Finality

Tomorrow morning at 8:15 A.M. I will arrive at my lawyer’s office.  He will go over a few details with me and then we will head over to the courthouse.  My ex has already signed the decree, so the hearing will be short.  The judge will sign the decree and my marriage will be over.

After all the fighting, lawyers, legal fees, custody threats, and worry, this feels very anti-climactic.  My ex won’t even be there.  I was looking forward to meeting his lawyer and at least giving her a few dirty looks, but she won’t be there either.  It’s just me and my hired gun.

I should be happy.  I’m getting everything I asked for – maybe even a little more.  But, I am not happy.  I’m angry, jealous, and heart-broken.  Legally, this looks like a win, but I feel as if I’ve lost.  During one of the many heated discussions with my ex, he exclaimed that he has been left with nothing.  I nearly laughed at him then, but chose to keep my mouth shut in an attempt to maintain some semblance of peace.  The sad truth here is that everyone loses in divorce.  No one wins.  Even the kids.

Here’s what I have lost:

  • A trusted confidant – that 1 person with whom you are always safe.  My best friend tries to fill this role, but the bottom line is that she never signed a piece of paper saying that she would put up with me forever.  She didn’t choose to take my crap everyday for the rest of our lives.  She never complains, but I know that she is tired of listening to my pathetic whining.
  • A partner – that 1 person who always has your back.  If you lost your keys, forgot your purse, or broke your cell phone, there was someone who would come to your rescue.
  • A co-parent – that person who is just as concerned with my son’s development as I am.  My ex cares deeply for my son and we co-parent at a high level, but it’s not the same.  He sees one side of my son and I see another.  We compare notes, but usually only when it’s something negative or related to our son’s health.
  • A comforter – that person that holds you while you cry.  Let’s face it, I cry a lot these days.  Every time, I find myself yearning for someone to hold me.  Someone who won’t think I’m weak for breaking down.

Real or imagined, these things gave me a safety net.  But not all is lost.  In fact, there is much that I have gained.  Here is what I have gained:

  • A dream.  Long ago I gave up on dreaming of better tomorrows.  I was trapped in a perpetual funk.  We used to drive around and look at nice houses we hoped to own someday.  We used to look up vacation spots and dream about taking our son to cool places.  I gave up on all that, but now I can dream again.
  • Faith.  I gave up on God.  I forced Him into the far recesses of my life.  I couldn’t let Him really guide my life.  As a fiercely independent person who has has been abandoned too many times, I have a core belief that I can do this alone.  It’s an incorrect core belief and I’m learning to fight it.  The truth is: I can’t do this alone.  I need God.
  • A Christian Family.  I attend a small, struggling church where my mother and other relatives attend.  I do my best to keep my struggles private, but they have been amazingly supportive.  I’m beginning to let them in.  I have a need to give back and I think I can do that there.
  • A relationship with my son.  In the past few years I have focused on keeping a sinking financial ship upright.  I worked myself to exhaustion everyday.  While I say that I did it all for my family, I also realize that things were rough at home and work was a safe haven.  Now I know that money can’t buy happiness and it can’t buy my son’s love.  I work less and focus on him more.  It’s been really amazing to get to know him on a new level.  He’s an amazing gift from God.

So where does that leave me tomorrow?  When I stand in front of that judge, what am I supposed to feel?  Conflicted seems to be the only appropriate word.

I titled this “Finality,” as a little inside joke with myself.  I’ve waited for this day for so long.  I’ve pushed for this and yearned for it.  I want this to be over.  I want to move on.  But tomorrow is just another day.  It won’t magically heal my broken spirit.  It won’t erase the pain I feel nor the pain I’ve caused.  It won’t make me happy and it won’t bring love back into my life.  It’s just one mile in the journey of life.

Safe Place

Well folks, it’s been one very crazy week.  You know those weeks where you are sure that you have royally perturbed someone and pushed them to the point of sticking your photo on a voodoo doll, grabbing some pins, and getting after it?  It’s been one of those!

