They’re Nicer Now

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Frantic and breathless, I jumped from the old Suburban and ran for the church.  Without air conditioning or even a headliner in the big, blue beast, the ambient temperature increased to create an oven on wheels.  Drenched in sweat and wild eyed, I flung open the two glass doors of the church. 

The foyer was dark and cool.  The smell of gourmet coffee wafted from the cafe bar to my right.  A guitar and happy singing could be heard coming from somewhere deep in the bowels of the building.  But, no one was to be seen.

I don’t remember what R had said or done or threatened.  I just remember I was scared to death, and I needed prayer. I needed money.  I needed safety.  I needed my health and strength back. I needed people to step in and act as a surrogate family for my children.  I needed wood for the winter.  I needed so many things.  But, in that moment I just needed prayer.

Relief washed over me as the church secretary appeared from the corridor of offices.

“M!  I need someone to pray with me!” I recall blurting out. No pleasantries.  Just a desperate plea.

Without stopping, she handed me a yellow Post It pad and a pen and instructed me, “Write your request down and leave it there.  I’ll see that someone gets it.”  With that she disappeared into the sanctuary.  And, I was left alone, sweaty, scared, disheveled, and longing for someone to touch my hand and pray WITH me.

There were countless of those moments until we left.  We visited church after church and received similar dismissals.   One church was generous and came alongside us in friendship, but an elder there was harsh and condemning of my martial status.  He left the children and me feeling rejected, like dirty outsiders merely granted the grace to sit among them.  No matter how warm the rest of the congregation was we couldn’t sit under his stern eye, so we left there, too.

We unknowingly visited the home church of the supervisor at the vistation center.  I had great difficulty singing praise songs right next to the woman who accepted gifts from our abuser and snapped at my children when she was contractually bound to remain neutral while supervising his visits.

I knew my kids needed a church.  But, where?  I was okay at that point.  I’ve been a part of the most incredible Bible study group for almost a year and a half.  Those four women have become my life lines, my prayer warriors, my closest confidantes, my material support, and my fun gang. We share wine and concerts and dinner and tears. They’ve brought me back to truly living. My poor children had nothing like this though.

Oh God, where? We’ve been to nearly every church in town!

I did what was easiest. And, hardest. I went back to where we started.

The pastor, afterall, baptized my two youngest sons. He was there, really there, for me when my dad died. He performed the memorial service and drove 45 minutes to the internment without reimbursement. He defended me when my brother–a non church going non Christian–showed up at my church to convince my pastor to condemn me and lead me in the direction my brother desired. He and his wife laid hands on me and prayed for my physical healing.

We just had so many unmet needs. We were so incredibly needy and lost in those early days. We needed church members to come alongside us daily in some huge ways, and they didn’t. They attended luncheons and sang happy praise music while we floundered. So, we were hurt and angry, and we went searching.

Our first Sunday back the kids went off to their class and my young teen went upstairs with the kids his age while I enjoyed to the sermon. A few weeks later they all spent the week at Vacation Bible School, E as a helper, having a blast with their friends and the adults who were old, familiar faces to them. After one fun filled morning of Bible stories, games, water fights, and treats, the children piled into my car, and J exclaimed, “They’re nicer now!”

But, they’re not.

They’re always were nice.

They haven’t changed.

We have.

Our greatest needs now are for fellowship, friendship, housing, wood for this winter, and child care while I work. That’s it.

The refrigerator is full.

I have a big pile of bills to pay, but I also have jobs lined up and a waiting list of potential clients.

I have a new, dependable car.

We have clothes and furniture.

The divorce is final, which gives us a legal reprieve for now. The constant threat exists that R will get mad and fight over custody or reduce the child support, but for now I have no reason to set foot in that corrupt courthouse.

We have a house coming.

We’re working through the remaining problems.

We aren’t quite so needy anymore. What we do need from the church, they are very capable of supplying–fellowship.

This past Wednesday a family from church took E up north with them on a fun day trip. He needs their grandson’s friendship. Need met.

While we found our solace during those dark early days in A Cry For Justice and Give Her Wings, and I am GRATEFUL for them, I still believe the local church body should have been there. They are great at potlucks and parties, but they suck at “bearing one another’s burdens.” That pressure simply can’t rest solely on the pastor’s shoulders. We’re all a part of this.

“They’re nicer now! ” J exclaimed.

I responded, “They’ve always been nice! They didn’t change. We did. We’re better now, stronger now, so we can enjoy them. But, let that be a lesson to us because we know what it feels like. When you see a sad little boy or girl come to Sunday school, go sit in the shade with them. Don’t run off to play with the other kids and leave them behind.”

I’d love to say those words to the grown ups in our local churches, “When you see a sad man or woman, go sit in the dark, lonely place with them. Don’t run off to a potluck or singalong to have fun, leaving them behind, alone in their sorrow and cares.”

I’ve Got A Lot Of Girlfriends

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I didn’t think it would hit me like that.

I mean hit me. Like a sucker punch to the gut.

I cried on my way home.

It’s been an emotional weekend anyway, but that came out of nowhere.

My son flies out tonight for his military exam.  With all that’s going on in the world, he’s enlisting. He scored a 93 on his ASVAB but is considering infantry.  His recruiter encouraged him to split his life insurance 50/50 between his dad and me.  His dad.  The man who failed to provide anything except torment will benefit from my son’s death.

His dad called last night to talk to the younger kids and asked them,  “This is my weekend; do you want to come spend the night?”

“No!” was their emphatic response.

That angered him.  He began threatening them in a very harsh tone that he could take them anyway for the entire weekend.  He then stated, more like a threat, that he could take them every other weekend.

They went silent.  He then began berating them about why they were mad at him.  He demanded, “What’s going on over there that you don’t want to come see me anymore?”

It went on and on until my 14 year old took the phone from the two young,  bewildered children.  His dad started in on him.   Then, it was my turn.

He wanted me to answer him:  What’s going on that all of a sudden the kids don’t want to visit.

I had to gently remind him that they’ve never wanted to visit.  I’ve, at times, told them they had no choice.  But, I’m not doing that anymore.  He started to balk at that, as though he expects me to force the children into visitation.  He used the word “we” in an us against them, we can’t let them run us, argument.  He zig zagged in his direction, accusing me of telling the vistation supervisor that I didn’t want him giving the kids soda.  That was three years ago.  That wasn’t an affront to him.  It is a dietary choice I make daily for the sake of their health and to keep them from going ballistic on high fructose corn syrup.

Forty five minutes later I had diffused him; the kids were free from a forced overnight with the man they rightfully fear; and he was thanking me for helping him understand what’s going on.

