Peace by Peace

Plenty of people in this world walk around putting on heirs.  They pretend to be so happy with where they are in their life, when in actuality, their actions tell quite a different story.  Whether it’s nasty behaviors toward most people they come in contact with for no other reason than the fact that they are miserable inside, or judgmental talk about just about everyone in their lives, the hubris seeps out through every pore until you barely recognize who you’re dealing with anymore.   They have themselves convinced they’re living under the guise of honesty, and cannot recognize that their words and actions don’t match their proclamations.  I am a firm believer that our behavior is the best reflection of our true character.  We can talk a certain way, but if our walk doesn’t match that talk, it falls on deaf ears.

I am, in no way, a perfect human being.  I have never claimed to be in my lifetime.  I fall short every.single.day.  But I know who I am – a child of the King who forgives me for my shortcomings and meets me where I am at.  His love is fresh and new for me every day, and I don’t have to every worry about disappointing Him, because His love never fails.

I also know my responsibility as His child – to love Him, and to love others and I love myself.  See that last word – myself – it’s bold and underlined for a reason.  Often times we leave off this key word.  Jesus was asked specifically by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment in the Law was, to which He answered love God, but the second portion of the answer is where we get hung up.  Matthew 22:39 says,” 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  First we are charged to love our neighbor – ALL of them – not just our white neighbor, our Christian neighbor, our young neighbor, our cool neighbor, our nice neighbor, our conservative neighbor, our straight neighbor,  our non-addict neighbor, our sober neighbor….but ALL OUR NEIBHBORS.

And the next part…here’s the deal-breaker.   To love the way God loves, I have to love me first.  This isn’t selfish or haughty, it’s just plain fact.  If I have issues with me, I can’t love like God loves.  If I don’t feel worthy, I can’t love like God loves.  If I have issues with forgiveness, or hate, or self-loathing, or identity, or relationships, or bitterness, or self-control, or selfishness…it is impossible to love like God loves.  Because God does not struggle with these issues, plain and simple.  So until we can lay these issues down at the feet of our Father, we cannot love as we are asked to do, thereby fulfilling the greatest command.

We can walk around thinking we’ve arrived all we want, talking up a good talk, telling all who will listen that we are Christians, but until we’ve laid all down all our junk, we’re nothing more than clanging cymbals in the ears of those around us.  God knows we’re not fooling Him.

My prayer is for a time when we all – us and ALL our neighbors – love ourselves and each other enough to step forward in unity.  We’ve spent far too much time looking at differences.  Far too much wasted time.

Love God ~ Love others as yourself

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Broken…Not Together

Anger pierced the corridor like a sabre.  Glancing blows leave mortal wounds too deep to triage in the moment.  “Dumont!”  The name echoes through the chamber and I pop up, diligently and deliberately, cautious not look left or right – obedience is the only option.  “He won’t participate,” I say, numb, “even if you tell him he can.  He won’t.”  She looks at me as if to say “Are you even alive in there?”  I am – but barely.  I do what needs to be done in this room, no more, no less.  I have been here so many times before – all I can be is numb.  Anything else hurts too much.

We speak, very briefly.  Show her this document, answer that question.  Now wait and he’ll come in, but don’t go far.  I know the dance – believe me – I know.  I stand in the corridor, alone, stoic, jumbled with my huge binder – I have been here before…too many times to recount.  That binder is comfort and pain:  comfort in its organization and sanity; pain in its constant reminder of the next step and the last.

Just like that, we’re done.  He doesn’t agree to anything, as usual.  Courtroom B-1.  Roll call, and then waiting.  He whisks by and I don’t look up; I stare at the ground, subservient again.  I sit far and apart from him; his brother has appeared from somewhere…he needs someone with him at all times; not for moral support, but to keep him in check.  Roll call bellowed out, and then we wait.  We are moved to B-3 suddenly.  They complain – “Who is the Judge in that court?”  He feels bias against several Judges…or is it they are biased against him?  I can’t keep up.  I jump up and exit, not even listening to the argument.

