Travel Planning

It is 100 years in the future.  Our histories have been condensed into digital records for future generations.  A young family member goes to the archives to find out about their heritage. They are looking for pieces of their identity.  They find a tribute to you.  What does it say? What would you want it to say?

Going through a divorce was like living in a fog.   In the beginning I couldn’t sleep. There was no sense of being connected to reality.  Then I slept to avoid reality. After stumbling awake I spent a lot of time trying to piece together who I was.  One of my big things was to hold  the flotsam and jetsam of my life up to God and ask what I was supposed to do with this?  I accomplished the basics first. I secured my housing, started trying to tackle the finances. Bit by bit some things stabilized, occasionally became a huge mess, but generally started to become my new normal.  I still have difficulty concentrating at times as I’m much more easily overwhelmed but in general I’m back to being a smart alec, I’m able to pray and I’m appreciating the beauty in my son and friends.

I was facing the tangibles,  but eventually I realized that there were other essential goals that I had to set in order to make my life worthwhile.

It’s been almost 2 1/2 years since my marriage ended and 2 years since my ex had left the house.Where did those years go?  It was obvious that I could let a lot more years just drift by and all I would do is survive if I didn’t start having some direction.

Going through a divorce forces you to take a longterm view of your life. The lawyers need you to document all your exact expenses and have you calculate it all for the rest of your years.  It was an amazing inventory.

What I have to face now is after doing the personal inventory on who I think I am, is I need to assess who I want to be.  I need to decide who I want to become, and how I want to be remembered.  It goes way beyond where I work, or what I own.  I realize that those things are not the important things I need to focus on.  The are urgent but not important.

It is not easy  but I know if I don’t have goals for who I want to be, for my relationship with God, and the people around me I will not accomplish anything that really matters. I will only be surviving and not really living.  I know I will be adding to and refining this list for the rest of my life. I want to go beyond where I am.

I pray that God guides us all forward. I pray that he helps us continue to transform from healing to wholeness in Him. How do you want to be remembered?

Baggage

“Good afternoon madame.  Are you checking in?  Yes?  Any baggage?  Oh my.  You are taking all of this with you?  I’ll get the manager”.

We all have baggage. Some of us have backpacks and others need sherpas to move their steamer trunks and wardrobes.

One of the biggest challenges of being divorced is learning how to tell people who you are. I know I still get stuck on that one.  I’m always fascinated by how people choose to  introduce themselves.  In one online arts group I belong to we ask newcomers to introduce themselves to the group.  I was stunned by one lady’s opening.

“Hello, I joined this group over a year ago (I think), and have been silent ever since.I have chronic major resistant depression, as well as an auto-immune disorder, for which I a now taking narcotics.”   Really?  This is what you want us to know about you? What we say first is how we define the most important part of our being. It is what we want to be known for.  This woman let us know right from the beginning that her struggles were her focus. She didn’t once mention her interest in our craft, her interest in any art form or even if she had children or pets. We didn’t even know her name before her baggage was dropped at our feet.

I never met the woman or know her name. I am sorry she has such problems but nothing in her intro. drew me to her.  She’d fallen into the trap of our generation, of identifying herself, not by her astrological sign, but by her self-help group. We are a generation that identifies itself by its damage. The problem with taking your identity from your damage is that you can’t afford to heal. If you do you lose what makes you special.

I also struggle with a serious auto-immune problem but I need people to know me for my faith, my friendships, my humour, my volunteer work, my artwork, travels, my love of reading, etc.  I want to be known for my passions and strengths.  I may be divorced but I am not my divorce.  It isn’t about being better than anyone else. Many of you have stories that are so horrible that you are victims in the truest sense of the word.  It is about being self aware of how we are presenting ourselves and the tone we are setting for future relationships. It’s about deciding on our own marketing and deciding what we want to define us.

Recently I was making up new business cards since I’d closed my website and wanted to direct traffic to my Flickr site.  I wanted to pick a background for my card that conveys a sense of who I am as an artist. I searched through the free templates looking for swirls and colours that resonated with me. I wanted it to say “me” before people even read the print.  On the card I only had two lines to tell people what sort of artist I am and why I should be their go to girl.

I realized that the new me also needed some repackaging. What would I say if I only had two lines to let people know who I am?

.   Even the people you have known for years may not know how to approach the new you and need direction.  It was really upsetting to me in the beginning when people I’d known seemed to shy away. I realized that I had to be the one to redefine myself for them so they’d know what to do.  They needed direction from me.

As people who’ve gone through a terrible transition we need to actively decide how we want to be seen. Do we present our strengths and interests or our victimization? What do we have to offer others?  Usually baggage, especially after a hectic trip, contains a lot of smelly things.  No one is interested.  When we get back from travelling the kids are usually hoping for gifts or souvenirs.  “What did you bring us?”  Our baggage is a mix of all of this. I would say that in going forward we need to unpack in private, and decide what others would enjoy seeing from our travels.  It is up to us to decide how we want to introduce the new us.

