The War of Reconciliation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was it. I was done.  I put down the phone and once again I was in tears. How was it that I used to negotiate with street kids, bikers and warring families as a career but couldn’t seem to navigate my way through a simple conversation with my ex without his sharpness?  It was almost two years since he’d left the house and I couldn’t believe he could still make me cry.

I’d really believed that God had placed a strong duty on me.  I was to maintain my responsibility to care for my ex, to have his back and to live at peace with him as much as possible.  At the end of our marriage we quarrelled a lot because I had a need to be understood and I thought if we talked long enough we’d find a way to come to a consensus. (Yes I know some of you are shaking your heads.) Unfortunately it often went sideways and the simplest things were met with hostility by him, hurt by me and frustration from both. When he left I finally stopped fighting. I realized he wasn’t coming back and I no longer had to wait for the day it would be my turn and we’d have a partnership.  I thought I was learning to let go.  I thought I was embracing gentleness and working really hard to give my son the best relationship possible with his dad.

I wanted my relationship with him to be independent of his actions.  I wanted to model what a Christian’s response should be to people. I wanted to make theology live. I honestly meant to try to be radically different.  I couldn’t teach my son about forgiveness, loving those that don’t love us and be a complete cow to his dad. I wanted to thoughtfully act rather than just react. I refused to have his choices dictate the sort of person I would become. I still felt the dragon’s tail twitching inside of me, wanting to rant and vent my hurt and my loss, my betrayal and sullenness, but I really felt God holding me back. It was a daily battle. “Hi my name is D. I’ve gone six months without sarcasm, pettiness or spite”,…Most of the time it even worked but there was a problem.

When I hung up the phone I realized I’d spent two years acting like a low level employee on probation. I was not letting go of seeking approval.  I saw that I was hoping that he would suddenly see the years of loyalty and support and caring and finally say that I was a good person.  I wanted him to take back his words and change his heart. I wanted to be liked.I hadn’t let go of needing him to validate me.  Suddenly it all crumbled.  I couldn’t take the rudeness and the clipped tones.  I gave up. I’d done my part and it was a bust.

Our son’s birthday was coming up on the weekend.  I was hosting a party for our son’s friends on the Saturday and my ex would be there. On Sunday he would host a party for his family but I wasn’t allowed to attend.  It had been that way last year as well. I accepted the double standard but I had had enough.  I e-mailed him and asked him not to come. I realized that I was done being the constant peace maker.  I just wanted him to go away and take his negativity and judgement with him. I felt miserable.

On Wednesday I prepared to go to one of the last Divorce Care sessions.  When I opened the book I froze. The title was reconciliation.  No way.  I sat at a table surrounded by similarly frozen people. Some with stories so painful that even the word reconciliation was a slap in the face.  We listened to the video and I felt the humiliation of being rejected all over again.

Really? You want me to call every six months and see if he’ll come home? I should stay single like the woman who waited 12 years in case he changes his mind? Shoot me please.

What none of us expected is that reconciliation didn’t mean having to get back in our marriage with the ex spouse.  We started to breath. Cautiously. We were told that there were different levels including civility, and friendship.  It was like God was telling me not to give up.  I knew I had to relook at some of my expectations, hopes and goals. I needed to carve out boundaries that were healthy and redefine my goal as being a peaceful and healthy relationship so that all three of us could move forward. I needed to let go of needing his approval.

Letting go, just like any grief is not linear. I realize that reconciliation, like an addiction, will be a daily struggle.  We are all potential weapons of mass destruction. We have to choose to harness it, and I know I will revisit old wounds and hurts a few times before I can really defeat them. I wish I could tell you I’m a saint. I wish I didn’t have to struggle with wanting validation but this is my war to fight and with God’s priorities maybe now I have a fighting chance.

Wishing you all a world of peace, D.

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh

The other night a great thing happened.  I was dropping my son off at a youth event.  It was complete mayhem, in other words, business as usual. I was talking to some of the other moms when a  woman I hadn’t seen in a while asked how I was doing.  I fix her with a huge smile and said I was doing really great.  It was amazing to realize that I meant it.  I tried to come up with reasons why but there really wasn’t anything in particular.  It was like this fresh wind hitting my spirit.