It could have been grand!  A week off work to get caught up, sleep in, and perhaps enjoy some much needed social time.  None of that happened.  It began with a decision to change anxiety medications.  With my doctor’s plan, I began on Sunday night.  I’ve never experienced withdrawal before, but I was having a few issues with my old medication, so I knew it would be daunting.  This was punishing.  With that said, I spent Monday and Tuesday in bed wondering how much worse withdrawal from Heroine could possibly be.  Let’s just say that my body hated me.   A visit with my doctor and a new course of action held hope that what remained of the week could be salvaged.

Tuesday night  some family arrived.  I had hoped to get caught up on work before then so that I could relax and reconnect, but instead I was forced to spend the next couple of days sitting at my laptop working at a snail’s pace.  My head still felt like I’d taken too much sinus medicine.  One day I managed to sneak away from work to spend a few hours shopping with one of my favorite family members, but then I spent most of that night working.

I think it was Wednesday when I finally opened the certified mail from the IRS.  I had two days to work some financial magic.  After several hours on the phone with my accountant and the IRS, we struck a deal.  Then I received the email from my divorce attorney stating that my ex had completely rejected my offer for a deal.  Anger and rage joined the preexisting emotional mix of fear, anxiety, and confusion.  Now we had a real party in my head.

Thursday was better.  I finally could think clearly and the work began to flow.  I had it under control, finally.  There were a couple of emergency issues at work, but I handled them like the pro I know I am.  I didn’t even get upset when a knife was stuck in my back.  I think I’ve actually grown some callouses back there.  Friday I went into work.  My lack of productivity early in the week, forced me to show up.  But everyone needed something from me and I didn’t get my hefty pile completed.  I made a plan to go back on Saturday afternoon while my son went to the zoo with the family members who were visiting.  Friday night I had dinner with the whole family and then spent a little time catching up with an old friend.  The crazy week was almost over … or so I thought.

Today didn’t begin well.  I overslept, but that’s not unusual for a Saturday.  I got my son dressed for the zoo and even managed to get my ex to bring over his tennis shoes so he’d be comfortable.  I dropped him off with the family and saw them off to the zoo.  I headed back home to clean up the bathroom before heading in to work.  Oh yeah, my son managed to clog up the toilet!  So I’m knee deep in $#!T when my phone rings.  It’s my sister.  They had an accident on the way to the zoo.  Everyone was okay, but I drove white-knuckled the 40 miles to pick them up.  My son was panic stricken, but otherwise everyone was whole.

During that drive to get him, I realized what I’ve been missing.  My marriage used to be my safe place.  When all the world was crashing down around me, I had that space where the water couldn’t seep in.  That space where all of me was loved – the good and the bad.  It was where I could lose it, cry, be angry at injustice, and still calm because I had something greater.  It was greater than the physical space and more than a warm embrace.  Even hundreds of miles of distance between us didn’t damper it’s hold.

We were Team ____ (insert last name here).  We knew we would survive and thrive.  We knew we would overcome all obstacles.  We were tough.

As I’ve thought about this today, I’ve tried to figure out when we lost that – when I lost that.  It was before I left and perhaps one of the reasons I left.  My teammate was working against me instead of with me.  Our goals were different and we lacked a common vision of the future.  I know it didn’t happen all at once, rather is was a slow erosion.  That night I saw him put his arm around another woman probably began the process.  But there were times after that when we were solid.  They just become more and more infrequent.  Eventually, there was nothing left.  There was no safe place to fall.

Think of a tire with new tread.  The rubber is a cushion between the rim and the road.  My marriage was my cushion between me and the world.  It was that safe place where I could fall.  It gave me hope for better tomorrows and loving acceptance for my flaws.  When I lost that cushion my rim began grinding directly again the road.  You can take it for a while, but eventually the damage will bring you to a halt.  The mangled mess serves as evidence of the trials surpassed.

I’ve found the divorce process to be especially excruciating.  The worst part, when children are involved, is that there is no room for error.  The slightest misstep could keep me from seeing my son.  Keep in mind that I’m a good person.  I go to church every week.  I rarely drink.  I live a simple life with few complications.  My son comes first.  I don’t engage in risky behavior.  But I have to walk this very thin line everyday.  I wouldn’t dare let my ex see me struggle.  And falling down is simply not an option.

