PTSD

What does PTSD feel like? What causes it?

I remember first finding out about my husband’s arrest, then slowly learning of the betrayals, addiction, and complete destruction of our family. I felt very much like Alice in Wonderland . I would dream and cry upon waking to find that my life was real and the dream was only wishful thinking. The PTSD came on as a result of the nature of the secret lies, the public arrest and media coverage, and the fact that I was married to someone for twenty-five years that suddenly became a stranger to me.

Suddenly my world no longer made sense.

I felt like everything was unreal.  The trauma was palpable and unnerving. I walked around in a daze for hours and days and then weeks and finally it felt like years. I had to numb my heart and mind or it would not recover. The very first full day after no sleep….I cried like there was no tomorrow. I couldn’t even breathe.

I completely lost my ability to think clearly for a while. I couldn’t do simple math, and my memory came at a very labored price. I forgot simple things like names, phone numbers, and history stories that I teach. I had to read each story five minutes before I would teach it for that first year. I had to make lists for myself in every area and carry them around so I wouldn’t forget to pay bills….cook dinner….do laundry….water the plants….get gas…..and breathe!

I was able to function…talk…dress…and even teach if I didn’t have to use my memory. But anything complex became a horrible struggle. I have NEVER felt so stupid in my life. Sometimes I would just cry at night….my heart broken over the fact that I had forgotten how to spell a simple word like awful…..or couldn’t remember the name of a colleague in the hallway that day.

I would also see things out of the corners of my eyes that were not really there. I would jump at the slightest sound. Trusting anyone felt like it took the strength of Hercules…..and just desiring to eat was a conscious choice I had to make. I was weepy,  and yet prone to days when I could muster no feelings at all.

I j umped at roaches and would see them crawling in my peripheral vision. My heart would tremble and my body would go into fight or flight at the slightest stress. The slightest trigger could make me cry for hours.  I remember someone sharing a song with me….and the lyrics made me cry for hours. I would watch a movie and have to cry…..see a commercial and totally be triggered by the women……..I remember going into Publix for the first time after I had learned everything….and being completely overwhelmed by the feeling that everyone knew….and some of the women might have met up with my husband. It was completely unnerving and disheartening. Feelings of intense hopelessness and worthlessness would flood over me seemingly out of nowhere. I was in very real danger of closing up my heart and never opening the door to my emotions ever again.

I remember my saving grace was teaching. I would walk into the classroom and could immediately feel almost normal. I could be the Leslie I used to be in front of the children. I could run my classroom and take field trips and forget that I was this broken woman in my other areas of life.

There are days now when I am able to be strong. I can believe that the world will be a good place and I have worth. But there are still times when the PTSD will return briefly. My heart will falter. Something will trigger an emotion or a memory, and I will feel so alone or so unable to move forward. My whole sense of time goes off kilter….five minutes can seem like five days. I lose the ability to think for awhile. I cannot plan. I cannot execute my plans. I simply have to hold on emotionally and try not to drop out the bottom of the black hole. This week it was returning to a pizza joint. I went there with my ex-husband….pizza night….anniversary dinners…take out. Sitting there in the restaurant, I could feel the wall…the numb….the dizzy feeling of all the emotions crowding around. I couldn’t be comfortable, and I just wanted to run out. It is crazy. I know when it is happening….and can look back and see what I should have done…..but in the moment….I am not able to deal with all those emotions. I will become numb.

Sometimes during this time, I will write. I often will try to do something that has beauty attached to it…..music, art, poetry, reading……a wonderful movie.

I try to pray or read scripture but often….I am immobilized and unable to do anything but feel like a scared rabbit in the grass being hunted by a giant war eagle.

Today it is not as bad as it has been in the past but it is there occasionally. I feel the tremble. I feel the fear. I feel the spinning that could go out of control.

Time seems to be lingering and hopeless. I cannot seem to trust that Good and Perfect gifts come from my Father. I cannot seem to believe fully that I am lovable and that someday I will feel loved again.

I am trying but my mind keeps getting stuck on what I do wrong in relationships. I have been up since three am and I need sleep. I have not been able to eat much and my heart is aching. I am longing again….longing for someone to hold my hand…..someone to see me…someone trustworthy to come into this mess and help walk me out. I am beating myself up….hearing the words that tell me I am not enough.

These and ten million more thoughts cross my mind and make it difficult to even breathe.

I have been in touch with a wonderful woman, Laurie Hall. She wrote a book called: An Affair of the Mind, which I read two years ago. She has walked this road and had some wisdom for me. She said:

Your fear of trusting anyone is very normal.  PTSD is also very normal when you’ve had this kind of trauma.  I lived with PTSD for over 20 years.  It was awful: self-condemning thoughts,
panic and anxiety, that would come out of nowhere and torture me.  I have finally found peace from that.  

Try this: when you go to bed each night, remind yourself that God is present with you and loving you and then repeat, “I let the love wash over me, I let, I let it be.”  Keep repeating this until you feel the love.

Then, repeat “I let the peace wash over me, I let, I let it be”.  Keep repeating until you feel the peace.
It was so good to just hear that all this is normal….that I am not just so broken in a way that cannot ever be fixed. It is so comforting to know that this is not something I am just making up in my head. I forget that broken places can take on normal ebbs and flows and others can help guide you through them. I am not broken because I did something wrong. I am not experiencing something strange…..I am experiencing something known and that gives me hope.
I can begin to use God’s word to fight this battle. I can begin to strengthen my mind and my spirit along with my heart. God does not fail us. When He says the truth shall set you free….He means it.
So I intend to work hard to gain freedom over this PTSD….these feelings of hopelessness…panic….anxiety….worthlessness….they will pass. I can identify them and feel them coming…..and I can fight them in the power of Christ’s love. I am so very grateful to Laurie Hall for speaking into this situation….and Barbara Steffens and Leslie Vernick for their powerful books as well….three women who are valiantly fighting for the hearts and minds of women (and men) who have been scarred by someone else’s sexual addiction.

God come for me in these moments. Help me to release control, breathe  your vision into my life, and walk forward making beauty out of these ashes. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder……PTSD…..

Come Lord Jesus…..create in me …..Patience, Trust,  and Self-Control …a reordering of my mind!  PTSC……a much more pleasant way to spend a morning! Take even my mind and make it yours today!

Plenty of Fish

I just spent some time looking through a website for dating….Plenty of Fish.  I heard about it while having coffee with someone. I am laughing and horrified and so aware that I am feeling like a high school girl all over again….you know….the one who walks down the hallway carrying her books….carrying her dreams in her head….carrying her hurts in her heart…..wanting someone to see her but terrified of rejection. THAT girl!

I cannot believe we have come to this. We put up some pictures of ourselves….some look professionally done and others look like the person doesn’t know how to take a good picture……We write what we consider to be a witty opening….”Will You Be My Valentine? Are you Looking for Me? A Cutie with a Booty” (that one made me laugh out loud!

Then we fill out all the statistics about ourselves….5’8″ tall….brown eyes….desire a woman between 34-47…..looking for someone honest, caring, compassionate, and sexy!

Wow! I am reading through these and the fear is sky high! I see men that look absolutely crazy….others who look great but sound absolutely crazy…..some that look lost….a divorced, shy man who has young kids and admits that they are just getting by and things are tough because of the divorce….another that says he has a brain injury and is so lonely…..another who looks so arrogant…..and another that has posted close ups of his biceps and every picture shows off his chiseled physique.

My mind is spinning….I cannot make myself sign up. Online seems like an irrational place….a place where people go to pretend they are real people…a place where we go to look through shop windows and try to find someone in two dimensions when real people exist in three. How on earth could I click on someone’s profile and invite them to a cup of coffee? I would not sleep every night before the coffee. I would have to have my friends do a complete background check…fingerprints would be great, and then I would need three references and would need to find someone that I know that actually knows this person and their story! I would have to find someone from my area, and I would have to actually find someone who knows them first and could introduce us in person……perhaps dating sites need to be like LinkedIn….where you can see how you are connected to people…..then you could date within a real life realm….if everyone in your Facebook or LinkedIn or Pinterest…or Google circles who was single would show up…and it would tell you who you know that knows this person….then a dinner could be arranged…..a background check could be done….their story could be shared and there wouldn’t  be flipping out ……worrying that this stranger was not really who they claim to be!

How on earth could I trust someone to tell me the truth about who they are?

And that is the reality….I think online dating just sets it right up there in front of my eyes….on the screen….I am seeing my ex! I see him in every profile….

I remember sitting at lunch with someone who was telling me their story. She was telling me some very tough things about her ex-husband and she stopped a minute and looked at me….”But if you met him….you would think he was wonderful! You would think he was one of the nicest guys you had ever met!”

That stopped me in my tracks.

It made me think about people and their stories. How will I move into a place of trust? God this is scary! I know that for me…online dating can probably never happen….my story is of such a horrible online betrayal……I know for others online dating has led to wonderful marriages….my own dad found his wife online, and they are very happy. I have heard stories of lots of women who find  online dates and have met wonderful people.

I am the one broken…..and I can see that now. I just need to quit beating myself up over it and realize that for me….God will provide a different way because He knows my heart. He knows what I need.  I need to continue to live into “Try less and trust more!” So online dating is really no different in the end. Someone can deceive you in person as well as online. I am well aware of that!

There are plenty of fish in the sea….I am still trying to figure out how to trust just one of them someday.

For Sale: One Slightly Used Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress

For Sale……One slightly used wedding dress.

I ran into it at the back of the closet today.

I didn’t think it would make me cry…..

But there it was….all white and beautiful and outdated…..

It looked just like it did the day I wore it……but now….

….it has too many memories to feel safe in my closet.

I have had a friend bury hers. She took it out….had a ceremony….. and actually buried it six feet under.

