Online Dating Safety; Part Two

Tags

, , , , ,

A party guest nudged in to the sink tonight to rinse his wine glass, and I wished him happy anniversary on this, his 45th wedding anniversary.  He willingly and joyfully shared his story with me:  He’d been a fireman.  His apartment had a bar.  Hers did not.  So, she began frequenting his apartment complex’s bar.  The first night she walked in he turned to his friend and said, “See that girl?  The girl standing in the doorway?  I could marry her.”  It took him eleven months to get the guts to introduce himself.  He walked up to her at almost 9 o’clock on December 28 and asked her to dinner.  She said yes, and they hurried to the nicest steak house in town.  They let them in though it was nearly closing time, and they had the place to themselves.  He proposed a month later, and they were married two months after that, three months to the day that he had introduced himself.  The rest…..is history.

I told him my best friend and her mother-in-law both said they would “marry that man” the first time they laid eyes on their husbands.  He said that he has friends who also have experienced that and lived happily til death.  He said, “When it’s right, you know it.  You just know it.”

He then asked how long I’ve been married.  When I told him I’m divorced, he immediately asked if I’d like a good man in my life.  Of course!  I explained, “I’m very happy.  I’m content.  I have UH-MAZING friends, beautiful children and grandchildren; I really love what I do for a living; and I feel fulfilled writing my blog.  I’m not desperate.  I don’t feel like I need a man.  It would just be nice……”

He told me that anyone I meet will have to pass muster with all of the people who are a part of this group I was hostessing for, and he let me know he’s on the search to find me a good man.

That’s why I’ve been on one date, if you can call it that, in the almost four years since my ex-husband left.  I’m holding out for a good man.

And, I do have a “safety” list.  This one list that I look at nearly every day lately.  I wrote it shortly after R left.  I wrote it while the pain and fear were fresh, when I didn’t think I could recover from the mess of my life.  I wrote it when the memories of his cruelty were FRESH.

These are the required attributes of the next man:

  1. All consuming faith
  2. Transparent and honest
  3. Dependable
  4. Strong and independent
  5. Gentle
  6. Supportive
  7. Financially healthy
  8. Brave
  9. Patient
  10. Confident
  11. Thoughtful
  12. A COURAGEOUS MAN (like the movie)

Each of the bachelors I’ve met online have been put to this litmus test, and nearly all have failed miserably.

Bachelor #2 speaks clear and fluent Christianese.  But, it all seems a little smarmy.  There’s an uneasy feeling in my gut.  Something just isn’t right, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.  I just know it.  However, on our weird date-not-a-date it all became crystal clear when I assessed him according to THE LIST.

He asked what I wanted to eat, and I told him, having just got off work, I really just wanted water.  He feigned being upset that the waiter hadn’t brought my water because he’d asked for it before I arrived.   I told him it was okay.  I was sure the waiter would be around shortly.  He said, “No!”  and got up to go tell the waiter to bring me water.  Kinda seems chivalrous, right?  He’s taking care of my needs, right?  Not really.  He didn’t respect my no.  He expected the waiter to stop waiting on other customers to bring me, Princess, my water.  That just doesn’t seem very gentle or patient, does it?

Over dinner he told me how he’d had a successful business but let it go after his first divorce because he was just too upset to handle it.  His house was auctioned off last week because he couldn’t deal with everything after his second divorce…..FIVE FRICKEN YEARS AGO!   [Insert sound of screeching brakes or needle scratching across a record.]   He allows his business to just fail because his little feelers are hurt?!  In five years’ time he can’t get his shit together enough to pay his house payment because he got dumped a second time?!   Doesn’t sound dependable, strong and independent, brave, or financially healthy, does he?

Then, there’s Bachelor #3.  He constantly baited me, letting me know that he really doesn’t think much of women in general.  We’re apparently all greedy and bossy.  At least he was transparent and honest!  But, he’d have never been gentle, supportive, patient, thoughtful, or courageous.  And, I knew it.

Bachelor #4 recently sent me an email telling me how angry he was that I had not returned his email, and it had been over a week.  He’s feeling like our communication is very one-sided.   Oh, boo hoo.  Seems like someone has forgotten that he doesn’t own me and isn’t entitled to my response or my time after exchanging a mere four or five emails.  His little verbal temper tantrum screamed that he will never be independent or patient.  He wants it and he wants it now, and he needs my attention!

Bachelors #3, 5, and 7 all follow soft core porn pages on Facebook, so that whole Courageous thing???   Not gonna happen.  Guy #5 even went so far as to ask for a picture of me in my swimsuit and then asked for me to tell him what I would do to him if he were here.  When I refused, he said that our “relationship/friendship” couldn’t continue unless we could tell each other everything.  Hmmm…….manipulative much?

Bachelor #6 does not view those types of pages.  He professes a sincere and deep love for Christ.  But, he believes that if a woman like me marries, I’ll be forcing the man to commit adultery every day of his life because I’m divorced.  There is no freedom from the sins of my ex, no redemption of the years the locusts ate, no hope in Christ for a new life.  Not for me.  I’m divorced.  Apparently that is the unpardonable sin.  I’m still confused as to why he was on a dating site, looking for a partner, when he is also divorced.  He doesn’t believe he has the “right” to remarry either.  But, he moved a woman into his house for several months.  Apparently willful fornication is forgivable.  Divorce, for any reason, is not.  Sorry, I’m standing on I Corinthians 7:15 and Matthew 5:22.   My unbelieving ex-husband committed adultery and abandoned me.  God says I’m no longer bound.  Bachelor #6’s all-consuming faith seems to be in his own cafeteria style theology.

