Divorce (through a child’s eyes)

When my mom and dad were together, my world was full.

I was not fearful.

I felt protected.

I loved when we all smiled together.  We played at the parks, we flew kites, we jumped the waves in the ocean, we climbed trees in Washington D.C., and we looked out for each other.

If you saw us, if you were walking behind us, you would have seen this great big heart around us, with small hearts above our heads – full, and flashing.  That’s how you would’ve known we were a family.

One day, the big heart broke, so the little hearts above our heads were empty.

My dad left.

My mom changed.

I was scared.

I felt like I was out in the middle of the ocean with no boat, nobody nearby to help me, and nothing holding me up.  I was just floating, alone, waiting for everything to go back to the way it used to be.

Sometimes my mom would pop up, but her eyes didn’t look at me.  She saw me, she made sure I was still alive, and still floating, but the heart above her head was still flashing, still empty.

We left our house behind, and moved to a new house.  My dad picked me up every other weekend.

I kept trying to find that big heart that used to surround us.  I wanted to fill my mom’s heart up, so it would fill mine again.  I was tired of floating, alone.

I tried to make new friends at our new school, but I just felt so… lost.  I didn’t think anyone would understand what I was thinking.  They all looked like they were swimming laps like pros while I was still out in that ocean trying to figure out how to swim.

My mom started dating someone new, so now she didn’t pop up as much.  I wasn’t even sure if she saw me most days.  She looked happy, but the heart above her head was still flashing empty.

My dad started dating someone new too.  He still picked me up every other weekend.  He looked happy too, but the heart above his head was flashing empty too.

Why couldn’t they see me?  Why were they acting like their hearts weren’t empty?  How could we get back to climbing trees in Washington D.C.? How long could we exist this way?

My questions started screaming at me.  The water I was floating in felt bigger, and scarier everyday.  I felt like I was running out of air.

“Mom!”

“Dad!”

“Someone! I need help!,” I yelled, out to the silent sea.

At school, I walked around with my head down.  I tried not to let my tears escape, but sometimes they did.  I could feel the other kids wondering what was wrong, but I wouldn’t look up.  I wouldn’t let anyone in.

I came home from school one day and I noticed that my mom’s heart wasn’t flashing empty.  It started filling up, just a little bit more each day.  I didn’t know why, or how it was happening, but I loved it because she saw me again.  When I asked her what was happening, she told me that God was helping her.  She said that God protected us, and provided for us when we were out in that ocean.  She said that without God, we would have drowned.

I didn’t see God the way my mom did.  I was thankful, (if what she said was true), for the protection.

I’m glad we didn’t drown.

My mom kept changing, a little bit each day.  She was becoming the mom I used to know.  Her heart was pouring out into mine, and it never seemed to be empty.  I couldn’t figure it out – how could she pour so much love into me, but never run out?

When I asked her, she told me…  “God’s love for me, and for you, is so big that it never runs out.”  She explained that God’s love is like a great big barrel, bursting:  “As it bursts, and flows out over me, it is so full that it flows out over you.”

It didn’t make sense to me at first, but as time went on, I felt it.  I accepted it.

I still wanted to climb the trees in Washington D.C. with my family and that great big heart around us, but I know that the great big heart is with me even though my mom and dad aren’t together.

I’m not scared anymore.

I feel protected

I am loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the good times

I am hoping that if I write it all down, it will leave my brain, and leave my memory.  I’ll only share the good times.  I don’t want to erase them, I just want them to stop revisiting me daily.

It started like a sweet romantic movie… our first date began with breakfast at a little country restaurant on Van Dyke.  The conversation was light, easy, and fun.  The plan was to spend the whole day together if breakfast went well.  Our next stop was the shooting range.  We both enjoy shooting, and I thought it was a unique “date” idea, so away we went.  He taught me more about guns than I could have ever learned from a class, a book, or even YouTube.

Around noon, we made it the sledding hill.  I brought my plastic green saucer, he brought a large concrete mixing tub.  I volunteered to go first.  He pushed, and spun, my green saucer so fast I couldn’t see where I was going.  All I could see was my hair flying around in front of my face, and the world flying by.  And trees, off to the right, lots of trees.  I panicked and threw my feet out from under myself, my heels attempting to make contact with the snow.  I flew off the sled, onto my belly.  The world was still spinning but I managed to get up, all non-graceful like, and attempt to walk up the hill. The couple in the sledding lane next to us must have panicked too, because they were silent, and staring, and no one was sledding when I stood up.  I smiled, they smiled, I laughed, they laughed.  I looked at my date, and he looked proud, and… maybe a bit surprised.  He was either shocked at how fast I flew down the hill on my green saucer, or at the fact that I was still alive.  Either way, we decided to try to fit in the concrete mixing tub.  We did, sort of, wedged in, and cozy.  The couple next to us had a go-pro video camera that they offered us.  I wore the helmet with the camera, and he held me as we flew down the hill straight toward the huge bump at the bottom.  We flew over the bump, soaring high into the air, and then diving back down into the snow with a huge THUMP!  We laughed, hard, for about 15 minutes after that stunt.  That was probably THE BEST sledding experience I’ve ever had.  I still have the video of the spinning saucer and the flying concrete mixer tub.

