Car Wrecks, Online Dating, and Working Weekends

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Hello again!  It’s been awhile.  I’ve missed you.  How have you been?

My summer hasn’t gone exactly the way I planned it.  I bought a pair of hiking boots in June, thinking that I would hike the waterfalls around the state.  I haven’t been to one.  Instead, I’ve worked nearly every weekend, following on the heels of full work weeks, all summer long.

The ex quit yet another job, so child support didn’t come….just in time for my youngest son’s birthday and the 4th of July.  I worked the 4th, too.

One morning as I was slowing to turn into work, a young girl slammed into the back of me and pushed me into the embankment on the other side of the ditch.  My cute little car sustained front end and rear end damage.  The damage to me was confined to my back and my psyche.  Neither are healing very quickly.

The online dating thing hasn’t gone as planned either.  The men I’ve “met” have either been total losers, perverts, or so emotionally damaged they aren’t capable of being in a healthy relationship.

In short, my summer has been a wreck.  But, ya know what?  I’m still here.  And, there are seasons where that is okay.  We don’t always have to be on top of the mountain or in conquering mode to prove that we’re trudging onward.  Some times just getting up and breathing and putting one foot in front of the other is good enough.

I have learned a lot this summer.  I’ve learned that there are some really awful people in this world.  There are people who enable evil.  There are people who couldn’t care less about other human beings and how their actions affect those around them.  There are people who seek out other human beings to use for their own gratification with no regard to the humanity of the ones they’re using.

And, there are good people in the world.  There are those who will bend over backward to do a good job.  There are people who feel great compassion.  And, there are people who show tremendous kindness no matter how rotten things are for them personally.

I’ve learned that I can advocate for myself without joining that first group.  I can stand up for my rights and seek out resolutions that are good for me without losing my sense of decency.  And, those in the second group will listen and respond appropriately.  Those in the first group never will, so it’s best to jump over their heads and seek a better person in a higher position to petition.

I’ve learned to respond gracefully to the question, “Why did your ex beat you?”  Several of the men I’ve chatted with have ultimately said some complimentary, flattering statements and then rounded off with, “…….if I had a woman like you I would treat her like a queen.  I could never do that.”  Well, maybe they could, maybe they couldn’t.  But, the point is, I’m no longer offended by that question.  I used to immediately get angry, as though the response they were looking for was that I had provoked him, that we fought constantly and I hit him, too, that he’d caught me overspending or cheating or something else that might warrant his behavior.  I did none of those things.  But, even if I had, would that have justified the terror he unleashed on his wife and children?

I have a standard response they all get:  It’s because it is who he is.  It has nothing to do with me.  His abuse says nothing about me.  It says everything about how inherently evil he is.

That usually stops them in their tracks.

But, it’s true.  He abuses because he is an abuser.  Not because I brought it on myself.  My responsibility in the whole thing was that I chose him.  I was a good wife to a bad man.  I have to examine though why I married a bad man.

I’ve learned that if I don’t set my bar pretty damn high, most men will attempt to step on it and push it lower.  There must be a zero tolerance policy in place in my heart and mind.  Never will I tolerate disrespect.  Never will I accept a man who has less ambition than I.  Never is it okay to send me semi nude photos or talk in a sexually suggestive manner.  If I allow one little indiscretion to pass by, just one, because I convince myself that I’m too out of how things are in the world today, it opens the flood gate for further disrespect.  It just does.  If you give wickedness and selfishness a foot in the door, it slams its entire body into the opening and pushes with all of its might to allow in all sorts of demeaning behaviors.

I’ve learned how to nicely reject someone.  And, that is huge.  Doesn’t it seem like we survivors have spent a lifetime feeling guilty for not letting others have what they want?  Even if what they want is us?  It’s like “no” is the ultimate dirty word.  Sure, they don’t always like to hear it, but that’s okay.  If someone can’t respect our no then the relationship wouldn’t have been a healthy one anyway.  It’s totally okay to simply say, “I think we’re looking for different things in a relationship.”  It’s okay if they act hurt or angry.  Their emotions and their ability to be an adult about it are their responsibility.  What I allow in my life is my responsibility.