And, I suspected, on our very first communications, that Bachelors 2 through 7 weren’t “it.”  There was something amiss.  Something just didn’t feel right.   I knew it before I looked at THE LIST that there was something wrong with them.

When I attend functions, like tonight, even though it was work, and everyone else is a happy couple, I could get to feeling like I should excuse some things.  After all, everyone is human.  We’re all sinful.  We all make mistakes.  I can’t be too particular.  I’m not perfect; I certainly can’t expect perfection out of anyone else.

But, then, there’s THE LIST.  Whether or not my elderly friend at the party tonight really examines any potential suitor or not, they must pass the muster of THE LIST, my list.  And, it is condemning.

The bottom line is, I’d rather be alone than with the wrong man.  Again.  I’d rather wait until it’s right for me.  And, I’ll know it when it is.  I’ll know because I have THE LIST and also because I’ve learned to trust my own gut instincts.

Online Dating Safety, Part One

Tags

, , , ,

I’m one of those folks who makes a list for everything.  Sometimes I do things that aren’t on my list, and I add them to it just so I can cross them off.  I like the look of a long, completed list at the end of the day.

After writing my last post, I received some messages giving me tips on how to be careful, steps to take to avoid being raped by some cyberstalker.  These messages came from well-meaning, loving individuals!  But, I have to be honest:  This is one instance where I don’t believe a list is helpful.

Anyone who has read my blog from the beginning knows that I was violently and viciously raped by a close friend, someone everyone in my circle trusted.  You also know the weird sexual stuff that has gone on in my family.  You know my experience with the youth pastor; he was trusted by the entire community.  And, you know that my family repeatedly chased off decent men and screamed that my ex would be a great husband for me.  It isn’t always safe to trust the opinions of those around you.  They aren’t necessarily looking out for your best interest, nor are they more adept at seeing evil.  You can see evil for yourself if you stay alert to it.  

I was once stalked by a guy who worked near my house.  He decided he liked me and was not going to take no for an answer.  A few years before, his brothers beat up a girl at the high school for rejecting the one brother’s advances.  When she bent over the water fountain to get a drink, they pulled one arm behind her back in such a way as to break it as they slammed her face into the basin.  Only meeting men in your local area does not guarantee your safety.

photo from kcfisherfamily.blogspot.com

photo from kcfisherfamily.blogspot.com

Granted, my views are extremely tainted due to my personal experiences, but I think the same rules apply online as in real life.  And, I don’t think safety is to be found in formulae.

Though certain rules seem like no brainers, ultimately, my security comes from within me.  I make myself vulnerable no matter where I am or who I’m with when I don’t have an objective, when I don’t value that thing I’m supposed to be protecting:  ME.

Even my job places me in risky situations.  I go into the homes of total strangers and lay on the floor, lean over the toilet, and spend most of my day bent over with my back turned.  One former client locked everyone in the house.  No one could get in or out without him unlocking a door with the key he carried on himself at all times.  Dating isn’t the only threat out there.

We seem to be bombarded by reports of women and children being abducted from parking lots and their own neighborhoods.  Sadly, too often, they’re either never seen again or they’re eventually found dead.  Whether it’s a stranger in a parking lot, the guy down the street, our own husbands, or some stranger on a dating site, we are vulnerable.

My dad always talked a lot about situational awareness, utilizing what’s available to you, and completing what you start.  And, that’s it.  IF I believe in a formula for safety, that’s it.  Across the board.

Situational awareness is CRITICAL.  Are we pretty much just always lost in our own thoughts?  Or, the dreaminess of our date’s eyes?  On a mission when we hurriedly walk in a public place?  Looking down at our cell phones?  Or, do we notice who’s standing by the door?  Who walked across the hall to the back of the office?  Are we paying attention to our surroundings?  And, more importantly, are we paying attention to that sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs?  Have we learned to trust that hunch, that sensation when the little hairs stand up on the back of our necks?  God gave it to us for a reason!  We need to learn to listen to it and not brush it aside.

If we find ourselves in a difficult situation, do we recognize what’s available to us as a form of defense?  Are we prepared to protect ourselves?  Can we utilize the resources available to us in that given moment to either flee or fight?  I’m not necessarily referring to pepper spray!  It could be something as simple as knowing how to up your privacy settings and block a new suitor/weird client/abusive family member from your phone and your social media.  What is available to you that will place a hedge of protection around you?

And, finish what you’ve started…….for me, that’s healing and living a free life that I enjoy.  God emptied me completely, so He could fill me with Him and give me the life that He created me to live.  Why in His name would I throw all of that away now?  It would be more than a waste of time and energy–it would be a travesty, bordering on blasphemy–to set aside all that I’ve learned just to have a man in my life.  I’m worth more than that!  I’m worth so much that the King of Kings laid down his life for ME!  And, for YOU!  I can’t be careless with the life that He has given me.  I must protect it.  It is of great VALUE.  I must press on toward the mark, Philippians 3:14.  I must finish what I’ve started, and I must allow Him to finish what He has begun in my life.

To Be Continued………….

Online Dating

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Being single isn’t easy.  Logistically or emotionally.  Nor is it easy to field the questions and understand the social expectations.

Friends have recommended I try online dating.  No thanks; that’s just desperate and creepy.  Clients have asked if I’m bitter, a man hater, hung up on the ex.  My own elderly uncle asked if I’ve become a lesbian now because of what that man put me through.