What would your two lines be?

D.

Taken from “My Faith Project | Quilting to Heal After Divorce”

With kind permission by Jennifer Haupt I am allowed to reprint this post.  I found Nancy’s exploration of crafting dear to my heart.  In art I’ve found a way to express feelings that had no words, hopes that had no definition, and a need to move forward.  When I create I explore and accomplish and make sense of a small corner of my world.  If you click the link there is a picture of her quilt.  Creating became a way I still knew I was alive. “I create therefore I am”, but enough about me.  This is Nancy’s experience.

Quilting to Heal After Divorce

by JENNIFER HAUPT on OCTOBER 27, 2009

Nancy Monson

Nancy Monson, author of Craft to Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Pastimes, shares how she used to quilting to find faith and heal after her divorce:

Many people use crafts to heal themselves emotionally and spiritually—to reduce stress, boost their self-esteem and work through traumatic experiences. That’s certainly how I use quilting. It’s as much therapy as recreation for me!

I first experienced the healing power of crafts when I began making a quilt while going through a divorce in the summer of 2000. I was taking a workshop that explored the use of decorative threads on quilt tops, and for some reason I decided to give myself permission to make up the quilt as I went along. I had no real plan, which is not the way I usually work at all.

So I was bold and in the process. I didn’t rush to finish this project and start a new one. I didn’t constrain myself by insisting I do things “the right way,” a dictum I had I applied to my life and my quilting. Instead, I just went along with wherever the project wanted to take me. I worked on the quilt over several weeks, and I began to see that the evolving design was expressing some of the chaos and confusion I was feeling as I went through my divorce. But as I came to the end of the project, I was disheartened by the finished product. I hated it: The quilt was a busy mishmash.

Maybe I could slide it up and re-piece it, I thought, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t cut into a piece I’d spent so many hours sewing. Instead, I decided to fold it several times on the diagonal and tack it down. And suddenly I loved the way it looked—it now had a kind of mangled, arrow shape to it, which was entirely appropriate to its purpose. It looked like it had been through an antique washing machine—just as I felt I, as a human being, had been—so I named it “My Divorce Quilt: Through the Wringer.”

Divorce Quilt

When I hung this quilt in my guild’s quilt show, it created a buzz among the attendees. One woman told me that she thought the folds were my way of trying to tuck away memories of my marriage. She even suggested that I might feel compelled to fold it further as time passed, to show how I had healed from the divorce and was moving on to a new life. I was fascinated by this insight, and suddenly realized that I had created my first art quilt! Whatever I had made—and it certainly wasn’t a typical quilt—expressed something deep inside of me. And making and showing this quilt helped me to feel whole again, this time as a single person. Just as importantly, it turned out to be a message to myself that it was time for me to pursue life without a strict adherence to a plan, to open up creatively and emotionally, and to explore life as a process, enjoying the twists and turns, rather than just rushing to the goal.

via My Faith Project | Quilting to Heal After Divorce.

Icons- faith in our image

In 2009 I had the amazing opportunity to tour some of the Mediterranean countries with my mother.  I was a history major and I’m currently an artist so I was giddy with all the ancient artwork.  One of the things that was really fascinating were the icons.  Each generation seems to depict the mother and child, or the saints in their own current style.  When I was growing up Jesus was depicted as a long haired flowerchild with an aquiline nose, fair skin and the hands of a nobleman.  He even had blonde highlights.  Groovy.

I grew up with manger scenes that had the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the three wise men. It was only in my 20s that I learned that the wisemen didn’t find Jesus until he was almost 2 years old.  They were never at the manger at all!

One of my friends is a polymer clay artist who creates the most fabulous angels in all skin colours. One day she had a woman stop and comment saying she thought she should mention that the angels were racist as they depicted race (as if all pink angels aren’t our own form of racial bias). I winced and we laughed our fannies off (I wish) because the shopper didn’t understand the difference between racial and racist. She just knew that referencing race must be negative.

Several years back there was a big Christian women’s conference that took place in England. It almost came to a screeching halt before it began.  The Americans were appalled that the so-called British Christian were meeting in a pub, having beers and some were even smoking.  The Brits were equally offended by the excess of makeup, jewelry and worldly wardrobe of the so-called American Christians.

One of our cultural icons is to be thin. Even in the church we have  videos with titles like “Firm Believer” designed for Christian weight loss. (Please feel free to be grossly ashamed of this tacky commercialization of our faith).  I am not thin but not out of proportion. When I went for a trip to Turkey I couldn’t believe the attention I got because I had, as I was told, a real woman’s body. It was so jarring.  A curvy figured was admired and skinny was ignored.  Talk about a paradigm shift!

So what’s my point?

