Experiencing the Flood

Our class was divided and working in groups when all of the phones began to vibrate. The campus was on alert and everyone was encouraged to stay put until the weather conditions improved. Almost simultaneously, my phone began to ring with a call the school nurse telling me to pick up my son. There wasn’t a question in my mind. I was going to drive home and get him. Maybe if I left quickly, I could beat the worst of the storm.

I picked up my daughter and checked the street maps for flooding. They couldn’t be accessed so we began to head home the way we knew. As we drove, we watched as the water kept rising, faster and faster. When the traffic came to a stop, I chose to turn and take another route home. We passed through streets that were beginning to fill with water. Thankfully, we were able to drive near the edge and continue on. We twisted and turned trying to get to higher ground.

Until we made one left turn that took my breath away.

I watched as waves of water splashed back and forth in front of us. There was no way to turn back. About 20 feet away, we saw a big truck attempt to pass through, only to come to a stop and float toward the side of a building. Water was level with the hood and trunk of the car directly in front of me. My daughter and I watched as it began to smoke, sputtering and then stopping just as it reached a ramp leading to dry ground. They could go no further.

I could feel my engine begin to falter. Honestly, my thoughts were not of physical safety; they were filled only with dollar signs. How on earth could I afford to lose my vehicle? I quit a job to go back to school. I live on a tight budget and have no wiggle room for expenses like this.

In front and to the left of me was a steep drive up into an alley.

Could we make it that far? I had no idea. But I knew if I didn’t, my car would stop and sit in deep water and I would experience a complete loss.

Without really thinking, I chose to take a chance…and we made it! We were one of the first vehicles there and were able to park on higher ground while both in front and behind us, the water continued to rise between 2 – 3 feet.

My daughter and I watched as cars, trucks, and SUVs sputtered into the alley with us. We listened as some of them clicked and shut off. We saw person after person become overwhelmed with what was happening around us.

After an hour or so sitting and listening to the weather, we knew that more rain was supposed to fall, and we could be trapped in our car overnight. Thankfully, we were able to secure a hotel room, abandon our car, and walk to safety.

(Thank goodness for my second son that was able to go and pick up my youngest that was sick!)

As I ponder this experience, I realize that although I had compassion for those that experienced flooding during Hurricane Harvey, I didn’t comprehend it. At all. Now, I do.

Two years ago, during Harvey, I was married and living a financially secure life. I did not have the fear of losing everything; because I knew that even if I did, I would have the means to re-establish. It’s different now, and the insecurity and fear almost paralyzed me.

Being on this side of things…a single mom, trying to figure out how to establish herself after spending years supporting and managing her family instead of creating a career and financial security for herself, is extremely frightening.

I continue to struggle with how I ended up here. I know that it wasn’t my choice to be in this position. And yes, I know that I am working hard to move forward to a much better life than I had. But oh my word, in times like this, there is a tiny part of me that wants to go back into ignorance…there was a bit of security in that life, even if it the consequences of living it were miserable.

**This is simply me being honest. This experience has left me shaken by the fact that something as small as losing a car could possibly derail the path I am on.

Trigger Survivor

School began last week with a 2-day introductory class. We didn’t get credit for that class…we were required to attend to prepare us for what was to come.

Y’all. I was NOT prepared for what was heading my way. And I certainly didn’t anticipate my physical reaction to it. You know that feeling that begins as a burning in your stomach that moves up as a heavy thickness inside your chest, and then fills your eyes with tears? That. Is exactly what happened. My brain was telling me that I was sitting in the middle of 300 people, and if I cried, someone was definitely going to see me. Heaven knows I didn’t want anyone to see the reaction I was having. Surely I had more self-control than this?! It used to be that I could hide every single emotion. What has happened to me? (And if I am genuinely honest…why am I not better than this?)

It got worse. The instructor asked us to turn to the person sitting next to us and do partner work. Seriously, y’ all…I thought that I was going to have a full-blown panic attack.

But I didn’t. I stayed and ended up owning it.

I looked at this young, maybe 22-year-old girl, and said, “I want you to know that this topic is triggering me, and I am having a difficult time.” You know what? That pressure inside my chest, that burning in my stomach, and those tears in my eyes all went away. The panic disappeared, and I saw compassion and kindness radiating from this sweet girl who could have been one of my children. I was then able to share a piece of my story and how it related to the discussion topic.

I have now had 4 days of classes. There have been triggers, and panic has threatened to consume me more than that once. I have now shared a fraction of my story 4 times. To me, it feels as if I am lying. All of these parts cannot possibly belong to one person, can they?! And that one person surely can’t be me?

After all, who on earth has facets of their story that can incorporate domestic abuse with infidelity with teenage children with LGBTQ with alcohol abuse with a church with a DACA recipient?!?!

I have yet to tell my complete story. Feeling as if I am an exaggerator is the most challenging part of this. It feels ridiculous and shameful that all of these things can combine in one person’s life. Should I not tell all of it so that it isn’t so outrageous sounding?

No, I believe that I should tell it. It is my truth. It is what has made me the woman I am today. I will not hide and allow shame to consume me.

In class this past week, I gathered enough courage to use the term survivor. Survivor: a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks. That’s the word. That is the term I want to claim for myself. That is how I identify who I am and where I have been.

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.