Ruminating on "D is for Divorce"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unexpected Emotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a Decade.

2010-2019. What a decade of insane change!

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

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

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

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

Faith: Question. Wrestle. Search. Hang on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My word for the year 2020: Delight!

Longing for Margin

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

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

I am exhausted!

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

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

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

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

There is no margin.

This is not me complaining. 

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

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

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

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

I really do miss having margin in my life.

It’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!