So many arguments in the church often come down to the conceit that unless everyone worships, prays and praises the way we do that they are wrong.  Unfortunately we are often blind to the cultural filter that we apply to our faith.  Like the icons, we overlay when we know from our society  on to our definitions of true Christian life.

How does this apply to being divorced Christian women looking for our place in the Christian community?

One of the modern additions to Christian life is that we must all be leaders. We must excel, we must find our passion and we must do something significant.  The question is who does God want us to be and what is significant to God?  Volunteering as part of the Body  is good.  What he really designed us for is relationship with him.  This is better.  It is who you are, not what you do, but don’t take my word for it.  As much as I or any other person with an opinion can try to be objective we are also affected by our world.

In finding our place we have to really read the word and see what it says.  Find out what He is really asking and what is pop culture.  What expectations do we put on ourselves that have nothing to do with God’s purposes for us?  Be ready not to do what is expected but what is right before God.  Do not shoulder yokes that were never yours, besides ladies, they are a misery to accessorize!  Trudging forward with you, D.

My reality as a teenaged boy and other science fiction

The truth is that I’m not a rainbows and kittens kind of girl.  I enjoy science fiction, sculpting, abstract painting, comic books and a good burger.  A great night is a vintage godzilla film marathon, popcorn and an ice cold Pepsi.My ex once said that I was just a teenaged boy in disguise which in hindsight I think disturbed him. As my ex mother in law would say, “You have odd tastes for a woman”.

I was never a tomboy, just creative with a Far Side sense of humour.  I was a medical social worker and science fiction was infinitely more interesting or exciting than any movie of the week and it was a great escape from the intensity of my work.  It asked all the “What if?” questions and everything was in technicolour.  In truth the monsters were usually extensions of the human condition and a lot of the stories were morality tales but with the greatest make up and special effects.  In the hollywood movies it was usually clear who were the bad guys and the good guys and I could suspend disbelief and just enjoy myself.  In the books you were provoked with moral and intellectual dilemmas that challenged you to new perspectives and sumptuous feats of imagination, and they were just plain cool.

I hadn’t always been involved in art but once I got engaged I found that I was home alone a lot (what’s wrong with this picture?) as he was in an intense school program that lasted until the end of our first year of marriage.  I’d never been a good art student as most of that had to do with perfectly replicating drawings of horses.  That is how I remember it.  Very neat and tidy girls would draw replicas of horses with their perfectly sharpened pencils and got As.  Mine looked like disgruntled weasels with gland problems.  Needless to say I did not win any scholarships. I hung out with friends, attended youth group and watched too much TV. My parents were so proud but I digress.

During the time alone I started having dreams with amazing colours and textures and patinas and I wanted desparately to try and reproduce them. When I experimented crafting in 3D I came alive.

I began to explore my need to create.  I found that with a husband that traveled constantly the need to communicate became more pressing. I could express emotions with colours, shapes and forms and lose myself in learning.  In all of this I was learning who I was, what I liked and how I interpreted my world.  Unfortunately it wasn’t what my ex wanted.  I wanted him to be proud of me, of the shows or occasional article in the news but he was still a singularity apart.  I tried to change myself.  I packed up all the supplies and focused on making a clean home a show home, the meals upgraded from healthy to trendy, be the best mom possible and my spare time spent at the gym.  None of it brought him closer and now I was the one feeling lost.  I didn’t know how to fix things, what to be to be wanted besides at night time.

When he finally left I cried convulsively for two months unable to focus, terrified of the future and knowing that if only I wasn’t me maybe I could have been loved.  If only I could have sketched lovely fricking horses and could have watched daytime TV and pretend that the hosts weren’t muppets from hell, and if I could golf and drink white wine, if only,…. If only I wasn’t me.

When I finally stopped crying I pulled out the clay.  I began with little pieces. Then I left all my supplies out.  With a shock I realized I could do that.  In time I found that I didn’t have to stay up late creating to avoid my life. I could create when I wanted because my space was my own and I could sleep when it was good for me because I was free.  The person I’d become, the real me didn’t have to apologize for what I wasn’t. I love weird, quirky things, indie music, late night discussions about faith, politics, flying carpets, eternity, travel and love.  I can do that now.  My reality is wide open and I can explore.
Divorce can seem like a complete rejection of who and what you are but you have the choice to embrace your inner teenaged boy, your foodie, your world explorer, activist or humorist.  I realize that by rejecting who I was I could never be who I was meant to be. I’ve spent most of my life saying I believe that God loves me.  I believed that I knew who I was and liked that person but when my partner threatened to reject me I was willing to toss me out too.

Being divorced means re-evaluating who you are as a singlette. I pray you all find your reality and appreciate your own voice.

