rights with our son.

I want to believe that the judge felt he did the right thing.

But I don’t.

I believe that wealthy white me can be excused of almost every behavior.

This was the speech I gave for a final in one of my classes. I was nervous about giving it, although most of my classmates had already heard portions of my story. It consolidated and summarized my life, preparing for it was both awkward and beneficial.

As I walked to the front of the class, I asked that they not record it. If it were recorded and somehow got out, I could be sued. I am supposed to prevent my youngest son from hearing anything negative about his dad. (I find that a bit difficult since his dad’s actions are a regular topic of conversation in our home.) But I do agree. I shouldn’t speak negatively about his dad; however, I will not lie to him, and I will not allow him to be unprepared when visiting with him. Does that make the truth negative? (That’s a question for another day…it’s not what I want to write about today!)

The minute I finished this speech, I felt the strangest sense of relief. It felt almost as if it the words of Jesus, “It is finished.” were speaking to me. Before you get carried away, do NOT consider for a minute that I am comparing my life to Jesus’s! I’m just borrowing His words. Honestly, I finally have peace regarding my story. It doesn’t occupy my mind 90% of a day. I am free from the mental chaos of searching for understanding.

I cannot understand what Code Red did. And I do not think that I ever will be able to. I cannot understand why he isn’t afraid that one of these boys might come forward. I cannot appreciate his boldness in his quest for promoting how much he cares for mankind. I cannot understand why he developed a “Poor me. I was gay and trapped in marriage and family” life.

But I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to spend hours wondering why.

I am free. I am free, and I can move on.

It took 22 months of overwhelming emotions to get here, but I am finally free.

Disclaimer: I do not know what will happen in the future, and if Code Red will begin to harass me again, especially since we still have a minor son to somewhat parent together. So, if I forget this feeling of freedom, bear with me and know that there isn’t one of us that knows which direction our paths will take at any given moment in time.

Happy Thanksgiving/Ex-Anniversary?

Happy Thanksgiving…or for me, my first Ex-Anniversary.

This is the first Thanksgiving in 27 years that I have not been married. On this date, 27 years ago, I married the man that I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. Today is both happy and sad. I’m not sure how to process it.

The tears feel right on the edge of falling. But they are tears of what I had hoped we, as a couple, would be, not what we actually were. Does that even make sense? I really wish that we had been able to be a better couple.

Although I cannot regret being married because I have 4 beautiful children, I do regret marrying someone who did not truly want to be married to me. Even though he married me to try and change himself, I hate that he lied to himself and in turn, married me with a false pretense.

It is so strange to know that someone still loves you even though they cannot love you the way a husband should love a wife. Honestly, it wrecks your thoughts. On one side, you feel sad and sorry for that person. On the other, you are appalled that they used you.

I think it is best to simply view the whole situation as a 26-year learning process to make me who I am supposed to be today. Looking at it any other way will cause me to be angry and bitter, and that is the last thing I want for myself.

Today, I give thanks. I give thanks for a terrible marriage that pushed me to grow. I give thanks for my 4 beautiful children who bring me so much joy. I give thanks for the opportunities before me. And I give thanks for all the joy that surrounds me.

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!