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.

A Day Filled with Sunshine

My counselor has me working on some different things again…..now that I am beginning an uphill climb.

I didn’t know I had been walking through such treacherous waters….I knew they were stormy but when you are walking in them….you cannot step outside and look at them properly. He helped me see the timeline pretty clearly as I puzzled last week over the amount of crying I still have left to do and how I never seem to be any further ahead.

He led me through it from his perspective a little…..He told me I have walked through a lifetime of being strong as I needed to feel in control as things around me swirled out of control from age three forward……then I was managing an overwhelming situation in my adult life and marriage as an affair came to light and no healing or honesty was forthcoming. I walked through a devastating time after the arrest of my ex-husband as I was trying just to survive……I waited for a trial and was trying to help my children survive as things fell apart. I walked forward managing the fallout around me and within me as the realities of prison time and further revelations came to light. I walked through deciding if reconciliation or divorce were God’s call on my life…..and I walked through bankruptcy, financial strain, mental strain, physical strain, emotional strain, spiritual strain and finally came to a place where I can grieve more intensely as I am not in a place of imminent death and destruction anymore.

No wonder I am exhausted and my body has decided this year it can finally fall apart a little.

Now I can begin the healing journey because I am finally through the fight for survival.

Interesting….this feels very difficult too….…..not death and loss and destruction…….. no…this is difficult in the way childbirth is. This feels more healing as though it will bring life….. even as it feels weighty and like hard work.

I have at least come to the place where looking ahead I see the possibility of laughter and freedom and being comfortable being me again….having whole days of not thinking about or talking about pain, ex’s, loss, destruction, or even sexual addiction.

I can see ahead days of planning weddings, graduations, birthdays, holidays, and summer vacations….without having to remember the past so much. Instead things are beginning to take on a shape of their own….this little family is beginning to feel complete like it is……I can walk that girl down the aisle. I can lead this little family. I can tend to the relationships and even possibly form new ones that are healthier and more vulnerable than any I have had in the past.

I know there will be triggers for the rest of my life…..but I am finally hopeful that someday…..hopefully sooner than later……I will experience that feeling of walking out into a day filled with sunshine and laughing and smiling and enjoying all that it has without looking back.

Whew! I think I can do this!

Strings

I know what this healing feels like some days…..it is like having to untangle a million….bazillion strings….these strings are all the memories and conversations and hopes and places where you were intertwined……..some of the strings are bits of you….and some of the strings are bits of him. I have to untangle them and separate out the strings that make up me. I have to locate and identify the bits of me that are me….the authentic me….because for so long we were us.

I am exhausted trying to find all my strings…to identify my parts and my true self again.

It feels overwhelming, and I often feel like Cinderella must have felt as the Evil step mother and step sisters dumped the little tiny lentils  and asked her to separate them instead of going to the ball……

I know how it feels to lose your way…..

I understand what it is like to wander aimlessly….senselessly…..to imagine good intentions from some….and run away from good intentions in others.

I know now what panic and heartache feel like.

I can better understand the fatherless….the widow…..the orphaned.

A lot of good things have grown in me because of this untangling…….

But I just cannot easily seem to gather up my strings and attach them to new balloons and soar high into the sky to fly freely away just yet.

I cannot seem to comfortably grasp all of me and walk forward without grieving just yet.

I am trying to look forward to it today.

Yesterday in church the message had a few new strings for me…..

I am to press on….to run the race awaiting the joy that is Christ.

I was told to savor the aroma….to be one who is like a banquet guest smelling the beautiful meal….savoring the aroma……I am to savor the joy that is coming!

My heart is slightly excited even thinking about laying this down and being able to be just me…….

And after church someone asked me how long it took until I felt like just me again…..and I had to answer that I still do not.

Truthfully….this is a long and arduous task….disentangling your strings from a marriage itself is difficult but from darkness and lies and betrayal …..that is tricky and filled with heartache….

But I like the image…..I am simply, patiently pulling the strings apart…..grabbing the ones that belong in my hand and leaving the others behind so that when I am finished…..my hands will be full of me…..the real and whole me……and I will inflate some balloons again and fly off for an adventure…one in which the tears and heartache are for things other than this messy ball of tangled, knotted string.

My tears will possibly even be for joy……..new marriages….. grandchildren…..college graduations…..high school graduations…..meeting new people……serving other people’s needs……..the joy of Christ!

Now that is an adventure I am more than happy to wait expectantly for as I sit and untangle this day by day.

