Defining Moments or Defining Me?

These days, I am feeling as if I am a bit of a cliché. I was sitting with a new friend the other day when she casually mentioned her observation about how many forty-something divorced women there seemed to be. While the comment was innocently made and had absolutely nothing to do with me, I felt it deep in my bones.

I am a forty-something-year-old divorced woman, and it is an identity that annoys me. I do not want to be known as “the divorced woman.”

But simply because that is a part of who I am, does that have to define me as a whole?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering this, and I refuse to allow myself to fall into the trap of accepting that…because I am so much more.

These are just a few pieces of who I’ve been:

  • A girl that grew up in rural North Louisiana
  • A piano player that would get lost in music
  • A teenage band member that loved performing
  • A young college woman trying to figure out who she was
  • A young married woman
  • A new mom
  • An active mom of littles
  • A homeschooling mom
  • A victim of domestic violence
  • A “church lady”
  • A mom of teenagers
  • A woman that cooks and entertains
  • A betrayed woman
  • A divorced woman
  • A mature college student
  • A late forty-something woman beginning a new life
  • A survivor

Not one of those things define the whole of me. Every single one of them is simply a small part that makes up the whole of me.

At this point in my life, these are the only things that won’t ever change:

  • I am a woman.
  • I am a child of God.
  • I am a mother.

I think that sometimes we (maybe just me) get stuck in accepting one definition of ourselves, and we forget that who we are ebbs and flows with our personalities and our life experiences. It can be difficult to recognize that we are more than our circumstances.

But it is possible.

Transitions & Mistakes Along the Way

Transition periods are on my mind.

As I was speaking with someone the other day, I could hear the exasperation in their voice with me. They are tired of me struggling. They are annoyed with me for continuing on a path that they think is wrong. And while they did not directly say that they were annoyed, they did clearly state that they believe I am wrong for doing what I am doing.

Here is the truth about my life. I am struggling. And the path that I have chosen is a bit more difficult than some other path. But it is my path, and I made the decision to go on it. Once I started in this direction, I have never looked back. This decision is mine. I can honestly say that it is the first decision that I have EVER made on my own without changing directions to make someone else more comfortable.

And although it is a hard path, that is all that it is. It is hard.

It is ridiculous that I am 48-years-old and am just now beginning to make my own decisions. Honestly, it feels completely awkward and uncomfortable.

The thing about transition periods is that sometimes they are quick and can be over in a matter of days, but sometimes it takes a few years to transition into a new way of living. The speed of a person’s transition is not something that can accurately be compared.

I’ve become a part of a group of single parents, and one major thing that I have noticed is that it has taken most of the people in this group (especially those who take the time to heal) somewhere between 5-8 years to settle in to their lives after divorce.

So whenever I hear someone begin to sabotage my efforts, I have to consciously step back and recognize that they are the ones uncomfortable with my life. And that maybe I should not be sharing with them some of my questions or hiccups…because a hiccup is how I see most obstacles. Yes, sometimes I cry. And yes, sometimes I get scared.

But the one thing I never lose sight of is the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”…there may be twists and turns, and I may make a few (or a lot) of mistakes, but that’s okay.

I’m learning that mistakes do not mean that I have to stop moving forward.

They mean that I simply need to readjust the process.

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How did I forget?

I met with my counselor last week for the first time in about 9 months. As we were talking, she does her magic and asks a few questions…

(I’m going to stop here for a minute. I have literally just finished a grad school class on cognitive behavioral interventions. My entire final was a live “practice” combining and using questions to help a person see where they can make changes. I made a perfect score. I literally just learned questioning skills. Insert eyeroll.)

Continuing on…as I sit in her office, it occurs to me that I already knew how to manage what had spiraled out of control in my own life. My mind is reeling with the thought, “Are you kidding me?” I had slipped into behaviors without even a conscious thought about how much stress they were causing me!

The process of awareness and using tools to function in emotionally healthy ways simply need to be rebooted sometimes.

I’m going to be honest. On my way home from her office, I was annoyed that I had forgotten that I had choices. I was living in my past reactions within the abuse cycle, and I had totally allowed myself to slip into old habits.

As I have pondered it since then, I have chosen to embrace the fact that I slipped into old patterns. It happens, and I wasn’t paying that much attention. I have just been “getting through” each day.