In B-3, I take my seat.  The Judge reviews the file, and asks me a few questions.  I answer, politely, precisely.  Motion for Contempt – back Child Support.  He hasn’t paid anything in 1 year.  His argument – he didn’t agree to anything.  He doesn’t owe anything.  Now, he states he didn’t sign the Divorce Decree; after 1 year he finally admits he walked out of the hearing.  We all already knew that.  He becomes belligerent.  The Marshall moves to his table.  He can’t stop speaking.  The Judge instructs him to be quiet – the issues of today’s scope are narrow – he never really understands this point.  He goes on and on – the Marshall draws closer and closer.  His brother tries to calm him, to no avail.  I am given a last opportunity to add anything I need.  I readdress that he has never paid anything.  That he lives on proportionally more than the 4 of us do.  And that he had put in an appearance previously, that no one scammed him into getting divorced that day last April.

The Judge proceeds to deliver his sentence, and again he interrupts.  The Judge is now intolerant, and tells him to quiet himself for the last time.  He begins to sob uncontrollably.  The whole exchange is horrible – to witness – this man, this father, this once husband, falling so far from who he once was…

When the Judge is finished, I rush from the court, as I am now virtually holding back tears.  I am basically running down the hall, looking for refuge from them as they will be behind me any moment and I don’t want them to know I have broken – that my heart has broken once again for this situation that once was a marriage, a life, a family.  I make it to the Court Services office, to the far back table, and collapse in tears…face in my hands, sobbing.  How is it that, 2 years apart, I am still so impacted by what this man does and does not do?

I am reminded, however, that one person cannot carry a relationship alone.  And, more importantly, God needs to be the center of any relationship for it to really work.  You can be the best person, the best Christian, but you alone cannot fill in the gaps for your spouse.  You will constantly fail without Jesus.  We are all broken human people.  And that’s ok – God made us that way.  The purpose for that, once again, was so that we would lean on Him, in our personal lives, in our parenting, in our relationships – we need Jesus to complete us.  He is the only one who can.

I love this new song by Casting Crowns…Broken Together.  It talks about how if we each come together, admitting our brokenness, and approach Jesus, we can be made whole – TOGETHER.  Unfortunately that couldn’t happen in my marriage.  But my next relationship certainly will have a lasting foundation I can count on.  Because I am broken – and so will my next someone be.  And together with Jesus, we’ll be awesome!

Wounding with 80 Grit

“When people hurt you over and over, think of them as sandpaper.  They scratch you and hurt you, but in the end, you are polished and they are all used up.”

Even though we have the ability to walk away from the people in our lives that cause us pain, some of those relationships cannot ever be completely ended for various reasons.  Because I share 3 glorious children with their father, that relationship – or some loose interpretation of the word, will always be in place.  I have chosen not to speak ill of him in their presence, a practice he chooses not to reciprocate.  Over time I have learned I cannot control his actions any more than I can control the direction of the wind.  What I can control, however, is my reaction to the choices he makes.  This is not to say for the briefest of moments that when word gets back to me that he’s spoken harshly of me in front of them, disparaging me once again in their eyes, that the all-too-familiar feeling doesn’t sweep that tiny mound of confidence I’ve started to rebuild right out the door, faster than I can possibly rebuild it.

We do this dance – the tearing down and rebuilding – on a regular weekly basis now…the only problem is he is completely unaware of the angst I go through each and every time.  Oh, I am quite certain he is expecting some ‘direct hit’ – just like lobbing his move in “Battleship”…B-6…HIT!  But the personal attack on myself I do privately – and he is certainly no longer privy to the score I keep, a much more gruesome account of battle scars, personal shortcomings, life-long ineptness and the like.  At the end, it looks much more like a replay of ‘Shark Week’ than ‘Battleship,’ as I huddle in the corner assessing the damage, trying to determine which areas can withstand another hit and which need attention – STAT!

The lingering question, mostly to myself, is why I continue to log unknown conflict time, particularly when the causalities remain so costly to my well-being.   If he chooses his actions, and I choose mine, why do I continually choose this self-inflicted kill-shot each and every time?  What is my reward?  Otherwise, why can’t I simply let him say and do what he is going to, and let that roll off me without a care?  Obviously somewhere inside the core of me, I must be gaining some twisted prize from the battle with this demon, over and over again…right?

And then I think about that quote…the sandpaper disappears, and the one who’s hurt is polished.  It reminds me of one of my favorite Bible verses, 1 Peter 1: 6, 7:

‘In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.’

