It’s My Birthday!

Today is my 47th birthday. It is my first birthday since age 20 that my name is back to the one I was born with. Truthfully, it feels awkward having a different name after so many years…I can’t quite get it right. I keep writing and saying the wrong name!

How should I celebrate? With cookies? With cake? With a simple, quiet day?

The decision has just been made for me. It is storming here and there is a possibility of flooding. I hope not, but it is there.

That makes for a quiet day at home. No makeup. No contact lenses. Glasses…both regular and reading. T-shirt and jeans. Hot tea. Homework. Maybe a non-textbook book or magazine. Cooking my favorite meal. Making fresh bread. Time with 2 of my children.

I do believe this is a day I didn’t know that I had been waiting for.

Pure joy. Pure peace. Rest for my soul. The best birthday a girl could wish for!

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!

Reflections…All Over the Place

Twenty hours. In the car. By myself.

A lot of time for reflection.

Abuse. Infidelity. Therapy. Worse-Than-Regular-Infidelity. In-Patient Therapy. More Therapy. Hurt Kids. Group Therapy. Court Battles. Therapy. The divorce. Therapy. Another Court Battle. Therapy. Peace. Therapy. Reflection. Therapy. Therapy. Therapy.

Sometimes the past 18 months seems like a blur, and then sometimes, it feels like this has been going on forever. The heaviness of my marriage is gone and peaceful living has replaced it. Honestly, it is difficult to adjust to not living in a constant state of stress and worry. There is no waiting for the drama to begin…there are only what I would call normal stresses.

What do I do with myself? I am learning to live without the constant threat of my world falling apart. I can do things that I enjoy and not suffer repercussions for doing them. There is no one to overly question me. There isn’t a backlash for neglecting my responsibilities. There aren’t thousands of texts making sure that I am aware that I cannot have a life outside of him.

I am experiencing only acceptance from my kids. It feels both unnerving and exciting. I do not think that I have EVER felt as accepted and supported as I do right at this moment in time. Have I mentioned how nice it is not to have someone questioning my every move?!?

Is it possible that I am beginning to trust my own judgment? my own mind? my own intelligence?

I will admit that there is still a bit of fear. I’ve never done life on my own before. I never even considered that I would have to. What if I mess up? What if I go broke? What if I cannot support my kids? What if I fail?

Ok, so that last paragraph is a partial truth. Other than financial provision, it certainly feels as if I have been doing life on my own for a long time. Goodness knows that from the very beginning, Code Red never stayed at home. He was always leaving to study (and do other things) in his office at school and later on, he traveled…you know, when I really allow my thoughts to go there, even while we were dating, there were conditions on the time that he spent with me. I am now realizing that he avoided me as much as possible. That realization stings a bit (ok, it hurts. A LOT) and it is difficult to accept. Did he not even really like me? Why on earth did I settle for that? Why didn’t I wait until someone loved me enough to want to see me as often as they could? Was I really just a “prop” for him to maintain the image he wanted? Good grief that hurts.

About 14 years ago, a friend said to me that I was “the only married, single parent” that she had ever met. Those words have rolled around inside my head all of these years. All of the times that I asked for help and was yelled at, all of the times that I really was alone, all of the times that I made the efforts to make sure that the children knew their paternal grandmother, all of the times that I managed all of the activities, and the list goes on and on. No wonder doing it all as an official single parent feels so much easier! I no longer have someone questioning every tiny decision that I make.

Twenty hours in the car alone is a LONG time to spend reflecting…

Enough of the melancholy feelings…there is too much that is awesome right now for me to be dwelling on all of that!

I began my classes last week and I have found my people. Listening to the professors and other students made me realize how deeply I do care about others. I saw that I don’t have to diminish my core beliefs. Every person has value, period. Socio-economic backgrounds be damned. I love people. ALL the people…even when I don’t agree with them. AND THAT IS OK. I’m not ridiculous or too compassionate nor do I have too many feelings.

I am ME. I like ME. I think I am nice…and a little bit weird.

Twenty hours is a lot of hours!

Going There…

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

I hope that you are ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quiet

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOOOOOOO!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Just Thinking…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forward Living is ultimately my goal.

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

End of Season 1

This past year, I unexpectedly found myself teaching preschool in a different part of town from me. I didn’t apply for this job…I just somehow ended up with it.

When I filed for divorce last summer, I had to figure out a way to support myself…being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t going to cut it…and becoming a teacher appeared to be the most logical thing for me to do. So I enrolled to get certified, I applied to become a substitute, and ended up teaching. Go figure.

I started teaching and in that classroom, all that I could see were little people who needed some time with “mama.” So that’s what I did…I have mama’d those babies like crazy. Thank goodness that it’s a private school because I have hugged and held and cuddled them all as much as I possibly could.

I am not a great teacher. Oh, I can teach, and they have learned quite a bit, but teaching is definitely not my calling! I like to do things well and let’s face it, I couldn’t even get my thoughts to connect consistently. Throughout the year, I was going back and forth to court, trying to sell my house, homeless for a month, and in the very beginning, I didn’t even know how to make it through a day, let alone teach!

But you know what’s crazy?! This school, my boss, my co-teacher, and these babies helped me make it through. Every single day someone outside of my family depended on me. I had a job to do and even if I didn’t perform my best, I showed up and taught (and gave a lot of hugs…I think that maybe I needed them as much as some of the kids did).

As the school year comes to a close, my last day will be bittersweet. Although I am not sure that I will ever teach again, I am positive that I will forever carry this year in my heart. It was exactly what I needed and the best gift that God could have possibly provided for me.