Wobbly. Stumbly. Steps.

It is awful to feel like a young-adult-starting-out when you are an older-adult-with-almost-grown-children. I am 47-years-old and attempting to begin a career that has to provide me with enough income to prepare for retirement while at the same time, immediately provide for the kids and me.

To be honest, I fully realize that I lived a pretty privileged life. Just over two years ago, I had a big house with a pool, cars, a boat, not to mention a pretty fluffy monthly budget. We had investments, retirement, and a bit of savings.

When I made the decision to divorce, we had already willingly depleted most of our investments, retirement and savings. In the months prior to filing, I had chosen to stand beside the man I believed in through the end of a tumultuous season with his last employer, including a major lawsuit. (By the way, it has now been 2-1/2 years since that lawsuit began, and it is still in process!)

I can do without “things;” I’m not so high maintenance as that. The issue for me is that I have a difficult time not being able to support my kids in the manner I had thought would happen. As 2 of them transition to adulthood, I currently provide them with housing, food and basic necessities. They are working, accepting grants and getting loans to go to school. I am in school. My youngest is still in high school.

Life is so incredibly different!

Above were my thoughts BEFORE Covid-19

After/During Covid-19…

I am in the process of transitioning from full-time student to part-time student as I also search for full-time employment. I haven’t worked a regular, 40-hour-a-week job in 24 years. And I have NEVER had to financially support myself!

I want to climb in bed and quit…not really, but…sort-of. With each new twist or turn in this journey forward, I have to consciously refocus and remember God’s wisdom:

“Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 (NASB)

Keep looking ahead. Don’t look down. Don’t look to the side. Definitely don’t look back.

Look forward. Take a step. Just one step forward makes a difference.

Wobbly. Stumbly. Steps.

That’s all that is required.

I can do this.

Lying Smile

I’m tired of being positive. The End.

I have SO.MANY.TOOLS to get me from emotionally struggling back to having a peaceful mind. And typically I use them to keep my emotions regulated. Today I don’t feel like it. I want to whine and complain and disappear into a book. I don’t want to clean the kitchen. I do not want to talk to my children. I do not want to think about what kind of food is in the pantry or the refrigerator. And I sure as hell do not want to think about what is for dinner.

I want to be alone…to cry and be angry and be resentful.

I am so, so tired. And angry. Really, really angry.

Many people tell me how brave and strong I am. And some days I am. But this is not one of those days.

I don’t want to be strong. I don’t want to hide behind the lying smile that I make sure reaches my eyes so people don’t see when I am feeling overwhelmed or sad. (I have literally practiced that smile a gazillion times. I know it works well…too well.)

I want someone to take some of the responsibility for just a little while. Someone to clean my house, make the food, navigate my youngest’s anxiety as he is doing his online schoolwork, repair all of the holes in the walls, parent and love on him, and care for the animals. Just for a little while…

Someone to simply reach out and notice that I am exhausted, physically and mentally.

**Don’t freak out on me about this post. I almost always try to put a spin of good on everything I say; I really do believe that if you look for the good, you can find it. I know the good is there, but today I don’t really care.

Joy in the Still

It is April 26, 6 weeks since I fully realized that coronavirus was coming into the U.S. like a storm. I am weary. Weary of staying inside. Weary of the same walk around the neighborhood. Weary of trying to make my brain think critically. Weary of listening to conspiracy theories. Weary of the constant accusations and bickering on social media. (Speaking on that: Yesterday, I chose to “hide” everyone who posts sarcastic, harsh, or aggressive posts…that applied to both my Republican and my Democrat friends. It meant hiding many people that I love.)

Anyway. This period of social distancing has given me hours/days of great productivity and hours/days of ridiculous laziness. Writing about it seems a waste of time. I do not have great knowledge to share. I am simply a mom and a student. That is all.

Now that everything is still, what do I do?

Embrace the still. Allow it to wrap around you without consuming you. Search for the joy. Find it. Cling to it.

My joy has been found – in opening the blinds every morning. – in gardening. – in cooking. – in listening to my children. – in reading. – in studying. – in ironing. – in sewing. – NOT in playing games. – in puzzles. – in pets. – in Scripture. – in people all over the world sharing their “view from my window.”