D.Isaiah 61:7

Stinking Weasel, Self Esteem and Other Popular Myths

O.K. I feel a rant coming on.  I swear it isn’t my fault.  Yesterday I was stuck waiting in a doctor’s office and was subjected to a canned bad remix of Sinatra’s “My Way”. The lyrics at the best of times set my teeth on edge  but this should have been banned under the Geneva convention. Besides being made to feel like I was trapped in an elevator I  just can’t get on board with the whole premise. The dramatic message of the song is that the highest value is to be true to yourself and to do things your way, but there’s a problem.  What if someone in their heart of hearts, at the core of their being is a stinking weasel?   Why is being true to that a good thing?  I’m thinking that who we are should not always be the marker by which we set the bar. Be honest, for some of the people you’ve met that bar would be subterranean, yet we accept the concept of “to thine own self be true” without critical reflection.

Since my divorce (that word still gives me the shivers) I have been given a fair bit of self love advice.  I admit that I have the occasional committment issues with self love as I know myself too well but all in all there is an abiding fondness.  What worries me is that the goal of these “love yourself” books and talks seem to border on stalkerish behaviour.  I think that knowing yourself and finding the things you enjoy about yourself is good. You spend a lot of time with you and having a nice working relationship is helpful.  Being infatuated with your every thought or action, putting yourself on a pedestal that says that everything you do, say or think is magnificent, is delusional.

Self esteem is a thorny issue.  You need to believe in your own decisions, opinions, tastes and values.  You need to know who you are and find your voice.  The problem is the wholesale acceptance of everything you are without any critical assessment. Have you really reached your end goal?  Really?  There is no tweaking to be done? I’ve yet to meet the person who couldn’t use a little emotional nip or tuck.

I’m an artist and there is a brilliant story teller Ira Glass.  In a little video series he talks about the gap between your taste and your output. http://youtu.be/BI23U7U2aUY (If this link doesn’t work go to YouTube and look up Ira Glass on Storytelling, part 3 or 4).

Part of his point is to know your goals, produce work, acknowledge the gap and keep on producing until you’ve narrowed the gap. He also says that it wil take a long time to get from here to there.  It’s the same with personal, emotional and spiritual growth.

I think this applies to self esteem.  Loving yourself doesn’t mean that you are the finished product and ready for worship. I really hate the whole attitude of, “Well this is me and if that isn’t good enough for you then watch my dust as I leave because I’m perfect the way God made me.”  If I was truly the way God made me that would be great but I’ve done some alterations of my own and maybe some self assessment isn’t unwarranted.  I go to church because I need to. We need people to love us as we are but that doesn’t mean that some of our behaviours and attitudes don’t need adjustment.

A couple of days ago in a post called “Walls” I quoted from Isaiah 58: 11,12. It talked about God guiding and restoring and rebuilding in our lives. It is a wonderful thing to soak in. What I didn’t include were verses 9 and 10. There were conditions on these blessings. They called for personal corrections. It talked about what you needed to do and stop doing.

” If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

Hhm. No making others pay for our pain. No yelling, blaming or bitter talk.  Be useful and helpful. Look to the needs of others. Don’t you love that phrase, “then your light will rise in the darkness”?  How can you not want that?  Here is the blue print and it has nothing to do with making yourself the center. The opposite behaviour is the way out.

In the name of self esteem it doesn’t mean that we are the gold standard of all we could or ever should be.  What if we have our own stinking weaselisms (that word is probably going to give my spell checker a nervous breakdown)?  Maybe I’m just talking to myself but especially in the church we have to be able to be transparent withourselves. I will never understand why anyone who has been forgiven could ever twist it to the point where they think that they are the example to be followed.  So many of the disagreements in the church come down to the fact that we want others to worship and serve and pray as we do in order for the other person to be correct.

One of my favorite quotes is that real evangelism is one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread.  I have no defence. If you look to find fault in me you won’t have to try too hard. We were saved by perfection. We are not perfection, and that’s O.K..

I’m also always leery of people who proclaim that they have bad self-esteem. I’ve always found it to be an excuse for really bad behaviour towards others.  What it often means is they are upset that they aren’t treated as the lead dog of the pack and they resent it. In fact they have the opposite of bad self esteem. Their insecurities have to do with how they think they ought to be treated.  Real low self esteem people rarely say a word.  They don’t believe they have anything to say worth hearing.  Those people break my heart.  Telling them they need great self esteem is useless as they don’t see what is beautiful in themselves as they are fixated on their flaws.

Either way we fixate on what is broken or pretend that we are beyond being challenged. Neither brings healing or wholeness.

May I suggest a middle ground?  What if we could see the pretty, shiny things inside, enjoy them and set goals for the other stuff?  No hand wringing, no stomping out with an attitude, just a pinch of humility, a little light humored acceptance with a dose of reality? The “self” is a modern mythological god that is notoriously unreliable.  Appreciate it as a work in progress get rid of the pressure of being a small “g” god.  Make Isaiah 58:9, 10 a personal goal.