What Fun!

I am beginning to see that part of the healing difficulty for me is that I do not know how to trust that a man can handle taking on any of my issues…..or that he can help me walk through them.

I walk on eggshells even in my own head…..trying to be the perfect woman that any man would love to be with….when in reality….I am afraid and hurt…..and fearful….and unable to let him into my real heart because I am sure that he cannot handle it and would only desire to find a girl who was perfect.

I feel like I desire to spare him the real me….and give him the fantasy he is most assuredly desiring anyway…..and yet I fail at that as well.

I end up not being authentic because I am sure my authentic self is too much and too ugly and too difficult.

I am like a woman who wears a lot of makeup and then realizes that if she is ever seen without it….he will see the real her and know that she is not really very beautiful at all. He will then look for someone who never takes off the makeup…..because only that kind of woman is worth keeping.

I am like a woman who tries to be perfect by being perfectly happy and perfectly positive and perfectly encouraging and …..

then she realizes that she never was perfectly anything and begins to see that she is perfectly broken and perfectly unable to really be in a relationship at all.

She will never be able to tell him when her heart is breaking because to admit that would mean that her heart is broken, and he didn’t fix it.

To let him know she is having a day filled with crying and filled with anxiety may mean that he is not able to handle it or not wanting to handle it or not going to stay if he knows it exists.

She is unable to open up because her head tells her that the opening up and sharing of any hard things is dangerous and filled with pitfalls and potholes and only makes men leave and see your ugliness and know you really have no beauty.

She is aware constantly that her body is aging and wrinkling and sagging and smallish and plumpish in all the wrong places……She is aware that all men desire firmish and curvish and plumpish in all the right places.

She is witty in nonsensical ways……driven by attitudes that make people in her family roll their eyes…..Oh my…..there she goes again……..

She knows she asks too many questions……digs too deeply into other people’s lives without revealing her own…..is just a tad bit too judgmental in areas……makes foolish decisions at times….and is weak when she should be strong…..afraid when she should be bold…..and lazy when she should be striving while striving in areas where she should give up control and  just let God do His thing.

It makes no sense…..

Having to see yourself so clearly all the time is exhausting and having to feel the need to cover up and pretend you are something other than all those faults is exhausting too.

There seems no end to the ways in which this girl is not……no end to the ways in which she can develop hiding mechanisms and cover up strategies and illogical reasons to try to continue searching for a man who is strong enough to actually see her and love her anyway.

It makes no sense to continue down a path……that leads to heartache…..when she knows that opening up is impossible and finding someone who would stay even after she did open up….is also impossible.

So, I see myself clearly enough to say….ENOUGH!

I am getting off this train.

I am going to just be me….because I can see myself and all my faults and I don’t get to leave. I cannot abandon me…..I cannot walk away.

I can only be me.

So instead of worrying that someone else won’t accept me….I will simply accept myself and walk alone. I will put up with the silly misjudgments and inane logic….the question asking and the jokes that I think are funny. I will eat what I want…..sleep in what I want….dress in what I like…..do things that make me happy or satisfied. I will stay up late or get up early…..wash the dishes or leave them in the sink. I will attend Shakespeare plays and go to movies……stay home and read or lay out at the pool.

I don’t need to worry about being seen…..I already see me. I already know that seeing me leads to someone feeling……trapped or eager to leave…..or dissatisfied….or lacking in love or passion.

I don’t need to strive to find anyone…..I don’t need to strive to please anyone. I don’t need to pretend or  even worry that someone won’t appreciate me….

I will simply appreciate me and walk forward knowing that I am perfectly capable of living out the rest of my life …..unafraid of being devastated again….moving forward to make my life something I enjoy and feel fulfilled in.

I can walk forwards strong in myself and unafraid of a future alone with daughters and grandchildren.

I don’t need anyone.

I don’t need to grasp and cling or fly away in fear.

I don’t need someone else to make me happy.

And that is where I end up in my head.

What fun!

Good Memories are the Hardest

On some days it is not the anger and the revelations and the betrayal that are the most difficult thing……some days the good that was there comes storming in and completely floors me.

I cannot stop crying today. I have tried writing and journaling and walking on the treadmill. I have eaten really healthy food and taken a bath and listened to music. I have prayed and meditated on St. Francis, and I have cried out to God to take this from me.

I am tired.

I am really….really tired.

And the lovely memories are the hardest by far!