Joy can be anywhere at any time; it doesn’t have to be big. All we have to do is open our eyes to see it.

What do I even say right now?

I’ve written and deleted at least 2 posts since this (coronavirus) began…where do I even start? Do I ramble on about how I have attempted to complete my assignments, but I work best in silence, and silence is no longer an option…except at midnight, and I am not a night person? Do I write about how my 16-year-old son woke up to 20 (yes, 20) emails yesterday morning from his teachers and completely shut down? Do I admit that I am stressed because I was in the middle of transitioning to something new, and because of the lockdown, the details are falling through the cracks? Do I write that the only way I feel as if I have any control is to menu plan? Do I tell that my oldest son is underway, and they did not test them before heading out?

Honestly. I do not know what I am supposed to say.

Whenever I write, I want to share the reality of life, but also that there is beauty and hope to be found when you just look for it. Right now, I would love to continue writing outside in the early morning with the birds chirping, but the damn mosquitos feel as if they are eating me alive. Not to mention, one of my neighbors is going for a walk with a mask on (no big deal) and a gun holstered to her waistband (BIG deal). For all of the encouragement that I see from so many, I feel as if I am in the twilight zone.

And yet, there continues to be beauty. My professor kindly gave me an extension on this paper that I have no attention span for. My refrigerator and pantry are full; I do not need anything. My son forced himself to go for a bike ride to help clear his mind so that he could decompress for a bit. I have an advisor working on my behalf to assist me during this transition…I choose to trust that even if it does not turn out as I had planned, it will be okay. I read the emails from my oldest son’s ombudsman to give me encouragement regarding his safety. My home is a place of comfort and beauty. Cooking is a creative outlet for me…I choose to embrace the additional time I have to put our meals together.

I cannot keep from mentioning that during this particular crisis, for the first time in my adult life, my attention is not centered around 1 person. His damaging and demanding needs are not wreaking additional havoc on our home. I am not forced to think long and hard about how to find something positive to say. I no longer have to work to find the good in my life. The good overshadows the not-so-good. In our home now, the children and I work together as a team, supporting and encouraging one another. Yes, there is stress and tension; however, there is also understanding and kindness.

My home has a different feel than it had in the past. It does my soul well to acknowledge and remember it often. This season could be one filled with drama and demands, but we have been rescued from that extremely toxic environment. For that, I am exceedingly grateful.

I guess what I have to say is we can do this. We can do hard things. But I’m not going to lie…it’s easier to go through hard times when you aren’t living in constant stress. My hope is that the memories of extreme anxiety and tension do not disappear, but that they serve only as a reminder to cherish the peacefulness (even during a pandemic) in my life right now.

Pushing Pause

Well…this last week gave us a new way of living. It is as if we are all pushing the pause button on our lives.

I’ll be honest, at the beginning of this week, I “poo-poo’d” the coronavirus. My opinion (I admit that I did not even consider fact-checking anything) was that as long as we were not being stupid, we could minimize this whole thing. I did; however, lecture my daughter (that already has respiratory problems that are naturally an issue during the “pollening” of our South Texas spring) to be smart and not behave like most 20 year-olds, to stop running around everywhere all the damn time. So I patted myself on the back and considered myself a non-panicky, smart mom. (Insert the eye roll.)

And here we are Sunday, March 15th, mostly self-quarantining because it is the smart thing to do. I did not buy toilet paper. In fact, I have a grand total of 12 rolls in my house at this moment. I even told my kids a story of an older friend whose dad only allowed her to use 3 squares, because it was the frugal thing to do…maybe we should think about using less. (Go ahead and give me another pat on the back for my awesome parenting.)

The kids and I don’t understand what it means to be really frugal. Even on a limited budget, we don’t consider living without certain things. As I walked through the grocery store, I realized that I am a natural preparer. I don’t like to run out of “stuff” so I always pick up some of the same things: flour, bread, milk, butter (I have at least 10 boxes of butter in my fridge and freezer), hairspray (heaven knows, I am not going to live without fixin’ my hair), toothpaste, etc. This isn’t the panic buying that many people have done…this is just a woman who likes to have a fully stocked pantry. We didn’t need much, so I bought a gazillion goldfish and cheez-its, because I didn’t want my kids to have to never eat another cheese cracker…an honest to God food staple they have never lived without.
(And like the normal, privileged children that they are, one of them even pouted that the others might eat most of them.) I did the “good mom” thing again and sat down with my picky eater and told him that he might just have to adapt his eating habits. I didn’t know, but he might even have to eat soup…you know, if this whole thing gets really crazy.