Now if I could just get that muzak out of my head!   (The above cartoon is the cover of an “Agnes” book by Tony Cochran)

Squaring Off

I can’t tell you how good it felt when I first read this quote.  I finally felt vindicated in being what I truly am.  I am a circle person.  I admit it.  I have tried for years to be a square person but it was all a lie.  Contemporary lines in furniture and kitchen design just left me cold.  I was always drawn to round shapes.  If I had my choice my front door would be round like one the ones from the Hobbit’s little homes under the hill in the shire.  Wouldn’t that be cheery?

I’d been toying with the idea of getting a backsplash for my kitchen and saw endless walls of square and rectangular, in style tiles. These were proper tiles. These were the type that “helped with resale”. I was uninspired and the truth was that my heart would beat faster when I would see the rogue board of round smooth beach pebble tiles or a great rounded mosaic with swirling patterns. “Yes!” my psyche screamed (my psyche is rather dramatic so I don’t let it out in polite company) that this was me and circles were my people.  I wanted these but they just were not wise. No. Future buyers would look at them as odd.  I knew this because almost every person that has ever been on House Hunters has walked into the kitchens and said, “My style is granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. It’s my thing.”.  How could the same thing be everyone’s thing?  They’ve been told it is “The” thing so it is their thing, thus square tiles were the “right” tiles. As you can see, even writing about them has provoked the overuse of quotation marks.

I knew my circle tastes needed to be limited to hoop earrings and cookies (both of which make me happy).

One of the freedoms of being on my own again (and don’t I feel guilty for admitting to finding something enjoyable) is to assert my own tastes in my own home.  The funny part was that though I had the freedom to do this I didn’t feel the personal freedom to do it without approval, and yes this is as weak as it sounds.  It really confounded me.  If I thought of it in terms of the Einstein quote, I wanted to swim but felt guilty I wasn’t working on my tree climbing skills.  I realized that it wasn’t that I wasn’t allowed to change things but I’d stopped trusting my own judgement to make good decisions.  I was shocked at my self doubt.  I was a circle girl in a square world and needed to figure out how to make peace with that without someone giving me approval.  I realized that by making circle decisions for my home I wasn’t redecorating but making a step into singleness and letting my home reflect me rather than us.

The dark side of this was that the pained little voice inside me said it was another reminder that no one cared what I did. Thinking that thought made me mad.  Did I really believe that my life didn’t have value just by itself?  How many women have said they don’t bother to cook anymore as it was just for themselves? Why?  Aren’t they worth a good meal?  Don’t they deserve circles?  Our marriages got broken but it didn’t mean that we as women are broken and have no value.  I realized that I was acting like I died instead of  my marriage. I realized that I had to trust that who I am is enough and whole as is.  It was time to believe that my life has purpose and value and to live like I believed it even if I didn’t know how God would shape it.

It was time to accept myself as a swimmer rather than judge myself as a climber.   It was and is time for circles.

Walls

I have to admit I have a long standing affection for walls.  It isn’t just because they keep the roof from hogging my bed space but I find them beautiful.  As I went through my divorce one of the things I found myself doing was traveling.  I found that a lot of my photos included walls. It’s the patina that comes with age and experience. Here are some of my favorites.

All of these pictures represents something different. Some walls are only pieces of their former glory. In Pergamon, Turkey I went to the Red Basilica, which is the Red Court of the book of Revelations.  I stood in the huge room with the remnants of Egyptian gods. How the people must have trembled as they stood in the closed high walled round room surrounded by these foreign gods. There is the library of Celsus in Ephesus. It’s two story facade towers precariously at the end of the walk right beside the ampitheatre where Paul preached. All these walls mean something different.  The walls of my marriage represented warmth, home and belonging.  They were the arms of our sanctuary. I was safe.  Suddenly new walls went up. These were cold and gray, not the happy mexican yellow of the kitchen but the cement of new boundaries within our home. The walls had no doors and represented not only closed spaces but ones that would not be shared and forever changed the floor plan of our home.  The walls now echoed for the emptiness that happened as possessions were moved and talking ceased. The walls of the office no longer held hand drawn pictures of the family but reminders of documents for the banks and lawyers.

One by one the bricks were removed. Some just disappeared and others shattered as there were wrenched from their mortar. During this time I started painting and it made sense that I found myself painting walls.  I realized that the mortar was red. The walls of our marriage were living and suffered with each change.  In the end I ended up buying out my husband for his half of the house even though it took everything I had.  When my son asked if he would lose his room these walls represented one of the choices I was able to make for myself.  They started to become a refuge again. It took time for me to go from triage to convalescence but eventually these walls became a stronghold rather than housing for the walking wounded. It became a place where I could cobble together my life and take ownership of my decisions. I began with redecorating in little ways. I painted and hung new artwork.  I even found that that changed with time. Last night when I painted I realized it was again a wall and the stones were a mosaic of warm colours and soft weathered stones. The wall was handmade with local materials, all the stones were different in size and placement but there was a harmony. Two of my friends said the colours looked like me. That felt good.