There is not even a milliliter of remorse over my decision to follow God’s order to walk forward alone. I have no regrets. I have no remorse. I do not wish to return to that life……

But the lovely memories are the MOST difficult thing when I grieve.

I cannot help but feel them deep in my chest. The warmness of them….the holiness of them……the deep, deep desire of my heart is there with them. They have the power to undo me for the day.

It has been like watching your very best friend…..your love……the father of your children die a long….painful….terrible death…..or a terrible movie in which the lead character goes from hero to evil villain. The image is burned in my soul……

The hands that used to hold me and hold my hands in his…….the same hands that would trace  “I  heart U” in my palm……they are now unreachable and  unlovable to me. They were used for others and are always going to be for others now.

The same eyes that used to search mine…..the ones I thought were looking deep inside me and seeing some of who I was…..they are now unsearching and forever blank to me. They were used for searching others bodies and seeing others’ souls.

The body that used to love me…..was used to have empty unions with others. That body is forever on the other side of a gulf….forever distant and hurtful to even remember.

The man…..the one I thought was loving me….was loving himself….and using others. I can never return to that girlish fantasy that I was a lucky woman to have found a man to love me from my youth.

The father that I believed shepherded and governed my children…..no longer guards or pastors them in even the smallest ways. He is making decisions and they are making decisions and I am forever not allowed to make any more decisions or even encourage decisions that might bridge the gap. Instead I have to become the watch guard….the strong mother who can walk alone through weddings and babies and life’s joys and sorrows…..alone…..unaided by the one who should have joined in this battle.

The good moments dance there in my heart….taunting me and reminding me of the devastation some nights. It is not the affairs or the conversations or the ugly…..ugly sin that are the most difficult thing to get over…..it is the lies…..the lies that forever mar the lovely memories and make them stick in my throat…..the lies  that forever take the man I loved and turn him from a friend into a foe. It is the lies that take those memories and make a mockery of them. It is the lies that take the wondrous, glorious love that I thought was growing and turn it into a sick parody of blackness and ugliness and betrayal turned red with the anger and black with the sin….. and simply empty of any real and lasting joy that could have been there had choices been different.

Tonight I am grieving the goodness and loveliness that I miss…..knowing that the hardest part of grieving here is having it all rewritten in light of the lies and betrayal and sin and hellish nightmare that sexual addicts pour out upon their families year after broken year unbeknownst to them until the moment….that moment of disclosure that rips back the veil and begins the utter destruction that ultimately eats away at the very fabric of their souls….trying to pull the whole family into the pits of hell itself.

I am so very lucky to have a strong body of Christ that came and guarded and healed us day after day…..a body that continues to hold us up……even here almost five years out……

Thank you Jesus for the gift you gave us. Thank you for my church….for men of God who choose to live the gospel in real and tangible ways daily. Thank you for the good men in my life. Father guard them…..keep them from attacks and senseless sins of the flesh. Help them stand strong together…open and vulnerable to one another so that not one of them falls. Help them confess to one another and battle for one another  in this fallen world.

God come and take these memories…..help them heal. Help them again become untainted by this sin. Help me see where you were working in my life and loving me even through a broken and sinful man. Help me to see the good that you intended even in places where evil wanted to see the complete destruction of two made one. God help me love even here….when it hurts….help me to love that man. Help me to walk in forgiveness and  walk forward unafraid even in the midst of this….even though my heart still grieves….help me be not afraid to love again. Help me to enjoy my time as a single woman and learn to connect more deeply with these four women you have placed in my care.

Dream Houses

Lately I have been working through some hurts from really, really long ago. They center round a little girl’s dream of a home….a place where she could feel safe and known and loved. I have been doing some work with a gifted counselor who uses EMDR. I was quite surprised by what feelings emerged during my first session.

 I learned about EMDR from a few friends who have done some work in this area. I don’t know why, but it kind of planted a seed to hear their stories…..they were VERY surprised by the wounds that got uncovered and  how helpful this particular tool was for them.

So….an opportunity became available, and I risked asking for help.

During the session, we talked about some areas that felt vulnerably broken in my life….and my counselor asked me to return to my childhood home in my mind. I was surprised that I felt so vulnerable walking around in the home where I was a young girl. I particularly felt a sense of loss…..deep loss and confusion about why my dad was no longer a part of my life. I was deeply, deeply hurt by this house that felt empty and broken and unsafe in so many ways for my heart.