But, when I tell people I met a nice man I’m just talking to, some friends, some of the same friends who recommended the online thing, tell me they’re worried about me.

They’re worried I’ve been alone for a reasonably long time.  They’re worried when I meet someone.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t win for losing.

What is a single woman to do?

They used to say that your chances of being the victim of an act of terrorism were greater than your chances of getting married over 40.  So the joke goes, our chances are increasing in the world today!  Hey!  Awesome!  Not.

I have a confession to make.  I did it.  I signed up for online dating.  Because, regardless of what the worriers and naysayers think, I deserve and need love and companionship just as much as the next girl.  In fact, maybe more.  So, creepy and desperate I am!

image from news.techgenie.com

A couple of months ago I’d received a friend request from a man on a page I follow.  We had exchanged some witty comments, and we obviously had a common interest.  It seemed okay to become Facebook friends.

Am I ever glad we did!

As much as Facebook is an intrusion into our privacy, it’s kind of nice to be able to know what a new friend is doing, what kind of photos they’re liking, what trolling comments they’re making.  Within two short weeks I was able to see that this guy was not who he was telling me he was, he has a mean spirit that he wasn’t showing me, and he apparently has an addiction to porn.

In the real world, at work or through friends, it could have been months before any of that came out.  And, once it did, ending it could have been very awkward.  Online, it was easy.  Unfriend and block with just a few clicks.  It was then that it hit me how truly great online dating could be.  There just could be some advantages to the whole thing.

So far, I can’t even begin to tell you how many men I’ve chatted with.  I’m only on one site.  It’s a small site geared toward a particular common interest, and the men outnumber the women two to one.  I’ve “met” some seemingly very nice men.  Some I pray for, and they say they pray for me.  But, I know I’d never want to date them.

As we write good old-fashioned letters (via email) I get to see how they respond to things and what they focus on.  I get an inside peek into what makes them tick without having to leave my children or get dressed up.  And, there is no temptation that comes with sitting across the table from an attractive man.  I mean, let’s be honest, when it’s been a long time since you’ve been held in a man’s arms and heard compliments come from a deep voice, it might be easy to overlook those problem issues when you’ve got a live one right in front of you!

I’m once again learning how to talk to men.  I’d forgotten.  In all the years of silence and suffering, I’d learned to not respond or to only respond in an acceptable, “supportive” way.  I’m unsure, even around women, if my conversation and responses are appropriate or odd.   At the end of the day, I weigh my words over and over again, wondering and fearful that I may have been offensive or stupid.

I can’t hide away–fearful, bitter, and untrusting.  I have to try to live again.  And, that means warily inviting people into my life.  From opening up a conversation with the cashier to reconnecting with old friends to meeting men, I need to make connections with other human beings.

So, I appreciate these men who are just as lonely as I am.  I appreciate that they are honest enough to say they want someone in their lives.  I’m grateful when they’re honest enough to say they don’t think we’ll be a match.  I enjoy the witty banter and the compliments.  And, I’m learning to feel comfortable expressing myself.

Each of these flat pictures on the screen represents a human being.  For whatever reason, we’re touching each other’s lives.  We may just be catalysts for growth, and, most of the time, that does indeed seem to be the case.  We work through the murky waters of getting back out there from the safety of our computerized cocoons.  For me and the men I’ve chosen to maintain conversations with, it seems finding “The One” is secondary to building a solid, happy life.  And, I’ve come to realize that they’re just as scared as I am!  Not all men are monsters who are just out looking for the next victim.  Who knew?!

And, this whole experience has the added benefit of building my confidence.  I walk a little taller, stand a little straighter, smile a little more.  Even if I never receive another email from any of these men, the ones who’ve told me I’m beautiful or asked how I’ve stayed so slender with so many children have made me feel feminine again.  That is mine to keep now.  The ones who have asked me questions about subjects I know something about and have commented that I’m a “fount of information” have made me feel intelligent again.  That is now mine to keep as well.

I don’t want to be the woman who garners her value via a man’s opinion.  But, I need to reclaim what was stolen from me….by men.  My girlfriends can give me encouragement all day, and, for me, it just doesn’t say the same thing.  I do need men to give back to me what men took:  that sense that a man could value me.   It’s one thing to be strong in a group of women.  It’s another thing to stand strong before a man when you’ve been so utterly destroyed by the men in your previous life.

And, my self-confidence is boosted when I walk away, when I hit block or choose to not write back.  My fearful friends love me and are worried about me, but they’re telling me they don’t trust me and my judgment when they act like that.  They’re saying that I am responsible for my own pain, not my abusers who chose me and groomed me, and I’m too stupid or too wounded to be trusted to make decisions for my own life.  That in itself is harmful to my growth in my new life.  I must be allowed to make my own decisions and fail and grow and learn.  The majority of my past were forced or coerced situations.  To move past that, I desperately need the opportunity to make my own choices, right or wrong.

So, I guess I am desperate.  But, not in the way some people would think if I told them I’m using online dating.

There are creeps online, but there are creeps in “real life,” too.  It’s a matter of learning to use discretion and my own GOOD judgment no matter what waters I wade into.

Wandering in the Wilderness; Part Two

Tags

, , , , , ,

So, where do we go and what do we do with all of our ingratitude that is supposedly holding us back from the life of our dreams?