I have had a friend sell hers and another give hers to someone who needed one….online I have read about people who made theirs into pillows to give to their daughters. I don’t think mine want any reminders currently…..

I cannot decide what to do with this dress.

None of my girls want it…….I wouldn’t want it if it had been my mother’s….a constant reminder of failure.

………..and I do not want it either. I find I don’t want anything from him anymore. I want to be completely done. I want to put my face forward and I don’t want to look back.

I am still dealing with how to be happy at any weddings that actually do take place…how to overcome the shame of a failed marriage….how to be a mom giving a bride away because there is no father…..how to stand there and wish them well…knowing that in their heads they might be thinking …”Well…it didn’t exactly work out for you now mom did it?” or they may just be hoping their marriage will work out better than mine did.

I brushed against the garment bag…..I heard the familiar rustle of the taffeta ….the organza….the ruffles.

I chose this dress because it seemed beautiful to me at the time….a lot like I thought my marriage would be.

The dress was flowing and feminine…..and so much like a  princess in my head. I wanted to be radiant and beautiful. I wanted to be a woman who felt her husband thought she was beautiful that day….

I desired to make a memory that would last…year after year…watching the video and reminiscing about how wonderful the first day was and all the wonderful days that followed.

In the closet, it brushed against my arm…..now a reminder of all that did not happen….and all that I failed to do….all that I had dreamed …….and all that came crashing down in an instant.

It is hanging there in the closet…..

…….and I am sitting here crying…. I am allowing myself to grieve.

I need to figure out what to do with one slightly used wedding dress…..

I need to figure out what to do with one slightly used heart.

Phone Calls

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I hadn’t realized how much I missed my friend until I heard her on the phone. I called her after she requested that we talk…she is kind and thoughtful like that….demanding to speak to me after I have not called for so long!

Her husband picked up the phone….we talked for about twenty seconds….just pleasantries…but then as he was about to hand the phone to my friend…..he paused….

“It is so good to hear your voice!”

The sincerity and simple honesty in his voice touched my heart.

Then it struck me……

It WAS!

It was SO good to hear his voice and then to hear my friend’s voice.

There is something in hearing someone’s voice….it is unlike a letter…unlike a text….unlike anything else in the world.

I have missed their fellowship and time has slipped by unknowingly…..imperceptibly….like a rushing river to the ocean…….

But the voices brought them close again…..suddenly they were here….in my living room…..their bodies were in Hawaii….but their voices were right here….in my house!

We talked for hours! It was like trying to drink from a fire hose….so much has happened in the past year and a half….so much to remember….so much of our hearts to share.

The two hours on the phone slipped by so quickly….we laughed….we cried…..

There is nothing quite like hearing the voice of someone who knows you….someone you trust to hold your heart…….

I so miss my friend. I miss seeing her face and just being able to call her and know she could come if I needed her…….

But then I realized….if I truly needed her….she would come! If she needed me….I would find a way!

We are made for fellowship like this. Our hearts grow cold without people to open up with and friends to trust completely. This friend is someone who has been here for most of my life…..

We went to High School together….but didn’t know each other there. We met right before we were married women…..

We used to talk about pregnancy and babies….nursing and toddlers…..the frustrations of parenting and the joys of little children…….husbands and mothers….and just life and living.

We still talk about all the same things….just not little babies anymore (until grand babies come I suppose).

Now we can talk about anything….and I trust that she holds my heart………. and it moves me to tears when she cries…..and I cry….and then we are both crying….and then laughing because we are crying for each other……

Love comes in so many lovely ways throughout our lives…..

This week it came in a phone call!

Questions for a Daddy

Beloved daughter, wandering, rejected, found, rejoicing

I was so anxious and filled with trepidation at the time.

He was going to call…..my dad was going to call.

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I hadn’t spoken to this man for 30 years……

I was frightened.…I was excited.

The Facebook message I sent him was filled with questions…..Why did you cheat on my mom?…..Why did you never pay child support?…..Why did you never call me?…..Why did you want me aborted?…..why…why……why?………………every mean thing I could think of that my mother had told me….. I fired off every mean question I grew up with. It was a horrible message. Not exactly a friendly…”Hey dad….how are you?”

He didn’t write back.

I remember worrying for days. I was a nervous wreck wondering if he just hated me. Perhaps he was just indifferent and didn’t even want to open the door to a conversation. Perhaps I had hurt him deeply with my questions……the days dragged by.

Then my sister told me that he probably didn’t even read Facebook messages. He was a newbie to Facebook. So I copied my message and wrote it on an email.

I got a quick reply.

“Leslie, these are a lot of questions to answer in an email. Can I call you?”

Can I call you?

I had waited forever to hear words like that….I had been desiring to know him a long time. I wanted him to call and at the same time, I was afraid of his call. What if my heart failed me? What if I couldn’t hear the answers or even ask the questions? What if he was unkind? What if all the horrible things I was told were true? Would I be able to discern who he was? Would my heart be able to withstand someone else being dark and hidden…..It was not pleasant….waiting and wondering was painful.

But my little girl heart wanted to hear his voice and the grown woman needed his answers.

So I took his call.

It was strange to hear his voice over the phone. I had to go down to the car to take his call in order to have some privacy. My girls didn’t even know he existed. They grew up not knowing that I had been adopted by my step father….for the most part…they thought my childhood was idyllic and that their grandparents were my parents….end of story. I hadn’t shared my pain or my story. I didn’t think I ever would. It wasn’t until my ex-husband’s arrest that any of the old longings and old emotions began to surface with a vengeance.

I remember that he let my questions from the email tumble out without interruption. Then he told me the story………

…..as if I was ten.

He kept it very age appropriate….but there is was…..a story so different from the one I grew up with. His story was not like my mother’s at all….it was the opposite….she had left….she had found another….she had needed more and wanted more…..he was the one who loved….he wanted the kids….he always wanted me…….she kept me from him. She made it difficult…he had loved her very much.

What do you do with competing stories?

Suddenly my life had more competing stories than I could deal with……my heart just burst…right there on the phone….I couldn’t stop crying…..all the desires of childhood….all the love I had wanted to have for this man…..all the anger at my mother…all the anger at my ex-husband and his lies…..all of it came crashing into waves of tears.

My dad just listened and talked to me. He told me I was strong, and I could make these decisions….no one could tell me who to love and no one should. I could let go of the past and move forward………He told me about some of his story……….. growing up and being a boy without a dad. His dad left the family…abandoned the family and he didn’t get to know him until he was in his twenty’s. He told me some of his story of life with my mom………. Saturday morning cartoons when I would snuggle up in his lap before mom would wake up. He patiently let me ask questions and patiently answered them.

It was a conversation that I had waited 30 years to have, and I was so sad to know that it took me that long to finally stand up for myself and talk to my dad. I was sad that he hadn’t broken through my wall and come for me himself. I was angry that my mom made this relationship so difficult. I was heartbroken that my world was so very broken.

I got off the phone and realized that I now had a daddy. I had been longing for one forever! I was someone loved by a father. I was someone’s little girl. He HAD delighted in me. He even remembered it! And even if I hadn’t received all the truth or even if I never learned what the true truth of the story was….I had done the impossible….I had talked to my dad….and my heart got a little larger.

Files

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I was divorced exactly one year ago today. It was a simple proceeding…..I really was in shock at how God wooed my heart that day. Everyone in the courtroom seemed to me to extend an extra measure of kindness and concern for my heart….the guard who opened the door and pulled out my chair like such a gentleman both at the start and finish of the proceedings…the judge who asked me no questions except to state my name and who looked at me so kindly and told me I was done…. with such concern in his eyes for my children…….and the friend who was with me…walking me through such a difficult day. There are days when I still cannot even remember how I got to this point in my life…..where did the tapestry unravel and how was it that I didn’t see the tear before the whole thing unravelled? But God has walked with me every step of the way and has shown me that He is not willing that my heart hide and be overlooked. I feel like the one sheep that he left the 99 for….I feel like I am in some ways more than I was…..in some small way, I have been brought low in order to be strengthened and shown the depth and breadth of His love. So today….I remember……..and I am preparing to start a new file!

I just picked up my divorce file from my lawyer. The case has been closed since last year and she wrote me and asked me to come and pick it up. It was an unceremonious proceeding. The divorce was simple. The only complicating matter was that my husband was in prison at the time. Some things had to be routed to a police officer up in the area who would deliver the materials to get signed and then bring them back out of the prison. The only complicating matter on my end was the cost and the heartbreak.

My life with him now sits before me in a brown expanding file. There are four sections. Each one has different information about my marriage and my life stored in them. Each one is a reminder that nothing went according to plan. There is a file for the original workup, one for the bankruptcy case, one for the mandatory disclosures and then a final one for the pleadings.

I feel like they are a metaphor for my own journey.

The original work up was the wedding and my life before June 15, 2012. It should be full to the brim with details about birthdays and Christmases. There should be a whole sheet in there on the birth of each baby and the adventures we had moving so many times when the kids were young. A page on Seminary, long walks, and holding hands would fit in here. There could be a section on the visiting of relatives and the friends we shared and kept in contact with from high school.  The school where we taught, the church we attended, the lives of our girls, and vacations would all have a page. And it might be mentioned in there somewhere that we rarely fought. We were friends and enjoyed talking to one another.  All the good and wonderful things about our marriage would go in here. All the love, joy, and happiness that filled those years carefully and lovingly written all over the pages of this file.

The bankruptcy case would be full of all the times I felt unprotected. When he left his teaching job unexpectedly after his first year, that was the start of eight jobs in twenty-four years. The disengagement and the yearning for a different life that was expressed so regularly are slipped in on a scribbled note on the bottom of the file. The abandonment I felt, and my inability to express my feelings and thoughts all get to go in here. All the times I was told I wasn’t enough, or that I was holding him back fit in this file. The moments of loneliness and the slipping into an addiction that slowly happens over time all crowd this file. This is a terrible file. All the notes are red or black. They are written with heartache and unresolved anguish. I feel like the bankruptcy file was never-ending.