I recalled my plum tree…the one out front that had delicious fruit once a year. We used to sell the plums to firemen who would stop by and gladly buy plums from neighborhood little girls. I recall how they seemed safe…..I decided they were strong and safe in my little girl mind. I recall wishing one of them was my father, and he was bringing home plums for me.

I recalled sitting in my favorite big tree out at the back of the house. I used to climb up and sit in the breeze and sing. I dreamed of being a singer…..someone with a melodious, lovely talent that would let everyone see her and hear her and love her. I loved sitting in that tree and dreaming. I loved the branches and the wind. I loved the smell of the tree and feeling of being safe way up there in the branches. No wonder houses have little hold on my heart but trees….ah…I LOVE trees.

I recalled my old house…..and I recalled some very difficult feelings that made me weep. And I stood outside in my mind….outside by the plum-tree and standing there with my Savior…..I began to ask Him why…..Why did my story have to be this one? Where was my dad? Where was he? Where was He?

And the asking went from soft entreaties to very loud and emotional pleadings. My heart was bursting…..with grief. I did not think a little girl could feel grief so deeply. I am sure my parents didn’t think a little girl could feel grief so deeply either.

And then….a few days later….I heard the grief coming out of my own daughter’s mouth. She was musing over a sign in Winter Park for a house that has been up for sale for a long time. I have often pointed out the cute little blue house. I love how it looks like a beach house that blew in on the waves….and settled amongst all the larger houses to remind us to kick back and relax. I love its style and smallness and location…..and I love its blue color. AND it has four bedrooms….so in my mind…all the kids could come and even bring their kids for visits. Silly things to think about when you are not house shopping and will not be house shopping anytime in the near future…..but we were riding along, and out of the blue, she remarked about how I should buy that house and then paused…..

I told her I wasn’t able to buy a house just now, and she encouraged me to look it up anyway….“You never know. It may be that it is really inexpensive and all the people think it is out of their price range….and all the people who can afford expensive houses have already bought their big ones….so this little one could work for us.”

And she revealed that her heart really wishes she could live in a house one more time.

She told me she misses her house.

My heart wanted to fall apart right there in the car. I forget that this little one only lived in one house. It was her world. The large backyard….the pool….the bunny….. and long walks out front by the garden….the butterflies up by the fence delighting her and the wild cherry tree in bloom once a year. I forget that she played hide and seek and raked leaves to jump in there…..and she was there at the bonfires and parties and celebrations as a little girl with hopes and dreams….who thought her world had a mommy and a daddy.

Now she is  almost grown and for five years….she hasn’t had a house.

She hasn’t gotten to finish that childhood….hers was plunged into chaos and grief much like mine. And she longs for the return of safety and being known by a father and being loved by a family living in a house.

To her the house has  places to enjoy that a condo doesn’t.  She longs for a backyard…..a place to sit out in the grass. She longs for a house party…..a bonfire in the front yard…..a gathering place for all her friends…….the simple things her sisters got to enjoy a bit before life fell apart.

Oh my….life can be painful sometimes.

I am finding that my parents did not understand how much grief their decisions wrought on their children……no one in that generation really paid much attention to the hearts of little ones during divorces…..

But I am trying to listen a little more closely….and understand the grief of my girls.

God help me honor and acknowledge their grief. Help me to understand it and listen in a way that allows their hearts to see it, work through it, and release it in ways that are healing and loving.

This grief seems endless some days. Houses and families and daddies and mommies are important….especially to little girls with dreams.

Elephants are Weighty

When do I get to just leave this behind?

 I am worried that I never can…..because whenever I meet new people…..I am that woman…..the one who was betrayed and had to divorce her husband.

How do I tell the story without bringing up the pain and grief and heartache? How can I have this story and expect that anyone would be willing to help carry it?

I don’t want to just gloss over it….so I toss it out……oh yeah….

Blah….blah….blah…….blah….blah……..

Um….that is a biggie!

It is too big for me.

 I simply want to pretend it was something else. I cannot even bring myself to write out exactly what I could say.

I want to pretend it was all a mistake. I want to pretend that he simply had an affair.

I would rather it was a simple falling out of love….that I was cold and passionless….or that I simply couldn’t love him anymore….that he simply couldn’t love me.

 I would rather tell a story of how we just grew apart and a mistake was made…….

No….my story gets to be so BIG that it is the proverbial elephant in the room when I meet new people.

 I have to unpack it and throw it out there lest I feel like I am hiding it.