The day was a long one.  I needed a glass of wine.

I’d gone to bed at midnight the night before because I hadn’t got off work until 10:30 p.m.  I awoke early though to get the kids to church on time since they were part of the worship team this week.  As I sleepily let the hot water of the shower pour over my face, I realized it was rising around my ankles.   I was horrified to open my eyes and find sewer backing up where I stood.

We made it to church on time but hurried home to fix the plumbing issue.  I bought a snake and some sulfuric acid, and we got it flowing out again.  Hurray!  We still had time to clean up and get to the family reunion!

As we stepped out of the bathroom my 18 year old, not thinking, began to remove his mask with his gloved hand, accidentally touching his cheek below his left eye. I yelled, and he dropped his hand.  But, it was too late.

He argued with me that we can’t afford a visit to the ER, but he agreed once his eye began to get glassy and sting.  He became worried, too, at that point that the acid was continuing to burn deeper.

By the time we left the urgent care facility the family reunion was well under way.  I decided, however, that we needed to show up though we’d certainly missed all of the games and picture taking at that point.

Everyone was nearly finished eating by the time we got there,  and most of them left shortly after.  I missed my dad’s family gathering because of another problem with and caused by this dump.

Fortunately, a few of the family members were getting together for breakfast this morning, so I had a second chance to spend time with and get to know these strangers with whom I have so much in common.

More in common than I realized.

I stayed with my uncle and his cousin after everyone else finished breakfast and left.  And, that was when the sucker punch came.

They shared memories from their childhood, and we laughed.  The cousin said that my dad had always been her favorite.

(Mine, too.)

She said he was effervescent.

(He was.  He smiled with his whole face.)

Their stories continued briefly when my uncle teased his cousin with a play on words and, chuckling, asked, “You mean I made a pass at you?”

She looked serious and responded, “No!  That was left up to Uncle H.”

My uncle tried at first to laugh it off,  “The old man always wanted to keep it in the family.”

The cousin didn’t laugh.

Neither did I.

She said she’d told him to stop.  They expressed that he’d always “had his thing.”

Sucker punch.

When grandpa quit coming after me, I didn’t understand.  He’d said I was his special girl.  He said I was his girlfriend.  Suddenly he acted like I wasn’t even in the room.  So, with the last bit of 5 year old innocence I had left, I crawled up in his lap and asked, “Grandpa, am I still your girlfriend? “

He shoved me off and snapped, “I’ve got a lot of girlfriends!”

With my dad’s cousin’s confession I was hurled from the diner and back to that couch over forty years ago.

His other girlfriends were the other girls in our family.

I sat quietly trying to recover from the revelation while she talked about her mom’s bitterness and my grandma’s bitterness over (she shifted her eyes downward) “their things.”  I felt she was implying someone had got to them as little girls, too.  She pondered why they couldn’t let it go even in old age or for the sake of their children and instead remained “mean.”  She stated that the rest of us try every single day to be better than what was before us, better than that for our kids.

It was like she knew my dirty secret and was encouraging me.  In just sharing her story and feelings, she was speaking to my spirit.

Get up.  Keep going.  Don’t be bitter over it.  Give your kids better than what you received.  You have a choice.  Don’t make your kids suffer for your pain.  Let it go.  Love them and live your life like it didn’t happen.  Don’t let him rob you of anything else.  It’s not his to take.  It never was.

Grandpa had a lot of girlfriends, and I was one of them.  That was a long time ago though.  I’m old and tired now.  My heart aches, and my body is weary from dealing with daily life in a slum and an abusive ex husband while working hard to climb out of this pit. But, I don’t want my kids and grandkids sitting in a diner fifty years from now saying that I was mean and bitter because of my painful memories.

So, I’m going to get up.  Keep going.  Not be bitter over it.  I’m determined to give my kids better than what I received.  They aren’t going to suffer for my pain.  I’m learning to let it go.  I’m going to love them and live my life like it didn’t happen.  No one–not my mom or grandpa or R–are going to rob me of anything else. My life was not theirs to take.

 

 

Love Thy Neighbor; Part 2

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“Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Matthew 16:23 NIV

Pretty harsh to call someone, a close friend even, Satan.  Jesus Himself is the one who said that to Peter, the friend He chose to build His church upon.  But, He didn’t mince words when Peter needed corrected. 

Since I got admonished merely for stating someone overstepped proper boundaries and offended me, what would be said to Jesus for calling someone a derogatory name? 

I wonder.

Would He receive similar treatment to that found in Dostoyesky’s The Grand Inquisitor?

It isn’t just Jesus though.  The church’s beloved Paul is also guilty of “unloving words.”  In Timothy 4:14 he declares,  “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil:  the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be thou ware also…” 

Not only does Paul say the dude’s works are EVIL, he encourages others to avoid the poor guy and hopes he gets what he has coming to him!

That isn’t the only instance of this type of “unloving” expression. 

The NET Bible interprets Psalm 1:1 as, “How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! ”  But, isn’t it unloving to call people wicked, or judgmental to call them sinners?

Someone does it again in Proverbs 4:14.   “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.” 

Wow!  So much unloving name calling going on here!  And, repetitive advising of avoidance!  Geesh! 

Paul really let’s loose in the fifth chapter of 1st Corinthians, not only condemning the church there for NOT judging a misbehaving member, but he tells them to “deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh!”  And, he mentions that their “glorying is not good.”  What are they glorying in?   Being loving and accepting perhaps? 

Turn with me now in your Bibles (yes, I’m full of sarcasm today!) to 2nd Thessalonians 3, the final chapter of that little book.  Here, we find Paul requesting prayer for deliverance from unreasonable and wicked men.   But, he’s a missionary.   Isn’t his job to convert the unsaved?

Oh!  Does that indicate there’s a difference between the lost and the wicked?

Last week I was helping support and advise a young mother who is literally trapped in an abusive marriage.  Her health is deteriorating rapidly as she is weakening under this horrible man.  She made a reference to him treating her wickedly, and I concurred.  That’s when one of her friends chimed in that we’re all too quick to call others wicked when they’re just lost, in need of a savior.

What would Paul have said to that?

Well, he tells us bluntly in verse 6 of that same chapter in 2nd Thessalonians how to deal with those claiming to be saved already yet behaving wrongly. 

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

According to Paul, not only should she withdraw herself but so should we all.  That man should find himself standing all alone and ashamed of what he’s done.

But, didn’t Jesus say to Love Thy Neighbor?  This all seems so unloving.

