Love Connection

I sat at the Starbucks gripping my green tea lemonade and waiting for my blind date. Well it wasn’t exactly blind as I’d seen a picture but we’d never met and we’d never even talked. It wasn’t exactly, in the strictest sense of things a date, as much as a coffee meeting.  I have to admit that I’d been the one to initiate things.  I felt it was time and there was a lot riding on this.  I knew what I needed to do but this was so uncomfortable.  I double checked my reflection in the window.  My makeup was looking a little tired,my hair was a little flat and I was a little bloated but I sat up straighter and thought about what I’d say. Then the door opened up.

“Hi, oh my gosh you are gorgeous”.  Oh no I did not just say that. I scrambled.   “I’d seen a picture, your wedding picture but it doesn’t do you justice”.  I could not believe I just said that to my ex husband’s new wife. Seriously?  What about “Hi. It’s nice to meet you.  How are you doing? Thanks for having coffee with me.” as opposed to being a complete goober and blurting out the first thing I could think of to this utterly beautiful petite woman who drifted in, long beautiful tresses draped over her adorable outfit.  I knew before she said anything that she was also a lovely person.  I’d heard she was sweet but I needed to lay eyeballs on the woman who was now my son’s stepmother. She confirmed that opinion by just running with the conversation as if it was the most normal thing in the world for her new husband’s ex to comment on her looks and make reference to the wedding.  She earned definite points for graciousness.

After she got her coffee we talked.  My ex and I got our final divorce decree in July 2011. In December 2011 he met this woman, but February he was talking marriage and by August they were married.  None of this sat well with our son.  I’d warned my ex that our son needed time to get to know her and build a relationship but somehow he decided after a couple of encounters to announce their engagement and then asked my son if it was OK, sort of like when someone lights up and asks if you mind.  Unfortunately it wasn’t going well.  The troubling thing was that my son likes everyone.  There were times at school when someone might give him a rough time and I’d be ready to take it to the principal’s office and he’d say no. “Mom if they are acting out it means they are probably upset about something. I don’t want to make their lives worse.”  “Really?  I mean good for you” (even though I was itching to give them a swat).  This was the first time he’d refused to like someone.  He wouldn’t say her name, or talk to her more than was necessary.  I was all kinds of worried about this one.  As a past medical social worker I had a dozen scenarios playing in my head and none of them good.  Here is where love comes in.

The easiest thing in the world would have been to sit back and let things play out.  I had been translating between son and dad all their lives.  Ever since the divorce I’d been trying to keep these two together.  What I knew was that God designed my son to love.  Anything I did to interfere with that was harmful to him.  In loving my son I had to do everything in my power to keep the love flowing between the two of them.  Please know that my feelings have thrown every justification at me for being a righteous jerk, but my son’s heart is more important.

Now I had a new challenge.  I needed to help my son love his new stepmother.  It didn’t take any time to see what a pure spirit this woman had. I saw how she loved my ex and would have his back. I saw her heart as a mom for her own kids.  There was only one thing for me to do.  When I got home my son was still awake.  “Hey sweetheart. I had a great time.” I said. ” No seriously. I really like her.  I want you to know I feel really free.  I think she’s a good woman.”  My son hugged me.  “Love you mom. Thanks.  It’s going to be OK” and I knew it would be.

Does this hurt? Yes.  My heart aches when he is away. She will be easy to love.  I know that God designed his heart big enough to accomodate more people than me. Sometimes love hurts but in Christ it is not an option.  May God help us all to love way beyond what we thought possible. (Update in the “comment” section). D.

The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything

The title for this post is not actually a delusional rambling.  I save those for close friends, family and politicians who come to my door soliciting votes. It is a chapter within The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a sci. fi./humour book by Douglas Adams. In it a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer, Deep Thought specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42 The Ultimate Question itself is unknown.  I read this years ago and thought it was rather brilliant.  In the past couple of years I realized it has huge theological significance.  Now don’t run away yet.  I promise I will bring this back to something that makes sense. Honest.

When I got married I knew it would be forever.  I married a man who would never leave.  I would have put money on it. I would have ended up broke. Thanks for not taking that bet.

Afterwards I tried to make sense of what had happened.  Why didn’t God fix it? Why didn’t he tell me how to fix it?  Why didn’t he fix us? What purpose did he have in this? Why didn’t it work?   I don’t need to keep on going. If you’ve gone through divorce or trauma you have your own list of hurts and confusions.  It was easy to feel that others were looking at me as defective and the unspoken “if you’d had real faith this wouldn’t have happened.”

Thankfully Mr. Adams came to the rescue and he did it in the form of the book of Ruth. (No really.  Please hang on. It will make sense in a minute.)