The difference now is that I know what to do. I know where to look for help if I need it.

But here’s the thing.

I accidentally isolated myself. It wasn’t intentional. It really did just happen.

FYI-isolation is my thing. I am really, really good at it. It’s how I survived in years past.

We absolutely cannot isolate if we are to live meaningful lives!!

Period.

Yes, we get busy. Yes, it has been hard because of the pandemic. Yes, we are busy with work, kids, classes, church…whatever the things are that fill your time.

But we need people to connect with. People to keep us in the present. People to bring us out of our headspace.

(And if you know me, you know how stuck I can get in my mind. I a bit of a weird-o about that. I can also get stuck trying to disappear into reading. And sometimes, I can even get stuck just sitting in my living room doing nothing…it is kind of ridiculous.)

So here’s the deal. I’ve been moving forward, step by step, since the day I found out my ex-husband was gay. Sometimes we get stuck in old patterns of behaviors. Except now, once the a-ha moment comes, I know what to do to get unstuck.

Moving forward isn’t about never looking back and never having another problem.

It’s all about the a-ha moments. They should totally give us a boost of confidence that we are awesome at this moving forward thing. We know how to get ourselves out of stuff. And even if we don’t remember, we probably know where we can go to get a little help!

Keep going. We’ve got this.

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Fresh Eyes

It is 6:30 a.m. the Saturday before Easter. I am alone in a bed and breakfast just a few miles from home, and I have been consistently working to catch up on all of my classwork that has fallen through the cracks the last few weeks.

Why am I in a bed and breakfast? How am I even paying for such an indulgence?

After receiving my tax return, I put it all immediately in my savings to offset the lack of income I will have this next summer…although I also need new tires for my car, my computer is dying, and I have holes in my rental house walls that need professional repairing. (Yes, I am rambling…sometimes fear creeps in.)

But my mental health was failing. The busy-ness inside my home was creating a whirlwind inside my brain. My young adults come in and out. My teenager is struggling with his schoolwork. My home is cluttered. I have been in and out a lot these days. I could not seem to clear my head long enough to focus on what needed to get done.

I realized that I could push through, but I know me…at some point in the near future, I would eventually lose it and hurt someone’s feelings. I have been jumping from activity to activity, attempting to see progress within the house while also trying to get some of my schoolwork (and real work) done. I have been doing a minimal job of completing my schoolwork, not allowing myself to fully grasp the information I need for my future. And in general, I have been walking around frustrated at everyone instead of taking the time to process my feelings, deal with them appropriately, and communicate them.

So I gave myself a budget and permission to spend 2 nights away from the chaos. To clear my head and focus my vision.

Plus…there is this other thing that has sneaked in and has been causing me a bit of unexpected emotions. I needed to allow myself to feel those, so that I can continue moving forward.

I don’t think a lot of people allow themselves to deal with their sh** after a divorce. They move forward and carry all of that mess with them…either that, or I cling to my sh** for a long stinking time. But I don’t think so. I think that as a society, we expect people to move on quickly from their feelings so that the discomfort for those around us can go away. And people move forward believing that the sh** will just go away if they keep doing stuff to push the emotions away.

For me, 25 years of marriage (and a whole lifestyle) was a lot to lose…it would be for anyone. It was only 3 years ago that I was pursuing intense therapy to try and figure out if my marriage could be saved. Back then, my then-husband was working to convince me that he wanted to be married to me. So I kept trying to have an open mind and to be logical.

But on Easter Sunday 2018, a decision was made that confirmed that my marriage could not be saved.

And on this Easter weekend (2021), I am working to reframe that part of my story. Bear with me as a S-T-R-E-T-C-H Jesus’ story to help me along.

Jesus died…betrayal set that in motion. And then He rose again.

A part of me died…because of betrayal. But I am rising again as a new woman. (Told you I was stretching it a bit!)

When I choose to look at my life in this manner, I see encouragement. I see the hope I am giving to others. Has this path been difficult? Yes, beyond anything I could imagine.

When I look around at those who have suffered betrayal, I see many faces. Some of us fall into despair and cannot get up. Some of us fall into rage and become angry women seeking revenge. And some of us pray (beg) daily that God keeps our hearts soft so that we can gently lead others to see Jesus.