What He really said was, “Love Thy Neighbor as yourself.”   Sounds like He’s making a presumption that you already love yourself and desire what’s best for yourself.  He doesn’t say, “Love Thy Neighbor but hate yourself.”  Nor does He say, “Love Thy Neighbors who hurt your other neighbors, raping and beating them, showing them no mercy, stealing from them.”

The story of the good Samaritan is often used to defend the position I stand in opposition against.  But, the good Samaritan helped a wounded and helpless man.  He didn’t kneel down and preach to that man to forgive his attackers and those who had passed by without helping him.  He didn’t scurry on down the road to express some acts of kindness to the robbers.  He took care of someone who’d been wronged!  He did NOT ask him what he’d done to put himself in such a vulnerable position.  He simply went out of his way to care for someone who was unable to care for himself.

That,  my friends, is Loving Thy Neighbor.

Love Thy Neighbor; Part 1

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“Excuse me!  Excuse me!  I left a yellow note over there for you to let you know that’s a grape vine in case you want it.”

That was how I met my soon to be neighbor.  No pleasantries.  No self introduction.  Not even a smile.  Just a holler to let me know she took the liberty of marking plants on my new property based on the assumption I’m too stupid to know the difference between a food plant and a weed.

It was socially awkward at best, insulting at the worst.

I walked toward her and thanked her, basing my reaction on the hope it was the former.  And, in doing so,  I opened the door for thirty minutes of non stop negativity.

She told me that others had warned her not to divulge what she knew, but she felt I NEEDED to know.  Someone needed to tell me what things are really like.

She proceeded to say that I’m a fool if I think my new house will be built in a year.  There are things “they” don’t tell you about.  “They” misrepresent the true costs.  She made assumptions and hurled accusations and insults at “them” and me. 

“They may appreciate the little cookies you bring, but that isn’t going to get your house built!”  Well, I never planned on bringing cookies, but if I did I assure you they wouldn’t be little. 

“You need to get some volunteers!  Look around you!  Who have you got?  No one!  You and your boys can’t build your house alone!”  I’ve had people offer to help us weed eat, but I’ve turned them down.  I don’t want to burn them out before I need them for the build.  My son and I are quite capable of clearing a little brush.

Before she walked off, seemingly satisfied with herself, she informed me I have a stray cat on my property that she is feeding for me.  I emphatically stated I don’t want a stray cat; I have enough pets.

“Well, you’ve got one now!” she yelled over her shoulder as she walked away.

I stewed over that “conversation” for quite some time before I finally shared with a couple of friends just how bothered I’d been by it all.  After all, she’s a cancer survivor.  How harshly can I judge her?

I was honestly very busy and couldn’t get back over there to finish.  But, my heart wasn’t really in it anymore either.  She’d stolen some of my joy, and I didn’t want to face her again. 

When I did return, I arrived to find her vehicle with a trailer attached to it parked smack dab in the middle of “my” property.  She immediately let her little dog out, and it ran over to us, barking incessantly and scaring my animal loving 5 year old.  She didn’t call it back.  She didn’t offer to move her vehicle.  She just wandered her yard, watching us work around her belongings.

This isn’t starting off good.

Naturally, I posted a picture of our finished work on Facebook, complete with her stuff, along with a comment about my “neighbor.”  Some people had some not very nice suggestions as to how to deal with her.  All were sympathetic.  Except one.

The last comment was an admonishment to me to “love my neighbor.”

I’m not easily provoked.  My personal history testifies to that.  But, telling me to “love my neighbor” when I shared what she’d done took me back to the multitude of times I’d sought help over the years. 

The standard Christian advice I’d received was to “love my husband with the love of Jesus.”  Or, “Honor my mother that she may be won through my good behavior.”  My favorite was the finger pointing correction that I needed to “forgive them because I’m a sinner, too, and one sin is not worse than another.”

Not long ago I saw a meme on Facebook and reposted it.  It didn’t receive many likes or comments, but I thought the brutal honesty was hilarious.  It reminded us that the next time we ask What Would Jesus Do? we should remember turning over tables and flogging bankers isn’t out of the question. 

It was funny, but it also was a sly reminder that Jesus didn’t let people get away with stuff. 

My grandma’s favorite quote was Edmund Burke’s, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

Now, I’m not comparing my neighbor’s rudeness to my mother’s cruelty, nor am I saying she’s wicked.  I’m DEFINITELY NOT advocating flogging anyone!   I’d just like to pose the question:  Is it unloving to call out, correct, or acknowledge ill treatment?

To be continued…….

Purging

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My parents died seven months apart, both in their own filthy, little, rodent infested trailers.   Stacks of junk mail covered their dining tables.  Bags of recycling collected around the outside perimeters.  Their sinks were full of dirty dishes.  The cupboards full of expired food.  Closets stuffed with decades old clothing and mismatched sheets.  They both maintained multiple storage sheds full of broken tools, never used yard sale finds, and relics from their pasts. 

I think my parents were hoarders.

When the ladies from Habitat for Humanity came for my home visit they told me I needed to have a yard sale.  I had too much stuff, they said.  In my mind I balked at their statements.  R took everything!   And, our needs had been unmet for years!   We didn’t have the basic necessities of living throughout the entire marriage.  How could we have too much stuff now, post divorce? 

Dutifully I began to empty the closets and cupboards searching for any rare unneeded items.  I placed them in the yard and priced them, practically giving them away.  But, most of the yard sale shoppers passed them over, thanked me politely, and left empty handed.

I listed some things for free on online sites.  Very few of the items were wanted though.  And, those who were willing to claim them wanted free delivery, too. 

The hassle of it all became too much, and my nerves were frazzled by the chaos of the mess all around me.  I determined Goodwill and the local recycling center needed to become the recipients of these cast off items as quickly as possible.  So, I bagged them up and hauled them off.  Trip after trip after trip.

As the no longer used and never used items departed, other things became glaringly noticeable.  Like the closet shelf  FULL of magazines.   There were home school magazines. There were clipped out articles and intact magazines on natural health and homesteading, some dating back to the 80’s.

I wondered if the Habitat for Humanity ladies considered me to be a hoarder.

The shelves are beginning to empty, but there is still so much work to be done.  I’m overwhelmed.  Sometimes I wander from room to room, unsure where to even start.  I marvel at how much useless stuff I’ve crammed into every nook and cranny.  Stuff I no longer even saw.  Yet, stuff, for some reason, I’d felt I couldn’t part with.

Whether it had been a link to hope or a connection to a better moment in the past, I clung to it as a life line.  Mementos served as reminders of love lost but at least experienced.  Those copious amounts of printed material represented cottage dreams I’d refused to give up on.  Could I really let that go?

Yes!  I can.  I am. 

