“It is what I was born for – to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over...” – Mary Oliver
I argue that 'this world' is anything but soft, but, I love this quote. Observation, instruction, learning, it is part of who I am. Through this divorce I have looked hard at my life, listened to the words of people echoing around me and learned some tough lessons.
I know rejection on a deeper level and I thought I knew rejection well. I have learned that sometimes no matter how hard you pray, cry, try, it's not enough to change a bad situation or put things back the way you want them. I've learned that I have less grit than I expected and fold under pressure like origami paper… over and over again... much to my chagrin. I've learned that I have a greater support network than I imagined and that they are here for me when I can't figure out how to do life one day longer. I've learned that both lavender vodka and ice cream can do wonders for escaping pain for a moment but that really... “pain only hurts” (that's a quote from Scott Jurek's Eat and Run) and that if you feel the pain and push through it, you know how to do it better next time and you CAN do it better next time!
Next time is upon me.
The end has come. Fourteen years of “us” is over. I honestly expected “us” to last forever, but it didn't. I couldn't fix it. I've spent the last eight months reeling and unsure. And here I am.
There's a story about a great king with a deathly ill child. This king beseeched God with all that was in him to save the child. He didn't eat or bathe. He offered sacrifices and pleaded on behalf of the child's life but in the end, God did not answer his prayers...
The baby died.
The story is from the Bible, the king was David, and though I am no ruling authority I completely identify with King David. I begged and pleaded and sacrificed and the marriage died. It's dead. It's over. What was will never, ever be again.
The world I knew was destroyed, by my sins, by his sins, by God's will, fate, life... However it came to pass, the fact is... my world burned to the ground! Life as I knew it is dead... gone... burned up! There was weeping, there was gnashing of teeth and now there is a whole new world in front of me. The promise of God is that He makes all things new. Whether I expected it like this or not, He made my life new. I am a new person. I have a new perspective.
I'm not “his woman” anymore. I am my own woman. My boys are practically grown men, as are their sisters (who have mothers of their own but have allowed me space in their life). I've never had this much experience or knowledge in my life. I don't know too much but I know enough to bury the baby and start living the rest of my life with deliberate intention and wild abandon!
I am going to look, to listen and to lose myself inside this world and instruct myself over and over. For me that means I'm starting to date. I've cleared it with my dad, my kids and those I respect the most in this world… and Jesus and me got this figured out.
I've listened to comments which have ranged from “It's about time!” and “You deserve it!” to “You're not ready yet.” and “You just got divorced!” I respect each comment and concern more than I can say and have taken it all into consideration. Here's the thing... I agree with them all and have therefore decided to date my way, which, I admit, isn't conventional but neither am I so why would I do dating normal?
The way I figure it, LORD willing, I only have a limited time to date so I might as well glean as much knowledge as I can from the experience and regret nothing. For years now I have been telling my girls, and the girls I worked with at the Tech Center to be strong in their character. They are meant to compliment a man but not to be completed by one. I told them to be sure of who they were, to have at least 5 things they liked to do by themselves without anyone else, or at least without a boy. (I also told them to marry for love but date the rich guys but that was a little tongue-in-cheek, so yeah… :P) I told them to reserve their body for the one it belonged to, not to give it up freely or under pressure. I told them a good man will wait and understand and respect them for saving themselves for the one they belonged to.
Now, incredibly, I am here, like them, anticipating my lifetime companion… only for me it's round three and this time it's either third time is a charm or three strikes I'm out. I will do this mate thing exactly one more time EVER then, for good or for bad, I'm done! There's an old addict quote, “I got another relapse in me but I don't know if I have another recovery in me.” That's where I'm at. I have exactly one more hope for a lifetime companion. Yeah, it's fatalistic but … it's me, that's how I roll!
The point is, the severity of the issue at hand necessitates my utmost discretion so #1) why wait? And #2) Why hurry? Yep, chaos and irony! I've taken lessons from the muse and have embraced chaos and irony as part of who I am.