My season of difficulty has not yet ended, but I am seeing the fruit of sharing my story and of me leaning on Jesus.

**At least 3 women have come to me and told me that they left abusive relationships…because I shared my story.

**2 young men came to me and told me that they were groomed by older men in trusted situations…because I shared my story.

I have thought that I needed to stop sharing my story, but my story is important. My story gives hope to those who have experienced horrible things…and it is not even the worst one you will ever hear.

But it shines a light in the dark corners that some of us try so hard to hide. It creates a space for people to have a voice.

So this time away has given me fresh eyes. Some things I see:

  1. I love what I am learning, and I need to take the time to create a space to absorb all that I can.
  2. My children are experiencing growing pains and need the space to feel those pains without my intervention.
  3. My heart continues to heal. Allowing myself to feel those pangs of confusion and grief as they pass through my body, not judging them, but accepting them as simply part of the healing process.
  4. I am doing great things. Maybe not from a huge platform, but in teeny, tiny private ways, I am making a difference.
  5. And this job I have but don’t love…I am doing pretty good at that, too. Messages from parents expressing their gratitude about what they are seeing and hearing from my classroom are confirming that I am where I am meant to be.

I encourage you. When your mind is filled with an overabundance of moving parts, and you cannot seem to see clearly, give yourself permission to step away from it all. Fresh eyes bring clarity and peace.

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The Exhaustion of Psychological Abuse

Christmas will be here in just under 3 weeks time. This will be my 3rd Christmas as a single mom, my first Christmas where I don’t have to feel emotionally pulled into someone else’s mental chaos. But for a minute there, that psychological ridiculousness came close to interrupting my season of joy.

Psychological abuse is so sneaky that you don’t even realize it’s happening…or I don’t.

In this latest incident, I had a completely ridiculous and out of proportion reaction to something that was said. Once I paused and looked deeper, I saw that Code Red used his knowledge of my thought processes, a tiny bit of knowledge he gained from someone, and then created an assumption/lie/guess to make it appear that he was “in the know” of something that I had never, ever communicated with him.

In the past, I would have mentally reviewed my words and assumed that I had slipped up and been “stupid”…again, going so far as to label myself as crazy. But this time, I took a breath and thought rationally, and I saw the lie he was creating. Unfortunately though, for about an hour, I was in a full-on state of panic and fear…and if I am truthful, paranoia.

After successfully figuring this out, and (for the first time since leaving my marriage) I realized why my 16-year-old struggles with so much anxiety when it comes to communicating with his father. I was finally able to recognize that Code Red uses the same tactics on our child. The questions, the condescension, the “knowing” is absolutely crazy making. (I wish he would just be a “dad” or better yet, leave the poor kid alone.)

This latest incident took 3 HOURS of my day to help my child process what was happening and figure out a way to communicate effectively. The mental gymnastics required to process the emotional reaction and come up with a firm response exhaust your whole being! There is no “say what you mean and mean what you say” when you are 16-years-old, at least not without backlash. (During the divorce process, my then-14-year-old was told by the judge that he had to unblock his father on his phone. The judge definitely did not realize that his father does not know when to stop texting.)

My child receives texts beginning at 4am on most days. He receives texts throughout the school day that require thought and interaction…interrupting his education and stirring up unneeded anxiety and stress. He continues to receive texts at random each evening. It is a lot.

The only way I have started to heal my brain from the chaos of the last 28 years is by setting strict boundaries. My child does not have that luxury; and yet, healthy boundaries are what keep us sane. Learning how to protect our mind is incredibly difficult, and it is a struggle to teach children how to set boundaries when they are at the mercy of unhealthy adults in their lives.

I continue to hope and pray that by being present and encouraging my son to process and speak for himself, he will eventually learn to set strong, healthy boundaries with his father.

Psychological abuse is an absolute nightmare, and honestly, I am tired of dealing with it. My brain is weary from being switched “on” so much of the time. Selfishly, I am exhausted observing my child fall apart while trying to make sense of how to best communicate.

If I could, I would simply shout, “Go away!” and be done with it! But we continue to persevere, exercise, and grow the mental muscles we need to remain strong. Thank goodness, we have the privilege of knowledge. And one day…there will be rest.

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I Am Just Enough

Although I am 1-1/2 years post divorce and 2-1/2 years past the discovery, life continues to be hard.