Throughout the purging process I’ve had to reevaluate my priorities and my perspective.  I can’t live in the present when I’m so simultaneously caught up in the past and the future.  

When I lost my health, my marriage, my parents, and everything familiar, I thought I couldn’t go on.  I had lost my compass.  Yet, it was through all of the devastating losses that I found the freedom to be me.  It was in that season of death that I found my life.  What I thought was an emptying of my soul was merely a purging of that which I was unnecessarily clinging to. 

I’m more like my parents than I’d like to think.  I hoarded garbage, be it magazines or toxic relationships, just as they did.  That behavior, that lifestyle pattern, brought bondage and more insecurity, like an insatiable beast with a life of its own. The purging that I was so afraid of, or denied was even necessary, turned out to be the vehicle for security and strength.  Less truly is more.

In Bondage To Freedom

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The ideals of liberty pulsate through my veins and are deeply embedded in my DNA.  I am a Daughter of the Revolution. My great-great-great grandfather and every single one of his sons fought in our country’s blood bath in the 1860’s.  One of my ancestors was present at the signing of the Magna Carta and many others were instrumental in that significant period of history.  I like to think I can’t help but have such a strong desire for the altruistic value of freedom.

My cousins, near and distant, have dedicated decades of their lives to thoroughly researching our family lineage.  Wonderful and fascinating stories have been found and retold.  As much as they fascinate us, I have to wonder what the reality was truly like for our ancestors.

I doubt the princesses were thrilled at the prospect of being given to distant relatives as rewards for loyalty in battle.   I imagine mothers and daughters tearfully saying goodbye as these young women were sent away to another country to be claimed as a prize.  It’s hard for me to believe they set their jaws and resolutely trudged off, thrilled to be part of building a bigger empire whose manifest purpose was a free society.

As the mother of five sons and knowing the tender hearts that lie beneath their stern determination, I still cannot fathom an entire family excitedly preparing for war.  I’ve dug through old Civil War records and found that one of my uncles, who later died, went AWOL for a few days because he was “home sick.”  He was compelled to risk life and limb, traveling through a hostile land, just to see his mother for a day.  Though they were committed to their cause, I envision a very somber and sad time leading up to their departures.

We tend to romanticize the past and the sacrifices made, especially when done for a greater good.  But, I tend to believe those players in history were wrought with frustration, fear,  and indecisiveness.

Just like us.

My desire for personal freedom has sometimes pushed me to do things I didn’t want to do.  Things I knew weren’t really right.  I’ve waffled back and forth, wrestling over the direction I should take.  I’ve been overwhelmed by fears, uncertain my actions and sacrifices would even lead to my desired outcome. I’ve been engulfed by frustration over why it all had to be so difficult and why others involved couldn’t sacrifice a little, too.

The freedom I’ve desired on a personal level mildly compares to the ideals of a free society and a man’s right to live his life in liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I have desired for my children that they be educated, that they have choices in life I never had.  I have been driven by a desire to not leave them in debt, for my death to not be a burden to them.  I have dreamed of my children living out their days in peace, joy, and prosperity as they seek their purpose in this world and live lives of service to their fellow man while securing a good lifestyle for themselves.

But, at what cost?

When is the price of our ideals too high?
What if we’re only robbing ourselves of joy and peace for something no one else even cares about?

What if those who follow us don’t even appreciate it and throw it all away?

We see it in the world all around us.  Free nations crumble. Difficultly earned gains given away.  Family savings plundered.  I’ll bet our ancestors are rolling over in their graves.

I’ve been extremely selfish, but it was never my intention to live a self-centered life.  My heart’s desire was to dedicate my life to the restoration of my family.  We have some rich legacies, and I wanted my children to return to those glory days, to rise above the mire of addiction and abuse. One side of the family tree in particular is tainted throughout by this rotten fruit, and I wanted to prune that diseased branch back.

Sometimes in my dogmatism I enslaved myself and my children, the very ones I was trying so desperately to free.

I’m not certain my oldest son will ever understand or appreciate that the number one reason I didn’t leave R when he was arrested was for him.  Instead, I sometimes think he is angry I stayed with a man who hit him. I knew though the only way for my son to pursue his well deserved and hard earned shot at college was if I stayed.  His work would go down the drain without my ability to pay the very small tuition commitment not covered by his generous scholarships. I did what I felt I had to do to secure his chances for that life filled with choices and opportunities, i.e., freedom.  So, I remained in bondage.

Even my marriage to R had been, in the first place, an attempt to gain freedom for my progeny.  I believed all of the garbage the church hurled at me about a man being the only way to keep my daughter from promiscuity or for my sons to be “real” men.  From the depths of my soul I knew I had to escape the toxicity of living with my mother and brother.  So, I took the only route I saw, the only road my mother and brother would condone, and I ran headlong into a bloody battle.

Sometimes we do stupid things, desperate things, when we see no other way out of a bad situation.

I’m reveling right now in freedom that doesn’t feel well earned, and I don’t even care.  I’m just completely enjoying the goodness of life.  Simple things, like air conditioning and tight steering on my car…..a grape vine found on my new property…..kind neighbors.  I am getting very used to things that once scared me.

For so long I fought debt.  I wanted to live completely debt free.  I didn’t want to be encumbered by it, and I didn’t want to die and leave it to my children who had not acquired it.  I desired that freedom.  But, that freedom meant I did not have the freedom to even leave town. R made certain I didn’t have a vehicle and when I did it didn’t run well enough for me to flee. I developed a mind set of fear of debt because he overused and abused it, costing us everything and driving us deeply into poverty.  His foolishness was the catalyst for my indenturing myself to the bondage of a struggle for a debt free life.

I’ve actually found freedom in a car payment!  I have the freedom to go wherever I want whenever I want.  It is dependable and comfortable.  The seat doesn’t throw my back out.  The air conditioning feels wonderful.  And, what I save in gas because the engine isn’t worn out makes up for the actual monthly payment.

I’ve also resisted the idea of moving into town.  I didn’t want to live on top of other people or have someone in my backyard.  I loved the idea of prepping and homesteading.  Since R left, I’ve feared the possibility of neighbors who might turn me in for whatever reason, viewing me with suspicion as a home schooler, a single mom, an “abuse victim.”  Unable to afford to move,  I’ve felt in bondage to this mountain home, exhausted from hour after hour of hard labor keeping pine needles off the roof and wood in the shed.  And, I’ve been in bondage to work longer hours to pay the high utility bills and the high gas bill due to living out so far.