The mandatory disclosure is the file that contains the story of what really happened. It is where I found out about the addiction. I found out about the shadow. The ugliness of what I discovered fills the whole file! Disclosures are mandatory….but they hurt. Even my own disclosures are mandatory. They go in this file too. It is full of the moments when I failed and the moments when I was small and unkind. The story of my life is in the disclosures.

The final file is the pleadings.

What exactly are pleadings? The dictionary entry was surprisingly accurate here. The sentence they chose was poetic.

  1. the action of making an emotional or earnest appeal to someone.
    “he ignored her pleading”
  2. LAW
    a formal statement of the cause of an action or defense

I filled this one with my tears. I pleaded quite a bit. I know I didn’t always say what I should have, but I did have pleadings. I didn’t have the boundaries I should have, but I did make earnest appeals for what was right and good and beautiful. I am allowing this file to be the formal statement of the cause of my actions. My earnest appeals are done. My time of grieving is continuing. My understanding of the reasons I walked away are clear. I am done pleading. I am instead going to choose. I choose to walk forward, and I choose to see clearly. Pleadings won’t help. I am finding that only facing things squarely and speaking truth help.

As I carried my prize back to the car that day, I passed a man and his two children. His little boy and he were out walking with the cutest little girl. I stood watching  this lovely scene. Her guide stick got stuck and her father was patiently guiding her and teaching her how to see in this new way. She was smiling and bouncing along tapping her stick out in front of her. She was just a seven-year old girl out on a walk………..walking blind and trusting completely.

As I got in the car, the grey rain falling down was mirroring the tears falling inside the car. I realized that I longed to be blind. I wanted to be blind to this ugly mess. I didn’t want to be left holding this particular file. I wanted to believe again that someone could love me faithfully. I wanted to believe that someone IS who they say they are, and can be trusted to tell the truth. I wanted to skip along confidently knowing that someone knows me and guards my heart. But I am not blind. I am not innocent anymore. I have a file full of memories.  I would like to burn this file and start a new one some days, but I know that I love too much in the files to get rid of it. Files like these are an all or nothing proposition.

So, I will keep my file and learn to be thankful for it. I know it will be in the learning to be thankful, that I will truly learn to see.

Disclosures

I want to scream at him……

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“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?”

It hurts so deep that even tears cannot touch this. Where did the happiness go? Where is the trust? Where is the carefree girl who could laugh and play? Where she went is a mystery. In her place, there is this woman who is grieving and hurting and questioning….”What have you done?”

The question bubbles up and sticks in my throat. I cannot utter it out loud. I cannot cry it out of my chest. I cannot make it go away.

“What have you done?”

 My head wants answers. I want reasons and things to fix. I desperately want to fix all this and make it as if nothing ever happened. I want someone to come and tell me that I am mistaken. I am not seeing clearly. I want someone to hold my hand and let me know that this craziness is just a dream.

“What have you done?”

How can I get an answer from the one I do not trust? How can I get answers in the dark and hopeless place which this has sent me into?

I am incapable of fixing this one. I am incapable of bringing healing. I can only lay prostrate on the floor and utter the question.

“What have you done?”

I am sick in my heart. I am sick in the pit of my stomach. I am sick in the very place where I am supposed to feel his love. I am tired and walking in a fog.

The tears stream down and the cries are painful and deep. I cannot wish for a father to hold me any more than right now. This is the time when a girl desires that her daddy come for her and take her up and just be a father. This is the moment when a girl longs to be known and protected and given assurances that her father will always cherish her heart.

“What have you done?”

I want to know and I don’t want to know. I desire the facts and yet the facts feel as if they will kill me.

This tsunami is flooding in and I am ready for it to pass and be done. I am ready to be beyond the knowledge that there is always more. I am ready to move beyond the brokenness and into a place of healing. But I am not able to yet. I have to face every piece. I have to hear the answers that I don’t want to hear. I have to face the things which I do not want to face. I have to walk one more road.

 Instead I will ask Him…..”What have you done?”

And I have to let Him come and gently take my heart and lift my face and tell me that He has done all this for my good…..for my salvation….for the love of me…..in order to draw me to Him that I can live with Him forever.

“What have you done?”

“Lord, you have come for me and that is all I have ever needed.”

 I will rest in that tonight.

Ordinary Me

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People have asked me if I feel ready to date. The minute I hear that question, fears begin running around in my head.

I was married to the man I met in 10th grade in high school….

I dated (and I mean one date) a boy named Derrick…he took me to a movie. We drove in his truck. It was so high off the ground you had to jump to get in. He was a fun date….but he moved away!

Then I had my first real boyfriend….we walked around the mall…we went to homecoming….we sat at my house and talked. We hung out with our circle of friends.

I went out on one date with a body builder the summer of my senior year of high school. He took me to see Cujo and then to Pizza Hut for dinner. I literally ate one slice of the large pie and he ate the rest while he showed me the multiple pictures of his flexing poses that he kept in his wallet. He listened to me though…he heard a little of my heart as I mentioned that I loved the park, sitting on the swings, and watching the stars. He took me there before the night was over. He was at least a gentleman.

That is it. Then I dated the man I married.

That is my whole dating history. It is not exactly stellar and varied.

Lately I just feel like…………………….. a wanna be…I wanna be younger…I wanna be special to someone….I wanna be healed already….I wanna be prettier….I wanna be more confident………….….I wanna be secure in myself……………I wanna not cry anymore and I wanna be all God desires of me and perfect!

There is so much to being an adult, and I am finding there is so much to being a woman who has been hurt.

But all these fears would be able to fit in a tea cup….I could get past them easily if someone came for my heart. I could easily talk and share if someone just helped me open the door. These are not the fears that make my heart stop beating.

It is  other fears that stop me in my tracks. The ordinary life fears.

Isn’t that funny?

It is the ordinary every  day things that have hurt the most.

I am brushing my teeth and it hits me….no one else on earth has shared this moment and seen me with my towel on my head…brushing my stupid teeth….rinse…spit…the very ordinariness of it makes me cry. I am afraid that it is here that I was not enough….perhaps I am too …..too….lacking in these ordinary places?

I wake up now in the mornings and look in the mirror….I am distraught…perhaps it is here…perhaps the lack was in the morning….my bedhead and wrinkles? It is horrifying! I am not making this up! It is actually horrifying to me to even consider letting someone see the ordinary me again…ever!

The me without any makeup…the me that leaves her shoes on the floor by the bed and gets way too many clothes out in the morning and doesn’t have them put away by bedtime neatly in the closet. It is the me that was too tired to get the dishes done so the kitchen is a wreck in the morning at times….the me that didn’t take out the trash right away so the bag sits by the front door for a couple of days…..the me that doesn’t have time to vacuum the car so the jackets are piled up on the back seat because I haven’t had time to take them upstairs.

It is the me that sniffles in allergy season….the me that has puffy eyes after a night of crying….the me that wants to complain about a small hurt someone gives me and the me that has four books open to the page I left off on strewn about the bedroom. I have piles of papers that need filed and eyebrows that aren’t always plucked to perfection…..I can ruin good clothes in the wash and easily forget to be kind to my daughters.

It is the real me…the ordinary me that I am most fearful of lately.

It is the horrifying moments when I remember that I am just this ordinary, less than perfect by far, completely stubborn woman. That thought make me shrink back and know that I am incapable of being anything like one of those girls in movies that can be everything all the time. I am incapable of being witty and smart and generous and loving all the time. Most of the time, I am just a small, ordinary, run of the mill, slightly selfish, sinful human being that gets most of the things wrong in her life. I see every fault, every flaw and every weak area so clearly now.

It is these moments of terror looking in the mirror for rinse and spit that I realize where the deepest wound is…..

He saw the ordinary me and decided he needed something much, much more……

I have been known and rejected.

That is the wound that just won’t seem to heal…………… because……….. I see the ordinary me too…………and I certainly don’t think she is exciting in the least.

She is just……ordinary.

It is in these moments that I have to step away from my feelings.

I have to step into being a beloved daughter on faith alone.

I have to remember whose I am, and that He made me for a purpose.

I have to trust that His plans for me are good and He is faithful.

I have to trust…………even when I don’t see or feel any truth.

I have to remember that I don’t see clearly……and I don’t  remember who I am yet. I am still healing and still becoming.

I have to trust that it is OK to be ordinary.

God help me see myself through your eyes today.

Trying on Dresses and Learning Who I Am!

So I am sitting here on my couch after a weekend of looking at different dresses for an upcoming wedding. I have to be the Mother of the Bride. It feels a little overwhelming to choose a dress. It feels important to choose the right one. It feels difficult to find one that fits appropriately, flatters my tiny figure, and feels comfortable to wear. I also want to choose one that fits into the style and theme of the wedding my girl has planned.

So it is a BIG task.

I tried some dresses on…..and sent pictures to friends. They became my dress committee. Hahaha! It is fun and difficult all at the same time.

 AND it hit me…..dating is a lot like trying on dresses.

I have learned a bunch of things about myself with each person I have seen more than once. Shoot….I have learned things about myself even when I only had coffee with someone once.

Match was an interesting site with lots of interesting people.

From one man, I learned that I can totally be attractive to someone, and they can be intrigued by me….but when your healing is not in the right place and your emotional availability is on different wavelengths…..the connection just misses, and you end up feeling so totally…..totally crazy. I tried to make myself be seen….for a bit. I would find excuses to talk and excuses to interact. Luckily this man was a really sweet and gentle human being. I was never told I was crazy (even if he thought it) and was always treated with respect.

