Thursday, January 9, 2020

Different Dream of Growing Old

Dreams of growing old with someone I felt was the love of my life catapulted me into a 2 decade marriage.  At a young age, I had no idea how little I knew and I had no understanding of what intimate, long lasting love was in a marriage.  I only knew that I wanted him to be the axis of my life.  He was everything I wanted to build my life around and so I did. 

We were quickly blessed with a sweet little boy, and somehow, I now had 2 people to devote my time and love towards.  As the years went by, the deep love between my former spouse and I quickly turned to lies and hurt.  So many mistakes were made and we managed to devastate our little boy time and again.  

As the marriage began to fade at a rapid pace, God gave us an unexpected miracle of a little girl.  Her existence became known only one day after an agreement for a divorce. We struggled even more to hold our marriage together, to give our children the opportunity of a family.  Our lives were impacted by military combat, frequent absences of their father and we were a lonely military family, away from our loved ones.  There was no village to help and rarely time together as husband and wife.

The years continued to go by and our children were our only joy. We managed to create a team effort, absent of real intimacy, void of trust.  We built a lovely home, strong careers and we ran a regimented home that kept the ship more than afloat.  As the years passed, I longed for another child, and I still deeply loved my husband.  And, so, one morning I learned I was pregnant and my entire life felt completely right again. 

And then it wasn’t. 

The marriage continued to break apart and was put back together time and again; more combat deployments and a diagnosis of Autism with our youngest son. We picked ourselves up from the many pains and crisis’ over the years, packed our belongings and departed the military life.  We needed normalcy and time as a family. 

Two short years later, it all ended in divorce.  Abruptly.  And we waged an emotional war on each other that I can clearly see now is shameful and did detrimental harm to our children.  It eroded our emotional health, finances and family relationships.  We embedded distrust, anger and hatred in our family.

Fast forward 4 years, we have just begun to be civil and we really try and co parent our last remaining child that lives at home.  Are we friends?  I wouldn’t go that far. But, I would say that we are doing everything right in the best interest of our children, and our grandchildren.  We face the challenges that all of our children are dealing with because of their traumas and because we were too consumed by our own pain to think clearly.  Some of those traumas were from the military life we had together and others from the turbulent divorce.

Two weeks ago, my former spouse gave me the courtesy of letting me know he is remarrying.  I was grateful because it gave me the chance to brace myself for impact with our children.  His courtesy was an opportunity for me to see that our family is moving on in healthy ways and we can help our children prepare for more changes.  I know my children will struggle with this, but it is my prayer and hope that they will see that we are still a family.  It will take time for them to accept the finality of the divorce; that the last shred of hope is absolutely absent.  Four years is but a drop in the bucket compared to 25 years. 

I hope my children’s father finds in his new marriage all that we lacked in ours.  I want that for him; to see him happy and to grow old with a wonderful person by his side.  I can only hope that our children will embrace their father’s new life and that they know in their hearts that he does love them.  And that, his “moving on” from the marriage he shared with me is not about “moving on” from his relationship with our children. 

I hated to love him after the marriage fell apart.  And it felt good to love to hate him for so long.  But now, I feel peace and contentment in what we had, what was lost and what we have since found as civil people that deeply love the children we were given.  From our teenage marriage and ongoing brokenness, we created two sons, a daughter and were given the blessings of a daughter in law and 3 grandsons. 

I’ll forever be grateful for the good times we shared and for the years we tried to give it our best.  We were teenagers when we married and we taught each other so much about life.  But, my most amazing lesson is that through so much devastation, former partners can find common ground when you share a deep love for the same people.

I’ll always have many regrets.  And, there was a phase where I swore I regretted the marriage.  But, since the dust has settled and there is a mutual effort of respect, I now remember that there were positive things.  And, we did do some things right.  We made beautiful children that still deserve both of their parents involvement.  And if that means that our family grows through remarriage, then that’s what it means.  I think there is never too many people to love our children and grandchildren. 