I feel as though I am misleading someone and not giving them a proper head’s up about who I am and what I have been through in order that they can run for the hills before they get too engaged in the conversation and the fun we might have.

So I throw the basics of the story out and watch their reactions…..and they are varied so far.

Some give a low whistle…..WOW! That is a big story they exclaim.

Some look at me like I am joking and then try to say something clever…..

Some share their story….and I am amazed that there are other stories that are just as difficult.

Some…..get my name before we even meet and obviously google it and learn about the story online, and I never hear from them again.

Some try to understand….but in the end….the story becomes a stumbling block to really knowing me. I either put up a wall or they pull back in horror……four daughters and an ex who is an ex-con sexual offender?

 That is a lot to ask of a anyone…….especially one just getting to know me.

But some try to be kind and just seem to ignore the story altogether. They hear it a little and then move on to another topic.

I cannot decide which affects my heart more.

I think I would like when questions are asked and a serious but kind tone is struck….one in which there is an acknowledgement that this story has caused a lot of pain….and that my heart might be a little tender in a few places because of it.

Someone who could ask the questions without seeming to be only looking for a juicy story….someone who would see and begin to guard my heart here….THAT is what I need.

That would feel right.

But that doesn’t always happen….this is a weighty, difficult, long, complex story.

I am not enjoying this story one bit tonight.

Subtly

My heart goes out tonight to the woman who sent this to my email box. I think it is one of those emails that makes so many of us exclaim….”Oh..that is my story!!!! I remember those feelings too!”

It has just been such a heart wrenching day. My mind is just filled with the words of so many years of manipulation. I have been told I am not enough…in so many ways. The words always felt to me as though they were ones of sweet but subtle blame. If only he had time he could accomplish his dreams. (ie…if he weren’t married to such a time demanding wife and if only he didn’t have all these responsibilities at home).

I heard so many times that I am cold and calculating. He would say that I didn’t love him. He would tell me that he didn’t feel that I truly loved him.
I didn’t understand.
My gut kept telling me that everything was wrong; that his words didn’t line up with his subtle actions. I always felt he wanted to get away, to date lots of women, to be free and adventurous; to find someone who could fulfill all his fantasies.
I never felt that he had a vision for our family or even the slightest shred of wisdom or any desire to be present and real in our lives.
But when I would try to voice it….it would always come back to my inability to love him.
I really believed that it was me…that I was to blame. That somehow I didn’t love him enough. Somehow I was to blame for the distance and the lack of intimacy or harmony or connection. I believed the lie that said I wasn’t passionate enough and I wasn’t giving enough and I just pushed him away all the time. I believed that he was trying to reach me, and I just wasn’t open to being reached.
Now I hear him telling me he loves me, and he wants to work out all the brokenness. He tells me he has healed and would never, ever hurt me again.
He is so good with words.
He pleads and talks about all the memories that to him were so wonderful and warm. He subtly tells me that this could be a beautiful love story of redemption and forgiveness if only I would let it. He could prove himself if only I would give him one more chance.
He said he was going to remind me of his love every day.
That lasted a month.
He said he would never get online, look at porn, or make a fake email or get into conversations with women again.
That never stopped.
He said he would be completely honest and open.
He was not.
He has chatted with women online, in person and could not even make an honest connection with me.
He couldn’t accept even the smallest amount of anger or hurt from me. It was as if I was supposed to be some all forgiving saint that feels no pain and can take any amount of betrayal and rejection.
I gave him the opportunity to fight for me. In counseling,  he promised to date me…..to woo me. I told him he could try to reach my heart. He couldn’t do it. He could only tell me that he felt I wasn’t open, and I wasn’t receptive.
It was my fault again.
I was the one responsible for the lack again.
Others tried to dig in and help us work through the addiction. He simply couldn’t do it. He was afraid of how it would impact his future. I will never forget that day when he said he would rather not get too deep into this before a big event that was coming up. He didn’t know if stirring up all the emotions would adversely affect the outcome.
I think my heart died that day.
I knew who came first in his world.
This whole process has shown me the magnitude of the selfishness and lies. They were so big that they filled our life. They were so big that I couldn’t even see them. I still haven’t been able to face them completely yet. I have begun to make peace with the selfishness. I can at least say, yes, he was selfish, and it was OK for me to need love, time, help, comfort, support, and care.
I am not horrible for being a woman who needs.
I still feel guilty for divorcing him. I am the one that ends up feeling as though I gave up. In the end, I get to feel like the one that couldn’t love enough. He has his family call to tell me that he loves me and hopes I will reconcile with him, but they understand if I have to walk away. He must make sure that I understand that it was me who gave up, not him. He writes all the different scenarios out in an email just so I will know that staying with him is no scarier than finding someone new or living on my own forever….but he doesn’t understand that staying with him is the scariest thing I could ever do. He doesn’t seem to understand that he has hurt me so badly that I may never get over it. He doesn’t even take my heart into account. He just subtly blames me, subtly tells me I do not love him enough and subtly tears my heart to shreds without the least concern for all the devastation he has brought upon our family.
So today was spent in hell, processing all the ways in which I am not enough. I feel the weight of my age. I see the lines in my face and the signs of age everywhere on my body. I feel the tightness in my chest when I think about ever being able to trust anyone again.
I desire to.
I want to love again.
But I think about secrets, sex addictions, beautiful, younger women, my own inadequacies, my own fears, and my own inability to open up and really trust that someone could love me.
I do not believe it is possible…….. and I believe I am ugly and unlovable today.
I panic thinking about having to face him again. I do not know who I will see. I don’t know how this divorce will have changed him. I don’t know how I will feel as this changes me. Where will he go to church? Who will he run into that I know? What will I do if he tries to call me or runs into me when I am out. What will I do if I see him on a date? What will I do if someone tells me about him and doesn’t know what happened between us?
How will life ever be normal again?