I didn’t think too much about it until I realized that again today I was feeling good.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am not to feel like a scrambled mess if even for one day.  One of the things I really hated about the mess of divorce was living in active grief.  I felt stuck in a Salvadore Dali painting and I didn’t know when I would find my normal.  I lacked control over my feelings. One day I was up for anything and other days I was too broken to figure out my banking, or clean up or find my way out of the paralysis.  I’d make plans in good faith and then cancel because I just couldn’t bear it.  I really resented being so stuck.  It was like bracing for aftershocks and not feeling secure enough to move back into my own home. I wanted to get on with my life, do the clean up work, but the urge was to lie down and drift.

During the last years of my marriage I channeled the loneliness in sculpting and creating.  I had textures and colours and form to challenge me and help me communicate.  When I was told I no longer had a marriage I found that all my head could produce was static.  I couldn’t organize my feelings or thoughts and since art is communication I couldn’t produce.  That was another loss that really jarred me.  Not knowing when or if it would end was profoundly frightening.

For at least a year I’ve had my work table set up with all my tools and supplies and nothing has been touched. I haven’t made any rugs, or baskets or jewellry or sculptures.                                I put everything away and decided I must not be an artist anymore. I felt blank.

One night I got an image in my head that I couldn’t get rid of.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I started to paint.  I’d never really painted before and all of sudden there were ideas and excitement and I had something to say.  It felt so good.  The colours became vibrant and I felt the little shoots of new growth, humour and light start again.  Other things started unfolding.  I started going through my phone book and touching base with people I hadn’t seen in a while but valued.

This last weekend I even went on a Women’s retreat with a girlfriend whose church I’d never been to.  I stepped out and put myself in a new situation.  As I drove up to the camp I tried not to think about what I was doing so that I wouldn’t alert my inner hermit.  It was a mix of feelings but the thing was I did it. I decided to try and get out of my situation and live.

Yesterday I phoned a travel agency to check out a promotion and found I’ve booked a ticket to celebrate New Years in Istanbul. Let the adventure begin.

I realized there is no path back. The house got demolished in the earthquake and it is time to build anew. I may have to deal with the rubble but I don’t have to live there.  I am taking steps to go on to fresh challenges and joys.

“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying,… I will try again tomorrow.”  Mary Anne Radmacher

Wishing you all new fresh steps. D.

Musings of Blendeddad on wordpress

One of the blogs I really enjoy on wordpress is called blendeddad. It is honest, sometimes gritty, sometimes funny but always insightful.  He mentions that  he’s been told he is  over analytical but it is that process that allows him to share some important insights and I am grateful for this.

I wanted to share his words as we don’t often get to hear a male perspective of being divorced in the church. Please check out his blog for his other posts.

D.

Is the church and other support failing us?.

Squeaky Shoes

I have a wonderful friend named Shirley Yamashita.  One of the things I love about her is her freedom in accepting grace.  She is one of those people who shine their faith.  It has been a faith refined by sorrow and difficulty.  She is someone who chooses to focus on beauty, hope and laughter.

I read a blog post she’d done and asked if I could share it. I love how claimed something from her past and let it be transformed.

She said she was no longer blogging but was happy to share. This is what she wrote.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Walking through Life in Squeaky Shoes…

As I walk through the slumbering early morning halls of our office the loud squeak from my shoes vibrates and calls out as I take each step. Surprisingly, I am filled with images, thoughts and emotions with every step, my brain begins referencing a myriads of video in my mind. I recall the movie Mel Gibson played in “What a Women wants”, where his mind was so noisy hearing so many voices and random thoughts of the women around him.I fade to the past, a time when I was an 8 yr old, a little girl walking through the halls of a seemingly enormous school with great old halls, wooden floors and ceilings almost as high as cathedral’s.With every “Squeak” I hear the voice…I feel so small. Squeak…I hate my hair, I think, I’m Japanese I should have STRAIGHT hair not frizzy and thick…I wish it was straight and silky. Squeak…I should have worn a different outfit everyone has better clothes and SHOES! Squeak,…squeak…

Flash through the last 10 years: squeak…I could think about all of the sad and hard things LIKE: my life has been trying…squeak I hated trying to prove my daughter’s challenges…squeak…I wish she was accepted and had friends in her peer group…squeak I wish life was easier for my children…

BUT then: Squeak…my Life is really great now…squeak…My children are growing up to be wonderful people…squeak…I don’t worry about who I am…squeak I am loved and cherished by so many of my family and friends…squeak…I have a place in MY world.

