there is only the trying

turkey feather

Last year at this time, I was confused and emotionally upset. I’d just filed for divorce. My husband did not want to separate, he didn’t want a divorce. Well, wait a minute… he’d actually been threatening to divorce me for years… since the first year of marriage he’d been holding it over my head. But here he was, saying he didn’t want this, he wanted to stay together. And then he would turn around the next week and tell me how he was glad to be getting rid of me, how peaceful his life was without me. But with the holidays approaching, we both wished for that sense of family and wanted to be able to create it for our sons, too. The last year had been so fractured and broken. But recently we had spent some time together and it felt okay. I was doubting my decision, again.

It took me many years to come to the point that I was ready to file for divorce. It was not a decision that I took lightly or could choose without measuring the cost to everyone involved. And when I finally left for good, I had to focus on all the crap I’d been living with, the abuse, the double standards, the moving target, the gaslighting, the verbal and emotional poisoning he’d tormented me with, and I had to push any positive, happy, close and wonderful memories from my mind. If I reminisced about the good us, the happy family, I would be tempted to go back. I had to steel myself against that. It took a monumental effort to finally leave. To leave with the intention of never going back. To say “no more.” So I had to constantly hold the abuse and dysfunction in the front of my mind to keep me away from my home, my family, everything comfortable and familiar. And, of course, to someone who has been controlled or manipulated for so long, even the unhealthy, destructive behavior is comfortably familiar.

When I left, I still didn’t really comprehend what had happened all those years. It took me months to untangle it all. And my husband kept asking when I was planning to come home. He was concerned that the longer I stayed away, the more I would be accustomed to being on my own. He really said that. He wasn’t concerned about what was best for me. I’d asked for years for a therapeutic separation and he wouldn’t cooperate. He was more concerned with preserving our marriage, or the appearance of one, than he was with my welfare. But I didn’t exactly see it that way at the time, it still seemed like it was his affection for me, desire to reconcile, that kept him pursuing. So I agreed to “date” him through the holidays so that we could see how things went.

It is a bittersweet achievement to have escaped the abuse, come through the divorce, begun to heal, but still feel so empty inside.

He was going to come down for the weekend. I felt physically ill before he arrived Friday evening. I managed through dinner and going out. But Saturday we went hiking and in the midst of our day, I wanted to vomit. I could barely stand to look at him. I couldn’t tell him that, that would have been hurtful, so I just endured the rest of the outing and then I think I made up some excuse about not feeling well to put an end to the day. I felt awful. I knew I could hardly stand to be around him. What was I going to do? I’d committed to Thanksgiving and Christmas with him and the boys. He went to a lot of effort to make all the trimmings for Thanksgiving at the house. Our oldest came home from Southern California and brought a friend, our youngest came with me, it was supposed to be a wonderful holiday. It was miserable for me. Everything was horrible and awkward and my husband seemed to be trying too hard. Yet he still managed to be difficult. At some point we had a conversation that he was able to twist around and accuse me of getting everything my way. It was utterly confirming for me that I couldn’t go back.

This year I won’t be seeing him for any of the holidays. I am wistful. I regret the loss of family and belonging. I feel that I have failed my sons. My youngest son and I will have Thanksgiving alone because our holidays always involved my husband’s family, and now we don’t want to see him. And some of them don’t seem to want to see us. That’s okay. I understand. It’s hard. And my oldest isn’t coming up to visit this year. It’s okay, he’s growing up. We’ll see him for Christmas. I’m trying to look forward, to tell myself things change and this is all a process. Different years will bring different circumstances and it’s all fine. It is a bittersweet achievement to have escaped the abuse, come through the divorce, begun to heal, but still feel so empty inside. I have to remind myself to keep going, it will get better.

“There is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”
T.S. Eliot

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spreading manure and balm

I’ve just begun going to a divorce recovery group. It seems already helpful. I know I need to process my feelings so that I can heal. It is immensely helpful to talk about my experiences, my emotions. It’s as if I have a giant sack I am carrying around that weighs me down. As I talk, I take another piece or two from the sack and leave it. If I talk enough, I will finally rid myself of the burden. That’s why I started this blog. That’s why it helps to journal. Why we go to counselors and therapists. Why God wants us to bring our sorrows to Him. We can’t just keep unloading on our friends and family all the time, either, because, since they love us, they kind of hold on to that little piece we left them with. If we aren’t careful, they will soon be feeling the weight of our sorrows and grief. So we have to spread the manure around…

Of course, there is homework. A  big part of the process is figuring out what’s going on on the inside. Naming it… thinking it through…

I feel like I am no longer connected to the planet. That I’ve lost my gravity. My family, friends, home, church, life’s little routines… all those bits kept me planted… like the roots of a tree. That is all gone. So how do I not just float off into space? I have quite literally, physically felt as if I would. It is terrifying. I feel empty and void inside. Jesus certainly has been my rock, my anchor. But I still get that sickening feeling. I’ve asked my friend to hold my hand to keep me tethered. I don’t know if he understands. But it helps. When my oldest son visits it helps, too.