There are a lot of things I can’t control, like whether or not my ex mans up, holds a job, and takes financial responsibility as the bare minimum.  I can’t control a spoiled young girl whose parents bought her a car within a month of rear ending someone else, and then rear ended me, too.  I can’t control insurance companies and demanding clients and horny, lying men.  I can’t even control how my summer has gone!  All I can control is how I respond to all of it, and that almost always requires me viewing myself as being just as worthy as everyone else around me.

I’m worthy of my car being repaired fully.  I’m worthy of being treated with respect as a business owner.  I’m worthy of being treated like a lady.  And, it doesn’t mean I’m an awful person because I ask for those things.

Hmmmm……..perhaps I did climb a few mountains this summer.  And, ya know what, the view from up here is spectacular!

Mother’s Day for the Single Mom

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I don’t mind being alone today.  I don’t mind working today.  I don’t mind having a grilled cheese sandwich and some hastily purchased store bakery brownies.  None of it bothers me.  Honestly.

Mother’s Day has never been that big of a deal for me.  The ex would fight with the kids about what to get me, something they’d run out and buy at the last-minute.  Almost like an afterthought.  He’d pick me up a coffee and grab something for dinner to bring home.  One year he left me to tend several large trash fires while they ran in late Saturday afternoon because he’d forgotten the next day was Mother’s Day.  It wasn’t ever about the kids showing me gratitude.  It wasn’t ever about making me happy or honoring me as the mother of his children.  It was about me expressing gratitude to him for whatever little he did and allowed the kids to participate in.

 

I’m used to Mother’s Day being a bit lackluster.

But, this year I am sad.  I’m sad because my little boy is sad.  He cried in church and has spent most of the day weepy and bending over backwards to be helpful.  He finally just confessed to me that he is sad and a bit angry.  He just wishes that he could have bought me something.  He even has his own money to spend.  He just has no one to help him do anything for his mama.  And, he said he can’t wait to have a wife so he can do things for her for Mother’s Day.  Someday.  When he can drive.  Someday.  When he isn’t a little boy and isn’t dependent upon other people.  Who aren’t there.

He has been with me as others have bubbled over about where they’re eating today.  He has been with me as people have said they’re sorry today is just another work day for me.  And, he has taken it all to heart and felt the sting, as though he is responsible.

His one glimmer of hope today came at church.  They had purchased long stem roses for every mother in the congregation.  The children were to hand them out before the service ended.  He brightened.  He would be able to give his mama something, too!  But, then, the teacher told him no.  He was to pick a woman sitting somewhere and hand it to her.  He sobbed as he realized he really was to be empty-handed today.

I know people feel bad for me on Mother’s Day.  On Valentine’s Day.  But, I think it’s worse for the kids.  Their childhood isn’t marked by family celebrations and happy days honoring each other.  It’s watching every other family do those things while they sit on the sidelines or wander along behind mom, dragging cleaning supplies into an empty business.

Compassion Next Door

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Before we left the church parking lot my 15-year-old turned to me and asked, “What’s wrong?  I looked at you several times, and you weren’t dancing and throwing your arms up like usual.  You were just swaying a bit.  And, I couldn’t hear you singing.  Is something bothering you?”

This is the kid who remembers the store clerk’s dog’s birthday (not really, but it’s almost that bad).  He notices details about people and commits to memory what they share with him.  There was no denying it to him.  I wasn’t upset, but I couldn’t get lost in worship either.  There was a small pebble stuck in my craw.

The guest speaker was a representative from Compassion International, and he shared what it was like growing up in poverty.  He told how the organization had changed his life, made him realize he wasn’t human garbage, showed him love, and provided those things he needed to catapult him into a successful life in the United States.  He explained that he’d been told he’d always be poor and that those people who should have been supporting him were the major ones who tore him down as a child.  He showed slides of worn out shoes, kids digging through garbage, leaky roofs, and open sewer.  He very strongly encouraged everyone to sponsor a poor child and change their life.  And, they were obviously moved with compassion.