So, the dream of growing old is different now.  There is no sitting on the porch swing next to my children’s father, grey haired with our grandbabies at our feet.  But, I do dream of more laughter and smiles, and our children taking the next step forward in healing after all they have been through in their lives.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

How To...

I’ve sat here for hours, swaddled in an antique quilt my mother made for me.  I am physically half freezing to death from the cooler temperatures and quite frustrated emotionally from the constant pressure building inside my head.  I didn’t realize how much time had passed since sitting down with my computer and starting my online search.  I’m a person that “Googles” everything.  I hardly even know my way around this new town because I just listen to Google Maps.  It tells me when to turn or when to backtrack.  Come to think of it, I accomplish very little without searching the internet. Suffice it to say that if there’s a subject consuming me, then time will go by in a blink. This morning, my search began with, “motion court to not speak to ex-husband.”  That search led to “how to stop the verbal and psychological abuse from an ex. “ 
            I am well aware that everyone has their own definition of verbal, emotional and psychological abuse.  That’s quite possibly due to the fact that everyone has their own boiling points.  I believe that I have a high pain threshold and I am mentally strong.  I could, at one time, describe myself as having the patience of a saint.  That’s not a compliment exactly.  In fact, I was patient to a fault.  And, so, I’m definitely to blame to some degree for my ex thinking he can constantly walk on me; that he can fabricate the most atrocious lies about me; that he can tell me what I will do “or else.”  I let him manipulate me and control me for more than 2 decades.  No, I’m not taking full responsibility.  But, I met him, married him, had a family with him stayed for too long. 
          I stayed for 22 years with a man that I thought I adored, and I’m thankful I no longer want in my life.  And, at the same time, I wish he and I could just be civil.  In the end, there is not another person that could laugh the deepest of laughs with me when my silly kids do something hilarious.  There isn’t anyone else that really, really knows our family’s inside jokes.  But, when that person whom you have given so much to has to strike below the belt and aim to do harm to you all the time, that’s when you just need no contact.  None.
            I wonder what it would be like to start and end my day without some fear creeping in.  None.  I’d love the opportunity to wake relaxed and able to easily laugh.  I can’t remember the last time I felt like my world was peaceful and balanced.  There is a feeling like the other shoe is going to drop every day.  I do my very best to fight that feeling and stay positive.  It’s one I’ve had to contend with since 1996. It’s been such a long couple of decades.  It’s not paranoia and it’s not that I am crazy.  I guess if I were though, I’d still be denying it.  Right?  Anyway, this man is always tactically planning his next move to hurt me.  He lives to interrupt my life.  I would be lying if I didn’t tell you honestly that he pretty much accomplishes this regularly.  This is not at all an exaggeration.  He was relished as a master tactician in the military; he received award after award for his military leadership and brilliance.  He was a 20 year infantryman; deployed to combat many times; well trained and has the hands on experience.  
            If I’m to speak truthfully, he is magnificent at it.  He’s endearing, handsome, and charismatic and you just cannot help but to believe him.  I still get sucked in at times with believing he has some kindness.  And, I’ll be damned if every time I give an inch, I wake up in a huge pile of rubble dazed, confused and broken hearted.  There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that he won’t say or do to someone he views as his enemy.  And, he’ll look honest, caring and selfless to his audience. 
            Luckily for me, I do get small slivers of my life back…piece by piece.  It’s a slow process of rebuilding self-esteem and courage.  It’s a hard lesson to learn when it comes to setting boundaries and digging your heals in.  Someday, I believe he will get what is due to him.  I just refuse to be the one to do it.  Whatever happens, I keep looking forward.  And, I’m not turning around as often to see if he is lurking in the shadows or how close he is to catching up to me.  I know he’s there without even looking over my shoulder.  He’s planning; he’s manipulating; he is lying.  But, it’s getting easier because there are only so many times someone can shatter the heart of another and then it becomes expected.  The receiver anticipates wrongdoings and prepares.  The heart goes numb, but the brain goes into an endless cycle of preparation; always trying to sort out whether to be on the offense or defense.  It’s a tiring experience and ends in hours Googling ways to make things better.  It always ends in, “how to co parent with a narcissist.”  And sadly, the answer is one can’t.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Broken Spirits