It’s November, the month of my anniversary, my favorite month of each and every year.

I find that I am weary these days. This moving forward is difficult, and I am relatively annoyed at myself for continuing to have big feelings. They aren’t as cutting as they used to be, and I can tell that in time they will continue to be less and less.

But right now, those feelings hurt. My heart aches. My nose sniffles. My eyes tear.

I question, “How could this be my life?”

Do the emotions come because of the memories? or do they come because they were triggered?

Last month, my son ran away. Not for long but long enough to worry me. I desperately wanted someone physical to turn to. I wanted someone to hold me, allow me to cry, and to be weak…for just a little while. I am so very tired of being “strong.”

But I did not have that. In fact, when I reached out to my son’s father, somehow the messages got mixed up and ended with him angry and calling me names. It left me depleted and although it’s been a few weeks, I continue to feel the knife edge of his words.

When I began this blog, I did it as a way to move forward and chronicle what that process looks like for someone who had so much…a big house, a big wallet, a lot of stuff…but chose to leave it all to become free. I was filled with hope, in spite of the grief.

As I have moved forward, I have been hesitant to post when I have another emotional hiccup. I haven’t wanted to seem weak.

But there is enough room for the hopeful, the sad, and all of the feelings in-between. Our emotions are real, and it is okay for us to feel them and process them. There is enough room in this world for all of them.

The trick is to remember that the people who cannot help hold my emotions are simply not my people to share the emotions with. Those people need to sit on the sidelines of my life so that they do not interfere with my healing.

I am not weak. And I am not strong. I am just enough.

**When my child ran away, I did have my parents whose presence did help me get through the weekend but that isn’t what I am talking about here.**

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Obesity Keeps Me Safe

This post is risky and hard to post, but I think it’s important.

In April 2014, I saw my doctor and told her that I was beginning to experience panic attacks. At the time, I honestly believed that I had no reason to be anxious. So she and I began to try medications to help prevent me from completely losing it.

Looking back, it seems as if it is a miracle that during that season I did not have a complete nervous breakdown. Here is what had been going on:

  • Code Red had been going on and off of medication for depression for years, and I never knew what kind of person would be walking into my home each evening…he might come in happy and hyper…OR he might come in on edge, ready to attack anyone who made the slightest noise…OR he would be so down and depressed that he would mope around talking about how “we never caught a break.” (That last bit was ridiculous. We had been blessed time and time again; he just couldn’t ever seem to see it.) And he was always, always drinking.
  • My oldest son was graduating from high school and seemed to be struggling against the world. Nothing I could do helped him find peace. My heart was sad, and I wasn’t sure if this was what normal growing pains felt like.
  • The herniated disc in my back had completely filled my spinal canal. I was in a ridiculous amount of pain most of the time.
  • Throughout the year, I think that between all 6 of us, there had been 4 or 5 surgeries.

After beginning the medication, I began seeing a counselor because I wanted to know how to best help my son. His high school years had been full of injuries, and he had not able to compete in athletics…and this son LOVES all things competitive. He was extremely depressed and I wondered if he was suicidal…how was I supposed to handle that? He had completely given up on academics (although he would get near-perfect scores on all exams), and he had turned down engineering school because he planned to join the Navy.

I was stressed, but I didn’t think that it was something that moms everywhere weren’t processing and walking through.

During the conversations with my therapist, small details began to come out about our family…and the more details that I shared, the more I began to shut down, and the more I shut down, the more I began to run through a drive-thru rather than cook a meal. (For those of you who know me well, this wasn’t normal. I love to cook. I love the details of putting together a detailed weekly menu, and I love to create enjoyable family meals.)

The pounds began to creep on. 5…10…40…80…100 all within an 8 month period of time, and I simply did not care. In fact, I tried to convince myself to care, but it didn’t work. The only time I even noticed the weight was when I had to dress to go somewhere.

I am pretty sure that the anxiety/depression meds were a bit too strong and created a numbing effect. I was simply grateful to have something to take away all of the stress that I had been feeling, and fast food was an easy provision.

Since 2015, I have fluctuated about 20 lbs but have remained significantly overweight…obese is the word that catches in my throat…never in my life have I been obese until this last season.