The first song we sang afterward began with, “Everyone needs compassion….”

Please understand, I was filled with compassion.  I have always, since childhood, had a deep love and concern for the people of Africa, especially Sudan.  But, as I realized that nearly every single family in my church already sponsors a child and they were lining up in droves to add another, I couldn’t help but sting a bit at the lack of compassion we’d been shown in that first year.

All of the compassion, love, and assistance we’ve been shown has come from outside our church except for one instance.  Every single time we’ve point-blank presented a need to our church, we’ve been ignored or denied.

These people who will dedicate themselves to sending money and writing letters to a child in a foreign country won’t be bothered to pray with or visit a woman or a child sitting right in front of them.

After the service a woman I really love and admire stated that the poor in this country aren’t really poor.  We don’t know what it’s like to go without a meal.  (Her son, incidentally, is that one instance of compassion we received from our own church.) I’ve heard that at Bible study, too.  My dear, sweet friends with hearts of gold have shared how they would love to sell everything, live simply, and minister in a foreign country because we just don’t have it bad here.  The poor in this country aren’t poor like they are in other countries.  We don’t know what it’s like to not have a warm bed or to be hungry.

I beg to differ.

I’m not jealous or resentful that they will happily brag and throw hundreds of dollars in the direction of an impoverished child!  Those children NEED it!

But, so did mine.

So do other children right here in our own country.

My children may no longer be hungry, eating out of the garbage, and they now have decent shoes, but our housing is still horrible.  Yes, we do know what it’s like to have the roof leak on us….to have the stench of sewer in our living area……to have rats crawling all over the place.   We are still there on that one.  But, our reality, past and present, isn’t recognized or acknowledged by the church.

And, I guess that was the source of that pesky pebble yesterday.  The value they joyfully and compassionately place on the children served by the organization is not a value they have ever placed on my children or the children of another single mom in the church.  Strangely, my church body’s demonstration of compassion for children they’ll never meet was a reminder that we aren’t deserving of the same compassion.  That stung just a bit.  It’s the message we’ve had crammed down our throats our entire lives.  The mantra of our abusers.

I believe in the work of Compassion International.  It’s a fantastic organization.  But, I would love the opportunity to stand in front of the church and show slides of long-haired, dirty, poorly dressed American children with teeth rotting out of their heads and bodies covered in bruises.  I would love to show slides of open sewer in the front yards of rural homes, hidden away from the site of fellow Americans, where all kinds of horrors take place inside the walls of those broken down homes. I would love to shout, “IT HAPPENS HERE IN AMERICA!  THERE ARE WOUNDED, STARVING, DYING CHILDREN NEXT DOOR TO YOU!  Who will care for them?  Will you?”

The American church, as a whole, loves to preach a conservative message against government subsidies and openly judges those who use them.  Yet, when one of their own abides by the maxim–submits nearly to death to her husband and looks to the church rather than the government for assistance–they refer her back to some government program!  Do you know how many countless times I’ve heard, “I thought there were government programs for people like you.”  When I asked for help with getting wood in, our only source of heat, the man who runs the wood ministry said, “We can’t help you.  We believe that people should work for what they need.”  I do work!  I work very hard!  But, I’m not able to fall trees.

At this point, I’m finally able to keep shoes and clothes on the kids.  There is food in the refrigerator, and I’m even putting in a garden this year.  Things have improved so much since that first year.  Our lives are unrecognizable in comparison to when he lived with us and kept us in abject poverty.  But, we’re still alone.  My sons still need to know how to use tools that I don’t know the names of.  My children, my daughter included, beg to learn to fish.  But, I don’t bother asking.