Then there was another man who taught me that I can be desirable, and I can begin opening up about who I am. I had my first real kiss again. I got to hold hands. I learned to open up just a bit more and really explore some of my weak areas….like speaking up and telling someone when something they do displeases and even hurts me. It ended in flames……ugh! I still remember that difficult phone call. I applaud him though. He was trying, and I was not opening up to him fully. I couldn’t trust him. I had not spoken up about some crucial things that were making me fearful and making me not trust that he was a good man.

I learned a couple of things from a man who found me on match. He asked me out and drove to meet me. We ended up having a wonderful night that turned into a date. He was handsome and seemed very open and vulnerable in some places and very guarded and uneasy in others. He texted a lot. He was pursuing my heart like a freight train gone wild. It was intoxicating. I LOVE verbal banter.  I love playing with words and feeling like the other person is beginning to see my heart and care for me. It was again a place where I began speaking up….this time about some of the things I would need and would fear. In the end…..these were too much…..suddenly there was silence…..and I do mean suddenly.  I tried to wait and be patient. I tried to think that it wasn’t because I was too much….or I had a story that was too much…..but……there is NO WAY to do that after the kind of weekend I had just walked through….tick bites and counseling sessions that ripped out my heart. So I texted him a simple……”I don’t understand your silence.” And he called. He called to tell me that the qualms were too much. …..that upon reflecting, the distance was too much. But he ended telling me that it wasn’t me……..UGH….yeah!! But I spoke up. I spoke my heart and was very direct. I liked how that ended. I liked that I walked away knowing that I had been vulnerable and said what I wanted. I had been open and even saw the red flag places and was willing to address them. I walked away feeling like perhaps I was getting healthier after all. I cried. I cried for two whole days. That weekend was difficult. But I survived and walked forward feeling like I reclaimed just a little of my voice.

Then I was contacted again on Match and met a man for coffee. I didn’t expect it would go very well. I was surprised by him. There was a sweetness in his awkwardness. He was intelligent and well-rounded. He loved music and was a professional sports player…..owned a business and loved thinking about education and big ideas. So we had a second date. He invited me to play golf. We began having some fun together and sharing a little more of our stories. He would text some and was very romantic checking in on me at least once a day. I actually loved being told how beautiful I was and how much he was looking forward to seeing me again. I enjoyed our next date as well…….until he began talking about his parameters around when to become intimate.

Oh my!

 My romantic story went out the window. I had to tell him that I would be waiting for a husband…..I will not be THAT girl. I don’t casually give my body away even if I really, really feel attracted to a man. I am waiting for a marriage. UGH! I felt simultaneously small and prudish.  All the feelings of reading the horrible porn and chat room conversations from my ex came crowding in all at once. At the same time, I felt strong and able to voice my feelings and my ideals around this delicate subject. I give this man some real credit though. He finished the date and even let me listen to one of his piano pieces before letting me go. He texted a sweet picture of his dog and then promptly….um….dumped me with a very lovely text. I thought it very sweet that he told me I shouldn’t change but that he simply couldn’t live with that decision. YUP….I would not have been able to live with it either. I so appreciated his honesty.

Then I met another man. This one gave me the biggest complement ever by flying in to meet me. He was different….and felt solid in so many ways. He had a strong and capable mind. He had what seemed like a strong faith and wonderful passion for his profession. As we began to talk…..there was a sweetness to him and a sense that it would take a while to get to know him because of a wall or a shyness or a place that was not vulnerable or open yet. There were no excessive words…..no overbearing pushing…..nothing but gentlemanly, subtle romantic things…..like holding my hand while we walked on the beach…..sweetly sitting in-between the wind and me since I was cold, and he had no jacket to offer me. …….calling to ask me my middle name and then some very wonderful conversations…..but just nothing that went too deep or too far into a story.  And definitely not wordy texts or constant verbal banter.  I won’t soon forget one wonderful date where we went dancing, and I got to tour a house that he restored.  The house was a real reflection of him…..thoughtful, masculine,  and filled with meaningful, historic and reclaimed items. We sat by a pool one morning and talked about a lot of deep and intellectually satisfying things. It was amazing…all of it.

And then…….

I fell apart.

I was so triggered. I think just the fact that I enjoyed him so much….just the fact that I saw that it was possible to think someone honorable and find that I could respect someone immensely and possibly fall in love if the conversations got deeper and brought our hearts closer……

UGH!

I was wildly triggered. It was not fun. It makes my chest ache….literally…not figuratively. The ache HURTS. I can barely breathe, and I cannot sleep. Then I begin crying……. and having to teach and then crying at night gets exhausting.

UGH!

I send texts that are crazy making even to me….even after I have called a friend and been prayed with to help me process some of these feelings….even after being told to just give things time.

I send them in the dead of night when I am so triggered and so unable to manage feeling anything positive about myself. The story in my head is always…ALWAYS that I have done something wrong or said something wrong or simply am not enough or pretty enough or alluring enough. The story in my head is that I will never hear from him again, and I need to say something in order to protect my heart. The story in my head becomes that suddenly I am not seeing correctly. This person who seemed so wonderful is really so uninterested in me and probably dating four or five girls all at the same time. or really wishing he had a girl who was like his last girlfriend. Suddenly I can tell myself a story about how this person could NEVER really find anything interesting about me and NEVER find me beautiful. This person who seemed so thoughtful and caring is probably being so silent because he hopes I get the message that I am not someone he enjoys, and  he is just too kind to tell me straight up because he knows I have a difficult wound.

It is crazy to me, and I am SURE it seems crazy to that other person who was simply trying to get to know me.

Then I wake up the next  morning…wishing that person would have simply written or texted or called and asked me a good question…a simple question like…”.Hey….this seems like a strange text. What are you really asking?”….. Or……”Hey….I don’t understand what you are asking me. Can we talk?”….or even….”Hey…this sounds kind of desperate….are you OK?”

But we all know that in dating relationships…everyone has their own baggage as well and their own story.  I may surprise the crap out of someone who thought things were going really well. I may trigger something from their story. Perhaps the crazy ex or crazy dating match girl that they had to extricate themselves from very carefully. Who knows? It may be that they simply felt I was a liability suddenly….I was capable of becoming really….really….controlling? Strange? Weird? Uncomfortable?

The good thing is….I am learning even here to give myself grace. I can text an apology and know that even if I never hear from them again…. I still can genuinely apologize.

I can give myself a few days to recover and then process about what I learned.

And I learned a lot.

I learned that I still get triggered by joy.

I still get triggered by feeling like it is possible to get deeply and romantically attached to someone. I can long for relationship and sometimes that can trigger me. I can love how someone seems like a  wonderful person and really get excited about learning more about them. And I can dream….really good and beautiful dreams about how someone could romantically come for my heart.

I can voice what I need now. I can call a friend and really process through how I will need someone who can lean into my story a bit. I need someone who can allow me  to have these moments and not simply walk away…….I will need someone who loves these emotional part as well as the fun and intellectual parts of me. I need someone who can be strong enough to pursue me…..because they think I am worth it even when I fall apart.

So I am sitting here……listening to the story in my head. It is better tonight. It is one tonight in which I can offer myself a lot of grace. I talked with a friend, and we talked about how in her story….she had to learn to remind herself that sometimes a date cannot meet you where you are. It may be because they cannot handle a complex and rich, open and vulnerable woman. Sometimes it may be that they cannot be open and vulnerable because to do so would feel uncomfortable to them just yet…..

Yeah……sometimes a date cannot meet me where I am. Sometimes I cannot even meet me where I am. But I am learning that I can give feelings a few days….I can screw up….fail grandly…… and send really intense texts.  I won’t die!  I can even misread situations…..and I can certainly see red flags and even wonderful possibilities.

I am hopeful that I am healing….slowly and surely…….

I can even begin to see that being alone is possible……should I never meet a man who has the ability to see a mess like mine and also see the richness and depth to which it has brought me.

Whoo hoo! I lived through a very difficult couple of days. Listening to my heart and telling myself a story of God’s love even here is incredibly sweet tonight.

God, thank you for loving me so much that you even walk with me through the difficult lessons. You don’t abandon me. You patiently teach me that I can learn to trust you more…..and try less.

Meeting People

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met a wonderful man and got to know a family a little better this weekend. I didn’t even interact with them in person. Isn’t it funny how you can meet people without physically being with them? It is never the same as meeting in person, but it is a meeting just the same.

It all started with a quick trip to the beach.

He was sitting on the shelf of the condo…… just waiting for a fellow Hungarian to find him and be intrigued enough to walk into his story for a bit. His name is Andrew Grove and the book was Swimming Across.

It was a wonderful read as I sat in the sun watching the sunrise and listening to the waves and birdsong. He lived through WWII as a young boy and saw the rise of communism. He witnessed the Hungarian Revolution and finally escaped to America to start a new life in his 20’s. It was a marvelous look into this man’s story……. I loved how he loved his mother and the rich community he was part of growing up. I loved his honesty around his Jewish roots and lack of religious practice within that cultural identity. I cried when his father came back from the war alive and loved getting to watch a bewildered, disconnected son finally find a connection to his father again. The love of this father and mother was lovely to spend the morning witnessing.

I loved that in the end Andrew married and had beautiful daughters and a rich life in a beautiful place. I loved his keen mind and intuitive grasp of organic and inorganic chemistry, problem solving, and writing. I loved his awkward encounters with trying to talk to girls and his warm friendships that sustained him through difficult moments. And I LOVED that his father had a picture of he and his mother that he kept on his chest near his heart to keep him going while he was forced to endure the horrors of war. And I loved that his father came home and his mom and dad continued to be able to love and grow in their marriage.