I think that this season of withdrawing might actually benefit the kids and me, although I really hope that it is a relatively short period of time. I honestly don’t want too many hard lessons.

So for now, I am taking it seriously and pausing our lives. But I am also going to laugh a bit, because I am pretty appalled at how much the kids and I have taken for granted.

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?

To Date…or Not

The question of dating keeps coming up. Have you started dating yet? What do you think about dating? Why aren’t you dating? Hasn’t it been long enough? Don’t you need to practice so that you will be able to recognize healthy and unhealthy patterns?

First and foremost, dating will begin in my own time. No one gets to decide that but me.

Have I thought about it? Yes. Is there a part of me that desires it? Yes. How do I feel about it? Terrified. Am I about to begin? No.

There are so many emotions tied up into the idea of dating. For someone like me, who has been accustomed to putting all personal desires aside for the “greater good” of the family, the idea of dating is a non-issue. In my mind, I am in school full-time, I’m not financially sound, and I am simply too busy to be distracted by dating. I also have 3 children at home, 2 young adults that are working to find their footing and 1 high schooler that just now seems settled. Do I really want to add another emotional pull on myself?

And then there are all of the insecurities. I wasn’t good enough for one man; how will I be good enough for another? Apparently, I am intimidating. What can I do about that? I am straight up terrified of trusting another man. We can talk, but I don’t know how I will ever trust someone. And here is the BIGGIE: I am overweight; therefore, I shouldn’t put myself out there. Yes. I’m going there. And yes. I am totally using that as an excuse.

In reality my weight is probably the single most important factor that stops me in my tracks from pursuing a future relationship.

Could I lose weight and go for it? Yes. Do I want to? Yes, I’m tired of being overweight. And no, I do not want to draw attention to myself. My weight has been an incredible protector for me these past 4-1/2 years. It has pushed Code Red away from me, saving me from his attention (he thought overweight people were disgusting…plus it gave him the “out” to pursue his true desires).

But it’s also a “thing” for me. It has been for 27 years now. Just a few months after our wedding, I knew that weight was going to be an issue. The first time he said something about it to me, we had been married a couple of months and as I was getting ready to leave, he told me that my dress made my bottom “look huge.” It hurt my feelings, but I decided that he was trying to save me from embarrassment. After having babies, he told me that I looked ok from the side but from the front or back, not so good…I was very wide. Yikes! Who wants to hear that?! Especially after 4 babies and working hard to become fit! And finally, when I allowed my weight to topple to its heaviest, I became a “lazy, fat, slob.” Yes, he really said that. More than once. And yes, I was devastated. It is safe to say that my weight has kept me isolated…and protected.

Here’s the flip side, or the protection part of this whole thing. Before I gained to my heaviest (even when he thought that I didn’t look ok) other people seemed to think I was just fine, maybe even attractive? When we went places, I was left alone…to do what I considered my job…making people feel seen; therefore, making Code Red look good. **As I type this, I wonder if I am exaggerating a bit? Surely, that was not really the way things were, was it?** It certainly felt that way. On every single occasion, I felt abandoned. In most instances I didn’t know anyone; and yet, I was left to mingle, smile, and nod…alone. And I hated it. Once I gained the weight, he stopped asking me to go to these dinners and events. I was left at home and no longer felt as if I had to “perform.”

So maybe there is a bit more to the whole not wanting to date thing…maybe, I don’t want to be taken advantage of again. Maybe I don’t want to have to figure out if I can trust someone or not. Maybe I don’t want to feel unattractive and not good enough. Maybe I feel as if I really am a lazy, fat, slob. Maybe being overweight is the best deterrent on the the planet…and the best excuse to not have to say the word no.

Whatever it is, I’ll figure it out in my own time. Piece by piece, my heart and soul keep healing. This is just another one of those pieces.

And as for dating, I’ll figure that out, too…in my own time.

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!