My teenager asked the youth pastor, a woodland firefighter, to show him how to run a chainsaw and fall a tree.  He acted funny and said to talk to him about it at the church picnic.  But, strangely, he didn’t come to the picnic.  He never mentioned it again.  I know the response I’d get if I asked for one of the men to act as a surrogate uncle or grandfather to my kids.  Talk to them about it at an event they wouldn’t show up to?  Or, throw me a sticky note?

Again, I do NOT begrudge the love sent oversees!  But, in Matthew 23:23 Jesus says, “…….these ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.”   I’m just asking how they can love so deeply a child on a flat screen and yet look right past the child sitting in front of them?

There’s a stigma surrounding abuse so it often remains hidden, but if you look you can see it.  And, poverty is obvious.  When we were living in deep, deep poverty and our abuser was still in the home, a pastor once told me, “I know your husband has some hidden sin, but I don’t know what it is.  If he didn’t, your children wouldn’t be hungry.  And, I’d help you, but I don’t want to get in God’s way of teaching you whatever He’s trying to teach you in this.”

My grandparents knew who was being abused in their neighborhood.  Way back in the 50’s when the stigma was even worse, if that’s possible.  Way back when it was NOT questioned that women were to OBEY their husbands.  My grandparents still knew who was in trouble and needed their help.  My own grandfather, a former traveling preacher, ruled his home like a tight ship, my grandmother being required to submit her grocery lists to him for approval.  BUT, they could see the “mousey” behavior of two of the neighbor ladies.  They noticed the unkempt children sitting quietly in the dirt yards.  They heard the yelling.  They noticed how grossly thin the women and children were, though the husbands “carried weight on them.”  So, my grandpa took them boxes of produce from his fruit trees and garden.  My grandma sent meals over.  Sometimes they just popped in for a visit “to be neighborly.”  And, when the one husband nearly beat his wife to death, she and her children knew which house they could flee to.   My grandparents opened their door to the frantic pounding and hid them.

They were just being neighborly, showing compassion to those right next door.

I’d love to stand up in front of the church and encourage my “neighbors” to continue to write those checks out for the starving children overseas.  But, I’d beg them…..each time you send off a check or write a letter to a child in a foreign country, make a phone call to a lonely, desperate person in your own church or send off a birthday card to a child from an impoverished, broken, abusive home who probably sat right in front of you in church yesterday.  Change a child’s life if you can.

Naming It

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Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?

Grandma used to say, “Call an ace an ace and a spade a spade.”  My dad constantly chastised us, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say!”

What’s in a name or word anyway?  We name our children based upon what’s currently popular or whether or not we like the sound of it.  Perhaps, we name them after someone we admire or like.  Or, in honor of the deceased.  Does it matter what tag we place on people and things?

How deep is the meaning of words?  How much do designations contribute to our understanding?  Is it really that important how we reference abuse?

The world of psychology and some abuse circles refer to narcissistic abuse, to which I must ask: Is there any other kind?

Psychology defines narcissism as extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.  

dictionary.reference.com gives this definition of pride:  a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing,conduct, etc.

I’m admittedly not familiar with the page I’m about to link to, but I liked what they had to say about pride.

http://www.allaboutgod.com/sin-of-pride.htm

And, Ezekiel 16:49 and 50 state, “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.  And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.”

Pride is the original sin.  It’s the reason God utterly destroyed Sodom, and He felt that action was good.  It’s why He created Hell for the devil and his fallen angels.

It’s why an abuser abuses.

I say that abusers don’t abuse because they were abused as children.  Some were.  But, some weren’t.  And, many people who were abused as children don’t grow up to abuse others.  There’s fault in that reasoning.

The old “wounded people wound” is a lie in my opinion.  I think it’s a lie straight from the pit of hell, manufactured to get people to feel sorry for the perpetrator instead of holding him/her accountable for their actions.  In my experience, wounded people “allow” others to continue to wound them because they believe that’s what they deserve.  How can a Christian ever give abuse the adjective of narcissistic and then deny abuse stems from willful pride and instead claim they’re just innocently acting out what they were taught?