In 2018, during the bombshell of Code Red’s secret life, I decided to try a diet/lifestyle change with a dear friend. I failed. Time and time and time again. I set goals only to ignore them. I read information and absorbed it to the point that I know that I could teach someone exactly what to do to become healthy. I have spoken to my current counselor and we have worked through stuff.

But I have not been able to pull myself out of this strange pit.

In less than a month, I will be 48 years old. Just 5-1/2 years ago, I was 100 lbs lighter than I am right now.

What I have learned about myself is:

  • In 2014, I began to eat fast food as a “rebellion” against my family. If they weren’t going to have conversations and deal with stuff, I was not going to provide good, healthy meals for them…plus they like fast food, right?
  • In 2015-2017, I was heavily medicated/numbed. Mixing anxiety/depression meds with opioids and muscle relaxers prevented me from caring about anything. FYI-I did not struggle with addiction…my back pain was extreme. I am currently not on any medication.
  • In 2014-2018, I cooked enough to maintain appearances for outside people. This is weird, but even when I cooked for the family that lived with us after Hurricane Harvey, I felt as if it was keeping an appearance.
  • In 2015, I stopped wanting to be present for my then husband. I didn’t like going places with him only to be left by myself…and if I was overweight, he didn’t invite me. A win for me.
  • In 2018, my world collapsed. I simply survived that year. Fast food kept my kids fed without me having to think and prepare. I ate because it was there…I do not remember craving or enjoying food at all. That’s a lie…I did eat a lot of Captain Crunch…it’s strange how a childhood favorite brought comfort during that time. Food comfort is such a crazy thing…I don’t even like Captain Crunch now.
  • From 2019 – present, I now recognize that I provide fast food or poor food choices to prevent me from having hard conversations with my kids. Let me explain. Traditionally in our family, when fast food was purchased, we all went our separate ways to eat…never eating it as a family. If I cook, we eat as a family. If we eat as a family, we talk. And if we talk, I will begin to want to begin holding some accountability. I simply haven’t wanted to put in the effort. Yes, I know that isn’t emotionally healthy…

Do I eat too much? Yes, I love tacos and candy and soda and all things bad for the body. Not to mention that when you eat fast food nearly every single day, sometimes twice a day, you don’t have to eat astronomical amounts of food…you will put on significant weight without eating all day, every day.

So now that I know the root of what has happened, what am I going to do about it?

I honestly do not know.

There is one more roadblock to overcome. There is the dilemma of losing weight and becoming more attractive. As arrogant as this sounds, I know that when I am even somewhat fit, I am attractive. And if I am attractive, someone might show interest in me. And if someone shows interest in me, what in the world would I do? I don’t know how to determine who to trust. It is probably better for me to avoid that possibility altogether.

As crazy as this sounds, until I find my voice, obesity keeps me safe.

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Code Red Comes Out… Clarification Edit

I published the post, “Code Red Comes Out,” yesterday morning, and then I panicked.

So I deleted it…

Something that I’ve learned throughout the last 2-1/2 years is how difficult it is to maintain boundaries even after leaving an abusive relationship. Oftentimes, I cannot communicate in the manner in which I typically do.

I have trained myself to soften many things that come from my mouth…but in doing that, my words lose their meaning. It’s as if what I am attempting to say are not even understandable.

In that post, I wanted him to fully grasp that being gay was the minor issue in our marriage. The primary issue was his abuse.

But being gay WAS his primary issue in our marriage.

Make sense? I’m republishing it…sorry to those of you who subscribe for getting it twice…this is still a little bit sensitive for me.

So. My ex-husband, Code Red, officially came out to me last Sunday.

It made my week a bit emotional. Having him finally put what I already knew into words was surreal. (I hate that overused word…but it’s accurate.)

Last Sunday, I received a email from Code Red. It was actually a very kind letter telling me the one thing (he refers to it as “the lie”)he wished that he could have told me so long ago. As I read it, I grieved. I grieved for the life that he lost. I grieved the life that I lost. I grieved the life that we led, because it really wasn’t a very good life for either one of us.

In response, I offered to send him a response telling him how his lie impacted the kids and me throughout the years. Honestly, it was some of the most genuine interaction I feel that we have ever had.

Here is an edited version…all quotes are paraphrased: (Code Red – Bold, Me – Italics)

“Here is something I should have told you and others a long time ago.” Lumping me in with others is offensive. I was your wife. I fully trusted you…even when my instincts told me otherwise.