I think we should wallow in it awhile.  I do!  I think it’s a good place for us to sit and ponder.  I think we need to feel it, embrace it, and allow ourselves the freedom to really experience it before we bag it for a better attitude.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for all things.  It even says there is a time to hate.  (How many times have we also been told not to hate?)  My mind runs to Job and his plight, how his friends were clueless on how to console him.  I think about all of those who sat in sack cloth, covered in ashes, outside the city, experiencing loss and, with it, a bit of grief and ingratitude for the current situation.  Sure, Job said that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  He willingly accepted the evil in his life.  But, there came a time when he grieved, when he was not grateful for his situation.  Instead, he wished he’d never been born.  And, his friends chided him for it.  Just like people chide us for not getting up and moving on, fully accepting all that God has done in our lives.  What are we doing sitting in these ash heaps?  Much like we chide those ungrateful, foolish Israelites for not dancing their way through the wilderness with full hearts.

What I think people sometimes forget about the Israelites is they, like Job, had lost sons.

And, whether we’ve physically lost our children through death or custody loss, or we’ve witnessed them die spiritually, or we’ve lost a relationship with them as they’ve picked up the mantle of abuse, we’ve lost children, too.

Job expressed a feeling of being overwhelmed in the aftermath of such great loss.  Certainly the Israelites must have felt overwhelmed, too.  Survivors of abuse feel overwhelmed trying to acclimate into “normal” life, whatever that is.

Job thought it would have been better if he’d never been born.  The Israelites thought it would have been better to have remained in Egypt.  And, sometimes we wonder if it would have been better to have stayed in our abusive marriages.  (There, I said it.  Because, honestly, don’t we sometimes think we’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire?  And, isn’t that part of why we’re ungrateful?)

The point of this life though isn’t this life.  The point is to make us more like Jesus, to make us ready for eternity with the Father.  And, I think that is just what this experience does for us.

Jesus is our perfect example, and we cannot possibly be perfect like him.  He was tempted but was without sin.  Unlike us.  Hence, our daily need for Him!  But, even our perfect Savior sweat great drops of blood in the garden and asked if the cup could pass from him.  He wasn’t praising the Father and thanking Him for this wonderful opportunity to suffer horrendously for the sake of all mankind.  He submitted willingly and gently, but He expressed fear and pain and anxiety.  And, because He suffered, not just the physical pain of the cross but also the mental and emotional anguish of its anticipation, we have a High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, Hebrews 4:15

That gives me HOPE in my ungrateful attitude in these dark days following trauma.  I can take it to my High Priest without shame.  I can freely talk to Him about it.  He gets it.  He understands.

Hebrews also gives us a little more insight into the Israelites and their “issue” in the wilderness when it tells us the Lord was displeased with the hardness of their hearts.  Instead of merely grieving and not expressing thankfulness in the current circumstance, like Job or Jesus, the Israelites actively and openly rebelled in their state of unthankfulness.  Jesus’s heart wasn’t hard when He sweat those drops of blood and asked for a way to avoid what was coming down the pike.  Job’s heart wasn’t hard when he rued the day he was born.

Their hearts remained tender.  As ours should.

Jesus is an approachable High Priest because He experienced what we experience.  Hopefully we’re learning to be compassionate and approachable in all of this.  Hopefully someday we’ll be lifted up out of our ash heaps and into places where we’ll be called upon to sit with someone else in their ash heap and bring them comfort.  Hopefully, we will, unlike Job’s friends, bring that comfort.  Because we know what it’s like.  We get it.  We’ve experienced what they are experiencing.  In that moment, hopefully we’ll be a little bit more like Jesus because of what we’ve been through.

That I can be thankful for.

Wandering in the Wilderness; Part 1

Tags

, , , , ,

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat through a pastor or study leader condemning the children of Israel for complaining, rebelling, and generally having bad attitudes.

Here they were, being led by God Himself, their clothes were miraculously still nice with no holes; they drank water out of a rock and ate manna and quail in abundance; they were protected from enemies; they were given the Ten Commandments.  It was a time of being alone, as alone as a people can get when they number in the millions, with God.

And, yet, these ingrates complained constantly.  What a bunch of whiners!  Really!  Can you imagine how wonderful it must have been to see their enemies destroyed and to be led day and night by The Lord?  Right there with ya?!

I’ve always cringed and kept silent at those studies.  I relate to those Israelites.  I get it!

half emptyI’ve struggled with the “Wilderness Syndrome” since my parents divorced.  In spite of the other difficulties in my childhood, I still saw my glass as half full.  Sure, my own mother hated me, but I knew my dad and my Nana loved me.  Sure, my grandpa molested me, but my other grandpa was very, very good to me.  He was kind and gentle and loving and taught me how to garden and refinish furniture.  He attended my school functions and provided taxi service to them as well.  Sure, I was hungry and bleeding for years on end.  But, when I was at my grandparents’ house I ate tuna casserole and sausage with toast and strawberries and pie and corn fresh from the stalk, raw and sweet.  I felt trapped in a hell of sorts when left alone with my mother, but I had my books to escape to when the weather was bad.  And, when the weather was good, I could run or ride through the fields and escape to the barn with my animals.  And, there was always September to look forward to when I could start school and be patted on the head and adored by my teacher.

My glass was half full.

I remember knowing that my world, as truly awful as it was, was ending when my dad walked out and took all goodness with him.  He no longer cared, and I would seldom see him.  Now, my grandparents would resent having us because they’d be forced to take us all the fricken time.  We were no longer novelty.  We were responsibility in old age.  The barn, the fields, and the animals were exchanged for concrete and a swimming pool that sat behind a transparent chain link fence.  We were exposed and out in the open.  No more hiding from the world.  School became its own kind of hell in the more populous town.  We subsisted off of Pepsi and pizza morning, noon, and night as the party was always at our house.  Crude, raunchy, drunk adults throwing boxes of pizza at the kids in the pool to keep us out of their way.