Paul makes it very clear in I Corinthians 5 how the church should deal with unrepentant sin among its members.  Jesus commended the church at Ephesus for their labor, their patience, and how they could not bear them which are evil.  After He let them know what it was that he had somewhat against them, He commended them a second time.  This time, for having a hatred for the deeds of the Nicolaitans, as He also hates.  Meanwhile, he sent a warning to the church at Thyatira for permitting Jezebel to teach her apostasies.

Abuse isn’t a disease.  It isn’t a character disorder.  It’s wickedness.  I’m going to call it what it is.  By any other name it still stinks, but it is evil metered out on those around them because of their self-perceived grandiosity and self-proclaimed rights to elevated treatment.  Those who abuse are following in the footsteps of their father, the serpent, the devil.  They don’t need the tender loving care and understanding of the church.  Their victims do.  Abusers need discipline!  Wickedness requires discipline!

Feeding The Narcissistic Beast

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“You’re real, and people respond to that,” my chiropractor said to me when I asked him his opinion on whether or not I should get my real estate license.  I’m no salesman–AT ALL–but he feels that my approachability and openness are natural assets to sales.

My client who asked me to think about getting my license and working for her had previously said nearly the exact thing.  In fact, I hear it a lot.  “You’re real.”  I always chuckle to myself, “I’m a real what?”  But, the fact remains that people who know me see me as genuine and “real.”  And, you also know that these posts sometimes get a little too “real.”  I embarrass my kids with my “realness.”

Something happened when everything was stripped from me though.  I stood naked before the world.  Vulnerable.  Needy.  Lost.  All of my sins and failures exposed.  There were some who threw stones and laughed at me, whispering behind my back.  But, there were others who came rushing in to cover me with their own coats, hugging me in reassurance that I was loved and things would be okay.  I found that the only way to truly get my needs met as a human being was to be willing to get real with others about those needs and fears and failures.  I also found that it’s just about the only way to connect on a terrifically deep level.  When you share your worst nightmares, it encourages others to open up and share theirs.  Pretty soon it becomes a circle of affirmation, connection, and encouragement that just isn’t possible when everyone is hiding behind the clothing of a false perfect life.

I found that I kinda like being naked.

So, Bachelor #2’s continued accusations fell on deaf ears.  I have laughed at his antics.

I did not respond to his understanding-but-it’s-a-bummer email, and I unfriended him on Facebook.  I was just letting it go.  As the saying goes, “Not my monkeys, not my drama.”  But, in true abuser fashion, he wasn’t willing to let it all go so easy.

He sent this:  “I noticed you haven’t responded in a while and you have de-friended me from facebook.  I have always been very open and honest, but I understand not everyone feels the same way.  Some like to keep secrets.  In all honestly, keeping secrets is a red flag for me.  People keep secrets when they have something to hide.  I do believe that if someone has nothing to hide then they hide nothing.  I don’t mind when others disagree with me as everyone is entitled to their opinion.  I don’t expect people to fit into my “mold” as this is what makes us unique.  Most, however, don’t like disclosure and I think this speaks volumes.  Clearly, we are different in this area.  I hope the best for you and your children.”

You see why I laughed?  He’s ACCUSING me of keeping secrets from him because, after meeting him ONE TIME for an hour, I simply told him that I choose not to engage in the conversations that demand I defend my home schooling.  I was nice about it, but I let him know that his line of questioning, a second time, was a bit offensive.  Instead of apologizing or even just saying that wasn’t his intention or explaining what he really meant, he has launched into an attack on my integrity.  If I choose not to answer a question–asked by a STRANGER–I must be hiding something.

And, isn’t it big of him that he doesn’t mind when others disagree with him?  A true sign of a humble person.  For sure!

I really love how he let’s me know that my “keeping secrets” from him is a red flag to him.  Ummm, take a hint, Buddy, I’m not responding to you!  I’ve seen waaaay too many red flags with YOU!  It reminded me of junior high, “You can’t break up with me because I already broke up with you!”  Except I was never with this guy.