From barriers to strength I continue to love my walls as they take on their own patina.

Isaiah 58:11,12  ” The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like  a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls. Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Our stories- K. part two

This is a continuation of K.’s story. This was my chance to ask her some questions and her honest answers.

Q:One of the first things I noticed about you was your faith. In the face of divorce what has your faith meant to you?

A: It’s not just the kind of faith that says, yes, I believe that God exists and that he is out there somewhere but rather a relationship with a God who knows me intimately and loves me for who I am not for what I look like or what I did in the past or will do in the future.  He is my rock and it is to him I turn to when I am sad and hurting.  He doesn’t make the pain go away but rather shows me that I can learn from my experiences.  That he has a purpose for my life and for the things I have to endure.  I am who I am today because of everything I have gone through.  Some of it good, some of it bad but all of it has shaped me and hopefully I have learned something along the way.  God also is the giver of great joy and happiness in my life.  I try never to take for granted the good things in my life and try to look on them as small glimpses of the good gifts that God wants to give us.  Something as simple as new spring leaves, sun shining on my face and the twitter of the birds all remind me that God is my creator and is the creator of all that is around me.  The peace that God gives cannot be described.  It has carried me through very dark times where I wondered what would or could possibly happen next.  Peace is ever present.  Even when I am lonely and wish I had someone with me I can feel God with me and know I am never truly alone.

Q: What is it like being single again?

A:Today, being single is looked upon as having freedom, simplicity, empowerment and, to a lot of people, just being plain fortunate.  For me, being single is the pits.  Do I have freedom?  Sort of.  I have two teenagers, although only one lives with me.  Do I have simplicity?  Sort of.  I still don’t have the remote since I have two teenagers but I do get to hog the whole bed.  Do I have empowerment?  Sort of.  If I choose to I do but I have to break out of my self-pity and the mire of depression in order to be empowered.

Q: Who has been there for you during this time?

A: I have my family.  I have my children but very soon they will be leaving the nest, spreading their wings and forging forward to begin their lives as independent and strong young adults.  I still have my parents but I cannot know how long they will be with me as they age and become frailer.  I have my siblings and extended family but there too they all have their own lives and friends.  I am invited and am welcome to go to family get togethers but honestly, sometimes I just want to stay clear.  Not because I don’t love them and want to see them but I FEEL like I am the “odd man out”.  The one without a significant other or that I am the pity invite.  The wonderful thing about my family is that I know they truly love me and will always be there for me.

I also have my work.  That sounds kind of corny but I tend to treat the people I work with like family.  I hurt when one of my work friends is hurting.  I help whenever and wherever I can because I want to not because I have to.  If I can make someone’s day brighter, easier or happier because I chose to help instead of passing the buck than my day is a success.  I like to try and get to know people I work with so I can ask them about their family and interests.  I figure if I spend more time during the day with the people at work than I get to spend with my own family than I might as well make it worthwhile.  What is more worthwhile than being able to give someone a genuine smile and being able to help them without that person feeling like they are interrupting your day?  The snag with this scenario is that I also get attached to the people I work with.  This can be devastating when they leave or when I realize that the friendship feelings I have for someone could develop into more if encouraged.  Then I find myself back-pedaling to try and be friendly without being annoying.  I hope for the most part that I am able to hide those feelings and just be a friend to all.

Q:  You mentioned that the kids will soon be grown and on their own. What about the future?

A:I have my dreams; the thoughts and ideas which come to light and that roam freely in my head when I am doing routine and tedious tasks.  How I would love to be pursued and ultimately loved by an amazing man who won’t leave me or make me feel small.  Who will treat me like I am precious and that I bring something worthwhile to the relationship.  A man who truly knows how to have a conversation and is able to draw me out of myself when I turn introspective and afraid to voice my true thoughts and feelings.  One who believes that I am intelligent and have something unique to offer people even though I didn’t go to university or college.  A man who loves God and chooses to serve him with his whole being and not just lip service to please other people.

