Featured

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?

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…

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.