It’s just another normal day in my life.  Wake up, rally the kids, get out the door, and go to work. I’m relatively new at the office.  Less than 4 months in fact.  That’s pretty much as infant as it gets when working in child welfare.  Professionally speaking, I have zero experience.  None.
I live in a small rural area in Ohio where the “opioid epidemic” is out of control.  I don’t mean it’s a nuisance, or a pain in the side to taxpayers – but, it is of course.  What I really mean is it completely out of control.  There are families that simply cannot put it down and see the beautiful and tender faces of their children in terrible distress.  Parents aren’t even trying to get their children back from children services anymore.  In with the opioids, out with the children. The battle isn’t even fought.  Parents are waving the white flag and walking away childless without fighting the good fight. 

I know addiction quite well.  I watched loved ones die slow and agonizing deaths from drug and alcohol addiction.  "Sad" isn’t the word I’d apply to that.  "Devastating" isn’t even profound enough a word to describe it.  I still haven't found the words to impart the deepest pain that exists when you watch a loved one slowly taking their own life – not by suicide, but by addiction. Every. Single. Day. 
As a child, I could not understand what was happening to all those people I loved.  I was oftentimes startled by their love and laughter one day… and then rage and anger the next.  A beer can was a sure sign to hide or find an excuse to leave.  If I happened upon that odorous smell then I knew that things could go bad real fast.  But, what I didn’t know was the long term effects of drugs and alcohol.  For a very long time, I didn’t even know it was called a drug or alcohol.  I just knew it was there and those using it were unpredictable.

Nonetheless, their addictions did not stop me from crying endless nights for them - for their sufferings.  Their addictions did not stop me from hurting as I saw them sick and dying.  And then, as we laid the first in the ground, I was enraged.
I spent most of my adult life trying to show some grace to those battling addiction.  I love and honor the person each are meant to be – free of the addiction. No addict wakes up each day wanting to chase the high or bottle.  Addiction is how they have grown accustomed to coping with their own trauma.  It probably feels more like the addiction is chasing them.

I have loved many addicts in my lifetime of 40 years.  There isn’t anything someone can say to change my mind about that kind of love.  It’s raw, painful, innocent, full of grace and absolutely, at times, mostly enabling.  It’s a love that believes that love does conquer all.  I’ve prayed thousands of hours for their changes, their health and their abilities to overcome the struggle of addiction. 

I’ll never forget when my uncle passed away in his early 30’s.  With his last breath came the realization that no amount of love can save someone.  And it wasn’t until later in life, that I struggled with accepting I cannot change an addict.  But, it doesn’t stop me from wishing that ten little fingers and ten little toes would stop a parent in their tracks, to take inventory, to make changes and to give those sweet children the best chance this tough world has to offer. 

With addiction comes broken spirits of the many children left parentless.  They are fragile and traumatized.  They yearn for their parents, even if that means taking all the dysfunctional parts of that life.   Because, that’s their “normal.”  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

He's Worth Every Penny

If I had to stand on a hill and stand for something until my dying breath, I would fight for God.  

When I was a little girl, I remember dark nights with tragic events.  I remember feeling terror, pain, and an incredible amount of brokenness.  And, yet, my earliest desires in life was to be a missionary.  I collected pennies, labeled a baby food jar “missionary trips,” and believed I could save the world.  One child at a time.

As the years went by, I remember going through middle school and high school making outrageous, risky and life threatening choices.  To this day, I don’t know why God placed a hedge of protection around me.  I cannot be sure why I am not dead or living a very different life.  But, I do live with guilt and regrets.  That’s on me and a cross I cannot seem to put down and leave at His feet.