He has a woman, he has found his everlasting. I am happy for him but I'm not there yet. I'm just dating. I am analyzing the data. I am taking my time. I am not going to get serious any time soon. I have a “yes” policy to anyone who has the courage to respectfully approach me and doesn't give me the creeps. Considering the fact that I'm socially awkward and go exactly four places; home, work, church and the gym I've decided to set-up an online profile. I've heard enough positive experiences to believe it is a feasible option. I have some pretty specific rules of engagement and most guys won't get me or be interested in a bookish, Jesus-freaky, gym-rat so I figure I'll be able to gather a good sampling over the next 18 months of the men that I share common interests with. With the exception of the MAJOR characteristic I'm looking for, I have a control sample and all will be held to that standard… and maybe he'll come around, or maybe he's just a good guy that all others will be compared to. Either way I want to learn what the norms are, I want to see standard characteristics and standard deviations and I want to make an informed decision based on data, time and, most importantly, God's leading.
Every man is his own story and I love stories so I'm excited to date and get to know guys... something I have been restricted from for my ENTIRE adult life. That realization was mind-blowing to me... for my entire adult life I have avoided men… because I belonged to someone. It never bothered me but, now that I'm here, I see that there are so many good guys out there! Listening to men talk, looking into their eyes without shame or fear of repercussion is like new life. I get to hear a new story every time I talk to someone new. I admit that my body is anxious to get this dating thing over with and move on to the mating part but my heart, soul, mind and spirit understand there is more… so much more to know about a man. And I will know him first.
I eagerly await HIM. LORD willing, he will know I'm HER and will get it right with God and make me his. Until then I will enjoy the good, pure, fun, fitness-minded, godly company of good men and know that he's on his way to me… or is waiting for me to figure myself out. Until then, I wait patiently and I follow my chaotic path and save myself for him. So yeah… I'm dating, it's weird but I'm here and I'm going to do it right, without compromise for once in my life, make my Father in heaven proud and make the man I belong to for the rest of my life proud as well!
If there is one thing I have learned through this whole Leaving business it's this: Good men are EVERYWHERE, they just fly under the radar because that's what good guys do and they deserve some recognition!
I cannot and will not own parts of The Leaving that aren't mine to own but there are things I realize I could have done better. Apparently I won't get the chance to do it better in that relationship but I believe in redemption. I will do what I can now and someday I know I'll love again and I'll get to do it better then!
I was given a book days after he left called Love and Respect. At the time it was like having an EMT come up and kick me in the gut after I'd just been run over. I was wounded, confused, afraid and alone and instead of consolation I got a list of all the things women do wrong with speaking to their men. As I am a voracious reader, I gobbled it down, looking for anything to explain what I did wrong to cause the man to leave. I can't say the book answered the particular questions that caused his decision but it did describe things I could be better at. All women, in fact, could be better at.
See here's the thing. I, like most women, expect men to be good. And most me are. Do we pat them on the back? No! We point out when they aren't good, when they mess up, when they lost their cool. There are millions of things they do right but those things go unnoticed, unappreciated, and uncelebrated because that's what they're supposed to do.
We take for granted the good they do, the way they watch out for us and how their strong presence is the comfort and solace we seek when our stupid emotions are out of control. No, we don't want them to fix it but we expect them to be there to shoulder our storm and hold us while we cry. They are good men and we forget to tell them that. Or maybe I'm the only one that did.
That's the part I recognize I own, I have disrespected a good man and I have taken for granted the good things he did, I expected it but didn't recognize it the way I should have… this goes for my dad and other important men in my life too, not just him.
Does confession fix my life? No. But redemption feels good and if I can't do it over, I can at least start doing it better. November is a perfect time for it. All over Facebook people are posting what they're thankful for, it's a wonderful FB tradition I've participated in for years. This year will be no different but I'm going to incorporate my desire to honor the good men of the world.
If you're one of the good guys in my life... be prepared to be thanked. If you're a women confused by my desire to honor none but men, I understand, it's not every woman's cup of tea but I ask you to not bad-mouth or question my desire to honor them but instead be thankful for people you're thankful for, man or women. Happy November y'all!
In the last three weeks I've had as many people ask me what has brought about the change in my shape/dedication to fitness/motivation and the quick “funny” answer is always, “Well … I don't want to be single forever, so I want to look good.” It's a joke, mostly. I mean there's truth in the statement but it's not my motivation.
My real motivation has been simmering inside me for my whole life. But I'll save that one for last because there are actually several reasons behind my recent hyper-focus on fitness.