My eyes are open to this game now, but they weren’t always.  At one point in my life, his tactics would have worked.  I’d been living it my entire life.  My mother accused me of sleeping with my step-dad when I was 12.  She said there could be no other reason that he was nice to me other than that I was “fucking [her] husband!”  Of course, the reality was that he felt sorry for me because he knew what she and my dad were like and how they treated me.  The truth was that she was sleeping with my dad, in my step-dad’s house while we kids were home, and I knew it.  Better to accuse me and put me on the defensive than to have me divulge her dirty secrets.

My ex-husband brought home venereal diseases, couldn’t explain hours of missing time or money, and hid gifts for his lover under his truck seat (which I found).  I was kept impoverished, working, and, for years, without a vehicle, yet he constantly accused me of cheating on him.  Even when I was working and there were multiple witnesses to the fact that I was indeed caught up in a work crisis, he was convinced I was having illicit sex with someone, everyone.

Don’t feed the beast.  My ex quite often told the kids and me the abuse was our own fault because we should know better than to poke the bear.  Shifting blame, false accusations…..it’s how narcissists/abusers/wicked people roll.  Abusers are wicked.  Narcissism is a fancy word for what the Bible calls pride, and that was Lucifer’s ruin.  More on that later.  For now, let’s stop feeding these narcissistic beasts.  Let’s do the healthy thing and walk away.

Sorry But Not Sorry

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A friend of mine posted a link the other day to the definition of a non-apology.  It’s pretty good.  Here it is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-apology_apology

Does any of that sound familiar to you?  It sure does to me.

My ex still occasionally dons a pathetic tone and musters a, “I’m really sorry for the way everything turned out.”  Yes, I’m quite sure he is.  I’m certain he is sorry that I’m alive, that I have custody, that I’m not wasting away over here, that the kids still don’t want to spend time with him, that he’s living in a camp trailer.  He still denies that he stole from me, beat all of us mercilessly, or any of the horrors and neglect that he subjected us to, so it isn’t any of that that he is sorry for.  As far as he’s concerned, that never happened.

About three years before my parents died, I heard the voice of God tell me to call both of them and apologize.  I obeyed, not because I really felt either of them deserved my apology (I wanted one from both of them) but because I love my Lord and will do as He says.  He knows better than I.

That began a three-year journey of healing for my dad and me and allowed him to pass with closure for us both.  My mom took her hatred to the grave, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I at least tried.  I kept her emailed response, “I’m sorry for whatever it is you think I did to you.”  Ummm, she and I clearly knew exactly what it was she did to me.  But, let’s not say it out loud or admit that she actually recognized it.

I’m over it.  It doesn’t bother me.  I’ve moved on with my life and buried her hatred with her.  I don’t bear that burden.

But, interestingly, those types still pop into our lives, don’t they?

Remember how I told you about Bachelor #2 in my post Online Dating Safety; Part 2?  How there were warning signs, but there was something else I just couldn’t put my finger on?  Wellllllll……………

He wanted to come down this weekend, Passover/Easter weekend, to visit me.  He didn’t have his daughter for the weekend and thought it would be a grand time to see me.  Not like I also have kids or anything.  I explained that I had to work and it just wouldn’t be a good time.  This is my busy season……spring cleanings, move outs, houses coming up for sale, etc.

He responded that he understood but that it was a bummer.  And, then, he lit into an entire paragraph of rapid fire questions:  I understand about the weekend.  It’s a bummer, but I understand.  You have to do what you have to do.  How do your kids manage during these busy seasons?  I have been meaning to ask you about the homeschooling that you provide your children.  How do you meet state and federal minimum standards?  What curriculum do you use?  When I taught in the private school I used a little Abeka and some Bob Jones.  I liked the Abeka math, but didn’t care for their history. How do you handle the social aspect for your children?  Are they active in a children’s church or youth group?  Socially, I want [his daughter] to be interacting with other children.