As a teenager, I married awfully young and somehow shoved my childhood burdens way down deep.  I moved through the next 22 years believing that I could make my life perfect and my marriage unbreakable if I just worked hard, aggressively and consistently.

I realized after a few tumultuous years that my marriage was beyond over.  It was never a marriage on solid footings.  I wholeheartedly accepted that I had an adult son ridden with demons, a pre-teen daughter struggling for some remnant of stability and a young autistic son that seemed to co-exist in our family, but he was completely unaware of the rage, hurt and pain that was bubbling to the top.

And then I walked away.  I broke my covenant with God and my husband.  And I was, once again, having to face dark nights and tragic events; overwhelmed with the feelings of terror, pain and an incredible amount of brokenness.

I spent months screaming and cursing at God.  I spent hours with my face buried in the floor begging for just a morsel of peace.  It was a pain I could never express and I pray daily that others never have to experience it. 

I turned my back on Him.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe He existed.  I believed I was no longer worthy and I simply walked away from being in His presence. I’m not sure why I did that because my mere existence today is evidence that He lifted me up and carried me through months and months of soul shattering pain.  Years actually.

He created me.  He loved me and made me perfect in His own image.  The issues in my life are not from Him making me suffer.  Some of my issues are those I created with the gift of free will.  Some of the issues in my life are those that others created with the gift of their free will.

Never once has He presented me with evil, fear, manipulation, hate, rage or jealousy.  He does not do that to His children.  He brought me out of years of abuse throughout every stage of my life.  And He gave me revelation of how people are comfortable with making poor decisions, only to blame Him, their childhood or other people. 

I miss many things in my life.  Mostly, I miss that I never had the life that He wanted for me.  He wanted me to find my calling and go after it! 

I forgot that little girl that couldn’t wait to find a copper penny on the floor! 

He is real, but He is only as real to you as you allow Him to be in your life.  

Every person will eventually face a crisis where no amount of human love and support will make you feel spiritually whole again.  It’s not possible that one person can carry that cross to help you day and night, of any hour, of every day through times that you cannot understand.

In the moments of true despair, when the emotional pain manifests into physical pain – body trembling, unable to breathe, heart racing, filled with anxiety over a tremendous loss kind of pain – peace can be found in a moment that you humble yourself before Him. 

In an instant, and if only for an instant, He gives me peace.  And one minute, one hour, one day at a time, He never fails to be with me every time I call upon him.

I try to relate to those that do not believe in God.  I try to find some way of connecting with them and I see that they do not believe in Him because of their brokenness. 

But, it's in the broken moments that most will come to know God.  It’s in the most painful lessons that we realize that nothing on this earth will give us comfort and revelation like Him.  I’m thankful that He was with me when I wasn’t even old enough to read a book, but I knew what evil was already.  And, while hurt and sin is part of everyday life for me, I don’t have to carry that culminating burden day after day. 

He is my moral compass. He is the alarm in my head to step away from situations.  He is my protector against those that will hurt me.  He has my back and is ever present.  He is my provider.

There will never be a time that my faith is broken, even when my heart is shattered.  He has been my father, groom, provider and friend.  He knows me better than I know myself.  He does not let me off easy for my ridiculous choices.  And He is my biggest cheerleader.  I know when He is proud of me.  I can feel it in my heart and soul.

Like the little girl in the church pew, holding her baby food jar, asking for pennies…I am excited to know that He is proud of the choices I make.  His guidance and love is worth every penny.   

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Gift of Innocence

Innocence is ---

A baby sucking on its mother’s breast. 

A toddler dancing around chasing after a falling leaf. 

A new bride looking into her groom’s eyes on her wedding day. 

It’s that thing that we cannot quite put into words or define exactly.  It is an experience -- a phase of life we don’t even realize we're experiencing.  We cannot appreciate it in its immensity until long after it has passed and we are damaged and on our knees wishing to be naive again – crying out to rewind the clock for a chance to do things differently, to trust differently. 