Will such a man ever find me or does he even exist?  I have no idea.  I can hope but hope doesn’t dry the tears of loneliness that fall when I am home alone in the evenings.  Hope doesn’t make the weight fall off my body so that I could possibly be attractive to such a man.  Hope doesn’t make strong arms enfold me and make me feel loved, safe and secure.  Even in this I have hope.  Hope that God will be enough to carry me through these times of wanting.  Hope that God will let me see past the beautiful bodies and faces of the very attractive men as they pass by on their way to someone else and remind me that no matter how beautiful they are that God died for them too.  They have hurts and pains like everyone else.  Everyone’s story is different and unique.  It is where we meet them to share common ground that forms friendships and connections.  Do I really want to risk my heart again?  I’m not sure.  Do I dream about dark-haired, blue eyed, muscular men falling in love with me?  Oh yeah.  Am I ready for that?  I don’t think so.  I like to think about how awesome it would be for someone to ask me out on a real date but then when I think about the actual date itself I get panicky.  Don’t even get me started on the whole sex issue.  I think being divorced definitely has a strike against it when it comes to sex.  When you are single and haven’t had sex you can imagine what it must be like.  But once you have been married and had sex you know what you are missing and that makes some days a real trial to get through.  Especially when you see those beautiful people.  I think that right now I should focus on my children and get them through the last couple years of high school before I can even entertain the notion of a relationship.  What if someone should come along?   I don’t think it will happen but if it does I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  In the meantime, I let the tears fall when I am sad and lonely; I reach out to those around me and try to really listen to what they are saying; I try not to feel hurt when it feels like everyone else has friends but me.  And more often than not I cry out to God to make the hurt, pain, loneliness and rejection go away.

I don’t want to face another milestone birthday celebrating alone and taking leftover cake to others the next day so I don’t have an entire cake sans one piece in my fridge.

I’m not writing this to have a pity party.  I am writing this to get all the thoughts out that ramble around in my head.  That perhaps by writing it all down that I can make some sense of it all.  To figure out where I went wrong and how my life got so derailed for what I thought was my life.  To figure out what is next and what God has in store for me.  To maybe just find me again.  To figure out who I am and what I should do with my life.  Don’t be fooled:  the happiness and ever present smile are not always what I am feeling.  A lot of times that cheerful hello is hiding pain and tears just below the surface and any kind word at that point will probably have me in tears.  Tears which I will always try to hide.  I may appear strong and able to take on the world.  Inside I am the scared girl who has been hurt and rejected by people I trusted with my life.

Q:Do you have any words of advice/encouragement taken from your own experiences?

A:It is so easy as women to lose ourself in marriage and motherhood.  When our marriage ends it feels like our entire world stops and somehow we need to pick ourselves up and start it spinning again.  It takes a incredibly strong person to be able to create a new life and identity out of ashes but so many women have done that and will continue to do this.  We are not alone in our journey.  Take a look around you and you will see there are other women who are going through or have gone through this same experience.  I encourage you to find someone, hopefully a female, with whom you can relate and take the first steps to be there for one another.  On the hard days, offer to have tea and listen; On the good days, offer to eat cake and laugh together; On the sad days, offer a tissue and cry together.  The point is, we need to live in community and to lean on each other in the good times and the bad.  No one person has gone through every aspect of life.  We can learn from one another and we can take the steps to learning and living once again.  If you have already been through the darkest days and are coming out of the other side you may or may not know the benefit of having someone to have shared with.  A good friend is invaluable.  For me I was so very fortunate to have an acquantaince become a good friend through my whole ordeal and for me to become closer to God.  There were many days where I couldn’t even voice words to my pain but God was there for me and knew what I was saying and feeling even when I couldn’t make sense of it all.  He carried me through and has provided me with hope and eyes to see those hurting around me and to hear the pain behind words that are spoken even in fun.  Divorce is never easy and definitely isn’t fun but there can be joy, hope and love after.  It may not be what we thought our life should or would look like but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.  We can only take one step at a time and we have to be patient enough to not run and get too far ahead of ourselves.  One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plan I have for you, says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Our stories- K.

Today I wanted to have a friend of mine, K.  share her experiences. She’s been divorce for over five years. She is a gifted writer who shares an unvarnished truth and has a real heart for God.  She is compassionate and one of the first people who will volunteer to walk along side you no matter where you have to go. Today  and tomorrow I want to share, in her own words, some of her experiences.

“Starting life over on my own at 39 was not something I expected to happen to me.  When the unthinkable happened and I was faced with a failed marriage and two angry teenagers, I nearly came undone.  I was stuck in the loop of being so terrified I couldn’t even imagine my way out of the blackness.  Facing each day was a huge challenge.  Trying to get back out into the workforce after a 10 year hiatus was a daunting task.  Fortunately God is so much bigger than what we expect.  God provided a full-time job quickly for me that was close to home and was doing something I was very comfortable with so getting up to speed after not working for so many years was much easier.

I’ll never forget the day I asked my husband if he still loved me and I heard the responding answer of “no”.  At that moment my world turned on its axis and I became numb.  I froze; not knowing if I should scream and cry, rant and rave or just collapse.  I vaguely remember asking if there was someone else and being told no.  I also remember asking when it happened and he said he didn’t think he had ever truly loved me.  I had just been hit extremely hard in the solar plexus and was having an extremely difficult time just trying to breathe.  I was suffocated by the shock.  The next 24 hours were pretty much spent crying.  I couldn’t really feel anything except pain and betrayal.  Nothing made sense.  The first thoughts that started after the crying subsided were:  What did I do wrong?  What did I say?  Was I too dependent?  Was I too independent?  Was it because I am overweight?  Was it because I’m no good in bed?  The second thoughts I had were:   How can I change?  How can I fix this?  This is all a dream; this isn’t really happening.