This relationship – it’s really just another trial, another test of my faithfulness before God.  And my reward, not for the self-deprecation, but for staying the course, is worth more than any gold here on earth.  So the next time I start worrying about what he’s saying about me, to whom…I just have to remember the truth of this verse.  My real reward is with Jesus – always has been…always will be.  No words of man will ever change that fact.

When a Mind Breaks, It Don’t Break Even…

No matter how cautious you plan to be, heartbreak happens.  It can happen between the best of friends, between parent and child, between family members, and between lovers.  I don’t think we ever set out to hurt or be hurt – anyone who’s experienced that wince of pain caused by the loss of love would more than likely attest to that.  But the heart, as complex of an organ as it is, is relatively simple in its emotional make-up.  We store all our emotions there, and when you stop to think about it, that’s quite a vast capacity.  Thinking just about the supposed ‘seven major emotions’ that psychologists categorize, we’re talking about fear, contempt, disgust, anger, sadness, happiness and surprise.

When we lose our relationship with someone we care for, no matter the context of that relationship, we generally feel loss.  There can be loss of trust, as in a friend who you feel alienated you and your life that you entrusted to them; a loss of innocence, like when a child crosses a line you never would have imagined would be crossed; a loss of intimacy, when a partner betrays your faith or simply denies your feelings altogether; a loss of confidence, when you deny yourself and doubt all that you know to be true.

Regardless of what the cause of this loss, the angst that follows must be allowed to process, in due time.  Denying ourselves and our emotions is both detrimental to our emotional health, and harmful to our attempts to rebuild who we are as individual beings.

I recently entered the dating world after a 25+ year departure.  Let me simply say this:  dating over 45 is ridiculously difficult, and dating in 2015 – absurd.  Apparently there is no more simply meeting someone, enjoying their company, and wanting to spend more time with them.  Most everything is done online now.  I don’t know if you’ve seen the commercials – there must be 50 dating sites, at least – one for every different group you could imagine…ethnic groups, religious groups, age-based groups, farmers, you name it…there’s a group.  The premise is all the same…girls and guys trying to meet each other, via picture and profile, with or without a membership fee involved.  So before you even get to the date, you can be rejected any number of times, by a mere ignoring of your message, to a nasty message sent to you, to a nasty comment on your photo – it’s the screening before the date that knocks your feet right out from under you.  Back in the 80s, that happened at the bar, and at least you had a drink to wash down the sting.

So I started with the Christian group, thinking I’d have the best results there.  That site was a joke!  It was basically non-Christian guys looking to ‘hook-up’ with good girls to see what they could get away with.  I figured that out in less than a day, lucky me!  I previewed a couple more sites and ended up on one that seemed ok, but regardless of where you land, you certainly have to keep your guard up at all times.  I spent a few days hanging back, seeing what the guys were all about – like 80% said they go to the gym every day (as if!); many have photos of their cars (oh, my racing heart!); an incredibly high amount have photos that include their exes (yes, you read that right!) – and I came to the conclusion that many guys my age have no idea what women want, period.  I don’t know whether to have a tantrum or cry over this information…the jury is still out.

I did, however, meet someone and we started to chat on the website.  He really was great – he said all the right things, and truly meant them.  I felt comfortable with him immediately, and I trusted what I felt.  We talked for a few days, then agreed to meet for our first official ‘date.’  No pressure…yeah, right!  He was perfectly charming, our conversation was enchanting, and I didn’t want to go home.  The weather was bad, and he texted just after I got into the car to tell me to let him know I got home alright – how sweet!  I smiled the whole way home, despite the treacherous driving.  We texted for over an hour after I got home – again, very sweet.

The next day, though he was busy helping out a friend, we managed to plan catching a movie in the evening.  I was giddy just knowing I would be seeing him again – I felt like I was in Junior High all over again – what would I wear, did my hair look ok, what would we talk about.  Never once did the huge smile leave my face.  We had arrived early which allowed for time for some great conversation.  Just as the lights went down, he reached over for my hand – I thought I was going to melt right there in my seat…so much better than Junior High!  The movie was amazing, and the company even better.