Naomi marries a man named Elimelech. They have two sons whose names mean puny and pining.  Really.  Who gives their kids names like this? Famine has hit Judah so we may have a hint as to how desparate things were. Imagine how you would be praying, begging God for help.  Save us. Save our boys. They decide to move to Moab, away from friends, family and their faith community. You would be praying that God would protect you there. Eventually the boys marry foreign women outside of the faith. How that must have burned and shamed Naomi, but it got worse. Her husband dies and then both boys die.  Naomi knows that God has abandoned her.  She hears that things are better in Judah and so plans to return home to survive. She sends the girls home. There would be no love for these foreign women back home.  One goes but one refuses to leave Naomi.  Naomi is a broken woman. She says she has nothing to offer, no future sons and she says she sees no future husband for herself. “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!”  How could she think anything else?  She knew that that is how others would judge her life. She was not favoured by God and now she would be a burden to her family until the day she died.

Imagine being her, crying out to God as to why he hated her so much.  What was her sin?  What was her purpose?  In reality the answer is 42.  We know from reading the book of Ruth (and if you haven’t, take my word for it, and then check it out yourself) that the purpose of her life was to bring Ruth into the line of David and ultimately Jesus. Come again?

There is no way that Naomi would have ever understood the purpose of her life.  She had no ability to get that answer and if she got it to understand it.  The meaning of her life could not be puzzled out.

I believe we treat God like a glorious Rubik’s cube that if we line things up right, we can figure out. He is the Holy Wild and we do not have the capacity to understand his thoughts and workings.  Does it make it easier? Yes and no.  It reminds me that it isn’t always about causal connections.  I still have to deal with pain and confusion but I can step away from the thinking that says things like “pain is God megaphone” and trying to fit everything into my frame of reference. Sometimes the answers for what happens in our lives is 42. I am so sad that Naomi died thinking she wasn’t loved.  I am grateful to Mr. Adams for a great life lesson.  Reflection is good but endless navel gazing is a lousy view. Sometimes the answers are not where or what we would think.  The meaning of life is way beyond us and I’m O.K. with that.

Take care, D.

You’ll never guess the butler did it

Sue: ” Hey Megan.  I have a book you have just got to read.  You would never guess that the butler was actually the twins dad. He’d been disfigured in a car accident and blamed the family for stealing his children and was killing them off in vengance.  You will just love it. It is the most suspenseful book I’ve ever read.”

Megan: Cue sound of crickets chirping.

Knowing the ending of a book or a movie disrupts the story telling art.  It is the building up, the guessing and being on a shared voyage with the characters that creates the impact.

When presented with our bibles we are told that it is the living breathing word of God.  It is not like any other book. Most books you read from the beginning as opposed to New and Old divisions.  We read the histories but we have a big problem.  We know the endings.  We know that the ultimate battle will be won my God.  The suspense factor has been taken out.

I think we lose a lot of the meaning and impact of what we are reading because we see an overview of people’s lives and experiences.

Moving forward as someone who is divorced in the church it is easy to feel that we are alienated.  What if we stepped back and re-read some of the stories that we thought we knew from the perspective of the characters who had no idea what was next or what would happen to them?  What could we learn and take strength in?

I think of the story of Esther. We celebrate that she saved the Jews. We know the finished story. We don’t feel the true horror and sorrow that was her life.  To be a young girl without parents  must have been so isolating. To be sent to the palace meant to lose all her hopes and dreams. She would never have a nice Jewish husband and be able to raise their children in their faith. She was being taken out of her community to be put in a place of debauchery, violence and madness. She would be hated by the other women competing for favour and would be targeted for violence by them. She would undergo treatments and training that would be against her upbringing. She would have seen him drunk and out of control and pictured him touching her.  Her wedding night would be without mercy or love or committment. She would have no protection and nowhere to run. He could do anything he liked. She’d be tied to a man who killed his best friends son on a whim. His best friend had already lost one of his two sons in battle. He asked Xerxes if his second son could be spared. Xerxes called his friend to the courtyard and the friend witnessed his second son murdered as a penalty.  This was the man Esther faced.  Can you imagine her fear and hopelessness?  We know the rest of the story but she did not. We don’t know what happened to her afterwards but the dreams of her youth would never be given back to her and the rest of her days would be in this environment.  God put her in a place that was a nightmare and yet she trusted and served him.  It did work but she could not have known that.

Many times we will end up in places and situations that seem impossible for God to redeem.  We might see facets of our lives as nightmares. Re-read the stories as if you didn’t know the endings.  You will find that you are not such an alien after all.   D.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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