It was a meeting I will not soon forget. The aunts and uncles and moments and friendships and twists and turns that make a glorious story are now connected in some small way here inside to my story. They can now inform and give hope in places as well as make room for me to see farther down the road of possibilities when I feel my story is too much or too difficult or just too stuck to ever move forward.

I also got to know a family a little better this weekend.

They were not here…..but one’s treasures and one’s house allow a meeting too. The whole condo was so full of their presence….. from the beautiful furniture and artwork to the pictures on the dresser……. a sense of family and warmth and thoughtfulness emanated. I stood in the kitchen eating my breakfast of apples and carrots as I stared at the deep blue rug and lovely blue chair…… the sprawling mermaid and shelf full of books like Anna Karenina and Pilgrim’s Progress when suddenly, I saw again the family pictures. And it hit me that I have no such pictures anymore. I never will have those pictures. The longing to be a family with a smiling father, children, and a mother is more than words can describe. Perhaps it is here that this family is most known…… their shoes under the bench, the games on the shelf, the favorite quirky restaurant down the street and the memories of life lived together here on a dresser.

The sun is now rising higher, my morning is slipping away, and so am I.

I am returning to my world this morning…… a little richer and a little more wistful. Some books and families are fun to spend a weekend with, but I have to teach and mother and move forward in different directions. It was good to meet. It was good to connect in small ways. My heart just always, ALWAYS longs for more and deeper and to be known and safe and loved.

Someday echoes around, and I am hoping someday doesn’t take all the way until eternity.

My Trip Home

Her hair was the kind that is bleached blonde but looks perfectly natural because of her pale skin. It fell slightly forward and just brushed the bottom of her neck. Her slender arms were holding a book out in front of her as she sat slightly hunched over in the chair at the airport;  a hand casually pushing her hair out of her face, and her legs crossed. The bobby socks and pretty school girl flats were not out-of-place since she had on a school girl skirt and casual white button down shirt. The nose ring was understated and flattered her lovely round face and overall school girl look. It wasn’t until I looked more closely that I spotted the scars from the cuts. They were running in parallel lines down her forearm and slightly onto her hand right up to the base of her thumb. They were neither new nor recent, but they were consistent silvery blue scars. It sent a shiver down my spine, and I watched her very unobtrusively as I tried to ascertain just what might be going on with this young woman.

That is when he arrived….her boyfriend. He was a character right out of Harry Potter. His pink shoes were stylish penny loafers with one sole that was flopping as he walked. His pants were slender checkered, high-water slacks that sat right above his waist. The polo was a mismatched pattern to the pants, and his luggage was a single, tan-colored case with well-worn spots and no wheels or other modern conveniences. The one front tooth that stuck out as he talked made me think he was a fairly odd young man, and his hair looked unkempt and slightly curly as if he had forgotten to get a haircut, and it was time.

The effect of the pair was to make you think you had somehow gone back in time and also shifted to an alternate universe. This couple was in a world all their own. She was completely too  beautiful to be the girlfriend of this odd, strangely dressed man, but her clothing and leaning in to talk to him so privately gave me the impression that she was completely in love with him. He seemed a traveling salesman for some extraordinary thing that perhaps he kept in his luggage….the carry on piece that  hung from his hand as he walked, as if he had forgotten it was even there. He set it down as we approached the plane. Their heads bent together……I was suddenly wondering if they were in a movie….some leading characters in a movie that was being filmed without the rest of us having any knowledge of being in it with them.

There we were walking to our plane and watching this couple, the hipster couple, as my daughter termed them. They had been on the flight out to our destination and now here they were on our return flight….dressed in exactly the same manner as they had been four days earlier. To say it was an odd coincidence was a huge understatement. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I had to look again for the cuts….she wore a sweater….with sleeves pulled almost down to her wrists….just enough showed that you could discern the rows of slices. The feeling of wanting to stop her and make sure she was quite all right was overwhelming. But the opportunity never presented itself. This couple was in a world by themselves. They were engaged in leaning toward one another and talking only loudly enough that they could hear….laughing and smiling, and she occasionally sliding her hair behind her ear in that shy little gesture.

So I was left with a picture in my head of a glamorous girl dressed as if she were in grade school….or junior high school in the mid 1950’s…..and an odd nerdy man dressed as if he were an odd, nerdy man straight out of the 1950’s carrying a suitcase from a Harry Potter movie and ignoring that his pink penny loafer was flopping as he walked…….

This couple was completely unaware that life around them had moved quickly forward and they…..they were from a bygone era……only visiting our time briefly as they walked aboard a flight to somewhere else.

And me?

I was headed home from a weekend adventure……. meeting a friend and her daughter…..dancing the Texas Two Step….. an early morning swim that I wished could have lasted for many hours more….. many, many good meals and conversations about everything from extinct animals found in caverns to how to know truth…… sightseeing in two different cities, and a head full of stories about just how amazing My Girl……. my beautiful, thoughtful, discerning, seventeen year old poet can be!

Hannah and Nathan

I have been reading a lot this week. I love the beach. I love long sunlit days and long moon and star filled evenings. I love timeless moments,  napping,  reading and writing, and planning and thinking. I love evenings of walking and just enjoying being in my head.

I read this short story a few years ago while I stayed at this condo and reread it this afternoon. It just makes me see very clearly some of my desires.…….some of the lines are so true and move my heart so completely.

Hannah and Nathan is an excerpt from a novel by Wendell Barry called Hannah Coulter. I have not read the novel. I need to. I read Hannah and Nathan again and thought about a dear friend in a situation of single motherhood….not through a war that made her a widow….but through porn and darkness that made her single….a husband who refused to give up all manner of porn….all manner of acting out….. and refused to get healing in a meaningful way.

This young woman is so beautiful and strong…her baby so loved and so lucky to have such a mama.

The story of Hannah is of a woman and her memories of being wooed by a man with his whole life….. with patience and directness….with his strong character……by giving her a glimpse of the life he was offering as well as a glimpse of the man he was in word and deed. He sees her fear and doesn’t give up. He knows a good thing when he sees it and is not deterred in the least by her refusals and hesitations. He sees her beauty and completely gives himself to forging a new life with this lovely woman.

She says at one point, “A woman doesn’t learn she is beautiful from looking in a mirror, which about any woman is apt to do from time to time, but that is only wishing. She learns it so that she actually knows it from men. That tells her. It had been a longish while since I had thought of being beautiful, but Nathan’s looks were reminding me that I was.”

As I read about this strong man who woos this tender and fearful woman…… I could not help but dream for my friend that a man  will come and not try to win her with mere chemistry and charisma….but  that someone will win her with his character….a showing of who he is and the life he can offer her.

I hope for her a man who is solid like Nathan and like his father…….like her own father.

It makes my heart rejoice to think that there is a man like that just waiting for her…..who will find her when the time is right. He will come and show her that she is beautiful. He will look at her…..really see her…… and will come and not give up even when she cannot look fully back at him because of her fear.

I pray that her man will come and love her baby like Nathan does in this powerful story; that he will have a way with children….….fueled by a love for Christ, a love for his wife, and a love for children that is pure and holy and good. I pray that this man becomes like a son to her mother and father…..a doer…a man who fixes things and steps into messes with a vision and a passion that heals and restores this little family to a strength and wholeness that is beyond the ability of this woman to even imagine right now.

I am already praying this….even before she can begin to lift her eyes out of the trenches…..because she is young and beautiful and needs to live and love again!

This is what I want!

The Fight

I love this post. I love it because it is what I SO desired. I have been this wife…the one who has become angry and resolute and sleeping with a back towards her husband. I have felt the desire to make him feel how he has hurt me and the ice-cold heart that wants to run because all her childhood trauma was triggered.

It is somehow very comforting to know that even in healthy marriages…..this feeling….this fight takes place.

It is in the resolution that the difference between a good marriage and a marriage defined by sexual addiction and hiding becomes so painfully clear.

 When sexual addiction and hiding are present…..there can be no turning and finding you are loved. There can be no man offering grace yet again…and receiving blame humbly and fighting to make you safe, and known, and loved. There is only silence and absence, and covering up and subtle blame because if he saw your pain and was seen by you…..he would have to choose to open up his sin, and that is unthinkable.

There was one moment when during a fight….he pleaded that things were changing….that now he could see that not talking had done such great harm. That moment is forever etched in my mind….I was yelling and angry and consumed with the injustice of all that had happened…..screaming and crying and finally letting some of it out……He was only trying to talk me down from a ledge and convince me that things were changing and that now we could move forward because before all we did was silence and a cold war. Trying to convince me that I was not seeing clearly like him did not help in that moment.

He was right….and he was still hiding.

If only….if only in that moment he could have crossed the line and come fully into the light of repentance….the kind that leads to restitution and brutal honesty…….and fully comes for my heart to make me know I was loved.

My heart aches for that moment.

There were other moments…when doors were offered, and he refused to walk through them.

There were moments going way back to those first weeks…..when lines of communication were severely damaged almost from the first discussions….of anything weighty….anything not filled with sunshine and praise and roses and ease…..there was silence.

The silence was deafening.

The silence was on both sides.

The trauma from our original families was triggered, and we had no skills to see or change the patterns. We needed help and when it was offered in God’s timing….he refused.

I used to think my silence caused all this destruction. I used to think my silence was because I WAS a cold-hearted person…..not passionate and loving…..and that my actions were the only ones that were hurtful. I was told and became convinced that if only I had been able to break through my wall….none of this would have happened.

Mine was and is a difficult pattern to undo.

I hide my pain and discomfort. I will pretend that everything is fine…I often believe it myself until I later reflect and later realize that something is bothering me. Without doors and windows and a man who can stay and sit there on his elbow offering grace and forgiveness even though I have my back turned….without a love that can come and see me and hear me and try to understand me…..without any empathy and without any vision…..my marriage was doomed.