I had previously told him that I use an eclectic mix.  I shared with him that I’ve been home schooling for over 25 years.  In that time, I’ve tried a lot of different curricula and found that some companies are just better at certain subjects and weaker in others.  I use each company’s strong suit.  I don’t commit to any one company.  I also told him that I don’t like Abeka’s math.  To which he acted confounded because he did like it.  He also knows about my adult children’s successes and my younger children’s activities.  We discussed all of this.

So, I was immediately offended, seeing how these questions came in the same paragraph as his “understanding” about the weekend and immediately following his resigned, “You have to do what you have to do.”

I waited a few days and decided that I would indeed let him know that I found it all offensive, but I would do it nicely.  My response began with pleasantries and then I simply said, “I’m honestly not sure how to answer your questions regarding my home schooling.  They’re a bit offensive, to be honest, and I just choose not to be on that end of the home school issue anymore.  I was one of those pioneers who couldn’t even take their children out during the day back in the 80’s.  Been there, done that.  The proof is in the pudding with successful home schooled adults taking their place in society.  I no longer feel some of those questions need answered.”

It apparently wasn’t well received.

He responded:  I think you and I have a lot in common, however, I do think there is one issue where you and I have a difference of opinion.  I have said from the beginning that I am very open, I am not easily offended and what you see is what you get.  My philosophy is that I would rather be fully open and honest about myself so at least people know what they are getting and who they are dealing with.  Of course, people don’t have to like it, but that is who I am.  I DON’T like secrets!  I think I am different than most men in that I really do love conversation and am willing to be open and honest about myself and what I am thinking. With that said, I would like to clarify something.  My purpose in asking you about your homeschooling was, as mentioned, I am hoping to put [his daughter (he actually already stated that he found a charter school that offers classes at the school because the social interaction is so important to him] in some type of homeschooling.  I believe if one has a question, then ask.  Who better to ask then someone who has been successfully homeschooling for several years?  My motive was to gleam some knowledge and understanding from your years of experience, nothing more.  You’ve “been there done that”.  I was not asking to be critical by any means.  I am just being honest here, so please hear my heart – I am trying to understand from your perspective how my asking you these questions regarding your homeschooling is a “bit offensive.”  I certainly didn’t mean to cause you to be deeply hurt or angry over questions that I feel are neutral in and of themselves.  For causing you that I am truly sorry.  Am I missing something here?

No, I think I’m the one missing something here.  We have a difference of opinion because he believes in being open, isn’t easily offended, and would rather be fully open and honest?  He doesn’t like secrets.  Is he insinuating that I do like secrets?  Because I chose not to engage in a second round with him regarding my choices in how I raise and educate my children?  That I’m just easily offended?  That I’m not open and honest?  Hmmmm……..okay.  To be clear, I wasn’t deeply hurt, nor was I angry.  I was a “bit offended.”  Is he exaggerating to make his point?

I looked at that link again.  Statements that use the word “sorry” but do not express responsibility for wrongdoing may be meaningful expressions of regret, but such statements can also be used to elicit forgiveness without acknowledging fault.[2]

He’s sorry for causing me to feel the way he is saying I do, but he isn’t sorry for coming off as offensive.  In fact, he ends with asking if he’s missing something.  He just doesn’t get what my problem is…..after he let me know that he is just an open and honest kind of man, Mr. Nice Guy, and we differ there.

This is coming from a man I have exchanged a half a dozen emails with and met once for an hour.  We should all kind of be on our best behavior right now, shouldn’t we?  However, if I were to end up with this guy, couldn’t he always remind me that I knew all along what he was really like?  He never tried to hide anything or misrepresent himself.  I can only imagine how he would act if we were seriously involved, if there was a real problem worthy of serious discussion!

I’ve decided not to respond this time.  I’m tapping out and choosing not to engage or be used as narcissistic fodder.  If that deeply hurts him or makes him angry, for causing him that I’m truly sorry.

Sorry but not sorry.

Online Dating Safety; Part Two

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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