My glass was half empty.

And, it’s been half empty ever since.

The Israelites were allowed to get hungry and thirsty before God provided those things they cried for.  And, I know what it’s like to be hungry, thirsty, and crying. And, I have a bit of a hard time with those who are full and happy with pretty little lives who will sit and wag their heads at those ungrateful Israelites.

I know I’m probably way off base and really wrong for siding with the ingrates.  I just do.

Count your blessings they say.  List all of the good things in your life.  Have an attitude of gratitude.  Thankfulness is the key to happiness.  Or, abundance.

Trite little expressions to those wandering in the wilderness.  Those whose water comes from the rock only after they’ve thirsted.  Those whose food rains down from heaven only after they’ve known hunger.

I am grateful for the goodness He’s poured out on me.  I am not knocking the graciousness of God, and I am well aware I don’t deserve His kindnesses. I’m just saying the walk gets long and lonely.  And, I can’t fault those who call it what it is. Those who’ve never wandered would like us to sing Kumbaya and skip through the darkness, looking with anticipation for the light on the other side of the forest. It’s just not that easy.  And, I get that.  I get that the Israelites were displaced, lost, wandering, scared, hungry, thirsty, traumatized, and just wanted to sit down.  The last thing they wanted to do was wander for forty years, without a home, without rest.

I Know What I Want, and It Isn’t You

Tags

, , ,

The second anniversary of my dissolution decree is coming up next month, and I have not started dating yet.  I think I’m ready.  I just haven’t met anyone.  My friends tell me to try online dating, but I’m very skeptical about the whole thing.

I did casually “meet” a man online.  We both follow a particular group page, and we both jokingly commented on a strand.  After which, he sent me a friend request.  Shortly after that we began texting daily.

It has been fun!  I won’t lie, I’ve looked forward to morning greetings, “Good Morning, Beautiful Lady.”  The attention has been nice.

It seems we have everything in common.  Our goals, belief systems, likes and dislikes, even activities we are both currently actively pursuing….all right in line with each other.

There’s just one little thing.  And, it’s a big thing.

I Facestalked him.  I felt horrible doing it.  I truly did.  I knew I was invading his privacy.  But, we all know that everyone is watching us on Facebook.  Isn’t that part of its allure?  We’re all the stars of our own little shows?  We fool ourselves into thinking that everyone really cares what we’re feeling at any given moment, what our opinion is on yoga pants, and what our dinner looks like.

Some of his friends are, well, they look a bit like prostitutes.  One of his recently added friends is an incredibly sexy young woman from Bangkok who was born the year he graduated high school.  It seems they have no mutual friends and no common interests as far as pages they follow.

He and I are both pro 2nd amendment types.  The pages I follow and like are political and military groups.  The ones he follows are sexy women holding guns and bows.  One supposedly former police officer is a gorgeous Asian woman whose cover photo is her in a skin-tight dress–so tight you can see her butt crack–bent over a sofa and holding a pistol.

The warning signs are flashing all over the screen.

So, with my balloon popped, I took off my rose-colored glasses and started asking him some rather pointed questions.  Why did he get a divorce?  Is he close to his brother?  Was there a custody battle?  What exactly does he do for a living?  I didn’t understand it when he initially told me.

As the last few weeks have unraveled, so has the mystery of who this man is.

He’s been divorced for five years and is still living with his brother, with whom he has nothing in common, because it allows him to not have to work as much.  This is so he can be there for his daughter.

He sent me a picture of camouflage yoga shorts and asked me if I’d wear them if he bought them for me.  And, he indicated that he expects me to work out with him.

I’ll be 50 years old this year and have given birth seven times.  Trust me, no one wants to see me in yoga shorts!

My abuser owned a gym before we met and continued to work out every day of his life.  That was his priority.  And, he used his strength against me to wound me.  He forced me to work out with heavy weights, which caused damage to my body.  Just the other day my 8-year-old asked why my right tibia protrudes so badly.  That injury occurred because I was told I was fat and gross just weeks after giving birth to him.  I was forced to do leg extensions with a ridiculously heavy weight and tore the ligament.  It never healed right.

I have no desire to ever lift weights again.  Especially under the guidance of a man!

I work myself sick, and I don’t advocate it.  I’m sick again right now.  No one should be this exhausted 24/7.  No one should shoulder so many heavy burdens.  But, I do it because I believe my hard work will pay off someday.  I do it because I believe I’m setting a good example for my kids.  There is honor in work of all kinds.

I question a man who says that other men need lessons in good old-fashioned hard work, yet chooses to live in another man’s house so he admittedly doesn’t have to work full-time.

I question a man who says he believes in God and believes women should be treated with respect, yet follows sex laden pages covered in degrading photos.

I’ve learned a lot from meeting this man online.  I’ve learned that I am ready to meet someone.  This being the lone wolf business is getting old.  I’ve learned that I have a very, very long list of nonnegotiables.  And, I’ve learned that, perhaps, online dating isn’t such a bad idea.  People display who they are for the world to see.  If you want to look with your eyes wide open, you can really get to know someone very quickly by observing their online activity.  No more wasting time getting to know someone slowly over months as they hide things masterfully from you.  No more getting emotionally involved only to be let down once the truth comes out.  And, I’ve learned that I know exactly what I want in a man.  And, it isn’t this guy.