I cannot and could not and will never be able to undo any of those old patterns alone. I will have to practice in  real relationships…. good relationships….a relationship in which the other sinner is not hiding more of himself than he can handle and striving each day to appear perfect and wise and godly.

I had a man who was witty and sharp and intelligent and handsome and athletic and romantic and good with words. I desired a man who was all of that……

But more than that, I came to understand that I desired a man who would love me….a man who would not let the sun go down on our anger….one who would desire to connect and work it out and who could capture me and make me talk and find me even when I was lost and feeling so alone and frozen and wildly out of my mind with trauma.

I needed a man who was walking with me and not running from me.

I needed a man who would look me in the eye and squarely tell me my sin and accept when I repaid the compliment.

When I finally saw my sin…..it was after a nuclear blast that opened up my heart and mind and soul to a light that I could either let cleanse me or hide from for the rest of my life.

This story… of.this fight….is what I want.

I know that no man is going to be perfect…..and I am by no means perfect. There will be fights….this time I hope there will be really good ones. I rarely fought with my ex. I don’t let a whole lot bother me, and I don’t get upset with irritations too often.

I am learning to allow myself to feel more and more….so I hope that in the future, I will allow myself to have good fights….about really important stuff like where we go to eat and whose family is driving me crazy and how I turn away and how he forgets to take out the trash. I want to have those fights so I can know….that even here….he will stay and fight for my heart and allow himself to either forgive me or receive my forgiveness. He will walk with me even through the uncomfortable and rocky and see my beauty even after I have scorched him with my eyes and he has scorched me with his words.

Turning and finding that I am loved will be the feeling I am longing for and hoping to find…..not feeling like someone worships my perfectness or feeling that someone only longs for my body….or finding that I can make someone feel respected and adored and handsome and accepted.

This feeling….of turning after a fight…..of offering yourself to someone you trust…..who can see you….. and know you……. and love you just the same…..

That is what I want!

My Interpretation

My Interpretation………

I have been writing about the people I encounter quite a bit in this blog……Some of the time, I meet people who reach out because they have read my story and finally feel that there is someone on this earth that will understand the crazy mixed up trauma they are feeling. Sometimes…..I meet people who feel sorry with me…they empathize with me…… and just want to come comfort my heart. Sometimes…..I simply meet them unexpectedly in far off places like Guatemala or other places I have been on my travels like Chicago, New York City, the hills of Tennessee, Chincoteague, or in my hometown.

Last week…..I met a few women who were just beautiful!

They were innocent and young and wholly beautiful. I am not expecting my words to capture their beauty….but I am going to try to impart my feelings around having lived in their presence for a week. I find I cannot even capture all of them….I am wholly inadequate to the task of remembering the special qualities of each woman. I wish that I could remember each face and each moment. I would live it over and over and over if I could.

There was the mom….the gentle mother in pink….. who clearly was someone who desires to engage the world with perfection and the love of Christ. I loved the way she thought so deeply and at first, timidly engaged in every single thing brought forth during the week….until she felt a level of comfort. She then dove in head first, and we discovered her poetry and gentle grace. I will never forget the afternoon when I assigned homework to these excited teachers, and she was in tears. I had asked too much. And she was correct. I had asked them to do something that was beyond their reach until I showed them how to do it. I needed to guide them slowly and give them a path to follow. Her tears were a gentle reminder to me that simply talking about Classical education is not guiding someone through how to change a lesson and add wonder and beauty. She was beautiful in that moment….so vulnerable and willing to show her panic at the huge task I had just asked her to accomplish on her own. I quickly scaled back and gave a more manageable assignment assuring her that small changes were the only expectation……. and she swallowed those fears and trusted that I could guide her in the morning.

Another woman was a young mom with two gorgeous daughters. She was so happy and cheerful and willing and ready to lend a hand with anything we needed. She was a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine at any given moment during the week. She clearly was taking in every word of the weekly teachings and even explaining more fully to her group during some of the talks. I loved how she would listen….bent forward slightly, eyes focused on the speaker, listening with her heart and not just her ears. She would pause and think and clarify if she needed to before engaging with the group. I loved her lovely dark eyes and her beautiful hair. I loved how happiness and joy radiated out from her like an unseen hug that could make you feel welcome before she even crossed a room to greet you.

There was the tiny, lovely, expectant mom. She was so lithe and yet strong. She had an incredible strength and beauty. Her long gorgeous hair and quick mind were a delight to work with. We shared a love of mathematics. I will never forget her question over lunch about how I stayed so slim. I had to laugh at this wisp of a girl……who was probably a full 10 pounds lighter than me….asking me how I stayed slim. She clarified…..and I saw her deeper worry. She wondered how I had not gained a thousand pounds with each of my pregnancies. I was not…it seemed to her…larger than when I was a young girl her age. Ha…….she didn’t know me then. I was a lithe little thing like her. I have gained….in so many places…..my thighs are different and my stomach bears the stretch marks of love that bring forth four babies……my wisdom has grown and my capacity to love has been stretched. My laugh lines are deeper as well as the worry lines that come with protecting four little ones. I am richer in every aspect even if I cannot wear a bikini with anything close to ease and pride. I hope she heard or saw somewhere in the week that having babies is a way to grow more beautiful…..not less. I hope she has her baby and feels that “in love-ness” that is absolutely astounding….even with a fourth……it sweeps over you as you hold that tiny hand or tiny foot capturing your heart so fiercely that you could never….NEVER think of not loving this gorgeous creature. In fact…you hold that little baby knowing you are not worthy of such a perfect gift. I would gladly carry around any extra baggage necessary to have the privilege of walking with these four girls of mine.

The beautiful lady with deep eyes and a deep love for Jesus was a highlight of my week as well. She wrote poetry and always….always related things back to the great, great love of her Savior. We discovered that she has the voice of an angel and one afternoon, she opened up and stood on stage and filled that tiny basement room with heaven. As she sang, her hands moved with such grace, her body stood with such strength and poise; and her voice moved my heart to tears. I didn’t even know all the words and who cared what was being spoken when the melody and ability of her voice to create such beauty was filling the room. Ah…..I love that memory. I loved the meaningful questions she would ask and the way she would gather her team and try to digest and explore all the things we were teaching them during the week.

Her colleague….the lovely mother and teacher from the farm country…….she was amazing! She desired to know how to do even the hard things. She was not afraid to ask questions, to hear difficult answers, to clarify and clarify again….until she could wrap her mind around her understanding and my answer. She came up with lessons and more lessons and always…always was mothering well even during the sessions. Her sweet, tiny girl was so patiently drawing or reading or even making hand prints to cut out for her mom to use in her lesson. I LOVED watching her mother. She is a wonderful mother.

All of these women are wonderful…..their mothering and children and desire to bring about an education that will fill their children’s’ souls was so much a gift to me. I enjoyed them as a community and as individuals.

But one particular girl sits a little closer to my heart for some reason.

She was a single, lovely transplant from another place. She was new and just arrived and a little unsure about this whole teaching thing…..and whole helping me thing. From the first moment I met her, I just knew she was beautiful.

I was so thankful for her desire to glorify God in all she does….whether it be studying lesson plans in order to explain them well to the group….studying American History lessons, like Lewis and Clark (which she thought was C.S. Lewis at first since I was so lackadaisical and didn’t clarify enough). It made me laugh to see our fumbling and learning together. She never complained as I was ever unthinkingly asking too much or not asking enough in the right way. I was so amazed when she took a book home in order to read it and prepare her thoughts for a lesson the following day. In our sessions, she couldn’t do the homework because she had never taught before…..so she would come up with a lesson and then modify the lesson right on the spot according to what she had just learned. And her lessons were AMAZING. She picked up on the theme of a book…the grand symbolism….by just reading the introduction. She created a lesson that would make any classroom of fifth graders swoon with pleasure. I cannot wait to see where this lovely teacher goes in her career.

But even beyond the excitement of seeing such a talent…..I saw such a lovely woman. Her sweet innocent friendship was a treasure all week. I will never forget the card she made for me……with a selfie of us that she took the night before…….drawn over with hearts and crowns and rosy cheeks and every tender endearment one could think of…..

It left me pondering how on earth I could deserve such sweetness after a week of hard work and difficult assignments that I threw out in a moment’s notice……… a week where she had to care for me and watch over me and teach me about so many little etiquette things such as how to serve noodles gracefully in a restaurant…….a week full of my asking so much of her and leaving her with a feeling of panic because she desires to complete all things well.

How could I have gained such a sweet friend under those circumstances?

I will never forget her flushed face and lovely smile as she related to me the adventure of running home at noon in the heart of the day that last day of class……just to fetch a package of tea that she had ordered just for me….as a gift. I recall the conversation asking about whether I could buy this kind of tea here in my hometown…..(which I cannot)…… and about how good this tea is for my body. I LOVED this girl and loved her desire to bring such beauty into the world.

I left my week knowing that the world is simply FULL of beautiful women. Everywhere and at all times….there are beautiful women…..

The wife of our host…..so friendly and caring and full of whimsy and art. I was made to feel so welcome in her home and in her community. She answered all my questions….generously inconvenienced herself to mail some items for me…..and always made us feel like we were honored guests quickly becoming friends.

The other teachers in the room….all of them shone throughout the week with an ability to be so creative and write such lovely, life-giving lessons. The changes they made in their teaching will be significant as they move forward. I have not seen a group take to these concepts with such ease and creativity before. Each teacher, standing at the close of each day, sharing their newly written lessons was one of the most enjoyable moments of my week. They would clap for each other and listen so intently to each other. Each lesson was unique and special. Each woman was unique and special as well. I can hardly believe I had the opportunity to share something I love and care deeply about with women who are so much more talented than I will ever be.