 

Recipes

Nothing can make me cry faster than a happy couple these days.

I watched a movie with the girls….it was a remake of an old movie: Parent Trap. The father is a vineyard owner, and mom is a wedding dress designer. They were so in love and then something happened….and boom….they were divorced and led separate lives. But when the kids find each other at camp…they dream up a plot to get mom and dad back together. And it ends with the mom being scared and running back to England….and this time he goes after her….he won’t give up, and he wins her heart.

Yup….I cried like a baby.

Here was a masculine man….with a tender heart that is honorable and pursues his love. That is a recipe for disaster in my world right now.

Next I read an article by Chip and Johanna Gaines. She loves how much her husband loves Jesus. She admires his hard work and his tender loving heart. They are under scrutiny by some blogger, and he held his tongue and then wrote a post that was filled with gentle godly wisdom for us all. Here was a godly loving husband who loves Jesus and his wife. Here was an example of a godly man who is an example of self-control and wisdom. ‘

Yup…a recipe for disaster right now.

Then I read an article about a young married woman. She was extolling all the reasons she fell in love with her husband….his guitar playing serenading, the wild lock of hair that fell across his face….his adventure and his spirit…..but now that they have been married the wild adventure has cooled to parenting and daily life….minivans and meatless Monday. But she overhears him talking with their little daughter. He is leading her in the acceptance of Jesus and the tender-hearted talk melts her all over again. She has grown to love his shepherding heart…..his tender wisdom and fatherly love…..and the wild lock of hair is still there….just a bit saltier than pepper these days.

What a disaster for me. I cried for an hour.

And tonight….I chanced upon a website called Pioneer Woman. She calls her husband Marlboro Man. It is too much. Really, God?  Really….must I see every happy, lovely, loving couple on Earth? Must I see her extolling his virtue and talking about his strong arms and loving ways? Must I read every blog about women who are absolutely so in love with their husbands? Must I see every man who seem to honor and cherish and tenderly care for their wives?

It reminds me of a couple I know from Geneva. She is someone whose son I have taught. They are lovely. He is one of those godly, rugged, loving, cherishing husbands, and it was never more apparent than the day he came to look over my burned up car.

I don’t even recall how he came to know about it….but he recommended a wonderful mechanic, from Marinelli Automotive.  This husband personally came to make sure my car was safe enough to drive over to the mechanic’s. He checked everything he could. He made me drive it up and down the street to make sure I felt safe, and I knew it wasn’t going to blow up in my face again. And while we were driving, he said something that moved my heart. I asked him what he thought I should do….should I just trust that this car was OK or should I consider getting a more reliable one? Without missing a beat…..he said that if it were his car….he would keep it and run it until it was on its last leg….however…. and his eyes were very sincere, “If it were my wife’s, I would go out and buy her a new one immediately. I wouldn’t want her driving this car.”

I knew in that moment that I was not accustomed to that level of care from a man. I would not have even thought this was an answer that made sense. Why would he drive it but not expect his wife to drive it?