I have such fear and loneliness and hurt. This isn’t new. How can I live for so many years with such sadness? Mom and Dad kept asking me after I left, “Don’t you feel better?” NO… no, no, no! I did not feel better. I am still trying to feel better. I am trying to make connections, friends, but I find I’m not certain I really want them. I’m afraid of them. I don’t want to pretend I’m okay. I spent so many years covering the pain and sadness and loneliness with a smile and busy-ness, I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to heal and get better, not pretend I’m okay and healthy and just having so much fun. My friend has been so helpful in making me laugh and soothing the loneliness. I don’t ever feel like I’m pretending with him. It feels more like therapy, like healing. And since he talks and talks about his hurt, I can talk about my hurt, too. He’s not always a great listener, but he’s getting better. And hugs help. Hugs help so much.

I feel like an enormous part of my self has died. And that I’m walking around not really living. I’ve forgotten how to have fun. How to enjoy myself. I still laugh and do things. but they are at like 20%, like I used to ride a road bike fast. Now I need to pedal around the driveway on a tricycle. And I know there is a world of people out there having fun, having a life, and I feel unable to participate. And that makes me very unhappy. Life is passing by and I’m just sort of catatonic. I don’t know how to break the spell and go be a real person again.

This week I am going to do one thing that I love that I haven’t done since I left. That is a promise to myself. To put a smile on my face. To put some healing balm on my wounded heart and begin to recover something I have lost.

what is wrong with me?

This week has been frustratingly NOT what I had planned. I had things on my agenda to accomplish. I need to find work, I have obligations, and there things that need to be done around the house and the basic taking-care-of-life kind of things. This Wednesday was an important date for me. I left my husband two years ago. I intended to blog about that. None of it is getting done because I keep taking care of other people. Particularly him. My friend. You simply can’t believe how utterly messed up his life is and every time he turns around there is something else. And I have to wonder, do I have codependency issues? Do I help too much? His car, which has some serious problems started leaking two days ago. It needs to go into the shop. So now he is out of a car for a few days. I started yesterday driving him to the dealership after he borrowed my car to take his son to the doctor and to school. I spent the rest of the day chauffeuring him around and looking at used cars and taking him to his doctor’s appointment. And then we picked his sons up after dinner so that they could spend the night here. Then his sons started fighting, so I drove one back to his mom’s house. Then I drove this morning to drop off the other one at school and my friend at work. As we were discussing what to do next time they fight, rather than return one to his mom, since that’s not really the best way to handle it, his former wife calls and I’m listening to all of their stuff again. I can hear the communication problems they have and the next thing I know, I’m at home cleaning up the kitchen and vacuuming and thinking about all the stuff I have to accomplish today and I find myself texting said former wife to ask if she wants to meet for coffee. I want to help.

WTF?! What is wrong with me? Why would I do that? Why would I get involved like that? I have my own life, my own things I’m supposed to be taking care of. I don’t have any answers for them anyway. What do I think I’m going to do for them?

I definitely have codependency issues.

Well, wait… I listen to their conversations and I hear where things are breaking down. I know how resentment affects our ability to see the other person trying to do the right thing. How resentment and bitterness color our speech with sarcastic and hurtful remarks. I know verbal abuse when I hear it. I understand where he is coming from because we are friends. I understand her position because I’m a mom and I also know what boys and men are like. I also watch the boys and see how the older one messes with the younger one and baits him. I know boys need firm boundaries and I doubt they are getting them. I have a pretty good understanding of the stuff they are going through.

Now, you know how people tell you, when you are going through a really difficult event in life, “God will teach you things through this and you’ll be more sympathetic and able to help others who are going through something similar”? Well, isn’t that exactly where I’m at? Isn’t this exactly what those people had in mind? Isn’t this that particular moment when I am really able to be useful in coming along side other people to help and listen and maybe give a little sympathy and counsel? So why would I not step in and help? Isn’t that an important part of being a human?