We saw each other two more times that week, and each day the conversations we so sweet and tender – extending into the evenings until we were both too tired to talk any more.  I was being as cautious as necessary, but also feeling so safe and secure – it was unbelievable how well we were getting along.  He met one of my friends and her husband when we went to see a band at a local bar – I was really nervous and acted quite out of character, but he quickly reassured me that everything was alright.  We were enjoying simply spending time together – we didn’t have to be doing anything special – just being.

He was happy as well – he communicated how he felt – he couldn’t get the smile off his face either, and things were going well.  He worked hard, and I gave him his space, perhaps popping in via text midday to say I was thinking of him or to ask how his day was going.  He responded as time permitted, and this worked out fine.

And then suddenly, something changed.  To this day, I have no idea what happened, and that is what really kills me.  Being the logical person that I am, just about the worst thing you can do to me is to walk away with no explanation – nothing.  I am left with self-doubt, self-loathing, self-abuse. I simply cannot process the not knowing.  My mind goes to every horrible scenario possible…and then it splits in two.

On my birthday, nonetheless, I got a ‘snippy’ message from him.  I had an idea something had shifted, but he didn’t really say anything was up.  I was busy that day, and decided as the day was drawing to a close, to reach out and ask how his day had been.  No answer.  Next day, a little bit of chit-chat, but certainly not status quo.  I decided to ‘put myself out there’ in words – I do that quite a bit – and often I give everything away when I do.  I asked him to just be real.  I said I trusted him, and that he could trust me.  And the response I got was more than I ever bargained for.

The next day he said we needed to take a break.  I don’t personally own the Guy Code book, so at first I didn’t really know what that meant.  A break?  From what exactly?  Me texting him during the day?  Oh…from me…I’m a little slow sometimes.   I responded curtly but not ugly, then stopped before I did get ugly.  Then I processed for a little bit.  Then I can back with something ugly.  Then I processed some more.  Then I apologized.  Then I went to therapy…a lot of therapy.

I gave him the space he asked for, though I’m still confused of what exactly happened.  After the allotted time, I texted him again, asking if he could call so we could talk.  Nothing.  So I called after a day.  Voice mail.  Then I waited the acceptable amount of time for him to respond, and I texted that obviously we were done, but if he could give me a clue why, I could process this a whole lot better.  Nothing.

I cried every day for the first 9, no, 10 days.  I can’t say my heart is broken – I did feel something for him – I definitely could have felt something.  My brain is broken, most certainly.  And I am left in a heap once again.  What did I do wrong?  Why can’t he even answer that for me?  Am I that annoying he can’t speak to me one more time, seriously?  How is this ever, ever going to work?

The worst part is I sent a message after the phone call, telling him I wouldn’t bother him again – could he just tell me what happened.  And then two days ago, thinking I’m moving on finally – I text him again.  At this point, I’m sure he thinks I’m a stalker.  I’m sure that’s why he dumped me…future stalker in the making.

So I’m reluctantly returning to the website – where of course I see his profile every time I log on.  They are so very kind to tell you who the perfect matches are for you.  Little do they know that some of those ‘perfect matches’ will snap your logical brain if you’re not careful.  Guard your hearts?  Guard your minds, too.

I’m Fine…I’m Running as Fast as I Can

“It’s only when we admit our un-fine moments that people can actually get to us to help us.”

I am a stubborn human woman.  I know, it’s shocking to hear, but I have learned over the course of my life to be fairly self-reliant.   I don’t ask for help for much of anything, and when I do, I have to be darn near death.  What I have learned, in times when I expected help to be there, was that people will always fail you.  People will hurt you, disappoint you, even crush you if given the opportunity.  So why on earth would I want to place myself in a position where I am actually asking for support, needing another person to raise me up?  To me, it just seems like you’re asking for trouble, and I certainly don’t need more trouble in my life.

And then I began this transformation…this recent self-reflection of who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m headed.  And I’ve realized over the last few years that some changes need to be made if I want to achieve the happiness I desire, with the people I want in my life and stability, all wrapped with a nice big bow.  So I’ve been trying these changes on for size, one at a time, and seeing how they work for me.  You see, no one gets to be who they are by accident.  I’m not this stubborn, independent woman by accident, but absolutely by situation, dictated by the events in my life that demanded I either adapt or die.  For the most part I like who I am, and strange as it may sound, I wouldn’t change most of the events that happened in my past – they all occurred to mold me into who I am today.  Sure, do I wish I could be who I am without those traumas…well, yeah!  But I understand that God’s purpose behind each and every trial we face is to mold our character, not to harm us, and to make us reach closer to Him.