It reminds me of another moment…..when I was in the dentists’ chair. I was getting a molar taken out. I was simply making the decision based upon finances, and the dentist said to me….”If you were my wife, I would insist that you get a new tooth immediately. I wouldn’t want your jaw to lose any bone.”

 I remember that conversation like it was yesterday because it made me uncomfortable. Why would he insist that she get taken care of? What if there were more pressing needs?  What if he needed a tooth and the kids needed braces?  Who was this man to make me feel like I should put myself first or anyone for that matter should consider my well-being first?

But looking back….I think God was showing me that I have a strong  sense of being unworthy of protection and a deep mistrust that  any man will put my well-being ahead of his own. I never grew up trusting a man. I never felt protected or that the men in my life were there to make sure I was safe and cared for and given the things I needed especially if it meant personal sacrifice for them. I always assumed relationships were 50/50….and I had an image that really women are stronger than men, and really women only have themselves to rely upon because in the end…..men don’t protect….. and don’t unselfishly give anything. They only like you if you are beautiful to them, nice, and strong emotionally……not too much…… and care for them.

 I don’t know why that is my basic assumption….but there it is!

So…right now….even seeing men who operate differently feels uncomfortable and makes me grieve.

Right now….seeing something different creates such a longing that my heart pretty much falls apart on contact these days….so God…if you don’t mind…can we slow the learning curve down just a little?

I think my heart needs a break!

Braver without Bravado

Here’s to a braver 2017…

At the close of every year I ask myself four questions:

What do I want more of in my life?

How do I let go of what’s no longer serving me?

What will make me feel more alive?

More brave?

By Brene Brown from a post on Facebook

Something has happened this week. I had some time to reflect and slow down and talk to good friends. Something is stronger after talking and reflecting. I feel more of a peace around life moving forward.

I think it is a process of becoming vulnerable enough to start letting go.

First I had to let go of my story. I had a story of my life….it revolved around a husband and children and life surrounding a church and school and a house with lots of land……It was a story that had mostly good and some bad in it. It was a story that I was sure was glorious and worth living most days. I had to let go of controlling the shame and story and the nuclear bomb blast that had wrecked my world.

I walked through it hoping at first that it would just go away….disappear….or that I would disappear from it.

I remember those feelings. They were powerful and so far down in my heart and mind. But when I let go….and allowed others to carry my needs….the story began to reshape and reform and take on new meaning.

Then I had to let go of him. I had to let go of my husband…..the man I had known since tenth grade….someone I knew as my very best friend. I had to let go of all that I thought he was. I had to let go of all that I desired him to be. I had a love, and I thought that love was one thing….and I had to refocus and rethink and realign my world view with a new perspective. It was not fun or joy-filled or easy. But in the letting go….I allowed God to show me that no man can take His place.

Next I needed to let go of my dreams and plans for the future. I have not gotten rid of desires or hopes….no…they are still fully functioning inside me. I have learned to let go of my control over their coming to fruition. I have learned to work hard and be smart……look for signs that show me where God desires me to go and where He desires me to walk…..but I have begun the process of letting go of having to control the outcomes and the people and the events.

So….tonight I feel a little lighter. I am letting go of things……like having a daddy walk my girls down the aisle…..having a father who imparts wisdom to a man asking for my daughter’s hand……having a husband to guard and guide and protect these girls through these life transitions…..and even having a husband to simply enjoy right now.

Instead….I am finding where God is walking with me here in this messy place. I am finding that I can ask the questions of the boy wanting to marry my girl…..I can plan to walk her down the aisle…..I can give some wisdom and be there for her in ways that feel authentic and healing sometimes.

I can leave the rest in God’s hands.

I am finding that I don’t need to get on a dating website to meet men. I don’t even need to date. I can find a peace in teaching well….being available to parent when the girls need me…..making time for closer relationships with my friends and my church community…..and just finding myself in the every day mundane choices. I can find what foods I truly enjoy….what music I prefer……what furniture….what traditions….and what lifestyle I feel most comfortable living. It is a peaceful place to take time to just enjoy being and becoming.

I believe I can learn to be brave.

I can learn to be content with myself first….and trust more as I try less to find a magical relationship that would make this ache go away.

Perhaps….just perhaps…..this ache isn’t meant to ever go away completely. Perhaps….those people we let into our hearts will never completely disappear if we loved them well. I may remarry and find the love of my life…….but I don’t think I will ever find that the twenty-five year marriage I lived in will ever completely be meaningless and forgotten. It was the place of beginnings for my lovely ladies, and it will be the place I mark as the place of beginning…..when I was offered and took the chance to become someone truly brave and confident.