50 Shades of Abuse

Tags

,

The movie Fifty Shades of Gray comes out in a few days, Valentine’s Day weekend.  Valentine’s Day:  The day we celebrate love.  And, that is when Hollywood has chosen to release a movie about control and abuse, the exact opposite of love!  Please do not support the degradation of women by spending money to watch this movie!  Instead, please consider sending that movie money to a ministry that helps women recover after abuse.  This particular ministry helped me pay my bills and buy necessities for my children and myself when I was absolutely destitute, and they have continued to offer friendship and support and gifts of love.  Please click on the link below to find out more!  Thank you!  And, may we all know and witness TRUE LOVE, not our culture’s sick and twisted version of it.

Sometimes I Break

Tags

, , , , ,

I rise up and feel strong.  I know I’m a fighter, and I’m grateful for all I’ve been through that has brought me to where I am today.  I feel immense joy when my grandchildren wrap their sweet little arms around my neck, and I experience tremendous contentment just sitting beside one of my many precious friends.

And, then, I drop.  Sometimes I break.  Taking me by surprise, my highs become lows.

My heart has ached all day for my 18-year-old who drove to my house FOUR times yesterday.  He had drill today for the first time since graduating boot camp.  Yet, his father, who he has moved in with, wasn’t home to provide him words of wisdom.  He chose to be gone, with his girlfriend I’m sure, instead of being the sage father our son needed him to be in his moment of insecurity.  It was proof again to me that he only wanted to take our son away from me.  He didn’t really desire to meet any of this young man’s needs.

For all we’ve been through, our son chooses to be there though he must come back here for support.

My daughter justifies my oldest son’s cruelty to me.  I deserve it.  His harsh words about her and their brother….those, those were unnecessary and unfair.  He took it too far when he moved beyond me.  What do I say to that?

Nothing.  I sit and I stare blankly.  I stand and feel faint, nearly falling over.  And, I blame it on not eating and my neck being out.

I see on Facebook that the ex bought himself a new tablet.  My son posted that his dad mispronounced gigabyte and didn’t know what it meant.  But, “at least he’s trying,” said my son.  My daughter liked the post and commented, “LOL!”

When have I ever been excused because at least I’m trying?  Never.  Never in my children’s eyes.  Yet, the man who brutally beat and choked and tried to kill all of us is buying toys for himself and trying, and that’s funny.

They refuse to be involved with my half-brother.  They refuse to forgive my other son’s ex for “crimes” she never committed.  But, I wonder if it’s really my brother and my grandson’s mother whom they hate.  Or, if the real problem is that my brother, though wary of our entire family, calls to check on me.  And, my grandson’s mother includes me as part of her family.

Is it that anyone who loves me must be pushed away?  And, anyone who hates me is to be forgiven and embraced no matter how heinous their behavior?

Sometimes I break under the weight of the burden of my own offspring’s disregard for me and everyone I care about.

I can’t allow myself to go there though.  Really.  I do honestly have the best friends on the planet.  I have three younger children who still need me.  I have two grandchildren who love and need me.  And, I’ve been chatting with a wonderful man.

I’m dancing again.  My love.  My passion.  Moving my body in complete control, out of control, expressing all of my love and my pain and my unutterable emotions through movement.

I’ve nearly paid off all of that awful marital debt.  Forty dollars remain of that $5,500 I was saddled with in the divorce.  A mere forty dollars, and I’m free of nearly all vestiges of a nightmare I lived for sixteen years.

Except for the disdain of my children.  That remains.  That will likely always remain.  And, sometimes I break in spite of the numerous good things in my new free life.

Disaster Preparedness and the Disaster Management Cycle

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I took a First Aid and CPR class last fall.  It was a good class, better than the half a dozen or more that I’ve taken over the years.  My advisor told me the class was required for graduation.  It turned out it wasn’t, but I’m still really glad I took it.  My certification had expired in April, so, for personal reasons, it wasn’t a waste of time or money.

The instructor highly recommended following it up with a Disaster Preparedness class he taught at the other campus over forty miles away.  That wasn’t doable for me, but it piqued my interest.  It was something I’d love to be able to do.  So, when I found out the University of Pittsburgh offers an online Disaster Preparedness course, I jumped on it!

I’ve honestly had a hard time focusing on the specifics of disaster preparedness though.  I keep correlating it all to divorce involving domestic violence.  And, it correlates perfectly!

The four phases of disaster preparedness are Mitigation (Planning), Response, Recovery, and Mitigation.  It reminded me of the process of extricating my abuser from my life.

The Mitigation process required getting involved with the local domestic violence support group.  I was trying to follow the rest of the recommended steps:  getting out of debt, finding work, making copies of important documents.  However, my health crisis ran up debt and made work impossible.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, my abuser left before my mitigation phase could be accomplished.  He, on the other hand, had completed his.  He had a private bank account loaded with money.  Bills were all in my name.  He’d stolen all of my passwords and our social security numbers over the course of several months before he left.  He had secured a place to live and people to help him in his attack.  He had legal papers ready.

Then, BOOM!  Disaster struck!

The instructor of this course defines disaster as an event that overwhelms all available resources.  By its very definition, my divorce was a disaster.  It overwhelmed all of my available resources.

The second phase is Response.  The goal of this phase is to “survive disaster as best as possible, to save life, limb, and property.”  And, that is certainly all I could try to do for two years:  survive as best as possible.

