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!

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.

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.

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.