What Was It Like

I am in Atlanta on a business trip. On Monday, I boarded the crowded plane with no thoughts of anything other than the work ahead. My mind was occupied with the scheduled meetings, and I glanced at the itinerary, reviewed emails and planned the events during much of the flight.

As we began to descend and I could see the city below me, it hit me. Just over two years ago, another woman, literally, an OTHER WOMAN was on another flight into this same city, having just come from a tryst with HUSBAND. As I stared out the window, I tried to imagine what it was like. What it was like to be her. What she might be thinking and feeling and planning.

atlanta

Was she thinking about how she had lied to her live-in-lover about where she had gone, and how she would cover her tracks? Was she thinking about how she had lied to her boss and co-workers about her missed days at work? Was she gloating at the thought that she was one step closer in getting her man by taking mine? Could she still smell his scent…feel his touch…hear his voice…

What is it like to be a woman who can purchase a plane ticket…drive to the airport…park her car…walk to the gate…board the plane…buckle her seatbelt…make small talk conversation with her seat-mate…to a destination of secrets and evasion and deceit? What lies does she have to tell herself to keep the façade going – the fantasy that she is valued by her illicit lover in any real way – that she is anything more than a momentary illusory stopping point in the life of man who has created an out-of-sync fictional chapter in the true story of his life?

Then I thought about what it was like to be me. Me then, me now.

Me then was an oblivious wife, also on a plane headed back to my home which was HIS home. I was on the plane, thinking about the past two days in DC and all that had been accomplished…and all that remained to be done. I was on the plane, thinking about the laundry I would have to do when I got home, and hoping HUSBAND would be on time to pick me up. I was on the plane thinking about going to watch our son play soccer and whether we would have time to eat before his game and hoping HUSBAND had reminded him to get his uniform.

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Me then was okay with a few functional messages with HUSBAND during my time away as long as he took care of the things he needed to take care of. Me then was okay with a brief hello and perfunctory peck on the cheek upon my return, with conversation focused on kids and what had gotten done while I was gone and what needed to be done now that I was home. Me then was a strong me who lived in a detached manner with a strong him in which we knew our roles and duties well, did them well with little dissension. But also with little passion, guarding our deepness and wounds and wishes lest they get trampled on.

Me now is stronger than ever, and HUSBAND is a man who has embraced his strength like never before. Me now is dedicated to my own work and that of HUSBAND and even more so, the extra work we embrace together to bolster ourselves and our marriage. Me now isn’t worried about HUSBAND picking up on time…me now knows he will be waiting and will have taken care of all that needed to be taken care of including things I had not even considered.

Me now is in constant touch with HUSBAND…receiving texts and phone calls and emoticons expressing his mood-of-the-moment. Me now is anxious to get on the plane later today, to return to HUSBAND knowing that I will be enveloped in his embrace. Me now looks forward to his hands cupping my face, his eyes locked on my eyes, his voice telling me how much he missed me, and me now knows this is true. Me now still knows my duties well, as does he, but me now sees these are secondary, they are only functions of life. Me now knows that real life happens in the intimacy of our us, that it is because we, because I, no longer guard my deepness, and have seen his wounds and showed him mine…many which bear his mark…that real passion burns between us.

The counterfeit may be close, and fool some, but requires one to deny inconsistencies, to turn away from flaws, to ignore blemishes. That’s what it was like. I’ll opt for me now.

embrace

 

He Did It First

One day in our couple support group, our leader showed a video. The video is the work of The Skit Guys and is called Baggage. In the video we see a poignant visualization of how we get baggage…different people who throw it on us…friends…parents…lovers…and before you know it, we are weighed down trying to move forward in life, yet carrying bags on our backs and arms and hands. And then the actor talks about Jesus promising life, life abundantly – but life weighed down doesn’t feel like life. Then the actor remembers that Jesus told us to bring our burdens to Him – and that He would give us rest – so he goes to God and cries out…please, please take these bags…the bags slide of his body…and the actor lets us know that He – God – took the bags.