To be the newborn that can nuzzle into its mother’s breast and think of nothing, but the human instinct to eat, to be fed – to have its basic needs fulfilled.   

To be a carefree toddler dancing around chasing falling leaves while they twist and turn to the ground. What did we once think during the moments that our eyes watched leaves pushed and pulled by gusts of wind?  

To be filled with so much love to easily accept the vows on your wedding day will last forever.     

Innocence is that stage of life we realize passed us by when we are paralyzed with sadness, stricken with regret and realizing that we cannot get back the naivety we have lost.  We do not know the gift of innocence until we are paying the price for having lost it.

Innocence becomes foreign and unexpected with age.  It is lost, mourned and then forgotten. 

Life is trying, people are cutting, and brokenness is the driving force over happiness.  There are liars, haters, cheaters, and abusers.  And, before one realizes these flaws in humanity exists, there is innocence – a naive mental state of believing that life will meet our basic needs, human decency is abundant and people are honest.

Innocence is short lived, most admired in hindsight and unattainable once lost. 

It lives somewhere between, “I can’t wait to…” and “If I could do it all over again.”

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Real Time Eulogy

At seventeen years old, I wrote my first eulogy to say farewell to a stepfather I deeply loved. Reflecting on his short lived life was excruciatingly sad, and yet, I was able to reminisce of fond memories as well. 

Recently, I decided to take up a 31 day writing challenge.  There are some extremely interesting topics to consider, and to avoid if too emotional.  The subject of writing your own eulogy was Day 1 and I have to admit that it was quite the personal challenge.  How does one sum up their life in a few short minutes?  And so I wrote...

My Eulogy

It’s really hard to put into words the kind of spirit Carmen had during her time here with us.  Carmen was most proud of her children and grandchildren.  Without them, she felt life wasn’t even worth living.  Parenting her children came with long days and sleepless nights.  More so, she was often frustrated with not knowing if she was guiding them along in this crazy life to be productive, loving, God fearing people someday.  She often expressed to her closest friends that she worried about whether she would see her children in heaven someday.  

Carmen could cuss and smoke with the best of them; she was indeed born a sinner and died a sinner.  But, Carmen loved the Lord and was always quoted as saying, “my faith will not be broken.” Through a tough life, her faith was never broken.

It’s interesting to think of her life in many ways.  She moved many, many times as a child.  She is remembered by most from her childhood as outgoing, friendly and easy to get along with.  As a woman, Carmen moved many, many more times. She lived as far North as Vermont and Rhode Island, as far West as California, as far East as North Carolina and as far South as Texas.  She somehow made moving a family across country look easy. But, Carmen struggled internally each time with knowing that her children had to leave behind yet another part of their lives they would never see again.

Carmen was a wife for more than 21 years to a man she loved until her last breath.  She expressed after her divorce that it was excruciating to end her covenant with her husband and God.  She felt that she, nor her husband, could give anything else to one another that could ever wipe away the pain and suffering that occurred over many years.  Carmen chalked it up to kids marrying kids – and then a life of military moves, combat trauma, loneliness and lies.  But, despite all the hard times, Carmen very much had wished for a different ending.  She spent the remainder of her life praying that her former husband had found a wonderful companion and was blessed with nothing but love and family.

Carmen was a hard worker and dedicated her life to helping others as much as possible. She believed in the “pay it forward” concept. She often stopped traffic to give money or food to the homeless.  She enjoyed volunteering with military families for 19 years – in crisis and to provide just every day support about the military life.  After settling down in Ohio after her family departed the military, Carmen volunteered on community boards in support of Veterans, low income housing and recreational programs.  Carmen was overjoyed when she became a Caseworker at Children Services. She left a better paying job to follow her heart. 

It’s Carmen’s heart that led her into a young marriage, into the military life, back to Ohio after her spouse's retirement, through a divorce and into the field of helping children and families.  Her faith guided her along the way and she believed that all things – good and bad- that happened to her were for the good of God.  She believed that the tests here on earth were needed, presented and were not always supposed to be easy.  But, Carmen always knew that God was with her, even when she could not feel his presence or when she ignored his presence.