But I’m also learning that how I coped with these events just a few years ago might have functioned perfectly fine then, but for where I’m headed, they are not quite so functional anymore.  And I want to change – which is the biggest victory of all.  So I’ve been working very hard to acknowledge the areas that might need tweaking, or a small sledgehammer, and have been eager to work on those areas and test them out.  But even with all this work and support from a phenomenal therapist, there are times I feel like that small, scared little girl trapped in the grown-up body, cowering in the corner, alone and afraid, just wanting someone in my corner, saying they are with me and talking me through what’s happening.

That was this past Tuesday.  Court…again.  Sometimes I think I’m so grown and strong, but court…lately it brings me to my knees every time.  The atmosphere, the environment, the reason I’m there – it crushes my spirit faster than anything else I can imagine.  I knew before I went I should bring moral support – but felt embarrassed to ask someone to subject themselves to that ugliness.  After all, it’s my junk…I loathe being there, why would I ask a friend to endure what I can barely stand?  But that morning, I heard God telling me to simply ask – and so in obedience, I did just that…at 8 am.  I sent a group text to my friends – the ones I know I can count on…and in God-like fashion, they responded.  Why it continues to surprise me, I should really be ashamed.  Two separate friends rallied, while those who couldn’t sent their words of encouragement and prayers.  I felt so very loved and protected in those moments – it brings me to tears again just recalling the texts.

At court, ‘they’ were there first, but knowing I had support on the way, I held my head high.  I didn’t feel anxiety as I usually do.  I was receiving texts of support all the while until my first dear friend arrived.  And we just chatted and passed the time – the LONG time – visiting and forgetting where we were, which made me so at ease.  Then my 2nd friend arrived, and it was like a party of privilege, with just us 3 as the only attendees.  We joked and laughed and had a great time – almost completely oblivious to where we were.  God was truly with us, and I was certainly blessed.

As the business at hand finally began, it was unproductive and difficult, as predicted, but I wasn’t afraid or uptight.  I conducted myself in a pleasant manner, as I usually do, and his actions spoke for themselves, as they typically do.  When we were finished with the Judge, I simply walked out as if ‘they’ didn’t matter, and left, emotionally tired but not defeated.  There will be more battles to endure, but I am now confident that if I actually trust to call on my friends, they will rally to that call and be there for me when I need them – I just have to choose to let them.

God never intended for us to live this life alone – John 15:13 states…

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Here God is referencing more than a friendship, but a love relationship between us and Him, and in turn, between us and those around us.  His greatest command to us is to love one another; when it’s the hardest thing to do, when they don’t ask for it, when they hurt you, when they don’t talk to you for years & years, when they laugh in your face, when they try to kill you, when they destroy your reputation – there is no stipulation on loving one another.  Jesus loved prostitutes and murderers – are we under any less of an obligation than He was?

So I’m trying a radical new approach – praying for ‘him.’  There was a time he loved Jesus, when he wasn’t so lost, when he knew the right choices to make.  I decided a long, long time ago not to carry around hate – it’s useless, heavy baggage with no purpose and it only impacts me.   I’m certainly not going to start now.  Lay down my life?  Not quite yet, but I’ll keep up with the prayer and let you know how that works out…

Damages

Damage takes on all shapes and sizes, forms and colors.  From the impact of a high speed collision on the highway between two vehicles, twisting metal upon metal with the air filled with burnt rubber and cries for help, to a young teens first broken heart, slowly tearing in two, silently at first, then louder and louder until it seems as if the whole world is an audience to this ever private pain.  The one thing in common is the wake of collateral left behind…rubble to be retrieved, pieces to be replaced, parts to be mended.

An interesting fact about the recipient of damage is that only that individual knows their own unique pain – no matter how similar their scars might appear to the next.  ‘Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes…’ the old adage is so ill-equipped to compensate the level of heaviness we feel as the weight of the world is loaded upon our shoulders, shifted haphazardly across our human frames, until it comes suddenly crashing down, bringing us to our knees, shaking once again our very foundations.  It is in these moments we challenge why we are chosen to bear such burdens, why we are given this volume of pain, and still we have the option to question the very core of what we believe as our purpose on this planet.