I read a wonderful little daily devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Part of today’s devotion says,

Try to depend on the help of the Spirit as you go through this day of life. Pause briefly from time to time so you can consult with this Holy One inside you. He will not force you to do His bidding, but He will guide you as you give Him space in your life…

Maybe I’m misreading or projecting here, but aren’t we called to share the love of Christ, to share our selves, our time in order to help others? Isn’t that the bidding of the Holy Spirit? So, I am going to meet with this woman today and stay in touch with the Spirit as I speak with her, asking Him to show me what help He has for her and what words He wants me to share with her. And I’d be so grateful if you would pray that I don’t mess up and give her stupid, selfishly motivated words, but love her and speak words of honey inspired by the Spirit.

eight years ago…

This was written in my diary eight years ago as I sat in our church’s kitchen. I was at the weekly women’s bible study and I had to leave the room while the teacher was giving the lesson…

God, Anna is in there teaching about the fruits of the Spirit and how we are living with the Spirit in us and that we are freed from fear… and I just can’t apply any of this to my own life. I listen to other people praising God and being so thankful and wanting to glorify you in their difficulties and finding such comfort in your words… I just am not getting all of this. It just isn’t working for me. I no longer know what is right or wrong or have the right motivation for any of it, and I question whether I really ever did. Lord, I call you that, but I can’t tell if I mean it. I need your help. I need your healing. I cannot continue to do the things I’ve committed to, I don’t want to be happy or joyful, I feel nothing but guilt and despair. I feel pain when I can find a bit of joy with anyone outside of my own family, yet I can’t trust other women, even Christians, with my problems. I feel so alone… Please help me. Save me.

I have come to the end of myself, and I just don’t see God there for me.

I cannot keep pretending that I am okay.

a little bit more human – part i

stones

After so many years of the push-me pull-me relationship, feeling abandoned and smothered at the same time, some people would be relieved to finally be alone. I was at first. But I was very alone. I had landed in a home 30 minutes from town. I knew virtually no one. Even when my son came to live with me and I started working, I felt a deep hole. Believe me, I did turn to Jesus for comfort and companionship, but He wasn’t filling the void, the need for fun and affection and physical touch.

There was a man at work that I felt attracted to and we started talking and flirting. Then he came over one evening. And then I went to his house another afternoon, and something started. There was physical attraction and mutual connection over the pain of divorce. We talked about how it hurt our kids, our sense of identity, the utter loss of security of family and connection. He played his guitar. We laughed. We went out. We started to feel human again.

All the while there was this ugly fear crouching in the corner. I was afraid I was being deceived. Or used. That he was playing me. That he was a womanizer. I had never experienced this lack of trust before. I had never been so suspicious. There was no particular reason for this apprehension, nothing that he did. I even googled the things he said to figure out if there was truth to them. He seemed to be telling me the truth. But the doubt ate at me.

I reasoned with myself and listened to my misgivings with a logical mind. I considered that it was possible he was not what he presented. I decided to keep seeing him while watching for signs of deceipt. He was hard to pin down, kind of flaky. He seemed emotionally distant sometimes. He would sort of disappear for days and then reappear. But he always reappeared. And we had so much fun when we were together.

I had never experienced this lack of trust before. I had never been so suspicious.

A year later, we are so close. I still struggle with those same fears, although not as much. I still think I am being used. And I am using him. I don’t know if I could have gotten through the last year without him. He is still flaky. He still disappears for days. Now I know he is spending time with his kids. He sleeps at the house he got thrown out of in the divorce so that he can tuck his boys in bed at night and take them to school in the morning. I know his former wife is unkind and unstable and confusing. I know he is emotionally shut down as a coping mechanism, just like I have my means of dealing with the pain. I know he is having trouble working and keeping himself together. He is trying to eat healthy, to get regular exercise, go to church more, be a good dad.

And we talk. He plays his guitar. We laugh. We go out. We feel a little bit more human.

 

information would have been helpful

As the years went on, I struggled more and more with depression. Kurt seemed to be caring during my worst, debilitating bouts, when I could barely get myself out of bed.  Since we home schooled, I had to get up and moving each day. But there were times I felt like an empty shell. When he came home he would take the kids out for dinner while I pulled the blankets over my head. I was so grateful for his help. I blamed myself for my struggle.

But I want you to think about this… what if someone is good and kind to you, provides for you. You need that person. You lean on that person. Then, that person, who is your partner, turns on you. Tells you everything that is wrong with you, why they should leave you, how you fail them daily, that they are GOING to leave because you are so selfish or headstrong or dependent or busy or lazy or loud or quiet or a bitch. You do this too much, that not enough. Be more strict with the boys, be more tender, be more organized, be more flexible, be firm, be sweet, do this, do this, do this, do this, why don’t you just sit down and relax! And don’t complain about how I treat you, you are just not submissive enough like a good wife should be and you just are pushing all my buttons and trying to start a fight! So, you try harder to make things work, to hit the target (which keeps moving) and be a better wife, better mom. And he is sweet sometimes and woos you. And you feel happy that he loves you, and he wants you to lean on him and trust him and let him love you and then he’s angry and yelling again, or giving you the silent treatment. He shouts till his face is shaking, he throws things, he towers over you at six and a half feet and holds his fist in your face and it gets hard to get yourself out of bed in the morning to try to make this impossible world work.

Obviously, I was doing something wrong and needed to fix myself.