On her dying bed, Carmen asked me to share a few things she wish someone had told her sooner.

Reserve the word “love” for people that deserve it.  It’s an important word that should be sacred.

Reserve the word “hate” at all costs. 

Look at the specks of color in your children’s and grandchildren’s eyes.

Accept your mortality.  You’ll start living when you do.

Give to others with no strings attached, but with boundaries.  There is a difference.

Turn the other cheek.  You will never feel good when you strike back – emotionally or physically.

How you get a relationship is often how you will lose it.

Pay your own way, make your own money and don’t owe anyone a dime.

Live within your means.  When you do, life is easier and love is more present.

Everyone has pieces of their childhood that hurts.  Don’t be a prisoner of it.  Be an exceptional product of it.  We spend 18 years in our childhood.  Then we spend the rest of our life blaming our childhood for our adulthood mistakes.  Consider that most of your life is not lived in your childhood.  So live your life in the present.

Be you.  Always be you.

Laugh.  A LOT. Laugh at yourself.  Laugh with others. Laugh at life.  Then laugh some more.

If you believe you are always right, then you are wrong, unhappy and will remain unhappy.

Treat every human being with respect.  Every woman, man, child, the elderly, the disabled, every race, religion, ethnicity, gays/lesbians, educated/uneducated, right brain thinker, left brain thinker, rich and poor – all deserve an acknowledgement of their existence and common decency.  Imagine your child being judged. Every human was somebody’s child. 

What we give to the world we do get back.  If you help others you are gifting them happiness.  From that, you will find happiness in helping others.

Respect the generation before you, and the one after you. 

Never break the spirit of a child. 

Apologize when you know you need forgiveness. 

If you are unhappy, change it.

Never make a promise you will not keep.

Never give up.  Life has cycles. Dig yourself out of every hole and keep climbing.  If you hit the bottom, there’s only one way to go so keep moving. Don’t stop!

Love the Lord with all your heart.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I'll Create the Life I Want

I'm 40.  Yes 40 and determined to create the life that I want.  I'm sure I am just another middle aged person trying to "find" their purpose, but I'm fed up waiting on it or searching for it.  I've decided I am going to create it.  One little step at a time, one laugh...(or maybe tear), 1 or 100 sleepless night or over too many cups of coffee.  

I remember many times over being told that I should write a book.  In fact, I've been asked specifically about writing books on marriage, business models, the life of Marines and families, the stories of the wounded in war, and my own memoir.   And EVERY single time I said, "some day I'll write once my children are gone and I have some free time."

I guess I imagined that when my youngest, whom is now 9, has moved out that I would be living a relatively comfortable life.  The kind of life where I no longer live pay check to pay check.  The kind of life where I can lounge around with a good book in my comfy and quaint sunroom...out in the woods preferably.

Then life changed.  One day, it no longer mattered if I had paid my dues - or that I had done my time.  It didn't matter if I had volunteered for hundreds of families and had thousands -- (No...Literally..thousands-- not even kidding) of nights alone at home while my spouse was away.  It did not matter if I had co-shared in the responsibility to save, invest and plan for a future where old age wasn't scary.  Because...I looked it in the face 23 years ago and decided to be mature and responsible in my choices at the know-it-all age of 17. 

So, I'm 40 (yes...we're back to that).  And, I sit in my rental home, with things I've managed to accrue from Goodwill, yard sales and friends... with a substantially less income than 3 years ago... I'm ok.  It's a tough pill to swallow, but I am doing it.  

We often think that there are many things we "couldn't do."  The truth is...we just wouldn't want to do it.  Like?  Starting over.  But, in the face of the unexpected and the inevitable, we can do it.  

I'm 40.  I've not been in this spot since I was 20 years old.  But, I'll create the best life that I can with what I have in front of me today. And while I can give you a long, long list of my woes, my list of blessings is far greater.