Reason #1: Survival
It was apparent when I got left like useless trash on the curb that this rejection, if I let it, would wreck me. I was devastated and knew I could quite possibly fall apart and lose all of the years clean I have and all the hard work the Good LORD and I have put into redeeming my life from the pit I once called home. I was ready to throw things, break things, use things to get relief from the feeling of once again being that person no one wanted. I was ready to lose my reputation, my dream that was starting to take shape, my kids, my self respect, everything.
See for me I can't curl up and die ('cept for that one Thursday, that day I was ready… but I'm still here aren't I?). I'm not made to be still. I've got more energy than I know what to do with and though I tend toward depression my depression isn't “stop functioning depression,” it's a “mindless-doing” kind of depression. I'm like one of those little wind-up cars that gets squirrely all around the room bumping into things but never quite gets anywhere. I lack the ability to make decisions and am aimless and that combination usually leads to… well, not good choices.
I couldn't write much, I couldn't focus on my volunteer obligations or really even do much with my kids but I was all wired up. I knew I had to do something with my energy, or it was going to make me self-destruct. So... I sent it to CrosSport and the loop! If I didn't know what to do at lunch, I knew there was a WOD waiting for me. If I couldn't stomach being home alone all those hours after I got off work, I knew I could go to the gym and take some time and see friendly faces while I worked off the energy. I knew it was a better alternative than other choices I could make. I made it my energy outlet. Not to look good enough to get him back, I knew he was gone after May 22nd, not to look good enough to get someone else… simply to keep my energy focused in a positive direction.
Reason #2: The Leaving didn't matter there
This one is a little more selfish and maybe mean and that's why I actually haven't shared it until now, except with one person. CrosSport and the loop were and still are all mine. He never had a part of my life in either place which meant the rejection couldn't hurt me there. I am no less a person at the gym than I ever was. I'm not missing a piece of me there, my history on the loop and at CrosSport is only mine. It didn't have to change because he left. I didn't have to figure out how to walk in and show my face there the way I did at other places “we” went together. The gym was all mine. It was like a blankie… that smelled like sweat and sounded like rock 'n roll. The gym is safe, the loop is steady. I like security and I liked knowing they didn't change like everything else had to.
Reason #3: I'm doing it to see what my body is capable of
This one is even MORE selfish. I'm doing it for me! I grew up in a herd of fit, active boys, and with a dad who coached wrestlers. Our Gramma liked to keep us busy. “Many hands make light work” you know! As the ONLY girl I was always weaker, slower and never the one that got asked to do laborious stuff. I was … what's the word oh yeah… the reject of the group! Yep, that was me. So, I never pushed myself, because I knew I couldn't hold a candle to them no matter how hard I tried. I never knew what strength was inside me. And then I made myself go to the gym instead of go off on a downward spiral and the by-product was strength and ability like I'd never known. I have always liked to move but I realized I was good at it. More than that I have embraced what a gift my body is and how precious and this time in my life is. There are many with health and physical limitations who cannot ever do what I do at the gym. I have a co-worker, and friend who is wheelchair bound, she doesn't let it get her down but it is a limitation. I don't have that restriction to my movements, why not celebrate it? And for that matter, I might as well celebrate now because I know I can't flip a #4 tire when I'm 100... if the LORD allows me to even be here that long. Right now, in this moment in my brief, fleeting life, I am fit, I am strong and I am better every day than I was the day before. I don't compete with the other ladies at the gym who are far out of my league. I don't compare myself to those I might be stronger or faster than. It's me, it's my demons, it's myself I challenge and I am better than. I want to know what I'm made of, capable of. I know I'm in the best shape of my life.
I wish I could have realized I'm made to move before this time in my life, but I'm here now, and I know, despite the resiliency, that I'm still healing. I know I'm a little in survival mode yet and I know I need the safety of the gym and predictability of the loop but it's turning more into a lifestyle choice than a survival tactic, and I love the health and wellness lifestyle. It suits me.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I've turned into a gym rat.
This season of my life is unlike any I've ever known. It's not good, in my opinion I've been abandoned by the one person who was supposed to be with me for life. My soul is torn up, my spirit is crushed, my self-confidence is shaken. I try to put on a smile but I'm too emotionally driven to hide the feelings boiling inside me. But then again, it's one of the best times in my life. I'm living my dream. I know what God put me on the earth to do and I'm stepping in that direction. I haven't yet achieved my goal but I'm getting there. How can I remain depressed when there is so much good? How can I celebrate to the fullest when my partner in life has pulled away?