Next item on the agenda: lunch.  We drove to Red Robin.  Yum!  The day was still going great. The conversation was still light, easy, and fun.  I didn’t want the day to end.

Ice skating was next.  We found a man-made rink in downtown Utica.  He laced up my ice skates.  The moon was bright.  We raced, I fell. We raced again, he fell, on purpose – he wanted to win so badly he threw himself, rolling, into the hay bails that surrounded the rink.  I wish I had that on video too.  It was hilarious.  I remember hoping he was going to kiss me in the moonlight.  Our first kiss would be so romantic out there, skating, in the bright moonlight.  He did not kiss me.  Not yet.

“Let’s go to this delicious dessert place in Rochester,” he said when we decided we were done skating.  “Ok!”  They had every flavor of cheesecake I have never thought of – even fruity pebbles.  I ordered a blueberry coffee and a slice of plain cheesecake.  We sat, ate, drank, watched people, listened to a guy playing his guitar, and smiled.

When we were trying to decide on the best sledding hill to go to after the shooting range, it was a tie between the one off of Avon Road, and the one behind the church.  Avon Road first and then behind the church at midnight.  Deal.

It was midnight.  We were behind the church. He sat on my green plastic saucer sled.  We left his in the truck.  I sat on his lap.  It reminded of when my best friend and I  played “spider monkey” on the swings back in sixth grade.  We flew down the hill, laughing all the way.  And then, he kissed me, at the bottom of that hill, in the moonlight.

The next morning we went ice fishing.  He threw all the gear (the fold up tent shanty, the driller thing, fishing poles, and little canvas chairs) into the concrete mixing tub.  We drove to a lake near where he grew up.  We didn’t catch any fish, but I loved it anyway.  It took me back to when I was five years old and my uncle took me ice fishing.  I LOVE watching the fish swim under the ice.  I know they are cold blooded, but it just blows my mind seeing them swim in that ice cold water! They look so calm and peaceful just swimming back and forth, under the ice.

Three weeks later, we went skiing.  I fell, hit my head, felt a little dizzy, but kept on skiing.  We had a late dinner at a little hometown restaurant that served morel mushroom soup. I wish I could describe the flavor of this soup. It was bursting with the best flavors that ever hit my tastebuds.  I have never tasted anything like it!

One week later, I decided I had to tell him the secret I was keeping from him.  My divorce wasn’t final.  He was pretty angry.  He stopped talking to me.  He told me to call him when it was final.

Four months later, I called him.

All the good times happened from day one to day 1,095.

Here are the highlights that haunt me:

Making meals together – scallops, nachos, every kind of lasagna I’d ever wanted to try, crab legs, lobster, shrimp, and lots of chili.

Playing football with all of our kids.

Roasting marshmallows and popping popcorn in the fire.

Searching for painted rocks and geocaching.

Hot Air Balloons.

Shooting at clay targets we placed in the hill at the gravel pit.  Shooting at old license plates we placed in the hill at the gravel pit. Shooting at empty glue tanks hanging from a tree out in the country.  Shooting at paper targets – bullseye! – at the shooting range on our first date, and several other dates afterwards. 

Traverse City.  Petoskey stones on a hill. Fossils everywhere. Rushing waters. Pretending we were rich, walking through downtown with our imaginary fancy canes and umbrellas, saying “tsk tsk” and “poppycock.”

Skipping rocks in the creek with all of our kids.

Hiking uphill nine miles to see all of the falls at the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

Hiking in the Redwood Forest in Northern California.  Best adventure yet.  It is still difficult to look through all of the pictures.  The moments hold so many great memories.  Why is it so hard to let go of them?  I wish I could go back to those moments and just stay there. Maybe I should revisit this favorite place of mine and re-do the trip with my kids? Maybe then the rest would fade?

Playing on the rocks in the ocean.  Pretending to be voyagers looking for treasure in a new land.  Climbing, balancing, and just “being.”

I wanted the great moments to continue, and the story to never have a last page.

It had to end though.  Our lives just weren’t meant to be lived together.

I cherish all the good times, and I’ve let go of the bad.  I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t met him.  I have no regrets.  I don’t want the memories to leave me, I just don’t want them to revisit me daily.

Maybe my heart let go a year and a half ago, but my mind took a little longer.

I bid them farewell.  I know they will never leave me, I am just hoping they will stop visiting me daily.