But, now, my ultimate freedom is coming from moving into town!  The neighbors I’ve met are incredibly kind.  There are irrigation rights attached to the property, and remnants of an old garden still grow untended.  We’ll live central to everything we need to do.  We’ll be able to grow some of our food.  Yes, the monthly mortgage will be higher than my rent, but the utility bills will be exponentially lower, offsetting that extra expense completely. It will be comfortable, sound, safe.  Are those not the hallmarks of freedom? How can you attain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without a measure of security, safety, and some comfort?  It is nearly impossible to focus on the higher goals when daily survival is paramount.

I am grieved today as I watch other victims, not yet survivors, remain tethered in bondage to their abusers, believing their freedom comes through staying.  My heart is broken as I watch a young mother falsely hope her husband will change as she stays, not trusting her own ability to care for her children’s needs or God to provide for her health care should she leave.  I can’t condemn her.  I get it.  I’ve done it.  I’ve been her.

It boggles my mind that I have been in bondage to the idea of freedom.  Those very things I thought would grant me freedom were the very things that held me back from it.  And, those things I feared were indeed the path to it.

Habitat for Humanity

I dragged my tired, aching body from bed this morning and begged God to give my spirit the strength to work just five hours.  That’s all.  Just five hours.

I don’t enjoy today’s job.  The family is always there.  Hovering.  And, screaming and cussing at each other.  Finding fault with my work.  It’s too intense.  It feels too much like my own family of origin.

My spirit grieves as I reach and scrub.  My fingers ache and my neck burns from the years of abuse and neglect.  But, the pain in my shoulders and lats feels GOOD today.  Yes, that pain feels good.

You see, I have news for you all……I have been selected as this year’s Habitat for Humanity build in my county! 

Yesterday I pulled fencing and barbed wire from an entanglement of weeds on property that is to be mine!  It was very hard work.  But, unlike working for this negative family today, that work was invigorating.

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What a beautiful site! 

Every stretch of those taut muscles today reminds me that I will soon have a home.  A real home.  And, oh, it’s beautiful!  The more I look at the plans and survey the property where it will be built, the deeper I fall in love with it all!
It could not be more perfect for us.

My emotions surrounding it have been a roller coaster from day one but any uncertainty I had about living in town diminished with each clandestine visit to the empty property.

The integrity of my rental has deteriorated rapidly over the last few months as my desire for this Habitat house increased.   And, I began to fantasize about a little cottage on the edge of town. 

An old fashioned English cottage garden. 

A small house I could easily take care of in my lonely old age.

Freedom from another man’s demands and slavery.  Freedom from his poor choices.

A place where new memories could be made.  Where violence could be forgotten.

And, the miracles began to occur!  We were chosen!  The plans that were selected for me are of a darling cottage style home!  The property has irrigation rights!  Perfect for that unwatered garden that grows in my mind!

Yes, my shoulders burn.  And, tears burn my eyes as I write this.  So many of you have walked with me on this horrific journey out of abuse and into a new free life.  You’ve listened as I’ve worked through memories of childhood abuse.  You’ve encouraged me as I’ve struggled to find my identity outside of who I was convinced I was born to be.  You’ve been angry for me when I’ve been wronged.  You’ve cheered me on with each victory.  And, I know you’re rejoicing with me now.

This.  This is for us.  It is for all of us who dare to dream.   It is for all of us who cling to life and hope.  It is for all of us who seek something better…… For ourselves, in ourselves, and in others.

This victory, this passage to the greatest freedom I can imagine outside of freedom in Christ, belongs to everyone who has helped me, prayed for me, supported me, and loved me.  I will be eternally grateful to the saints at Habitat for Humanity, as I will be eternally grateful to all of you for holding my hand and sticking with me through the darkness.  I’m excited to walk out into the light of my new life and share my new home with you.

Her Children Arise Up and Call Her………..

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…..a hippie

…..a Jew

…..incapable

…..offensive

…..harsh

…..embarrassing

I have always LOVED Proverbs 31. She is a woman of strength and honor and her family adores her. She dresses well and is a successful business woman who cares for the poor and needy. She’s perfect really. Everything I could ever aspire to be. She has everything I could ever hope for.

Proverbs 31:28: Her children arise up, and call her blessed.

That isn’t what my children call me.

I just spent an ungodly amount of money and went in debt, maxing out my credit card, to go to the graduations of my oldest son and his girlfriend.  I had wonderful tours and activities planned for the younger children, hoping to make history come alive for them on this once in a lifetime trip.

It was wonderful in many, many ways.  Don’t get me wrong.  But, we missed nearly all of those planned activities.

We were exhausted.  Wrung out.  Grumpy.  Hungry.  And, hurt.  Very hurt.

My son warned his girlfriend’s parents about me.  As though you need to mentally prepare yourself to meet me.  He told them I’m a hippie.

I Googled “define hippie.”  It gave me, “a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.”

My values are so conventional I’ve been accused of being legalistic!  Too Christian!  A right wing nut!  I won’t even vaccinate my children, let alone take mind altering drugs!  I’m about as bland and conventional in my appearance as a middle aged mom can get!  I wear make up (well, most days); I wear a bra (padded push up!); I don’t think I even own any beads.

I do try to buy only organic food.  If it’s local, even better!  I do make my own deodorant and some of my cleaning supplies.  I prefer going barefoot.  But, that’s about it, Folks!

Her parents were pleasantly surprised and actually liked me.  I was nothing like what my son had built me up to be.

Friday night before my son’s graduation he and his girlfriend hosted a party (which cost me almost $200) in their apartment.  It was a loud, drunken party.  At one point his girlfriend asked me if she could give my 14 year old a “shot.”  I responded emphatically, “Absolutely NOT!”  She waited until I left the room, dumped a shot in his punch, put her hand on the bottom of his cup and directed it toward his mouth, and told him to drink it quickly before I came back.  Just because you’re in a lovely townhouse in one of the richest counties in the country, overlooking the representations of the nation’s grandeur, surrounded by extremely well educated individuals, don’t assume anyone actually has any class.  People are people.  Some just dress better and have better vocabularies.

At this raucous celebration there were three moms:  A Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew.  We made jokes about ourselves, and we got along FAMOUSLY.  Sometimes I’m not sure we even knew what we were laughing at.  We were just feeding off of each other’s laughter.  Our jokes were probably quite inappropriate.  We mocked our religions, ethnic backgrounds, and politics.  We mocked each other’s, and that was funny, too.  It was all very light hearted, as none of us took ourselves seriously.

The next day, however, my son’s girlfriend said that she didn’t think I got really offensive until after everyone left when I referred to the one other mom as “the Jew,” saying how much I liked her.

