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!

Breathe In, Breathe Out

                                                   “Breathe in: Lord, I receive.                                                                                                           Breathe out: Lord, I give thanks.                                                                                 So there’s that: You don’t get to make up most of your story.                                                                            You get to make peace with it.                                                                                             You don’t get to demand your life, like a given.                                                                                     You get to receive your life like a gift.”                                                -Ann Voskamp

I woke up this morning with this quote on my mind. In the past week, I’ve struggled. A LOT. There is a part of me that wants my old life back…but not really. Although I was unhappy most of the time, I had made peace with it as best that I could.

What began as an innocent discussion the other day ended up causing me to reevaluate my decisions from the past year and a half. You see, there is this young adult man that I love. And this young man wants to believe that his dad is broken and sad about the choices he has made. This young man wants me to know that his dad really does love his children. And I desperately want to provide him with the security of a father’s love. But that is impossible for me to do; it is not my role.

For myself, I have had to reconcile that an addict’s love is not the right kind of love. An addict’s love is filled with conditions, lies, and illusions of caring that deflect from their true actions. Unless an addict comes to grips with his need for help, for the rest of his/her life, they are incapable of making the changes needed to provide true love.

And my heart hurts. I want to erase the damage that has been done. I want to wash over all of the bad so that maybe my children can find peace, although it would be a false sense of peace.
Unfortunately, that is not my job.
My role is to be their mother. To love them unconditionally as they traverse through the painful realities of their lives. I cannot wash over what they have experienced. I cannot minimize their truths. I can only love and support them throughout this difficult, difficult journey.
In the past, I would have reached in and changed the story a bit, hoping that it would feel better to them. I now know that in doing that, I made the truth something false. But whenever I have softened things for them, I have also softened them for myself and allowed all of us to live in denial. That benefits no one.
As I sit remembering Ann’s words, I choose to make peace with the story our family has been given. I choose to see it as a gift that has made and is continuing to make me into the woman I am today. I pray that my children see the truth, see me accept it, and then see me grow from it.

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.

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.

Psalm 30:11-12

Before I begin my real post, I want to acknowledge Mother’s Day and say that I am the daughter of a woman whose love runs so deep that I honestly think that it sometimes hurts her. Her love for the Lord and her love for others fuel her to give beyond my comprehension…I truly don’t know how she does what she does. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama. I love you.

And now. Y’all. The weirdest thing has happened.

While talking to my dad the other day, he asked, “How are you, girl?” After stammering with the typical, “I’m fine” for a minute, I realized that I am happy. Really happy…who knew?! It is such a strange feeling. As an adult, I honestly cannot remember ever experiencing this much peace.

Oh, I have emotional issues that crop up off and on. A kid annoys me and I lose my mind. My memories go crazy and I can’t figure out the grief. I don’t trust people so I’m skeptical…but I am happy. Deep, deep in my soul, I am filled to the edge of overflowing.

It is the most incredible thing that I have ever felt. And yes, it is a feeling, but it is also what I would call a settling within my soul. It doesn’t feel as if I have a weight pulling me down or backwards. I am not afraid of what might come next…I honestly cannot imagine what could be worse than what I have already experienced. (Before you think anything snarky, remember, most of you do not know the whole story. It’s was baaaaaad.) Anyway, you know in movies when the girl is twirling around and around on a beach with her hair flowing and a smile on her face? That is me right now…corny as hell.

Psalm 30:11-12 says, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory might sing praise and not be silent. Oh Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

I didn’t know if it would be possible to recover from the barrage of disgraceful actions that have surrounded my marriage. But recovery is is possible and continues to occur. I never thought that I could be free.

I honestly believe that I have weathered the worst of the storm. And I pray that this next season will be a time filled with simple joys. That I will be able to be fully present for whatever life brings my way. That my kids will continue to heal and find their path into independent adulthood. That they will see their mama lean on God, acknowledge the bad situation, and allow it to catapult her into something new and beautiful.

I have wrestled. I have fallen. I have gotten up. And now, I am moving forward.

My 26 year marriage will always be my story and I hope to be able to share it with others who need to hear it, but that marriage and the actions surrounding that marriage do not define me.

With God’s leading, I get to step out into something new and something beautiful…even if I have no earthly idea what that is yet!

Weariness and Anxiety

Just as I begin to embrace this newly found freedom, I receive news that pulls me right back into the past. Why won’t you leave me alone?! Why must you attempt to diffuse my joy and hinder my movement forward? Why do you need to control me?

We have been divorced for a few months now; I have embraced life and am becoming comfortable with it.

Go away.

Leave me alone.

I knew the very minute you found out that I was going to stand firm. Your attack was strategic and personal. You know my weakness…no one else would even know how deeply that action would affect me…but you do. After all, I fully trusted you for 25 years.

Please stop harassing me! It is as if you won’t be satisfied until I break and lose control. You continue to provoke me. I know that these attacks are directed to attempt to keep me on edge and in a state of anxiety.

Just. Go. Away.

I am tired and weary…I want to enjoy my life that is supposed to be free now.

Sorry for the whiny post today. I’m so tired, y’all!

P.S. This is one more example of abuse…

Oh my goodness, there’s relief!

And just like that, on Monday morning, someone that I cannot mention in my posts anymore moved away…far, far away. For most of the day, I was pretty sad. His moving away drew a line between the before and the after. I didn’t feel sad that he was gone; it simply felt as if the previous 26 years simply evaporated into thin air. How does that work? It feels so very, very strange.

And then. I realized that I am free! And then. I FINALLY received my settlement from the divorce (Woohoo! I can finally pay my bills!). And then. Good news came through my email. And then. A doctor said that my son that’s been struggling was doing better than he had ever seen him. And then. My oldest son called and talked for an hour. (Boys-call your mamas. Your voice brings joy to the depth of their soul.) And then. A friend called me just because I was on her heart. And then. Another friend checked in with me. (Friends-don’t underestimate your value! You are treasures to your people.)

With every and then, a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I realized that the heaviness that has surrounded me for the last 14 months could finally lift and float away. I imagine it kind of like a group of balloons being released one by one by one. I am so incredibly grateful.

I don’t know what the future holds but maybe I am ok now? I’m a little weary from the constant drama surrounding me…dare I hope that I can just move forward without having to be concerned what is going to happen next?

I don’t really know how to live without extreme stress on my shoulders. I’m tired of crying and I’m tired of getting angry and I’m tired of worrying about what’s coming next. This is definitely going to take some getting used to!

I am so excited to live and be free to enjoy my life and the people around me.