I came to realize that day with the help of my squeaky shoes that through my life that my perspective has changed and the hard times are no longer milestones but doors that are there to be opened to great things. The squeaking bothered me many years ago  as a child because I did not know who I was and I did not feel right in my skin.

I celebrate my squeaky shoes that have allowed me to see life in capsules of scenes and reflect on how far I have come to be “ME” and celebrate.”

May your squeaky shoes be transformed and give you reasons for joy, D.

knuckle cracking smackdown (part three)

So there I was in a room full of divorced Christians looking at the pastor and the pastor was looking at me with only Matthew 5:32 to divide us.  I braced myself.  I realized I was trying not to cry.  What happened next surprised me.  He said, “Well if I was at Alpha I’d say that that was a very good question D.  Does anyone at the table have any ideas?”.  He was being funny!  I laughed.   I didn’t expect that.  What he said next surprised me more.

“We in the church haven’t done a very good job at dealing with divorce.  We came from a place where divorce was wrong and you didn’t want to be seen to condone it. We haven’t bridged the gap  from rejecting it to helping those who are going through it and we end up just being uncomfortable.  I know for you D. that the church kind of let you down.”  I couldn’t move.  What I hadn’t mentioned in my other two posts was that this Divorce Care class was happening at my old church, the place I’d left because I felt unwanted. Inside I shifted. I started to materialize and not feel so condemned to be a ghost. I waited to hear what was next.

He said (paraphrase),”In this part in Matthew Jesus is talking to the Pharisees.  One of the practices of the time was that if your wife so much as burnt your toast you could divorce her and move on to the next one.  Some of these religious leaders had had as many as 15 wives.  These women were put through the mill of having to be married off to yet another man.  Jesus was pointing out the hollowness of these “godly” men.  He was really defending the women and saying that what was being done to them was using them, discarding them and handing them over to be used by someone else and that this was foul in God’s eyes.  They may have technically felt absolved but at the heart of it was sin.”

Lightbulb moment!  I realized it was in line with Matthew 5:21,22

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement.”

I knew that I wasn’t one day going to be entering the Heavenly Gates and get a, “Whoa there girl.  It looks like your record here shows your heart wanted to issue 34 smackdowns on knuckle crackers and gum snappers, 213 on loud cell talkers, line budgers, ooh and a definite smiting on people with rude hand signals.  We have us a mass murderer. See you and stay warm.”

I realized that like so much of what Jesus was trying to drum into the thick skulls of the Pharisees (and us)  was the attitude of the heart rather than the letter of the law is what matters. 1 Chronicles 28:9 ” … for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”

Proverbs 20:27, Romans 8:27, Rev. 2:23.

This made sense. This was the love of Jesus and the heart of my Father.

I know that not everyone will know the context of this verse and so some will make their judgements.  While I don’t like it I can live with being loved and cared for by God.  I was so grateful for the words the pastor shared, personal and scriptural.  I have a peace with Matthew 5:32 and I’m grateful that Jesus stood up for those women and stood up for the truth and I’d like to think that maybe one or two of the men hearing him gave a thought to what they were doing, just as all of us, men and women, need to consider what we do today.

Thanks for letting me share my story.

What did you just call me? (part two)

Yesterday I was talking about the difficulty I had with the concept of Divorce Care in terms of my own situation.  Today I want to talk about something I learned a couple of weeks ago.

We were in session six called “What Does the Owner’s Manual Say?”.  The idea was to explore what he bible says about divorce.  I was pretty sure I knew where this was going.  Once again we would watch a video and then we were told the pastor was going to come a say a few words.  I was doing my best to keep my inside voice inside.  I agreed with the scriptures but it was kind of like preaching to the choir.  I got it, but then we got to Matthew5:32.  “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adultress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”  Say what?  I’m a what?  He walks and I’m a whore? I refused to accept this as God’s truth.