A lot of people tried to “encourage” me to jump immediately to the third stage of Recovery.  Some even chastised me for being seemingly unable to deal with or cope “appropriately.”  They falsely believed that the best thing for me to do was ignore the Response phase that had been thrust upon me and just start trying to Recover.  I knew though that was absolutely impossible.  This course teaches that it is impossible.  There is a very clear and specific path, and phases cannot be jumped or skipped.  It just doesn’t work that way.  You must clear the rubble before you can rebuild.

One of the Powerpoint slides gives the heading “Recovery.”  It then states, “The long slow process of returning to Normal?”  It also lists the five needs to be addressed following the disaster:

  1. Housing
  2. Services (Clean up)
  3. Financial Aid
  4. Businesses
  5. Physical and psychological help (Decompressing)

Following my disaster, I needed to know if I could continue living in my current home.  Or, I needed to find another place to live.  I’m grateful that I’ve been able to stay here and didn’t end up homeless, but my housing is HIGHLY inadequate and substandard.  Truly, it is still an issue that needs addressed.

The clean up stage of the second phase was protracted for me because of my abuser’s insistence on keeping us embroiled in a court battle.  We also received poor counseling.  Some counseling was so bad that it set us back.  Some damaged my children, and we are still suffering those consequences.  The services we received were not in line with the goal of preserving life, limb, and property.  We lost nearly all of our property at the cost of increased debt, and our lives were placed in greater jeopardy by uncaring court and counseling systems.

There were countless individuals who gave and gave and gave financial aid.  We were and are still blessed with some extremely generous people in our lives.  However, there were a few people in our lives who thought they could tell us what our needs were without taking an assessment of the situation.  There were some who disregarded us with comments like, “Aren’t there government programs to help people like you?”  Some kindly gave help that wasn’t really help.

This other group of people would be considered untrained.  A panel discussion in my class addressed the problem they’ve seen repeatedly throughout their careers in emergency response.  They noted that they have to ask groups not to send stuff that isn’t needed.  That only creates more problems.  Unasked for stuff goes to waste and creates more work.  Assistance needs to be organized and requested, and the group needs to do the work themselves.

There have been well-meaning people who’ve dropped off bags of clothes and toys to us for us to go through, mend, or “just throw out what you don’t need.”  When I was already overwhelmed and exhausted, the last thing I needed was more bags of stuff to go through.  I didn’t have the time or energy to sit down and sew torn clothing.  I didn’t have the time or the gas to donate what we couldn’t use (clothing for the wrong gender for instance) or the money to pay to have the garbage man haul away what they didn’t want to throw out themselves.  It only created more problems and more work.

Businesses being able to come back in, offer employment, and reestablish themselves in a community is the FOURTH stage.  This can be compared to finding gainful employment.  Many, many people thought that should have been my TOP priority following our disaster.  Honestly, I’m not a lazy person, but that just is not even possible immediately following a devastating event.

The final stage listed is physical and psychological decompression.  People have a need to decompress after a traumatic incident.  We humans need to talk to someone, perhaps everyone, about what we’ve just been through in order to process it, understand it ourselves, and cope.  We need to be heard, to be truly listened to.  We also need to be given the opportunity to physically decompress.  We need a break in time to rest and heal from the effects of the horrific stress we’ve just experienced.

Unfortunately, survivors of domestic violence don’t have such luxuries.  Frequently, we’re silenced by the courts.  My oldest daughter recently commented that she can see growth in me because I “no longer talk about the same things over and over.”  The reality is, people don’t want to hear us tell our stories.  They get tired of listening to us.  They incorrectly judge that we’re bitter, unforgiving, or not moving on.  No, we’re simply processing some horrific events that many people obviously can’t even begin to comprehend.  We’re verbally working through our trauma.  We also, most often, are left in poverty that typically isn’t seen in the Western world and, therefore, can’t just jet off to the islands for a little R&R.  We’re required to jump back into life with both feet and a weary body.

The question that pleads to be asked at this next point is:  What is the new normal?  My instructor states that we must ask ourselves some hard questions.  Can and should we rebuild?  What protections can be offered?  Who will pay for rebuilding?  Will we rebuild next time this occurs?  (Or, should we leave this particular area?)  How can we improve our plans to mitigate the effects of another event?

Each of us will answer those questions uniquely according to her own situation.  I’m not even sure I can honestly answer those questions yet for myself.  Taking this course has allowed me to see that I’m truly still in the Recovery stage.  I’m still trying to secure housing, pay off marital debt, determine a source of stable income, and find opportunities for decompression.  The most important thing I’m taking away from this class is that Recovery is a long, slow process.  It’s okay to give myself time to work through these phases and stages appropriately.  A sound recovery is the solid foundation upon which New Normal will be built.

Values Clarification

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m doing the right thing, right?  I’m trying to better my life and provide for my children’s future.  Everyone cheered me when I announced my return to school.  It’s the smart thing to do.  I’m setting a good example for my kids, they said.

When I recently asked for prayer because I’m considering quitting my degree program at community college, people rallied, “You can do this!”  “Don’t give up!”  “This is just a test in perseverance.” “What would you tell your kids if they said that to you?”

Nobody likes a quitter.

Well, ya know what, a lot of people don’t like me anyway!  Besides, who am I trying to please?