I will choose to step out and try confidence this year.

I will travel to China…….I will teach to the best of my ability….I will parent my last one into the college arena…..I will love more open-heartedly…..I will prepare for a wedding……and I will write and will live in the moment more fully each day.

Those are all very brave things to do alone……..well unmarried.

I have loving family. I have good friends. I have a strong church and school community.

I will NEVER be alone.

I will choose a braver 2017. I will choose to be vulnerably brave.

Hard Things

I have been thinking a lot lately about why dating feels so uncomfortable…..

It isn’t that I don’t enjoy the attention…….It isn’t that I don’t enjoy meeting people. It is not that I cannot talk about my story or cannot hear theirs. It is not that I cannot handle imperfection, or that I am looking for someone without any flaws. It is not that I am super picky, or that I won’t allow anyone into my heart or my life. It is not that I am too broken, or that I am not pretty enough, or that I am not passionate enough.

I seem to be really….really struggling  with what to do with all those memories….the moments….the time and everything else that was wrapped up in knowing someone since I was 15 .

It is the fact that starting over from the ground up feels so impossible some days.

It feels like it cannot happen.

I simply  feel that I cannot build those kinds of memories and that level of trust ever again. I don’t know why that feels so difficult but it does.

No one else…… in my mind anyway ……..can ever appreciate some of the things my high school friends and I know. Someone else cannot have the memories from these girls growing up. No one will ever be the guy who has a bead on what my family was like when I was in high school and no one will ever….ever know me as that young girl again….the young mother…..the woman growing and learning in that family.

I am forever forced to be two people moving forward…..the one that had that life……and the one that has this life.

I will be forever labeled a divorced woman…..a betrayed woman…..a woman who could not make it work. I am forever a woman who has seen sexual addiction up close and personal. I simply cannot find a space in my head that will allow me to feel comfortable sitting next to someone on my couch and thinking that all these other memories…..all that lifetime I lived up until now….will ever make sense or even mean anything to that person.

I cannot find a place inside that trusts that God can build a bridge from this life to a new one.

I also cannot find a way to get past some of the pronouncements……and some of the fears. How do you begin to think it will ever be comfortable to be physically close to someone at that level again….without ripping my heart out of my body and numbing my mind so it never has to doubt again?  How can you un-hear the words from a man who held your heart? Will I ever believe another man if he tells me I am beautiful or if he tells me I am perfect and that he loves my body?

Could I ever believe that in that space……I am enough? That wound is larger than the Grand Canyon. How  can I ever hope to believe someone else? How am I ever to trust that his words and his action line up and that this time they are for real……truthful….meant at the depth of his core.

I truly believed that other man…….

And it hurts to even remember that I believed him.

It hurts to even go back to that place and remember that he spent twenty-five years  pretending to be a man in love with me…….and I believed him.

How can I ever hope to believe again, or to open myself to the possibility of finding out again what a man REALLY thinks of me after twenty-five years of believing….to find out in the space of a day….a month……a few years……that all those sweet words were not the truth; to find out again…..that he really considers you less than…..

I know it is small and inconsiderate of me to just flat-out tell God it cannot happen and I cannot see a way.

I know that I am supposed to trust more and try less…….

But when you are fighting with a girl and worrying over another and shopping with a third and experiencing heartbreak with another…..when your day just seemed to have too much and not enough all at the same time and you are worrying about how their hearts are ever going to get to a place of healing…….

When your day is filled with having to be strong and having to be weak…….having too much time and never enough…….

When the mere thought of  allowing yourself to be seen is too much for your heart…….

How ……HOW do you make space for EVER trusting that someone could enter this and understand and walk alongside and truly find you to be enough…….?

How do you get to the place where you stop needing to have your life in order…..have it make sense…..have all those ducks in a row and functioning with whole and healed hearts before you feel like it is safe to invite someone else into this mess?

How do you get to the place of accepting that your body is this….nothing more….but it will suffice?

How do you ever just accept that God can make a way, and God can give you what you need….with or without someone to share it with?

God….this is just hard!

Parenting is hard…..being a woman is hard……being a grown up is hard……being divorced is hard and I know….being married is hard.

I am ready for some place soft to land.

All this hard is making my heart hurt tonight.

a life in process, beauty all around us, and finding our place in the world

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