I am no stranger to the pathway of damage.  Until recently I thought my pathway a more singular pronged voyage…one of childhood trauma at the hand of my father.  I believed I had long since come to terms with that journey, not cured from all the wakes and swirls, but by shear will and determination, choosing victorious forgiveness over hatred, and paddling onward.  But my dance with damages is much more complex than I had ever realized.  Those childhood traumas were merely Act 1 in a great tragedy that would continue to play out for the next 20 years.

The next interesting fact about someone who suffers damages is that their self, their internal being, is shattered into hundreds of tiny parts…and rebuilding is not only optional, it is THE most painstaking task you will ever undertake as an individual.  When pieces of your self break apart, you lose your way…your roadmap.  There is no IKEA instruction guide for rebuilding your self…your self-worth, your self-respect, your will…it’s as if someone has hit the ‘reset’ button, and just as you begin to get your footing up under you, the ‘reset’ is hit once again…over and over and over again.  And you keep trying to stand back up, day after day, hour after exhausting hour, but you can never quite get your balance…and nobody seems to notice you falling down, down, down.  And finally, all at once, you decide it’s so much simpler to just stay down…and not expect too much, of yourself or the rest of the world.

In my attempt to convince myself that I could simply walk away from my childhood trauma, I married a sailor – a outwardly good man who said he’d take care of me and love me and we’d be happy forever.  And we moved 1000 miles away from everything I ever knew.  It sounded fantastic in theory.  But I was lying on the ground…and now I’m not certain if he didn’t notice, or if that was part of the plan all along.

So this man who said he loved me helped me get my footing once again, and for a little while I was able to stand up straight.  After all, I was fairly intelligent, strong enough to withstand my childhood and not let it swallow me whole, and young.  I worked a full-time job for several years, we saved to start our family, his family accepted me seemingly as one of theirs…all systems appeared to be a go.  But that bag of shattered pieces I was lugging around…it developed a large hole.  This good man I married…he wasn’t perfect…but he kept saying he loved me, and I was grateful.  Grateful?  Serious red flag.  But I was busy with this bag of pieces…I didn’t have time to collect flags too.

Then so slowly it was almost invisible, his family – the one who welcomed me with open arms – began to turn.  I thought maybe I was imagining it…a snide comment here, a whisper there…but when an outright demand that he divorce me because I couldn’t deliver babies was made, it became obvious to even the most oblivious of onlookers.  The first punch had been thrown, and I was down:  bleeding, wounded and alone – because here, family starts with a ‘D’, not an ‘f.’   And another red flag

Time went by, and our little ‘family’ recovered, until the next predicted blow.  The gauntlet had been thrown down, and the only choice was to accept the challenge – play the game the best way I knew how to manage – or accept defeat…which really never was an option.

So enters another interesting fact about those who suffer damage:  we can be a shadow of our former selves and not realize the difference.  About this point I believed life was wonderful.  We had 3 beautiful children – gifts from God, despite the numerous challenges they faced.  I saw this as my personal mission – to educate myself; access the best education they were entitled to; accept nothing ‘less-than’; give up ‘myself’ in pursuit of their needs.  But herein laid the problem…I was already gone…’given up’ years before – to men because I wasn’t worth purity or love or wholeness; to food because when you’re overweight, you are all but invisible to the world…the exact feat I was trying to accomplish…invisible people cannot be hurt…they are indestructible; to the needs of others, because I wasn’t worthy of fulfillment – my sole purpose was to complete everyone else…all the while I was an empty shell.

It’s amazing how long you can roam the earth completely and totally void.  Oh, I had my faith…but rather than being my foundation, I now think Jesus was my stopper…avoiding the last few drops of my soul from seeping out.  In the worst of my moments, I would cry out – for I still had the wherewithal to know where redemption lay…and then another crushing wave would wash over me – cutting the chain on that stopper shorter, and shorter, and shorter…until only a few links remained…and then came the rust…

Two years ago my stopper was yanked up for the final time, eroded and eaten away by the vile ugliness of this world, and I was literally drowning in a sea of doubt, inadequacy, relentless sorrow, gnashing of teeth, anger…emotions I had kept UNDER that plug for my entire life…erupting like fire from a cannon.  The man I thought was there for me – the one who said he’d never leave me…he fell apart…literally right in front of my face, all the while blaming me for his demise.  “Our marriage is a farce,” he said…his words still singe my ears even today.  22 years of heartbreak and holes, rebuilding and rebuttals, mirages and muck boiled down to that one stark statement he finally mustered the courage to say.