 

 

 

Vanished…

I watched “Eat, Pray, Love” with Julia Roberts last night. Ok, not with Julia Roberts! I do think it would be cool to hang out with her though!

I read the book several years ago, but I never watched the movie. Sometimes when I’ve read the book, I don’t want the movie to spoil it. Watching the movie last night, with myself, reminded me of how great the book is!

I used to be able to relate to so many of the things the main character, Elizabeth Gilbert, discovered about herself.

“I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my #!#, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my
dog’s time—everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family.”

She realized that she became who she was dating. That other person became her identity. She was never Elizabeth, “the one who wanted to help everybody.” She only identified herself with the person she was married to, or the person she was dating.

Similar to an empty vase that became the flowers that filled it. When it was empty, without flowers, it didn’t realize it was still beautiful with a purpose.

She was on a journey to find out who she was.

She had to vanish and re-emerge in order to become who she wanted to be.

I like how she described it:

the same way a cartoon circus performer dives off a high platform and into a small cup of water, vanishing completely.”

In that moment, hearing that word vanish, I realized that’s what I did. The old me had to leave completely to become the new me.

It is such a powerful thing, to leave it all behind. To want to be more than you’ve ever been.

At this point in my life, I must acknowledge that I couldn’t have vanished on my own. I took the hand of One who offered to help me let go of who I was. I had to TRUST (and that’s extremely difficult for me to do!) that He would be with me every step of the way.

Looking back, at that moment, I see my old self melting into God’s hands. He formed me all over again to be who I am now.

The beauty in that image is that He didn’t toss out the memories and the toughest moments. They’re all still part of me. Pillars of strength.

It is a process, the vanishing and becoming new. Falling back into who I was when I’m weak. Allowing negative thoughts to consume me sometimes.

I’ll never regret letting go.

What is a single mom?

I’ve been pondering this title lately.

“Single mom” used to be the identity that came with the expectation of pity.  Over time, it became a medal worn proud.

A single mom used to be someone in survival mode, treading water, longing for a break.  She wasn’t the best at making her kids feel important and empowered.  She couldn’t see past her own need for oxygen.  She did what she thought she had to do to succeed.

Unfortunately, this single mom looked past her purpose.  The ladder she was climbing wasn’t steady.  She wanted so badly to prove to the world that she wouldn’t fail, that she kept climbing the ladder, knowing she was headed for destruction.

She had a house, a steady income, and a few close friends.  On the outside, it looked like she was doing pretty well.

But if you caught her, if you peeped in her window, you would have seen her exhausted and gasping for air.  You would have found her just looking for relief from the daily struggle… constantly.

She thought that being in a relationship was what she needed, emotionally.  From the moment she knew she was going to be a single mom, she desperately sought to fill that void.  The void that she thought her ex-husband left… she replaced by another man.

Relationship, after relationship, after relationship, after relationship.  Each one lasted about two to three years… it took her that long to realize that the men were hurting her more than they were helping her.  Each time she found a new one, she’d fly right past the red flags that were blaring.  The flags were as loud as firetruck sirens, as bright as flashlights pointed in your eyes, and as obvious as stains on a white t-shirt.  Her negative state of emotional health didn’t allow her to see the red flags until two to three years into the relationship.

Fortunately, for her sake, and the sake of her children, the last one did her in.   She woke up.  The day her eyes opened, she shook her head in disbelief.  She couldn’t believe what she allowed him to do to them, how she allowed him to talk to them, and how meaningless she felt because of how he treated her.

This single mom decided that she needed to figure out who she was.  She realized there was a pattern and she wanted to stop the cycle.

She completed some painful soul searching that took her all the way back to her childhood.  She wanted to find out who she was before the relationship saga began.

First, she pulled out her positive traits, (because those were easier to handle): Carefree, silly, independent, a bit impulsive – the fly by the seat of your pants, adventurous kind of impulsive, not the careless risk-taking kind of impulsive – optimistic, kind-hearted, and overall… happy.

Next, she faced her negative traits: impatient, trusting people too quickly, hard-headed, competitive, naive, and willing to give in too easily in certain situations (not valuing herself enough to demand to be respected and valued).

For the first time since her divorce that was final 9 years before, she acknowledged that several of her negative traits contributed to the divorce.  Acknowledging this freed her to stop being the victim.

No longer the victim, she felt strong enough to start over.

Starting over meant that she wanted to try to be her “best self” – the one where her positive traits won more often than her negative traits.

The “Single Mom” title is now worn proud.

She helps her children change the spark plugs in their car without wishing someone else would.  She cleans the leaves out of her gutters with a smile on her face, glad she is not afraid of heights, and happy to have a steady ladder to climb.  She encourages her children to learn who they are, seek their true, unique identity, and not let anyone change them.  She respects herself, and hopes she is modeling that for her children.  She is driven to succeed, hopeful to dream big dreams that might come true someday, and thankful for the journeys – the one she walked away from, and the one that lies ahead.