So here I am with my rim gouging into the road.  My safe place is very small and sometime difficult to find at all.  I know I’m supposed to have some grand realization that God is now my safe place or that I’ve found it within myself, but tonight I just feel raw, chewed-up, and spit out.  This week is over, but another awaits.  How much longer will the rim hold up?  And, dear Lord, could it ever possibly hold tread again?

The Big Event

anxiety cat

In The Beginning, I explained how I found myself in a predicament that commenced this journey to learn how to love myself.  The week of “the concert” has now arrived, and thus, my anxiety level is through the roof!

Here’s a brief recap if you missed it:

Soon to be divorced, painfully single woman (me), convinces her best friend to get 4 tickets to see Garth Brooks and promises to find a suitable date.  Single woman pursues online dating to find said date and fails (miserably).  Now desperate, single woman contacts previous boyfriend, with whom she is still in love, and secures suitable date.  Enter anxiety cat …

It’s going to be an amazing weekend!  The date and I will be driving 5 hours to another state together and then spend 3 days with my best friend (hereafter referred to as “Owl”) and her husband.  I splurged and hired a limo to take us to dinner and then to the concert.  I’m 35 and have never ridden in a limo, so I guess I’ll get to mark that one off the bucket list!

So, what’s the problem?  The initial problem is obvious: whatever will I wear?!?!  No really, I’ve gained about 15 pounds right around the middle.  Nothing fits!  Nothing looks good!  But after a week of researching and shopping, Owl and I have each found the appropriate amounts Spanx and outfits that hide our more obvious flaws.  I’ve managed to plan an outfit that says “fun, but not too skanky.”  I’m still planning to do a little shopping, but just for a few accessories.  New earrings are a must!

And then there is that BIG QUESTION, “What does this mean for my relationship with the date?”  As this weekend has drawn closer, he and I have communicated more and more.  I keep telling myself that I’m not ready for a relationship!  I’ve really been working on learning to love myself so that I’m not so desperate to be loved by someone else.  I’m not ready for him to come back into my life.  I still have a mess to clean up.  And yet, I long for him.  AHHHH!

So last night, as my anxiety level hit a fever pitch, I gave it up.  No really, I gave it to God.  I gave him all control and decided to quit trying to force something either way.  Yes, I put myself into this mess, but His grace is sufficient.  I asked Him to take control of the situation and let His will be done.  Then, I prayed for the date.  I asked God to guide his actions as well as mine.

2-timothy-1-7

Last Sunday our Pastor preached about how God cares for his sheep and gives us rest.  He referenced this verse from 2 Timothy, and I felt led to write it down.  All of my anxiety is rooted in fear.  Mostly it’s a fear of what I cannot control.  I made the decision last night to put away my fear and let God fill me with power, love, and self-control.

As you read this blog I hope that you can see the change in tone.  This lonely, desperate, single woman is becoming something new.  I’m not there yet, but the changes are coming.  One small point … I can’t do it without God.  If you are searching for peace in your life, look up.

The Minecraft Rules of Life

In case you aren’t the parent of a boy (ages 6-12), Minecraft is a video game in which players mine a biome for needed supplies and then turn those supplies into various structures with various functions.  It’s pretty much a digital version of Legos.  The parenting downside of this nifty invention is the guilt over the hours my son spends glued to a game.  The parenting upside: no Legos on the floor to step on!

My son is a minecraft fanatic.  He’s been playing the game for about 2 years on various platforms and has learned quite a bit.  I’ve been waiting for him to move on to the next game fad, but he hasn’t.  This concept got my wheels turning!  Is he obsessed?  Do I need to find a psychologist?  Or is it possible that this game is still engaging for some reason?  So, I began to pay more attention to his game play.

I discovered that he’s building magnificent machines with this stuff called redstone.  It basically works like an electrical circuit.  There are pistons, pressure plates, doors, ladders, and other movable parts that I don’t remember at the moment.  The other day he built a machine that would cook fish for him!  It’s a completely useless item, but it’s really complex and cool.  Then he showed me his combination lock.  This 8-step series of switches had to be placed in just the right sequence in order to open an iron door.  He built that!  Amazing!  My kid is smarter than me!