Ironically, however, my son had called me that in front of everyone earlier in the evening, and that, I guess, wasn’t offensive.  His one friend let it be known to all that he liked me and would propose on the spot if he had a ring.  My son joked that you can get a ring from Nomorerack for $10.  The young man exclaimed that he had two fives in his pocket, so he was set!  To that my son responded, “She’s such a Jew, she’d probably rather have the $10 than the ring!”

Admittedly, I’m not as quick as I used to be, but I don’t understand.  The other moms and I referred to ourselves and each other, in a joking way, as the tags that society labels us with, thinking we were funny.  When I merely continued that and stated how much I enjoyed one woman’s company, I was offensive.  When the same tag was used to describe my fiscal awareness, along the lines of the old, pro ethnic cleansing German cartoons, that was socially acceptable.  How so, young people?  How so?

As we prepared for the trip in advance I had made a trip notebook.  I placed dividers in it and labeled them according to state.  I researched activities and paid in advance for some tours.  We were all set for the most memorable vacation ever!  We had been promised that if we could just get there, just buy the airline tickets, my son and his girlfriend would feed us, house us, and get us around.

It didn’t turn out that way.

Several months after I booked the NONREFUNDABLE airline tickets, charging $1700 to my brand new credit card, my son called to ask me if I could book some motel rooms or stay with friends.  They couldn’t put us up the entire time.

I ended up booking three motel rooms total AND getting a rental car for a week.  Thankfully I’d paid on those airline tickets some because this was another $900 on that credit card, and my limit is $2500.  That doesn’t include gas.

When I asked my son about how long I should keep said rental car he said that I’d never be able to drive in DC–traffic is crazy–so to turn it in once we got there.  Either his girlfriend could get us around, or he would get a zip car the day we planned to visit the re-enactment of the 150th anniversary of a famous Civil War battle.

Once we got there though and were at their mercy for travel, we were told “we aren’t going,” “figure it out; I had to,” and “I don’t know what to tell you.”  In the week we were there we only went into DC three days, each day costing me at least $60 in transportation for the tram and Uber cars (basically taxis).

The first day I nearly sat down and cried.  The girlfriend had flat out refused to take us anywhere and had given us very little instruction, none really, on how to use the tram.  As you well know, I’m from a congestion, the side of a mountain.  I’ve never ridden a subway before in my life.  We missed almost all of our tours we were so late everywhere, spending ungodly amounts of time lost in the subway corridors, trying desperately to figure out how to get somewhere, anywhere.  At the end of the day, hungry, sunburned, and exhausted we wandered off the subway onto the platform at rush hour.  Because I’d been using the maps app to navigate, or try to, our way around the city, my phone was nearly dead.  It began to rain gigantic drops onto the massive crowd of aggressive, busy, pushy, and apparently very important (they all seem to think so anyway) people and us.  I didn’t know where we were.  The youngest two children refused to walk any further and were sitting down on the sidewalk, fussing loudly.  I used the last energy my phone had to call K, my son’s girlfriend.  She refused to come get us and told me to call an Uber car.  I told her my phone didn’t have enough battery left to figure out where I was and then use the Uber app to send for a car.  She didn’t care.  I used my 14 year old’s phone to call my son.  He said, “K won’t come get me either.  I’m in a car.  I don’t know what to tell you.”  That’s when I just wanted to sit and cry.  I was lost in a huge city without a phone, alone with three children, and no one to help us at all.

I was afraid to go into the city again, but I knew I had to try.  When I asked more questions of them in preparation for my next adventure, they said, “Figure it out!”  “Just read the boards and figure it out!  I had to!”

The difference in my mind was that they were single adults who had CHOSEN to move there and NEEDED to figure out this new way of life.  I was INVITED there by them and had children to watch in those crowds while I tried to “figure it out,” and I’ll likely never go back.  I don’t NEED to figure it out and waste all of our sight seeing time learning a skill I’ll never use again while my children cry, whine, sit in the middle of traffic, or try to run off.  They didn’t exactly use the word “incapable,” but they certainly made me feel that is what they were thinking.

The word “embarrassing” was never actually stated either, but my son’s constant eye rolls and refusal to hug me at his graduation until after he’d hugged everyone else and his girlfriend’s mother demanded that he “hug your mother!” again made me quite certain that he felt I was an embarrassment.

He hadn’t acted that way in Georgia.  He gave me a lovely card with BEAUTIFUL hand written sentiments.  He hugged me publicly.  He was sweet.

But in DC I suddenly felt unwelcome.  I have no idea what I did.  No one will just communicate.  There wasn’t even a precipitating event.  The tension was just so thick you could cut it with a knife.

The girlfriend would snap and make rude comments to me before retreating to her bedroom.  My son dutifully followed her and then would come out and be rude to me.  It was quite apparent he was following orders.

As I mulled it over, trying so hard to figure out what I’d done so I could fix it, I wondered if it was my parenting.  My son had snapped at me in front of my 7 year old, and he and his girlfriend both regularly interfered when I tried to discipline my 7 year old.  They let me know in no uncertain terms that they did not agree with my expectations.  Yet, the girlfriend nearly seemed to delight, in my opinion, in being unfair to my 5 year old, who looks and acts just like me.  I took that as verification that she definitely has a problem with ME.

During one pleasant conversation the last night there, my son asked about specific tours we’d taken that day.  As I delighted in the moment with him and recounting the day, she interrupted, “You can’t expect a private tour of the Capital Building!  There are thousands of people that go through there a day!”  The hate exuded from her pores.  I tried to nicely respond that I didn’t expect a personal tour.  It just wasn’t my favorite because it was so rushed.  She refused to let it go and insisted upon putting words in my mouth and snapping at me.

As it ate away at me though I could audibly hear the Lord tell me, “Their anger is not your problem.”  So, I let it roll off my back and made the best out of things, refusing to let this young woman’s issues come between my son and me.

My son opened up the discussion about seeing us off the next morning, and I was surprised.  I had assumed we’d once again be forced to ride the subway, this time with all of our luggage.  But, no, he WANTED to see us off.  She agreed to it, though not enthusiastically.  However, an hour before our plane was to take off, she began to take the exit to the subway station!  My son asked her where she was going, and she matter of factly stated, “West Falls Church.”  He exclaimed, “They’ll never make it!  We discussed this last night.”  I could tell she was ticked, so I chuckled and said, “Oh, she’s doing pretty good to be dressed and driving.  She didn’t get coffee this morning!”  Everyone went along with that, and she made her way back onto the freeway just in time.

We made it through security as Zone 3 was being called to board our plane.  Fortunately we were seated in Zone 3 and, though we missed the call for it, we made it onto the plane.  I marveled at how we definitely would have missed our plane if we’d taken the subway and why she would have wanted to cause that to happen.  It was evident she certainly didn’t want us stuck in her apartment one hour longer!