I cannot believe looking back that I was given the gift of being allowed to share my heart,  my passion, and my world with some of the finest teachers I have met anywhere. I will not soon forget this group…….and I hope to hear many, many stories of their wonderful years teaching as they create places for students to wonder, see beauty, and learn truth.

A Dangerous/Magnificent Journey

Standing in a classroom far away from home is an experience unlike any other I have had. Standing in a room full of beautiful women with stories all their own…..who are seeking an education different from the one they received……who are living in stories and fairy tales shaped by their culture, surrounded by a culture that tells them so many things that are contrary to the faith they have chosen to live out……

I stood there in the front of the room listening……my colleague was doing a teaching on the Love of Story. It is nothing new to me. I have drunk deeply of the Classical model of education and believe very deeply in its principles and philosophy. It has the power to shape our loves and change us and help us live into a faith that fits perfectly into this story. I passionately tell anyone who asks all I can about my school, my educational philosophy, and my love of teaching the Classics. I find it has enriched my soul, and I love sharing that with others.

As my colleague taught about “eucatastrophe”….a term that is not bandied about daily in any circles…..he began unpacking that term for the woman. He began explaining how most of our stories follow the pattern of a sudden and favorable resolution of events in a story; a happy ending. The audience was riveted. Silence was filling the room. It was quite fascinating to watch as suddenly one person in the room raised their hand and spoke up….. “Our stories are not like that! Our stories do not end with happy endings….good does not triumph.”

The revelation of that fact….the eye-opening realization that this was a place where children were formed by stories that did not produce hope and show light chasing away darkness….where children’s souls were formed instead by stories of hopelessness and darkness always pervasively darkening the light…..THAT was incredibly eye-opening to me.

I had thought that everyone’s fairy tales were similar. I had thought that children everywhere around the globe read stories where witches and giants and dark evil were always conquered in the end and the prince always rescues the princess and good always wins. I just assumed that we all knew deep inside that these stories were but an echo of an outward reality……..somewhere inside we were all privy to a deeper magic that helped us see the spiritual reality beyond this broken place we find ourselves.

Suddenly seeing a whole room full of people who had heard mostly stories of dark winning…sadness consuming…..evil being stronger…..and who experienced hopelessness from stories and were formed by that as children seemed wholly unfair and wrong!

 They were thirsty for stories that followed the eucatastrophe model. They wanted to know what we had read….what stories we used to teach our children.

And I began to realize that God…..teaches me through story. I read my daughter’s college essay and realized how clearly she sees it….she feels the power of other people’s stories in her own life……she realizes the potential she has to impact others with her stories. The stories I tell myself in my head are powerful and shaped by all the other stories I hear and choose to read and digest and take in.

My story impacts how I live and breathe and interact with others.

STORY is everything.

I can budget and cook and calculate and clean and arrange and plan and control….but everything that flows out of me is because of the story in my head!

I was sitting at coffee with a beautiful woman and out of her mouth comes the fact that the story in her head affects her marriage, and she has begun telling her husband  “This is the story in my head” and opening up her story to him has helped him connect with her…..and so now he simply has begun asking her in difficult moments….”So tell me what the story in your head is right now…”

Story is everywhere……everywhere on the planet!

So a question has begun to form….in my head…..

How do I begin to hear a different story in MY head?

 My story has been one of disconnection….abandonment….unworthiness….an inability to love…..brokenness….fear…..and just a belief that other people will have happy endings but for me….God has a different story……I am somehow not worth a really good story!

How do I walk into a new narrative? How do I see clearly here and allow God to shape my story instead of always….ALWAYS…..having to feel like I am writing this story through some clever strength of my own?

Today I am sitting here filling out online forms…..for healthcare and scholarships and parking passes and a multitude of nonsensical, time-consuming, frustrating,  governmental things….

That could be my story……..

BUT….

It is raining…..a really hard downpour, and it is beautiful! I love the sound. I love the grey skies that have crept up. I love that soon the rain will clear and everything will be fresh and new. The sun will come back out and the water will make everything sparkle.

I love that I got to stand in the kitchen just now cooking a delicious lunch of healthy foods….grass fed burgers, summer squash and zucchini, onions, saffron rice and sweet potato…..and I brought back tea from a fun trip to China….Lemon flower tea that smells heavenly and looks so pretty as it sits in my cup. It is pink! I LOVE pink tea.

I love that while standing there….I got to hear a wonderful story from one of my girls….all about a boy and …..it was good! She is growing into a smart, lovely, wise, courageous, spirited girl! She is much smarter and more secure in who she is here at this time in her life than I ever was! It is SO good to watch and hear and get to speak into such a beautiful girl.

I LOVE that I got to ask the other girl if she wanted lunch…..and see her curled up in her bed writing…..because she knows just how important stories are. I get to text the other two and inquire about their lives and work with them to make sure we all have what we need. I get to do life with friends and community who know me and have walked through hell with me.

It is all just terribly sweet right now….here in the midst of this awful paperwork nightmare…….the rain, the tea, the food, the girls, the friends………

My story is changing and in the midst of it…..I get to feel with a heart that is ever more alive and attuned to the real story…..the ONLY story worth telling.

Christ in me and I in Him.

What a Dangerous/Magnificent Journey indeed!

When Counseling Becomes Dating 101

When counseling becomes Dating 101.

It is going to happen….whether it happened in the first six months after or the first six years after…..at some point my heart was bound to be ready for dating lessons……

I laugh because my counselor helps me with so many things…..and it always sounds so awkward in my head to ask for advice around men…..for how to begin to date again….how to trust and have fun and be natural and have fun and relax……and have fun!

I would have said that by five years out, surely I would be past it all and fabulously back to my normal, fun-loving self…… but you see, I didn’t see how long this had been eating away at the fabric of my life…..until a few years out when I was able to crawl out of the pit for the first time……

Then I knew it was going to take a bit of effort. I heard my friends say it was going to take time….that it took time for them…..different amounts of time…… a year or two….or seven years…. each woman takes her own sweet time is what I am coming to understand.

Well….my grieving  time has been unfolding….not coming to an end abruptly.

Now…….Dating 101 is supposed to go….boy meets girl…..boy falls head over heels…..girl falls head over heels….enjoyment and fun ensue…..relationship is built……more relationship is built….and eventually intimacy is formed and bonding takes place and hard and difficult things can then be waded into.

In my head though…..in my place of needing to protect and be sure of a man’s goodness……..I tend to ….um…..DIVE DEEP. I will ask the most intricate questions….peer VERY deeply….try to protect my heart by ascertaining a man’s goodness and heart and intentions and ….oh man the fear is palpable even now as I recall my feelings.

Is it wrong of me to feel fear here? Do I not trust in God and His plan? Should I silence my fears and just pretend they are suddenly gone? Am I simply not a good enough Christian?

My dating coach says that OF COURSE there is going to be fear. OF COURSE there will be moments of panic. That is not the problem…….having to silence them would only make them grow.

It is what I do with those fears……who I take them to for resolution……how I lean into God in those moments that matters. He gave me a scripture to hold onto…..

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7

When I am afraid, I do not ….DO NOT….need to be told to simply not feel it. I do not….DO NOT…..need to silence my feelings and pretend that I am super spiritual and not supposed to be afraid.

I also do not need to be paralyzed by fear. I Do NOT need to hold back my heart and refuse to risk being hurt again because of fear.

My counselor is teaching me that I simply take these fears to Jesus. I take them to Him and tell Him I am afraid and pour out my heart. He is not upset with my fears. He is not surprised at my fears. He is not chastising me for them or concerned that I have them. He simply wants me to bring my heart to Him faithfully expecting that he can meet me in those fears and walk with me through them into peace and will guard my heart and mind! THAT is where I need to squarely place my trust…..not in a man…..but in THE MAN!

And he tells me that a good man will let me be afraid. He won’t silence me or make me have to declare that my fears are suddenly gone. He would protect me there. He wouldn’t try to solve them or be the Savior who relieves them. He can simply sit with me in those fears and help me process through them…..face them…..work through them…..and even pray with me about them.

But you see….my fears have the ability to rob me of enjoyment. On the morning of one date….I awoke praying and asking God for guidance. He told me “to enjoy being enjoyed.”

I didn’t really understand His admonition. I didn’t really know what to do with that. I asked Him to clarify with a sign. I asked Him that if this man was someone he wanted me to continue seeing…..to have him send me flowers at some point. And then I simply trusted that God would show me if this man was a good man.

It was a fun date…..and a difficult evening all at the same time. I was difficult. I could feel it. I asked lots of self protective questions. I tried to enjoy, and I did.  I enjoyed the banter and meal and wine and walking and so much.

I enjoyed the second date…..but no flowers…or so I thought.

So how do I learn to have fun? My counselor says it is a process of asking myself what I desire…..what do I like to do on a date?

So we talked it over….I enjoy dinner….doesn’t matter where. I enjoy when he chooses…..so I can feel taken care of……I enjoy walking and talking and Shakespeare plays and ice cream and museums, and I might enjoy Epcot and Downtown Disney and perhaps one of those painting classes or a class at Ancient Olive or Williams and Sonoma…..I might enjoy a beach walk or antique shopping in Mt. Dora or fireworks on the fourth. I have a million things I enjoy…a swan ride on Lake Eola….a hike in Tennessee…….star gazing at the Science Center……bike rides…….I could literally find hundreds of things…..concerts…..gardens…..road trips……the list is endless.

That doesn’t seem to be my problem.

I can enjoy witty conversation. I can enjoy talking politics and art and music and religion and my classroom and trips to foreign places and history and Literature and faith and children and …..on and on….