As I was watching him play, he ran out of wood.  Wood is very useful in Minecraft.  You use it to make pickaxes (very important), ladders, gates, houses, and all sorts of items.  It’s one of the most important blocks.  Without wood, you’d be very limited.  I had been watching him create all these amazing machines and suddenly he was stopped.  He couldn’t finish the next great idea.  Then I saw him do the most amazing thing.  He traveled over to the forest biome and started mining wood.  He didn’t gripe or complain.  He didn’t post of Facebook how disappointed he was with the world or the lack of fairness therein.  He didn’t call his best friend and sob for half an hour.  He just went and cut down about 25 trees.  And after that, he trained a wolf, and went back to building.

It was the purest display of self-sufficiency that I’ve observed in quite some time.  I began to think about the way in which we approach the droughts in our adult lives.  Just this week I’ve run out of patience, energy, tact, and facial cleanser!  I hate to admit it, but I didn’t fare remotely as well as my son did in the face of a crisis.

Hang on, the analogy gets deeper …

Think of the building blocks of your life.  I dream of owning my own home and decorating it the way I’d like it to look.  I dream of a retirement account with enough in it to get by in my final days.  I dream of not having to work every waking minute to make ends meet.  I already have an amazing group of family and friends.  I have a successful business.  I have a church home that grounds me.  But what am I doing about those missing pieces.  Am I cutting down the trees necessary to get them?  Or am I complaining about the lack thereof?

I’m reminded of the quote that I recently pinned on Pinterest.  “Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?”  Perhaps it should read, “Have you worked at it as hard as you’ve bitched about it?”

Here is the Minecraft Rule of Life #1: Quit complaining and go cut down some trees!

Evidence of Self Love

What does it mean to love yourself?

This blog began as a quest to learn to love myself.  I’ve been searching for what exactly that means over the past few days.  I’ve asked a few friends and family members what they think that means and I really haven’t gotten a clear answer.  Perhaps that means that I’m on a quest in search of something that I cannot define.  This seems promising 😦

As I’ve reflected, I first had to recognize that a core belief that I’ve diligently lived out has been wrong.  My father was a “shirt of his back” kind of guy.  He instilled in his children a strong work ethic, love of God, and faith beyond measure.  However, he also raised us to produce.  While his love for me was never questioned, I can now see that part of my value as his child was closely aligned to what I could produce.  This pig farm girl learned to work!  Everyday I produce … for others.

This level of work ethic is not limited to my career.  It encompasses every aspect of my life.  I give selflessly to others to the point of self denial.  I forego health insurance (and a need surgeries) so that my son can attend private school.  I worked insane hours while my ex stayed home with our child.  I create elaborate gifts for my family and friends.  I spend hours and hours helping those that I work with … well past 5 pm.  I do this so that these people will love me.  I once became a wedding planner so that a former student of mine could have a fabulous wedding on a $500 budget.  I made flowers, prepared food, and conned family members into service.  The wedding was beautiful and several people commented that the venue had never looked so nice.  I did this so that she would love me.

A couple of weeks ago I drove from Texas to New Jersey and back so that my best friend could avoid getting on a plane for her grandfather’s funeral.  She has fear of flying and of leaving her 3 year old in the care of just about anyone.  So, without hesitation, I got in my car and went.  I missed valuable work time and time with my son to do this.  I did this so that she would love me.

Keep in mind that none of these people have ever indicated that they would love me any less had I not done these things.  I made that decision all by myself.  And this is the reason that I am not ready for a romantic relationship.  If I were to engage in one, such as I did with “him,” I would lose myself again.  I would do anything to make him love me.

In an effort to change this cycle, I have begun to try to discover what it means to love myself.  I began with trying to think of evidence that I do love myself.  I could only come up with one thing:  I left my husband because I loved myself enough to stop the damage.  Of course I told everyone that it was because I saw my son learning terrible lessons that he’d be doomed to repeat.  But the truth is that I had reached a limit.  I loved myself enough to get out while there was still some shred of me left.