During the long hours in flight back I napped, took photos of the scenes below, played games and chatted with my 7 year old, and thought about the events of the last two weeks.  I thought about the rejection I’d experienced.  And, I thought about the approval and acceptance I’d experienced, in particular the approval of that young, educated, professional man whose Facebook profile picture is of him being interviewed on national TV.  He wanted to know more about my opinions on religion and politics.  He laughed at me.  He was apparently, on some level, attracted to me as I stood there in my “mom” capris and a JC Penney T-shirt because he was adamant he wanted to marry me.  And, I thought about the word he used to describe me………….

Real.

He said I was real and honest, and that is something you just don’t find these days.

My own son has risen up and called me a hippie, a Jew, offensive, and harsh and let’s me know that he sees me as incapable and embarrassing.  But, someone else’s son rose up and called me real and honest and let me know that he sees value in those things.

While I still love the Proverbs 31 woman, I’m finally at a point in my life where I just don’t want to strive to be her.  I’m content with being real.

 

The Fallacy of Co-Parenting

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Way back in the 70’s when my parents divorced, in the United States it was still pretty much assumed that the children would remain with the mother.  However, it was an experimental period wherein the “me generation” was trying out all sorts of unconventional changes in previously accepted social norms in the name of progressivism.  They grabbed hold of what began in earnest over fifty years earlier and ran with it.  While my mother embraced all of the other aspects of this powerful re-emerging movement, she lamented one.  Strongly.

Co-parenting.

She and my step-father were raising four children from three combined previous relationships.  My mother found herself in the position of dealing with two ex-wives and regularly traveling great distances to retrieve children who were being raised in ways that were polar opposite from her standards.  Try as she might to befriend the women who once shared her husband’s bed, she found it extremely difficult to find enough commonalities with these women on which to build friendships.

My step-dad recognized the problem of my dad’s failure to spend time with me and his inconsistencies with his favorite child, my youngest brother.  So, my loving and generous step-dad offered for my dad to come spend the afternoons at our house, swimming, with my brother and me.  I think he thought it would afford my dad the opportunity to do something fun with us while not committing himself to any creativity or large chunk of time.  Come over.  Swim for a few hours.  Laugh and hug a bit.  Bond a little.  Run off again.

Unfortunately, my mother and my biological dad took advantage of my step-dad’s long work hours and us kids being occupied in the pool to continue their sexual relationship.  Their relationship began as a sexual one at a New Year’s Eve party, and it was the only thing they’d ever had in common and the only way they’d ever been able to connect.  Other than that, they fought like cats and dogs.  They had different aspirations, goals, parenting beliefs and styles, tastes, social circles, and religious beliefs, with a deep chasm between their intellects.

In spite of their continued physical relationship, they still fought about the only other two things that connected them:  money and us kids.

After an exceptionally long and futile argument my mother once complained to me, “If we could get along well enough to co-parent, we would have stayed married!”

Not that she was inferring their parenting disagreements severed the marriage, rather that if they were able to discuss their parenting differences and agree to meet somewhere in the middle on that issue they likely would have had the ability to do so in all other areas of conflict as well.

My mother being what she was, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.  She had a point.  I think she was dead on on this one.

It takes two mature, healthy, stable adults to sit down, discuss differences, and agree to an amiable conclusion.  If a married couple is so unable to do that on any level that life together becomes completely unbearable, how in the hell do the courts think things are going to magically change because they grant them a divorce?!

I didn’t divorce my husband because we had “grown apart.”  I didn’t choose to “go my own way.”  It was not his snoring, his lack of hygiene, talking with his mouth full, his laziness, his addictions, his vulgarities.  It wasn’t even his constant infidelity!

It was his persistent and insistent control over the children and me.  It was the horrific violence he metered out against the children and me for his perceived “lack of respect” toward him.  It was because I was CONFIDENT he was eventually going to kill us.  And, in the meantime, he was destroying us emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and intellectually.

And, I am now forced to co-parent with him.

The same cycles that were present in our marriage are still in operation.  That judge’s signature and the severing of our legal contract did not instantly correct his psychological aberrancies.

At Christmas time he didn’t pay child support, yet lavished expensive gifts on the children, and sought to talk to me constantly, wanting to coordinate gifts for the kids.  Then, after the first of the year, when I asked to speak to him on the phone about a visitation schedule, he yelled at me that he didn’t need to talk to me.  He and the children can work out the visitation schedule and just tell me when I need to deliver them and pick them up.

During those friendly Christmas conversations we discussed video games several times. I told him over and over again that our 7 year old is not allowed to play Halo.  It is a mature game and not for small children.  The Lego series are great for his age though.

Last fall I also stopped taking our 17 year old driving.  In just a few short months he has damaged or destroyed my chainsaw, the kerosene heater, the gate to our property, the new weed eater, a light fixture, my stereo, several glasses and plates, the drawers on his bed, every drill bit belonging to his younger brother, several window screens and frames, the kids’ pool pump, the door locks, the bath mat, and dinged my dining table. When I took him driving he consistently ran red lights, refused to listen to my directions and instructions, and ran up on a concrete barrier, scraping the entire length of the under carriage, front to back.  I told him he would have to earn back the privilege of driving once he demonstrated respect and responsibility.

Last month my 7 year old son threw a huge fit at his dad’s house.  He defied him and yelled at him, utterly refusing to turn off the video game and go outside after the allotted time as had been agreed.  I heard about it from the other two children.  Their individual renditions were identical, so I confronted J on it and grounded him from the video game at my house for the way he’d behaved at his father’s house.  I then called R to let him know that I’d been made aware of the incident and had disciplined J for it.  I expressed that I understand it must be difficult when you only have the children for six hours and that I didn’t want J to behave that way, believing there would be no consequences following such a short visitation.  R thanked me profusely for my support.

The very next visitation, a month later, R allowed J to play Halo during the entire visit.  He also allowed him to drink two sodas in one sitting.  Not only do I not allow the kids to drink soda, J’s teeth are a mess and are costing ME (because R fought in court to not be responsible for the kids’ medical and dental care) almost a thousand dollars over the next few months.  J’s teeth are in such horrible condition in part because when he lived here R demanded that I stop brushing J’s teeth, accusing me of hurting J by brushing and flossing.  Anything went on this last visitation, and, like a typical 7 year old boy, J reveled in it.  I’ve had nothing but behavioral problems since.