 “I am gay.  That’s the easiest way to put it.  I’m at peace with that fact, finally.  I’m at peace with how I was made.” For this, I am genuinely glad for you.

I do hate the pain that my choices and actions caused.” Let’s name them so that they aren’t minimized.**I listed 31 occurrences for him to consider. In regard of the sanctity I still value in marriage (even a bad one), I won’t expose all of them here. I have touched on them at times, but I won’t share these deeply personal things.

**The knowledge of your gay affairs opened a clear path to safety for the kids and me.”

“I do not regret our marriage. I did my best.” There are only 2 benefits from our marriage: 1) Our children 2) It strengthened me to a point that I did not think was possible.

“I still have love for you, but I know we probably cannot have a friendship.” Honestly, I no longer feel any love for you. I have come to accept that I haven’t loved you for a great many years. The feeling that I mistook for love was really fear. **Fear that you instilled in me with careful manipulation and rage. I have no desire to be friends with you. You are not the kind of person that I want to have in my life.

Because you have been separated from us, you are able to romanticize the truth, making it easy for you to create your own personal narrative. I, on the other hand, have been face to face not only with the damage you did to my heart, but also with the damage you did to our children. Every single day, I see the effects your decisions had on them. No amount of romanticizing will create a better truth for them.

  • When we lived in Louisiana, I thought we struggled because it was the early years of marriage.
  • When we lived in Indiana, I thought we struggled because you had so much work to do with school.
  • When we lived in Alabama, I thought we struggled because you hated your job.
  • When we lived in Virginia, I thought that we struggled because of your many jobs.
  • When we lived in Arkansas, I thought that we struggled because of homeschooling.
  • When we moved to Texas, I thought we struggled because I moved forward in my walk with God, and you abandoned yours.

I wanted to leave you so many times, but I did not realize that I despised you until we lived in Arkansas. I didn’t think that I had a good reason to divorce back then…I didn’t even think that I had a choice. I thought that I had to just power through. After all, I knew you “loved” me, even though it didn’t feel like love. Throughout the 26 years, I have cried so many tears for the unknown. I had no idea what was wrong with our marriage, but I knew that something was not right. The best part of this whole situation is that I now know how strong and resilient I am.

Poem about his wedding ring

With my social work knowledge, I applaud your efforts to dig deep and pull this poem out of the grief. But I was your wife, and I know that this poem only touches one aspect of our lives. It’s as if this knowledge absolves you from the horrific life the kids and I endured at your hand.

  • You need to know that I do not feel the same as you. As you have sentimentalized the story of being gay, I have come to accept the depths of abuse the kids and I suffered.
  • The laughter and joy were not real, Code Red. They were coping mechanisms used to make it through each day. My humor is not your humor.
  • The friendship was also an illusion. When I think back, I am able to recognize my own desire to get away from the rural country life…something that drove me into a relationship with a person that treated me inconsistently even as a friend before our marriage.
  • The love from me to you was a commitment. The depth of my love was an illusion I created to be able to bear the burdens you placed on me. I literally rehearsed it so that no one would know how much I despised you. I wanted them to think that I held you in high regard…I did not want to be known as the complaining wife. I worked so hard at it that I even convinced myself…until I recall that I regularly told God, “It will be okay if Code Red dies today. The kids and I will manage just fine.” That wasn’t okay, Code Red. I should’ve known that having thoughts like that meant that something was very, very wrong.

I wish you well in your new life, but I do not want to be a part of it. There cannot be mutual respect. I have no desire to be friends with a man that harms his wife and children.

I plan to spend the rest of my life helping women and children overcome the trauma of abuse.

And that is the end of our exchange. I’ve read it and reread it so many times this last week. To be able to finally share my voice to him about how his behaviors impacted me has been such an empowering feeling. His words, and then my words, weren’t exchanged in anger. They were shared in a manner that creates closure. It’s as if each word is flying from my hand into the sky, never to return.

For this, I am grateful.

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Frustrated Kids + Self-Reflection = Change

My kids (the 3 that live with me) have been frustrated with me.

I am guilty of saying, “Your dad loves you the best way that he knows how.”

In saying that, I have undermined their feelings. I have inadvertently been telling them that they have to accept his love…even if it hasn’t felt like love.