At first I was bewildered, disillusioned to all my life had become, been about, ever was.  Stepping out from the shadow, I saw this opportunity for what it truly was – a chance at true happiness.  No, I had never ever broken my vows to him, but I was certainly just going through the motions of a relationship I now considered a prison.  I had been so very lost in the ideal of what ‘we’ were supposed to be – and he certainly had no qualms about sharing his disdain at my inability to metamorphosize to his expectation of who I should have been by now.  I was not the woman he expected or deserved – according to him.  I failed him in so many ways, and he never fell short to remind me, constantly, each time scarring my spirit more and more, with words that still haunt me when I close my eyes.

Another sign of damages:  We give away pieces of ourselves all the time; many times in large irretrievable chunks.  The utter irony of the situation was that while what my father had done to me so many years before left lasting effects still rippling today, what that man had done, with full faculties about him, all the while claiming his superiority over my father, was so much worse.  He used those weaknesses to his advantage – those areas of insecurities, those damages – and made them his target.  He knew just where to strike to inflict the most damage – the most lasting pain – the most crippling blow.  It was as if he were shooting fish in a barrel…I gave him all the ammunition he would ever need…and he ate it up, bite after savory bite, until he was satiated with the tools he could use to effectively dismantle the tattered remnants of my shell.

His methods were ingenious, considering I had not really considered him my intellectual equal.  This, perhaps, was the beginning of my downfall.  My Achilles ’ heel, as it is, is that I loathe being viewed as stupid, less than the net worth of my intellectual match.  I have a God-given brain with much potential, and when I am not viewed in that worthy potential, I feel insignificant and small, devalued immediately, always self-loathing.  He knew this weakness – as does anyone who is significantly close to me – and he used this area to keep me small and beat down.  Not physically; no, let me be abundantly clearhe never laid a physical hand on me.  That would have been beneath both he and I.  I would not have tolerated that injustice for one single moment – not after my childhood…not for myself…not for my children.  Had that threshold been crossed, I would have instantly found the courage to stand, gather my children and leave that situation without question.  No, this life we led, this clandestine nomenclature was so much further left of center, it made this fiction so much more palatable, day after agonizing day, year after debilitating year.

But what he didn’t know was that his statement, his attempt to mortally wound me, was my saving grace.  That day, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was given the key to my very soul back.  And that day I started a journey – back from somewhere I never believed I would have been found – a place of darkness and despair, loneliness in a crowded room,  constant humor to hide my pain, a place where I  didn’t even recognize myself any longer.  Standing here, 2 years out, I don’t even know who that person was – I just know had she not gotten out, somehow, some way…she would have died there most certainly.

I remember the exact moment I knew it was time to walk away.  He had thrown down his challenge, and returned to his summer camp, complete in the knowledge that I would obviously come to my senses and adjust myself, submit to his demands and get on with our lives as he had envisioned it should be.  Once the initial shock wore off, I remember going to the movies with some friends from church – again, I do not believe in accidents, and this was yet another example of God at work – to see ‘Unstoppable’ by Kirk Cameron…just a really awesome movie.  I was entranced by the message, when a particular passage spoke directly to my heart, as I felt God was telling me what I needed to do next with my marriage, with my life, with myself…basically the reference was to Adam and Eve, and how God had created Eve as a gift to Adam, with the sole purpose for him to ‘cherish her above all others’ and ‘protect her with all his being’…these statements struck me in the core of my being, and I was openly weeping in the theater.  No one – ever – had cherished me, let alone him.  And as for his promise so many years before to protect me, as I stood at the precipice of this shamble of a relationship, the choice was crystal clear.