Two days before that visit, D fell in the bath tub and cut the bridge of her nose.  My adult daughter, a former employee of Child Protective Services, still a mandatory reporter working for the state under the auspices of CASA, was here when it happened.  She quickly called her husband, who holds a Masters in Nursing; he immediately came right over to examine his little sister in law.  In fact, he arrived while he was still on the phone to my daughter.  He came as though it was a serious emergency.  He very confidently stated that there was no need for stitches.  Butterflies would suffice.

Upon arrival at their dad’s house on Friday R questioned the kids as to what happened and then asked E to hand him his phone.  He wanted to take a picture of D’s nose and document it.  E refused, but R had let his intentions be known.

I also recently found out that R has been sneaking out here and picking up the 17 year old after school to take him driving when I’ve thought he was staying after school to make up credits needed to graduate on time.  He has also “disappeared” several Sunday afternoons after work, and it has turned out that he went driving with his dad.  These sneaky little visitations obviously don’t follow the court order.

Two weeks ago I asked to speak to R when the kids were finished with their weekly phone chat with him.  I told him about our upcoming trip and that we’d be gone during one of his weekends.  I offered him the weekend before we left in lieu of that missed visitation.  He expressed gratitude and was amiable, though nosy, asking about my new car and all about our itinerary and flight plans.  Though he was positive about my new car, telling me he thought it was a “good decision,” he punished me for it by sending the child support three weeks late.  I had predicted that!  Anyway, I digress, he said that he’d call back during the week to see if the kids wanted to spend time with him before we left.

He never called.  He didn’t take the visit offered to him.  He called Saturday night though to talk on the phone for a bit and let the children know that he’d had the day off.  There was no reason he couldn’t have taken them.  He just simply chose not to.  He tormented the kids all of January and February with what they took as threats when they said they didn’t want to go with him.  He argued and argued with the kids until I finally mouthed to E to say, “Dad, I don’t want to argue with you,” in an attempt to exit the loop.  He made comments like, “I CAN take you!” which made the kids feel like he would force them.  He was speaking in an overtly controlling manner.  But, now, suddenly, he seems disinterested.  He seems content to take them for four hours on Friday, no overnight, and four or five hours on Saturday, once a month, for a free for all visit.

I am trying to co parent with a psychopath because the court mandated that I spend the next thirteen years of my life in a friendly manner with a man who tried to kill me.  Yet, every week is different.  We never know what we’re going to get.  Just like when he lived here.  We dreaded 4 o’clock back then.  We never knew who might be pulling up the driveway.  We’d take turns being “the greeter” and feeling him out.  The rest of us would sneak around like mice, asking, “How is he?” once he was safely in the shower.  Now, we dread the second and fourth weekends and Sunday evenings.

Will there be head games?  Will he be demanding and controlling?  Will he yell?  Will he be negligent?  Will he even call?  Will he even want me to bring the kids by to him?

As the sole custodial parent (and the sane one), I’m trying to instill character in our children and raise them to be responsible, healthy, productive adults.  But, he subjugates my attempts and lessons at every turn.   He still wants to conquer us.  If anything, it is more subversive now, and more intense, because he views the divorce and loss of custody as a lost battle.  He must recover this lost ground and take back what is rightfully his as a man.

Throughout the marriage he was fond of saying, “I know how this game is played.”  I tried repeatedly to tell him that life is not a game.  These are people’s lives, children’s formative years, and they are not to be “played” with.  But, it was to no avail.

To him, this is still a game.  The children are pawns.  His objective is to defeat me, his perceived opponent.

Another of his favorite sayings was, “I’ll cut off my nose to spite my own face.”  I heard that FREQUENTLY.  He’s made it very clear.  He doesn’t care how much damage he does to his own life or the lives of the children if it enables him to destroy me.  You can’t co parent with someone like that.  Co parenting is an impossible ideal created by foolish and ignorant individuals with pie in the sky wishes.

I didn’t want a divorce.  I didn’t want to be divorced.  I’d have stayed through thick and thin.  I did stay through some unbelievably horrible actions!  In the words of my mother, “If we could get along well enough to co-parent, we would have stayed married!”  I only chose this route because the children needed safety and security from his craziness.  Unfortunately, the craziness of our system forces us to remain locked in his craziness as I struggle to co parent with a man who has no interest in parenting.

Sunshine and Roses

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Before anyone gets the impression that life is all sunshine and roses now one year post divorce, it isn’t.

I lie awake nights worrying how I’m going to pay for this new, cute little car.  I lie there in the dark listening to the sound of my wounded, fragile child grind his teeth and wait for the first morning light to peek through so I can drag my tired, aching body into another day.  I swallow any pride I have left as I allow clients to talk to me like I’m ignorant.  I disregard insensitive or accusatory remarks from those who are obviously still angry that I chose to live my new life by my own standards and not theirs.  And, I paid my rent late this month.  I had a choice:  pay the rent on time or buy food.  I chose to feed my children and let the rent slide for a week.  My teenage son makes our home life unbearable as he triggers the younger children and me with his aggressive, demanding, nosy behavior.  He makes mess after mess, leaving them all for us.  And, now, he has even stopped flushing the toilet.  He leaves that for us, too.

Sometimes I yearn for a man’s touch, the warmth of a strong arm around my weary shoulders.

My recent positive, light posts are not an indication that I’m living large and flying high above those old problems.  They’re an indication that I’ve made a choice, a conscience choice, to seek out that which is light, to be thankful for the sweet scent of hope.

Every moment bestows the opportunity for a new choice.  What to eat.  What to watch.  What to do.  Who to see or talk to.  And, most importantly, how to perceive every bit of data my heart and mind receive.

One year ago he finally signed the papers that released me from my contract with hell itself.  It has been a struggle.  It has been difficult.  But, the journey has been worth it, like hiking up a tall mountain.  I’m not at the pinnacle yet.  I can’t rest and breathe the fresh, clean air in deeply through my nostrils as I take in the magnificent view from the top.  But, I can, in these moments of the climb, choose to enjoy the glimpses of a beautiful view I know is coming.  I can choose to enjoy the burn in my muscles because it makes me feel alive, and I can be grateful I’m capable of walking this journey on my own two feet.  I choose to enjoy the memories I’m making on this strenuous hike, knowing that they will be my bragging rights some day.  Somewhere out there in the future I will marvel and glory at what I came through to get to where I’m going to be.  Right now it’s hard, but I look down those craggy rocks and see how far I’ve already come and I’m encouraged that I can go the rest of the way.

It’s still a lot of stones and dark, shady places.  It’s not all sunshine and roses.  Yet.  Not quite yet.  I’m simply choosing to bask in every beam of sunlight coming through the trees.

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