Out of desperation I made a phone call to an acquaintance to tell everything to.  I don’t know why I ended up calling her but looking back it was definitely a God thing.  This friend was able to let me talk, let me rant and then she would turn everything around to make me start looking at truth.  She forced me to look at this truth:  That the reason for my marriage breakdown was not a one-sided issue but rather it was the choice of each partner.   My friend was the one who started me on the path towards thinking.  It definitely wasn’t a quick or easy path.  Each phone call came with her asking me what I was going to do, how I was going to protect myself and children from the emotions spiralling out of control, how I was going to manage finances, etc.  It all sounds so easy on paper.  I made a phone call to a friend and it all started to sort itself out.  Far from it; I was a mess.  Phone calls happened pretty much daily with my sobbing and not able to string coherent sentences together.  My friend was patient and very forgiving.  When she just wanted to scream at me to stop being a doormat and to get tough she would instead talk me firmly yet gently through the crisis at hand to focus on even little things.  I was not in this alone:  I had two children to think about and to force myself to make some choices.

I had a decision to make:  Was I going to try and give my husband the time to figure things out and still live separately in the same household or was I going to make another decision?  The snag was I could not comprehend any other choice.  I felt the best choice for my children and I was to live together with my husband in the same house and try and work things out.  I did not want my children to be without their Dad.  I think deep down I thought this would all blow over and that everything would work out.  That if I made too rash a decision too quickly that it would only push my husband further away.  This scenario may work for some people but I definitely would not recommend this course of action.  When my marriage broke down the best thing I could have done for the emotional and physical health of myself and my children would have been to find out what my options were and move out.  Instead I was too terrified to even know where to begin.  I had no money; no job; my children were in school so how could I possibly move?  if I did move out I figured I would still be responsible for half of the mortgage payment as well as half of any utilities and/or household repairs.    I also convinced myself that since my husband was the one to fall out of love he should be the one to make all the sacrifices.  He should be the one to lose out.  This reasoning didn’t work out so well as all that it caused me to do was feel guilty and horrible whenever I had negative thoughts.  I didn’t give myself a chance to really be angry.  I was too busy in trying-to-make-it-mode that I never took the time to get angry and grieve.

I felt I was stuck since I did not have a job to venture out on my own.  I never considered there could possibly be some agency or persons that would or could help me.  I felt so very alone.  I felt like a failure and that I had to travel this path alone because I had somehow failed.  I felt like I was a horrible Christian since I couldn’t make my marriage work.  I figured I must have done something bad and that God was punishing me.

During the last ten years of my marriage I was so blessed to be able to spend the time at home with my children.  I relished the times I could hear my children laugh as they played and would never trade the times of having my kitchen obliterated by cake-making messes.  Even the earliest years were both challenging and memory making.  I was able to be with my children as they faced fears of going in for surgery, to be with them as they screamed into the anaesthetic mask before falling asleep, being by their side as they woke up and being able to care for them through recovery.   I still remember the early years of baking with my children where I would have a chair on either side of me.  One chair would have my 3 year old and one chair would have my 2 year old.  The children took turns pouring the pre-measured ingredients into the mixing bowls.  They would then help to put the cookies onto the cookie sheets and after the pans went into the oven would get rewarded with a beater each.  That was the reward until the cookies finished baking and then they would have a wonderful tea party with Mom.  I can still hear their sweet voices as they asked questions, laughed, giggled and clapped their hands.

My head realizes that the teenage years can be so much more trying.  My heart finds it so difficult to process what my head already knows.  That my children are slowly spreading their wings and I need to let them go so they can flap, fly and then soar.  It has been particularly hard when the choices I see my children make are in direct opposition to the choices I desire for them.  My hearts prayer for both of my children is that they would love, serve and honour God with their heart, soul and mind.    I think the hardest part of my marriage breakdown has been watching my children turn further and further away from God.  My heart breaks as I see the choices being made that will impact my children’s lives forever and realize I have absolutely no control over those choices.    However, my prayer will continue to be that God will use the choices the children make and ultimately use those decisions for His glory.  That good will come out of the choices I see as being poor judgment or childish decisions.  You see, God is still painting the canvas of my children’s lives and what I see as blotches will turn into a beautiful tapestry as time goes on.  The painting may twist and turn, have contrasting colours, hard angles and harsh shadows but beauty is seen by the Master Painter before the piece is finished.  I trust that God will allow me to put a few slight brush strokes on my children’s canvas and that it will enhance the beauty God has already put there.”

Tomorrow I’ll share more from K. and some of how she’s coped and future hopes and dreams.

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