 

Two halves

She was walking around, just half of herself, unaware.

She knew something was wrong but she didn’t know what it was.

She attached herself to other people, like the wrong shaped puzzle piece. Nope.

Hmm.

She drank too much after work and on the weekends. The alcohol just left her feeling less than the half she already was.

She hated looking in the mirror. It felt like being in math class when the solution just wouldn’t calculate no matter how many hours were poured into trying.

Acceptance made her feel more complete, but still not whole.

Finally, she asked for help.

“Do you see all of me?,” she asked, to everyone who passed her on the sidewalk, at the office, and at home.

No one answered.

“WHAT IS MISSING?!?” she yelled, to the air outside.

“Me,” she heard back, from somewhere inside.

She looked up. Her other half was right there, being offered to her by the One who said “Me.”

She didn’t know who He was yet, but she fit into that other half.

Finally, she was WHOLE.

Fake pants

My daughter was told her name-brand pants must be fake.  Harsh, right? I thought so too, especially because the person who said it has been a “friend” of hers for 3 years.

I am a single mom.  I pay my bills on time.  I own my house.  We eat healthy foods, and we do fun things together as a family.  We live simply, without fancy things, but we live, and we enjoy quality time together.

I know this “fake pants” accusation shouldn’t bother me as much as it has.  I know that I tend to be a bit sensitive about things I should probably just let go of.

It took me back though, to that dreadful day in 6th grade when the popular girls told me I couldn’t wear my black Guess jeans.

“Why are YOU wearing THOSE jeans???,” they asked me, laughing.

I didn’t respond.  I wore them as often as I wanted to, and probably pranced around a little more on those days.  Who were THEY to tell me what I could and and couldn’t wear???

It made me realize how shallow they were.

They found their value in the brand of clothes their parents could afford.

I hope that my daughter realizes that her value has NOTHING to do with the brand stamped on her authentic pants!  My daughter is, and always will be, valued because of who she is, not what she wears.

My daughter still calls this person a friend.  She still invites her along with us.  She sees past the accusation.  I suppose I should do.

I hope her friend knows how fortunate she is to receive grace from my daughter.  I hope I can offer the same.

I also hope that someday, the world won’t be so harsh.

I am so thankful to have raised a daughter who sees people beyond their shortcomings.

One day, we will reach a place where there is no judgment.  Our value will not be determined by anything other than who we are and whose we are.

Fake pants, authentic pants, invisible pants… none of it will matter.

 

“Comfort isn’t a solution to seek.” – Lysa Terkeurst

I don’t want to write another post about all the times I sought comfort in the wrong ways, from the wrong things.  So, I won’t.

I will, however, tell you that I realize what comfort doesn’t bring.  Even writing that seems absurd.  How could comfort, (a feeling), bring anything?

We seek comfort in times of loneliness, grief, and disappointment.  Right?

We all find comfort in different ways… friendships, food, Netflix, wine, etc.

That kind of comfort doesn’t last very long.  It might last as long as the conversation with the friend who is encouraging you, and sometimes for a few moments afterwards if it was a really great conversation. It might last as long as the last bite of the most delicious piece of chocolate cake, or until the last sip of savory wine that swished itself around in your fancy glass.  It might last as long as the movie or episode you were watching… especially when it touches every emotion and ends with a happily ever after.

Then what? How do we find comfort when the comfort provider is gone? Even the longest binge-watching session eventually comes to an end.  We are left with all sorts of empty feelings, based on how much comfort we are seeking.

Maybe we shouldn’t be seeking comfort? Maybe there’s another way?

I think I have found it.

All those times that I sought comfort in the wrong ways, from the wrong things, I ended up in a very dark place.  It felt like I was at the bottom of a very long vertical tunnel with no way out.  That tunnel grew more narrow every day, and eventually it was closing in on me.  I started to panic.  There was no way out.

Just like many people do in a state of panic, I prayed.  I cried great big, painful, stinging tears while asking God to help me find the way out. Quickly.

This might sound crazy, but as I was feeling like I was at the bottom of that deep vertical tunnel, (figuratively), I started to feel peace.  It happened right after I prayed.  I felt a sudden, overwhelming peace.

At first, it looked like a fire escape ladder that was tossed down to me by someone who loved me.  As time passed, I was given the strength to climb each step.  Sometimes I fell back down a few steps, and sometimes I was carried up a few steps.  Eventually, I made it out.

Now, the peace feels like the deepest love I’ve ever experienced.  It doesn’t fade like the comfort I sought.

It doesn’t leave me.

It will never fade.