All I know is that I want to inhale deeply of every emotion and experience this season throws at me, no matter how bad or good it is. Feelings deserve attention and I want to wrap up in them and taste them, touch them, savor them and learn from this so I can come out better, stronger and more empathetic to others.
So what's the shift? Loneliness, emptiness, the state of belonging to no man.
I'm at this place in my life where everything I thought I could count on has changed. There is nothing I'm sure of, not God's will, not my relationships with the people who matter most to me, not even my housing situation. Everything is confusing. Most of all who I will spend the rest of my life with.
And that's it. Since all of this happened the question has been who? Who is my partner for life? It was him for fourteen years, and now I don't know him. He wasn't perfect, neither am I. But it was never about perfection it was about belonging. We were us. We belonged to each other no matter what. He was air, breath, the beat of my heart, a hand, a mind, a body, a soul, the one and only soul that knew mine intimately (enough to know how devastating leaving would be). He was the one body I could touch however I wanted with no sin or shame. He was the one person who was supposed to never leave until death did part us. And he left me.
The question didn't change when he left. Who? Who will be with me in this life? Who will I belong to, because more than anything I need to belong. Will he do the work to come back? If so, when? Am I even worth the effort? Were we worth it?
When I haven't been thinking of him coming back (which is most of the time) I've been thinking of who might replace him? When will he be replaced? Should he? Do I know who it is already? Do I really want anyone? If I do, what do I want? How can I think of replacing him? Besides, will anyone really want me? How could anyone want someone like me?
Then it hit me today… who? Always who? I've said I should probably stay alone but I don't meant it. I'm not an alone kind of person. I'm an independent person, I'm an awkward, opinionated person, but I want to belong to someone. What if I could get over that? What if I could stop asking who? What if I could just be me? I've never been a 'just me' woman. I've been someone's girlfriend, lover, wife. I've been on a year-long break from men to figure out who I was in Christ, but the plan was never to remain single or alone. Now what? Do I give up on who? Can I? I've tried to think about it all day. What if there was no who. Not him, not someone else. Can I not belong to someone for the rest of my life when acceptance is one of my most intimate needs? Can I keep my ring on and not hope he thinks it a sign of my fidelity and comes back? Can I take it off and not hope someone might notice me? Can I let go of the hope of belonging to a man? I don't know. The thought of never having another lover, soul-mate and companion is hard to imagine. Can I let go of my need to belong?
My eldest son graduated this weekend. The week leading up to it was a flurry of crazy activity and final plans and motions. The realization that, once again, things will never be what they once were. I remember him getting on the bus for preschool, throwing temper tantrums on the way to second grade, playing the clarinet in fifth grade, hopping from one school to the next, and doing school-at-home for a bit. Now it's done, I miss it but I'm so proud and excited for what lies ahead. It is one more chapter ended. One more milestone met. The third significant family moment I spent without my partner by my side.
I spent an anniversary alone on a mountain mourning what was lost. Then just last week I celebrated our eldest's announcement that she is pregnant by myself. I will be a grandma. He will be a grandpa. I didn't believe it at first but then when the reality sunk in the next thought was… I want to share this with him. I want muse about being grandparents so young with him. No one else. I don't want another man to be called Grandpa, but I don't want to be a lonely Gramma either.
And now our son graduates and we are still apart.
He came to the graduation barbecue. It was awkward but I'm glad he was there. That day wasn't about us. It was about the boy, his accomplishments, his achievements, his 12 plus years of hard work to make it to that night. I'm happy for the sake of our son that he was there despite the separation. I'm sad it was the first time in almost two months either of the boys had seen him. I was wondering why this has to be so hard on them? Why couldn't he have just left me and not them? I kept reminding myself to be glad he was there then, for our son's moment to shine.
I almost touched him once. It was an accident. He was in the door frame of the house that once was his and I was walking past. Before all of this leaving business, I would have reached out and grazed his torso or touched his hand or stopped briefly to kiss him and smile as I passed. I almost reached out, 14 years of habit is hard to break, but I stopped my hand from reaching for him. It didn't stop my soul from feeling. We were one once, we are no more. Why God why? What did I do?