The following information would have been helpful at that point…

Domestic Violence is a violent confrontation between family or household members involving physical harm, sexual assault, or fear of physical harm…

The batterer uses acts of violence and a series of behaviors, including intimidation, threats, psychological abuse, and isolation to coerce and to control the other person. The violence may not happen often, but may remain a hidden and constant terrorizing factor. Domestic violence is not only physical and sexual violence but also psychological. Psychological violence means intense and repetitive degradation, creating isolation, and controlling the actions or behaviors of the spouse through intimidation or manipulation to the detriment of the individual.

Domestic violence destroys the home. No one deserves to be abused. The responsibility for the violence belongs to the abuser. It is not the victim’s fault!

Symptoms of Abuse – Misuse of Power And Control

Abuse in a relationship is any act used to gain power and control over another person. Women who are abused physically are often isolated. Their partners tend to control their lives to a great extent as well as verbally degrade them.

Listed below are some of the warning signs of domestic abuse. Look to see if there are multiple warning signs that are occurring in your life.

Using Physical and Sexual Abuse

Hair pulling, biting, shaking, pushing, pinching, choking, kicking, confinement, slapping, hitting, punching, using weapons, forced intercourse, unwanted sexual touching in public or in private and depriving her of food or sleep.

Using Emotional Abuse

Insulting her in public or in private
Putting down her friends and family
Making her feel bad about herself
Calling her names
Making her think she’s crazy
Playing mind games
Humiliating her
Making her feel guilty
Using Male Privilege; acting like “Master of the Castle”
Treating her like a servant
Making all the big decisions
Being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

Using Economic Abuse

Preventing her from getting or keeping a job
Making her ask for money
Giving her an allowance
Taking her money
Not letting her know about or have access to family income
Not allowing her a voice in important financial decisions
Demanding exclusive control over household finances.

Using Coercion and Threats

Making or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her
Threatening to leave her, or to commit suicide
Threatening to report her to welfare
Making her drop charges
Making her do illegal things.

Using Intimidation

Making her afraid by using looks, gestures, or actions
Throwing or smashing things, destroying property
Abusing pets
Dangerous driving
Displaying weapons.

Using Children

Making her feel guilty about the children
Using the children to relay messages
Using visitation to harass her
Threatening to take the children away.

Using Isolation

Controlling what she does, who she sees, what she reads, & where she goes
Limiting her outside involvement
Refusing to let her learn to drive, go to school, or get a job
Not allowing her to freely use the car or the telephone.

Using Jealousy and Blame to Justify Actions

Minimizing, Denying, Blaming
Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously
Checking up on where she’s been or who she’s talked to
Accusing her of infidelity
Saying the abuse didn’t happen
Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior
Saying she caused it.

where did the monster come from

monster

In 2006, I was trying to get a grasp on what was happening to me… how my marriage had turned into this monster that was destroying me. I jotted down some notes…

a reconstruction of the events:

1990-1992

  • first week or two of marriage- I realized there was a BIG problem (remember sleeping in garage and crying as if your heart would break?)
  • blame and lack of support very early months (over financial issues, esp. my small pre-marital education debt)
  • complete breakdown of all intimacy and one-flesh… violence during Twain Harte years (remember crashing through the closet doors? punches? wonder about those two broken ribs?) . Kurt began his threats of divorce over the “Men in Grey” stuff he and his mom believed. This is when I had my first dream-vision experience of the creepy knocking on all 4 walls of the house and I prayed and prayed aloud to keep Satan out of our home.
  • I sought counseling to deal with Kurt’s control and anger. He refused to take part and my parents paid for it. My mother’s counsel was to bloom where planted.

1993-2000

  • slightly better during first year in Sunnyvale I began to learn “compliance” and “submission” according to Kurt. I was happy working. Also, we did seek help together. Kurt was diagnosed as depressed but did not continue his medication. When Kurt got the counselor all excited about discussing the sex issue… a real arena of abuse… I refused to go.
  • with Ian’s birth, the violence and emotional/verbal abuse/control became unbearable. I remember once he kicked me and knocked me down while I had our infant in my arms. I got in the car and left, but had no where to go so I went back. I had terrible bruises on my thigh. I simply could not believe this was me. It was here that I’d say the worst several years began… I was in tears, I was so tormented by a relationship that in my gut I knew was wrong, so very wrong, but I had to make it work. I became very confused about submission and who was right. I prayed and sought answers, but got little or no guidance. We moved, we prayed over the house. I cried a lot, Kyle was born, I struggled with Kurt’s parenting, my heart ached for what I felt was SUCH a dysfunctional, sick family, such an empty and disappointing marriage. As always, I maintained an exterior of cheerfulness to others, but I became angry and bitter deep down. Deep depression hit several times, beginning when Ian was 1. I began taking medication.