No longer was I to devalue myself to give him glory.  No longer was I to become less to make him more.  My God told me, in His word, that I deserved to be cherished, and if that meant walking alone until glory, so be it.  My children needed to see me as the strong woman I knew I could be.  They needed me to stop the verbal barrage of abuse that existed constantly in our home.  I was not honoring anyone, let alone God, by continuing in this marriage.  So I finished what he didn’t have the courage to do – I filed for divorce.

Freedom from bondage, I don’t care what kind we’re talking about, is so liberating.  You can be bound with your mannerisms.  You can be bound by your thoughts and actions.  You can be bound by the company you keep.  You can be bound by your line of work.  And you most certainly can be bound by a marriage, mired down by the controlling actions of one spouse.  After the dust settled, I went to him and actually thanked him for making that first step – for speaking up – even if his intentions were ill-guided.  I would have stayed with him forever.  I am a believer in marriage.  I do not, however, believe anymore in blindly loving someone because they tell you to.  And as strong as I am in Christ, I know without Him, some people’s damage cannot be repaired if they are not looking to be helped.

I saddle a lot of my own damage, and am working diligently to repair those scars – learning new coping mechanism to replace the ones that might have worked when I was a child, but currently are not as effective.  I use humor a lot – as a defense and a strategy.  I am learning to replace anxiety about situations I cannot control with strategies on how to manage those behaviors, but most importantly I have learned why I manifested those behaviors to begin with, and with that knowledge, I have learned to give myself a break.  I am above all others my own harshest critic, and have realized if I can give myself a break now and then, this life is going to be a lot easier.  I am learning to relax…something I don’t think I ever really knew how to do.  And seemingly the simplest, but certainly the hardest…I am learning that I do not have to carry others baggage…and the knowledge and freedom that comes with that comprehension is so incredibly amazing!

I am not whole and healed – but I am truly on my way.  And now that I see the value in the work that I am doing for myself, I will not stop until I have completed this most important work…for the betterment of me.  Because we share these 3 incredible children, forever, we are bound in a ‘forever’ relationship of sorts.  But I have chosen to not participate in his anguish, his bitterness, his self-absorption.  While it is exhausting at times to be ‘the grown-up’ for the sake of my children, I will forever fill that role as they need me to.  And when and if he is ever ready to successfully participate in a co-parenting role, I will enter into that with him, eyes wide open.  But at this juncture, and with God ever by my side, I will continue to do the work I need to do, model the behaviors I need to for my children, and help them grow into productive adults who hopefully can have wonderful relationships of their own.

The more people I talk to, the more I realize that no one gets through childhood unscathed.  I truly thought because of all I experienced as a child, I would do so much better for my children.  I believe we all desire that for our kids.  But in the end, we are all fallible.  We struggle to do a little bit better job than our parents did with us.  If we’re lucky, I mean really lucky…our kids won’t end up as damaged as we were.  We can only do the best job we know how…and pray.

All of Me…

I heard this song today for the first time…and I was paralyzed by its resonanace with my life.  My favorite line…’I’ll trade the fear of all that I could lose for every moment I’ll share with you…’  Simply amazing…I’m still sobbing.

All of Me – Matt Hammitt

Afraid to love, something that could break
Could I move on if you were torn away?
And I’m so close to what I can’t control
I can’t give you half my heart and pray He makes you whole

You’re gonna have all of me
You’re gonna have all of me
‘Cause you’re worth every falling tear
You’re worth facing any fear

You’re gonna know all my love
Even if it’s not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I’ll start

I won’t let sadness steal you from my arms
I won’t let pain keep you from my heart
I’ll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I’ll share with you

You’re gonna have all of me
You’re gonna have all of me
‘Cause you’re worth every falling tear
You’re worth facing any fear

You’re gonna know all my love
Even if it’s not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I’ll start

Heaven brought you to this moment, it’s too wonderful to speak
You’re worth all of me, you’re worth all of me
So let me recklessly love you even if I bleed
You’re worth all of me, you’re worth all of me

You’re gonna have all of me
You’re gonna have all of me
‘Cause you’re worth every falling tear
You’re worth facing any fear

You’re gonna know all my love
Even if it’s not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I’ll start

You’re gonna have all of me
‘Cause you’re worth every falling tear
You’re worth facing any fear

You’re gonna know all my love
Even if it’s not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I’ll start
Is where I’ll start.