It was the first time in nearly two months I'd seen him. I barely said a dozen words to him because I didn't know what to say and only made eye contact twice. Once, the first time, I was reminded of how his eyes mesmerize me, beautiful blue oceans of depth, fathomless, and now lost to me. The other just before he left for the night, a fist-bump and “Good job, Mama” and a second, or maybe two, of soul connection. I willed him him to fix this with my gaze. If he saw, he ignored it. He hugged our daughter, squeezed our other son's shoulder and told him he loved him, like that made up for 55 days of absence, said good-bye to the rest and left, like he did all those days before.
It was an afternoon and evening of cool, careful cordiality. The whole time I was asking myself: how does 14 years come down to this? What did I do? What is so bad about me he wanted to leave? And now that we're here do I even want to go back? How do we move forward? Do we be friends? Do we follow a plan? I know I don't want to be enemies, there's too much we've shared, too much of my soul wrapped up in his to fight or hate him. But where do we go from here?
I know don't want to be in the waiting room in seven months as our daughter gives birth unable to look him in the eye or have a conversation as we pass the time waiting to hear the news of our first grandchild's delivery. I want to share the moment in some way even if it's not as husband and wife. I want to be able to talk to him and look at him and not feel like my soul is bleeding all over the place.
Where do we go from here? How do we move on? What do I do?
The funny thing is all of the little things that annoyed or pissed me off. I noticed his shirt and shoes were new, maybe his jeans too. I thought... how nice to be able to buy new stuff for yourself when I'm trying to use my money to help our kids deal with the heartbreak of a parent leaving. It was mean, but it was my thought, what can I say? Then the next moment I thought… Was I such a Nazi with the budget that he didn't feel like he could buy clothes or shoes for himself? Why didn't he just say something instead of depriving himself? And the next thought… those jeans do nothing for his butt. Then … how many days has it been since I've had sex. A season at least. And... how can I think about sex at my son's graduation party? But… will I ever have sex again? I want to have sex again. And why is sex such a big deal anyway? I know how to take care of myself… And… It's my son's graduation I need to get my mind out of the gutter and focus on him, his night, his moment, his achievement. And... all of this really started because I noticed he had on a brand new shirt and shoes? Really?!
Then there were the strawberries. He said he would take the boy to the field to get ready for the ceremony. I packed up the strawberry shortcake leftovers he brought but he told me to keep them and give the bowl back to our mutual friend when we were finished with them. My immediate reaction was anger. I felt horrible for being angry but I was. Our friend had been checking in with me and he said to give the bowl back to her when we were done. What did he say to her about me? What does she think of me? Why is he making it my job to clean his stupid bowl of strawberry goo and give it to someone. Typical… leave the mess for me to take care of. And then I thought … that's mean, don't think that way, he's a good man. He's just tired of this life we had. And why? What was so wrong with our life? I liked it… it had issues but it was a good life. And again, what did I do?
Then for the first time in 14 years we were together but sitting three people apart, watching the child we'd raised graduate but not sharing the moment. I was glad he didn't have another woman with him but part of me wished he did. At least then there would be a reason for the leaving. But no, just me, too much and not enough to keep him. Another dismal notch in my failure column.
And our son graduated and we didn't squeeze hands in pride or kiss conspiratorially as he waked across the podium. We watched separately.
I wanted that moment for us, to celebrate his achievement, our achievement, to worry about what the future holds for him, to wonder what the next weeks would entail together. I wanted my fingers all wrapped up in his, we probably would have had sweaty hands because of the heat, but we would have been together. Instead we were three people apart and his ring was around my neck and his new shoes were scuff free, but his arms had scratches on them. Were they from work, from fishing, from helping an elderly friend or something else all together? I had no idea where the scratches came from or how new his shoes were to still be scuff free, because I do not know his life anymore. I wondered, as the students walked across the stage, one after the other, as we sat in the bleachers breathing the same hot, stagnant air, how could it have come to this?
I looked at his hand, ringless as it was and again touched the ring hanging around my neck. I remembered a promise I hissed in a moment of anger, “I'll wear it until it's back on your finger or until another ring takes its place.” But now I'm not so sure about that. I want closure. I need resolution. I tried to tell myself, I'm still trying to tell myself I don't care if it's divorce or restoration. I just need resolution. Two months is too long to live in limbo. But if this is the game of life and he moved out, isn't the next move mine? And if it is, what do I do? What's my move?
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