I listened to the entire video and heard them soft shoe around the subject stressing whether you were the guilty party or not and that maybe it didn’t really matter if you tried not to divorce etc. I could also remarry if it was a devoted Christian man.  No.  They didn’t have verses backing that up.  I know pop psychology when I hear it and I was simmering.  Now really I’m not a hot tempered person.  I make baskets, rugs, and bake apples crisps.  I’m actually quite calm but being labelled as an adultress was not something I could let

stand or excuse away.  What was the scripture really saying and was I going to be seen as tainted as long as I was in the church?

The other thing the verse said was that if anyone married me they would be an adulterer.  Let me understand this.  I can only remarry a devoted Christian man but if he does this then he is an adulterer. I do not know of any sincere Christian man who’d sign up for that title.  Talk about your double whammy.

By the end of the video the pastor started to talk. Before he got two paragraphs in I couldn’t stay silent.  I said I couldn’t get past this verse and told him I didn’t know how to read it as I did not believe God would label me with a sin I didn’t commit.  What was the truth? Was I condemned to stay single?  If so tell me straight out. Whether I liked the answer or not I needed the truth.  I didn’t want my ears tickled.  I wanted to know what God was really saying.

You have never seen a more uncomfortable looking person in your life. Then he spoke and everything changed. Tomorrow I’ll post what he said.

What are your ideas on this verse?

Air Kiss (part one)

This entry is a bit raw but it is honest. There is not intent to offend and hopefully over the next couple of days its purpose will become more clear.

A few weeks ago I darkened the doorsteps of a group called Divorce Care.  I will be honest in that I’d been completely resistant to it.  It’s a great idea but it was introduced to me at the wrong time and in the wrong way.  Within days of my ex leaving I was sharing the news with some women at my church.  The first response I got was, “Have you heard about Divorce Care?  It’s a great group and will help you handle your situation.”  I was completely floored. Divorce?  Who had said anything about divorce?  I’d said that he’d left.  Where was the accountability?  Where was the coaching about reconciling?  Was no one going to call him and stand in the gap for a marriage in trouble? Who said it was dead?

The last thing I needed or wanted was a video series and a notebook.  I told the very kind lady that if anyone handed me a notebook on dealing with my feelings I would gleefully beat them to death with it.  I felt an outrage at being handed a happy face band aid to fix having my guts ripped out.  When the second person had the same reaction I didn’t hold back on my feelings about how much I was repelled by the idea.  She handled me calmly and said it could give me some coping mechanisms. Who needed coping?  I didn’t want to cope.  I wanted this not to be happening.  I wanted this fixed. I was told that the church was uncomfortable dealing with issues like divorce. Really? Then what good were they in dealing with real people?  I wanted my church to rise up and deal with the marriages suiciding all around them, but no one ever called my ex.  No one ever held him accountable.  My option was a course in a box. Not community, not a personal touch, no connection.  After a while I couldn’t look at the faces in my church and I left.  It wasn’t real, at least not for me.

As you can imagine it was a long time before I ever considered the group.  I established myself at another church where my son had friends and wanted to go.  I found a warmth and acceptance of me in my situation and they allowed me to be a part of the life of the church.  I was grateful.  As my divorce came and went I decided to check out Divorce Care.

It was difficult to walk into the room especially since the course was already three weeks in but I knew if I didn’t go now I never would.  I didn’t suddenly develop a love of sitting and watching videos but I was drawn in by the leader and the other members.  The part that resonated for me were their stories.  Truthfully it would have been a disaster if I’d walked into this at the beginning.  I would have been too frozen and volatile to sit and listen.  I am a peaceful person, really, but filling out questions about my experience when I am traumatized would have been completely wrong for me.  The good news is that two weeks ago I went to a class that offered insight into a biblical truth that allowed me to move forward as a Christian and may have saved me from a world of frustration and hurt.  Next post I’ll share what I learned about my place as a divorcee in the church and God’s community.

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.

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