It is so ingrained in my head that ALL parents (to the best of their abilities) love their children. Maybe that’s true. But just because they love their children, it doesn’t make reality any different.

Love is not enough. It is time we stop forcing our kids to accept love that hurts or makes them feel bad.

It’s not just me that has fallen into the trap of believing this ridiculousness. Just last week, I listened to a friend excuse her mother’s actions because, “You know mom. She’s just like that.” This friend is just like me, brainwashed into believing that a parent is excused from reality because of love.

Bullshit. What even is this kind of love?

As adults, when we acquiesce to a toxic parent, we are letting them know that their behavior is ok. They never feel the consequences of their actions because as young children, we are taught to overlook and ignore how we feel because of duty or “respect.”

Making older adults feel good was more important than our, or our children’s, pain.

For years, I forced my children to overlook a certain family member’s behavior. My children would come to me hurt and angry, and instead of acknowledging and understanding, I expected them to dismiss their feelings because that person was older.

  • Older = respect.
  • Older = deference.
  • Older = no accountability.

I was wrong. I ignored my children and trained them to be accepting of abuse.

And I have been doing the same when it comes to their father.

It doesn’t matter if their father loves them. He has harmed them. He has put conditions on his love for them. He has abandoned them. He has been cruel to them. He has minimized his wrong, and he has not apologized to them.

By the way, this is not a beat up Code Red post. This is a reality check for myself.

In the training of my children, I have been complicit with abuse. For years, I continued to place my children in harms way. I cannot undo my actions, and for that, I am very, very sad.

I have decided to turn my sadness into advocacy and education.

Here is what I can do:

  • I can apologize.
  • I can model what it is like to learn something new.
  • I can change.
  • I can listen and actually hear.
  • I can come alongside my children and others.
  • I can stand up for mistreatment.
  • I can carry it forward by educating others.

Looking inward to see truth is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding things I can do, both for myself and for my kids.

How I Process My Emotions

Lately, I have experienced quite a bit of anxiety. For days now, I have attempted to figure out what the root of it could be, but I haven’t been able to grasp it. I simply know that it is making me irritable, and because I do not want to be unkind to those around me, I have wrestled to keep the low-lying rage low…really low.

This morning, I have been gifted with a few hours of uninterrupted quiet. My immediate thought was to go and try to get ahead with my homework. Nonetheless, I realized that I needed to stop and spend some time in the quiet. My soul is ill at ease and I simply need to rest in God’s presence.

Some of you may not understand what I mean by that. Let me explain. When I take my Bible and my journal to read and reflect, it is as if God joins me in my time. Some people do not believe that is possible. I do, and it brings me great comfort. In fact, it is something that I believe to the depths of my soul. He is always present; sometimes, I simply do not take the time to notice.

During this time today, I decided to take a walk through my anxiety. If I am truthful, I don’t like to do this. I find it time consuming and annoying. However, it almost always brings clarity to whatever it is that may be bothering me. Here is what my journal entry looks like:

“The presence of anxiety is nothing new; however, it hasn’t been my companion for many months now. It’s presence the past few days is hurting my heart and causing me to reflect on myself today.

  1. I’m anxious because of money…I didn’t expect to have 3 children living at home with me right now.
  2. I’m angry because of my situation.
  3. I’m conflicted because I’m also super-excited for incredible opportunities.
  4. I’m sad because I want to be married.
  5. I’m appalled that ‘way back when,’ I had a hesitation to marry Code Red, but I married him anyway. (First time that I’m admitting that…it’s a bit embarrassing to me.)

So where does that leave me right at this moment? It leaves me with the reality that I can do this. I can do hard things. (maybe that should become my go-to phrase?) I can accept the changes that need to be made and make them without issue. Does it change my situation? No, but it does give me perspective.”

I share all of that to show you all what it looks like to thoroughly process your emotions. If you’re anything like me, I feel impatient taking the time to do things like this…I would much prefer to keep pretending my emotions don’t exist.

But when I do remember to take the time for this, I realize what it means to be emotionally healthy. It means that I feel the sensations running through my body, I acknowledge them, and then I detail exactly what they are. Once I can visibly see what is causing the disruption in my soul, it becomes possible for me to release the anxiety and move forward.

Maybe this can help some of you recognize what you’ve been feeling?