I have some tough decisions to make.  So, here’s the low down:

  • I’m running myself ragged, and I’m not much fun to be around these days.
  • I’m turning down work and missing work, which means I’m losing desperately needed income.
  • I feel like I hardly see my kids.
  • I never cook a decent meal for my children.
  • I’m not keeping up with the children’s schooling.
  • My body is getting used to sleeping for only four or five hours (after I worked so hard to train myself to sleep) so I’m no longer able to sleep more than five hours….once again.
  • I’m not learning the material at school anyway, and no one who’s supposed to care does.
  • I seldom write here on my beloved blog anymore.  I miss you all!
  • I’m missing important events in my loved ones’ lives.
  • I’m not working out, going to treatment, eating right, or taking my supplements.
  • My former physical symptoms are resurfacing.

Why am I sacrificing so much?  To earn a degree, of course!  Eventually I’ll make better money and be able to work from home!  Eventually…..when my youngest child has one foot out the door, and it isn’t even necessary for me to be home anymore.  Eventually……I’m a little (a lot) old to be trying to compete with young, 20 somethings for the best positions.   Eventually…..after I’ve missed six years of living.

I am pausing to ask myself what is really important to me.  And, to admit I was wrong.

I thought re-education would be the key to achieving my goals and dreams.  But, what are my goals and dreams?  Really?

I live every day with the awareness that I am at an increased risk for a full stroke.  I’ve also buried enough friends and friends’ children to be fully aware that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  So, what if I had a crystal ball that could tell me that I am going to stroke out and be confined to a wheelchair in exactly ten years and five months?  Or, what if it said that I’ll be killed in a car accident in two years?  Or, what if it told me my ex is going to finally kill me in six months?

Is this how I want to spend the last six months, two years, or ten years of my life?

NO!

I WANT TO LIVE!  I mean, I want to live whatever life I have to its fullest!  Each and every day is a gift to be unwrapped and enjoyed, and I’m no longer enjoying any of it.  I’m surviving, marking off the days until I can hopefully get a reprieve.  If I can just make it to midterms.  If I can just hang in there until spring break.  It feels very much like living with any of my abusers…..barely surviving each day, waiting for some day in the future to alleviate a bit of the constant pressure.

The thing is, my passions are my God, my children, home schooling, connecting with others, natural living, and this blog.  Work isn’t a passion for me.  I know it is for some, but, if I had my druthers, I’d be working as a wife and mother.  I have never ever ever in my entire life longed to be a career woman.  Even my dream job, being a writer, isn’t the big city, journalist type.  It’s the sitting by the river with a laptop version.

Returning to school, sacrificing each day of my life for the next six years, so that I can perhaps some day in the very far off future potentially make more money is feeling rather foolish once I perform a little values clarification.  Because, you see, I’ve sacrificed all of my passions in the process.  And, I feel empty.  I feel like I’m pursuing what I believe is expected of me, rather than what truly makes me joyful and content.

I want to serve my God and connect with others.  Funny thing is, one of my clients asked me to pray with her last week.  And, her sister, a stroke victim, struggled very hard to tell me something.  She was thrilled when I got it, and we were communicating.  My current vocation does allow me to connect with God and others.

I want to be a writer.  I have a blog where I give and receive–receive more than I give–support with others.  Again, connecting.  And, writing!

I want to live naturally, which takes time I no longer have now that I’m in school and working.

And, I want to be there, truly be there, which takes, well, being there, for my children.  I want to make memories with them.  Memories that aren’t filled with violence.  I want to give them the best foundation in life that I can by pouring myself into their education, the way I did with the older children.

My little cleaning business is menial labor.  Yep, I spend my days hunkered over toilets scraping feces off of rims and picking up body hair from showers, plugging my vacuum with someone else’s dog’s hair.  It sucks.  But, it is MY business.  If I don’t really like a client, I can graciously find a way to quit working for them.  I have enough other work that I have that freedom.  I can also reschedule for emergencies and vacations and time with my kids without fearing a boss’s reprisal.

I consider nearly all of my clients friends.  I’m charging enough of an hourly wage now that if I chose to work more hours a week, I could make as much as I would as a graphic designer in my area!  All in all, it’s not a bad gig.  It has allowed me time to home school, build a new life with my kids, and blog.  It has allowed me time to get stronger and healthier.

I don’t think I feel the need to hang a diploma on my wall.  And, I’m quite certain it won’t bring me the joy I feel when you respond to what I write or when my daughter is able to read “the fast way,” or when my children and I are dancing together or when my client asks me to pray with her.

That’s my values clarification.

I don’t value the pursuit of a degree enough to continue on with it and sacrifice everything in my life that I do value.

Another of my clients, whom I consider a sweet friend, has suggested that I get my real estate license and work with her.  She’s been a realtor her entire life and would be an excellent mentor.  Most of the work can be done from home on a computer.  Sure, I’ll have to go out to show houses, but I can take one child with me.  The course is relatively inexpensive, completely from home, 120 hours over the course of eight months done at my own pace.   It’s something to consider.

I’ve spent my life believing that when one door closes another one opens, and I had no other options but to walk through the first door that opened.  I falsely believed that once I walked through a door, there was no turning back.  I was told, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.”  But, I’ve come to believe that’s a lie and a trap.

My chiropractor shares my new outlook.  He once told me he’s never understood that mindset of sticking with something no matter how bad it is.  “If something isn’t working for you, change it!” he said.

Sure, I’ll be judged for being a quitter.  My decisions will be seen as walking away from an opportunity, committing my life to poverty…and those poor children along with me.  I can see them all wagging their heads at me now.  But, that is the basis of my new free life.  It is MY life.  And, I am FREE to make choices for my LIFE.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 952 other followers