I was encouraged by this discovery.  If I could love myself once, then I could do it again.  I began to think of other ways that I could begin to show that I love myself.  At first I thought of buying myself things that I’d always wanted, but would never allow myself to enjoy.  Boots!  And I did go buy one pair on sale!  However, I learned long ago that things won’t make you happy.  I believe that people are what they do and not what they say.  So what are the behaviors that would show that I love myself?  How does someone who loves themselves behave?  Here’s what I have come up with so far:

  • If I love myself, then my physical needs are important.  I need to see the dentist and get this cavity filled.  I need to call my doctor and discuss a possible change in medication rather than just dealing with the side effects.  I need to sleep 8 hours a night.  I need to work towards getting health insurance so that the more expensive medical needs can be taken care of.  I need to exercise and eat healthy so that I will feel better.  My physical well-being is important.
  • If I love myself, then my emotional needs are important.  I need to rethink my relationships with friends and family.  I need to limit my time with people who are negative and draining.  I need to maximize my time with people who bring me joy.  I need to let some people go because in the long run, the ones who really love me already do, no matter what I can do for them.  My emotional well being is important.
  • If I love myself, then my financial needs are important.  I need to make an a plan to get debt free and begin saving for a home.  I need to make sure that my son will be provided for if something were to happen to me.  I need a living space that fits by budget and my needs.  My financial security is important.

I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions, but I guess this list would suffice as such.  I’m making a commitment to begin behaving in ways that reflect self love.  I better get in bed if I’m going to get those 8 hours in tonight!

Waiting

For the past year I have been waiting.  Waiting for my son to accept our separation.  Waiting for the right time to file for divorce.  Waiting for the divorce to be final.  Waiting for my life to begin.

I don’t know what I thought that life would be.  A part of me feels awkward.  It feels strange to be single.  Like something is wrong.  I think the message that society sends is that being single is somehow inherently wrong.  I bought into that for almost a year and then I had this realization: My life began a long time ago … even before I left my ex.

The reality is that I live in a small apartment.  I own very little of value.  I have faith in God.  I have a business that I’m trying to keep alive and a son that needs me.  That’s it.  And that’s okay.

My life began the day I was conceived.  (not meant to be a comment on when life begins)  My childhood, adolescence, college days, marriage, and 8 years of parenting are all part of who I am now.  Those experience shaped me in both good and bad ways.  What I do with that is what my “life” will now be.

While I may not have all the things that my heart desires just yet, it doesn’t mean that I’m not living.  More importantly, I don’t have to be in a relationship to be living.  I don’t have to be living in domestic bliss to have a life.  I reject the concept that I have to live on pause until I find that man.

Self Respect

I don’t know if I can love myself just yet, but I can respect myself.  And yes, I’m talking about sex.

Without going into the gory details, let’s just say that I learned at an early age what men want.  As I grew into adolescence, I also learned how to use that to get what I wanted.  I told myself that it was just sex; It was meaningless.  If that were really true then I wouldn’t have needed years of therapy.  Here is how this works: Get abused and feel powerless, then find a way to exert power and control over someone else.  I used my sexuality to control men.  While this sounds terrible, I’m sure nearly every married woman has done it.  He washes the dishes so you have sex with him.  The next time he washes the dishes, you do it again.  Pretty soon you have developed a pattern of behavior.  It doesn’t take Pavlov to figure that one out.

So how does this affect me?  Simple, when you do wrong, it eats away at you.  Guilt and disrespect set in.  This is disrespect done to yourself.  You begin to disrespect yourself.  You detest your own actions and thus lose this little thing called self respect.

How do you regain self respect?  First, you must forgive yourself for your previous transgressions.  God has already forgiven you if you have asked Him.  Now it’s your turn.  Accept that you are flawed.  Accept that you were stupid.  But make the decision to change that as you move forward.

I will respect myself.  I will not use sex as a tool to get what I want.  I will keep myself for that real man.  I won’t let anyone use me.  I am special.  I deserve better.  I deserve a relationship where sex isn’t a tool, but a loving expression between two people who don’t need to exercise control.