Baggage

Yet, over the years of my faith-walk, I cried out numerous times. I asked for Him to help me be better, or think clearer, or speak kinder. I begged Him to take my marriage to a deeper place, to help me be a better mom and to show me the right path for my family. Life was good, we plugged along and were “happy” yet there was always something – MORE – that I wanted but could not define. Baggage…that I held deep inside and didn’t even admit I was carrying. I told myself that was because we would never have satisfaction in this life…we are made to yearn for the Kingdom that will be ours in heaven…

Then I found out about HUSBAND’s double life.

Betrayed

In that short period of time, everything changed. It was as if all the prayers and what-seemed-to-be-answers-to-prayers through the years were now just a mockery. The God that I’d cried out to either wasn’t real, or He couldn’t/wouldn’t do the things I’d been told He could/would, or He didn’t love me. I was angry at my belief whichever of those things was true. After those initial weeks of shock and denial and anger began to move into what am I supposed to do next to survive, I began to have some images.

Images of this Jesus I rejected in a garden, knowing He was to die, on His knees crying out to God, His Father, to please, please take this cup…let there be another way.

There was no other way. Not for Jesus. Not for me.

Images of Jesus being abandoned. Being mocked. Being beaten and abused. Being betrayed. Like me.

Images of Jesus on a cross, pierced physically, emotionally, mentally and hanging, exposing his brokenness and pain and bloody insides. Like me.

And then, three days later, an empty tomb. The evidence of His death laying there, bloody and tattered, but He was gone having transcended the pain and filth to become whole again. Images of Him reappearing to His people, scars evident on His hands and feet, but whole and beautiful and full of mercy and love.

I began to understand that He had never left me or forsaken me. That I had tried to take a path around or under or over the very path that would lead me to freedom. It was the path directly through the pain that would take me so beyond “happy” – that would get me MORE – the MORE I’d always really wanted. He had forged the path, He showed me He didn’t want it either, that it is fraught with all things overwhelming, but that He’d gone first and would be there with me through the journey.

And that…THAT is when I began to step into my healing, into freedom, into MORE.

ScarredHands2

Betrayal Decided.

 

Wednesday (or the third day) of Holy Week. Not much happens on this particular day, or at least I never realized it in the same way I did today. Wednesday was the day that somewhere around two-thousand years ago, a man named Judas decided he would betray the One whom he had loved, and followed, and dedicated his life to over the prior years. The One to whom he had listened intently, shaped his understanding of his past, and the direction of his future.

JudasBetrayal

I find it astounding that God chose to let us see a window into the heart and mind of Judas…not just the action of his betrayal the next day, but that he chose betrayal before he acted. That on the day before he moved into the action of pointing out Jesus to his captors, he considered it, saw the “reward” of thirty pieces of silver, and decided to betray his Lord.

HUSBAND and I have talked incessantly about how the betrayals happened within our marriage. The last affair began immediately following his HS reunion. As we were standing toward the exit, talking with another couple and preparing to leave, HUSBAND’s body jolted a bit and I glanced over, only to notice someone had bumped into him. It was a non-moment, a non-event with a non-descript person that I hardly noticed. But as HUSBAND turned to say “I’m sorry,” he now tells me that there was a fleeting moment of eyes meeting eyes that went beyond two old friends. I didn’t see it, or sense it, or have any idea it had happened. The next morning, HUSBAND sent a brief text…are you heading back to Atlanta…and SW answered…why…what do you have in mind…

The affair began.

BUT…what HUSBAND now sees is that isn’t really true. The affair began with his own inner pain and personal disdain, with small thoughts and little justifications and tiny moments for the months prior. It began with HUSBAND rejecting the good that was us and making us bad so that he could seek the bad and make it good. It wasn’t thirty pieces of silver that his whore offered him, but it was a quick path to momentary pleasure of the body and mind that led straight to a deep plunge into destruction. And he had sold out to the lies along the way long before he accepted the trade, long before he did away with the journey of the real for the mimicry of the false.