But I need to feel safe and sometimes that need gets in the way of actually having the fun, and I dive too deep. I dive too deep and suddenly….I am sure the other person probably feels like they are in a counseling session and wonders if things will ever feel light and free and casual and fun and flirty and just plain romantic.

I am not a surface person….but I also need to practice being a less……intense person ….for a bit.

I need to sit across the table and for once…..just see if I even like this person. Do I enjoy them? Am I feeling attracted to them…in mind….body….and spirit? I am allowed to just use my intuition and my intellect and my spirit and just enjoy another human being without feeling like I have to imagine and interpolate the entire picture in order to be safe.

What if I can relax and enjoy getting to know someone slowly. There should be a natural flow….a fun flow….an enjoyable flow in dating.

I need to practice having fun and playing.

But I also will never give up my intuition. I will never put my radar down and simply ignore red flags ever again……..red flags like anger…..the disrespect of women……one sided conversations that don’t ask me anything…..someone who doesn’t seem to enjoy me or even desire to get to know me……someone who tells me quite plainly that they are not interested in my heart……and someone who tells me quite plainly that all men do porn and whoever says otherwise is lying.

Somehow, I need to practice being able to integrate these parts of myself….intuition, my ability to have fun, and my ability to see the positive potential in just about anyone.

Someday….these parts of me will be brought into focus and someone standing there will desire to engage with the real me……and it will be fun and deep and fascinating and full of mystery and fear and kissing and long walks and long talks and adventures and trying and failing and trying and making it work.

And the flowers?

…..Well….when I got home after that second date….there were flowers waiting at my door. Tulips and even some wine with a card.

It didn’t dawn on me for a whole week… GOD sent me those flowers that I had asked for in my prayers! He doesn’t want me to trust in a man. He wants my whole heart! He sent me flowers and wine! He sent them through a wonderful friend….a very special friend…..but He loves me so much that He accommodates my fears even when I ask for clarification and stupid signs because my heart is afraid and feels unable to open up! I am so thankful that God is creative and tender and strong and loving and merciful and wise.

I feel so safe when I can ask even for little silly things, and He finds a way to answer me so sweetly and subtly that my heart is completely wooed by Him.

Enjoy being enjoyed!

I can breathe a little more freely. I can relax a little more fully. I can enjoy myself and be myself and yet…..know that it is perfectly normal to be afraid. I don’t have to cut off my heart…..or my mind….or my spirit. I can enjoy being made in such a way that feels fear when I get triggered….feels joy when I am told I am beautiful…… or told I am enjoyable to be around for at least an evening.

Enjoy being enjoyed.

I am looking forward to living into that admonition more and more.

What I Want?

I am writing to myself today:

Growing stronger hurts…….it really does! I just need you to know that on those days when your heart is broken again and you feel like you are dying and you are crying every ten minutes because a date was a train wreck or a kid fell apart or your job was especially difficult….find someone to talk to even if that someone is your journal.

I kind of have to write letters to remind myself of the rules of healing!

I had the kind of weekend where everything goes wrong or badly or at least feels like it goes wrong and badly….sometimes they are the same thing and sometimes it is simply my perspective….. and by the light of Monday everything changes and suddenly I can see clearly again, and my world is really going to be alright and I see that this was just another baby step on the road to healing and I am stronger.

I met someone from Texas…… It was so unexpected, and I never really thought I would meet someone from so far away. He was such a gentleman and for some reason…..I couldn’t seem to connect all that much. I felt like the whole evening was a train wreck. I felt unable to find my voice and unable to open up. I had a whole story in my head of things I wished had happened…..and words I wished had been said…..and ended up feeling like a failure and someone who simply is unable to be beautiful enough to be pursued. I felt like perhaps my story was too much, or I was too much, or some lack somewhere created an environment where I was somehow unwelcome or unseen.

But man….I sure desired a lot more.

I even wrote a whole poem about what I wanted.

So I went to counseling, and we poured over my dating history …..it has not been pretty….but that is OK.

My counselor led me through some exploration of the themes around dating in my story, and he helped me explore and suddenly in the middle, he asked me…”Just how malleable are you in relationships? Do you have any desires in them? What do you want?”

I was speechless. Of course I have desires…..I know exactly what I am wishing and hoping for and desiring…..I write darn good stories in my head…….

So he asks…..”How do you tell the other person what you desire?”

WHAT? Tell them? That is nuts!

My whole heart and mind and soul began rebelling…..I don’t tell them! I certainly don’t rock the boat and act demanding and be a woman who is picky and bossy and…you know……. a witch with a capital B!

Speaking up only leads to disaster….that is my programming. I am supposed to be kind and thoughtful and giving and kind and always nice and kind and ALWAYS, ALWAYS the one to forgive and be kind.

Is that clear? It is to me.

 In fact, I just reread an old email from a family member telling me that I used to be kind and thoughtful and forgiving….but lately I am simply a changed woman….vengeful and judging and mean. Oh my….what is wrong with this picture?

How can I be someone who never speaks up and yet when I do…..if I even dare to speak up about anything….suddenly I am mean and vengeful and unforgiving and mean and unkind and…well….everything I have always worked to NOT BE even if it is only in my own head and I am my own accuser.

So he gave me more homework. I have to ….in EVERY relationship…start writing out what I want. I have to practice even in the areas that I already do speak up in…….What do I desire here….in the faculty meeting….in a parent conference…..in my relationship with my girls…..with my best friends…..with a date…..?

What do I want?

I don’t even have a file folder for this in certain relationships.

I always simply know what I wish would happen…..and know that I am never going to speak up about that….because it only leads to discord and pain and unhappy abandonment. I cannot desire it….to want it….fully….I can only wish that it would happen. I can allude to it….intimate what I would like…..

Ugh! What sin. What a lie!

I have swallowed this lie for decades and not trusted that God’s desires, that he placed in me, are good and right and beautiful. I have never been brave enough…. in the words of a friend recently…… to FAIL grandly……

I have always loved Chesterton’s quote: Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

So maybe a fifty-one year old woman can learn to speak her desires…even if she does so badly. I can fail grandly, and it will still be OK.

What a crazy thought…..I am allowed to want a bath tonight! I am allowed to desire a beautiful dress for closing ceremonies. I can want a new haircut for a date….and I can even want lovely perfume to wear. I am allowed to desire that someone ask me questions and desire more of my story. I am allowed to want that someone hold my hand and take me for a long walk. I can want kissed and kissed warmly. I am allowed to want someone to open doors and plan a restaurant to surprise me. I can want someone to text me to tell me how much I was enjoyed…..and I can want someone to look me deep in the eyes.  I can also desire fun verbal banter just because we are both intelligent and good with words.

I can want more…..more time and more romance. I can want walks on the beach and trips to fun museums. I can want all kinds of things….like good food and flowers. Oh my gosh…..I can want flowers to let me know that I am special……and I am allowed to desire someone who is able to be tender and good and faithful and love God with all his heart!

This wanting feels too easy….and yet so painful. I can want things….but can I let those desires impact my decisions and my conversations and my relationships?

When I show up….will someone tell me I am mean or crazy or selfish or not able to see their wants?

This is terrifying!

It IS Well with My Soul……sometimes.

It actually cut like a knife… Disclosure…..it felt like open heart surgery without the benefit of anesthesia.

I remember then sitting across the table two years ago and hearing….”I didn’t really think it was hurting you.   I just never even considered your health.”

It cut even deeper.

So…..sitting here five years out…..the empty place is still there…..and it still hurts at times.

Now it just occasionally feels like a dull ache in the back of my neck and in the small of my back…..in the pit of my stomach there is a gnawing and lump. In my  heart there is a tightening and an ache that no bath or massage can ease.

When I talk to the children, and they express the deep hurt and the unmanageable emotions around memories…..my whole body is stunned again and the ache flows up into my chest and throat and seeks release.

Sometimes I will simply cry…..sometimes I will wail and lament. Other times, I will sit dumbfounded and unable to even muster an emotion as the numb returns because it is still overwhelming.

One woman said twenty years…..and she is remarried. Twenty years until it had faded to a trickle.

Another friend had seven years and then remarriage………and it is manageable.

Another friend is remarried and is now starting a family…….and it is fading…..

A woman I had coffee with is now a widow…….and the pain is still fresh and remarriage seems miles and miles away at some moments and such a strong desire at other moments……..

A young girl is dating and seems to have recovered quite nicely………

Another is climbing up out of the nuclear wasteland and finding life again in other pursuits….raising her child and furthering her career……..

Lord….what am I doing?

I am sitting here with a tea-cup full of rose tea…..having eaten my fish tacos with mango and avocado…….researching for a trip I am taking and how to pack for ten days in a carry on suitcase.

I am figuring out how to share what I do with people who have no idea what I do………

I am doing laundry and making sure bathrooms get cleaned……and emptying dishwashers and wiping kitchen counters.

I am saying in my head…..over and over….just get through today……just do what you have to do today……cook breakfast…..go to school and clean your classroom…..plan for the trip…..clean the house….pick up the girl…..eat and breathe……

Over and over….I will just do what I need to do today. I cannot make a future happen….only God can bring that about. Trust more and try less……..

I cancelled all my dating site info…..I have stopped posting on Social Media so much……..and I am trying to deal with the panic that rises in my chest when I see my next birthday down the road.

Just do what you need to do today…..eat, sleep, breathe….plan…..just for today.

I am enjoying being me here though I freely confess, I am not enjoying it fully.

God, help me to enjoy the next year…….the senior year….the weddings……the trip……the beach. Help me to fully participate in my own life even as I grieve and discover how to let this all go. I cannot seem to make it stop some days, and I cannot seem to enjoy just being me in some moments. Come rescue me here……and help these tears abate while I plan….and eat…… and cook….. and clean….. and plan….. and sleep….. and breathe…. and just enjoy the world that you have placed me in right now.