Circumstances reveal

How wise is the God who reveals the path of betrayal so clearly, both for the betrayed to be able to see they played no role, and for the betrayer to be able to learn his foolishness was his alone. Jesus…so pure and kind…betrayed and laid out for his betrayer…

I am humbled to read this story with new eyes. And to grieve with Jesus with a broken heart. And to thank Him for showing me that betrayal, and death…in a way that only God can make happen…can be a path to freedom, and life.

Freedom

 

 

 

 

The Important Becomes the Necessary.

We go along and live life. Seems like nearly everyone I know never has enough time to….to….we each can fill in that blank with the things we never have enough time to…as we juggle all that we have to do.

juggling

Meanwhile, we spend our days doing the Necessary while wishing we could spend our days doing the Important. We do work and do carpool and do grocery shopping and do meals and do homework and do and do and do. We convince ourselves that tomorrow, TOMORROW, we will have a special conversation with our friend, or make the phone call to our family member, curl up – no agenda – with our child, read a book just to read a book, or set aside time to really work out touchy issues with our spouse rather than just gloss over them with unfinished sentences or frustrated actions.

Yet the darkness falls on the day and we finish up all those Necessary things and before we know it, another day has passed without demanding the space in our lives for the Important…but…tomorrow…

sleepless

Yet in One Moment, sometimes life changes that.

The One Moment when the phone rings and the voice on the other end is speaking words that you hear but don’t really understand yet you move into action as you grab your phone and your purse and your car keys and holler at those around you that your child has been in an accident and you’re leaving (work/home/church/friend/family member) right then and you’re not sure when you will be back, leaving WHATEVER Necessary behind undone for however long – hours. Days. Weeks.

The One Moment when the hospice nurse says the time is imminent for your beloved parent to die and suddenly there is nowhere and nothing else that can pry you away from the bedside even though the imminence turns into one day and a second day and a third day and a fourth day and Necessary somehow gets forgotten.

The One Moment when I found a letter from HUSBAND’s lover that revealed my life was not really my life and that there was a whole different life being lived alongside the life I thought I was living, right there, in my home, in my bed. The world stopped and suddenly I couldn’t even remember Necessary.

I stopped right then. Right there.

That One Moment, without me even seeing it or figuring it out or making plans, the Important became the Necessary. I have no idea how, but in that One Moment, taking care of me and my precious children and dealing with the shattered life and HUSBAND were all that mattered, and all that I saw or did. Those things that I would always get to tomorrow became the ONLY THING that I would get to today.

I had no idea prior to that One Moment that the next days and weeks and months of my life would be filled with counseling sessions and intensives and Marriage Weekends. I never imagined the days would include long sessions of holding children and sharing newfound truths and putting pieces together. I had no idea that the rest of my life would include support groups and daily readings and coaching sessions.

In One Moment, everything I knew about my life past and life future changed including how I measured Necessary and Important.

I would have told you no way. NO WAY did I have any interest, or even if I did, the TIME to make the Important the Necessary. Honestly, I wouldn’t even have been able to tell you some of the Important that WAS Important because I had so convinced myself that I could NOT pay attention to it so I buried it under the Necessary. But I did. I DID.

I like that the Important has become the Necessary, now. I like that the heart of those I love is more essential in my world than the dust bunnies in my living room. I like that the soul of my family is more prioritized than the meeting that I actually can skip since I realize there are other voices that can carry a message – sometimes better than I had perceived my message was to be. I like that HUSBAND and his spirit take precedence over being on another committee or heading up another project – even if it is a good political move for my business. And somehow, now that it has all switched around, the Necessary usually gets done anyway, although I could never see the way before. It’s a puzzle, but one I am okay not fully understanding.

For me, life determining the Important was really now the Necessary…it was shocking and painful and blindsiding…but perhaps it ultimately created a better path for the future I wanted.

Path

The Squirrel. God. Me.

Ten years ago, my youngest son was playing outside in our back yard. Suddenly he was at my side excitedly working to get my attention. Follow me, mama…you need to see something…

We went out back, and he held my hand, pulling me to a corner where our off-grade house foundation came together. There was a tiny squirrel, squawking and pressing his little body into the structure as best he could, obviously terribly disturbed by the presence of looming and large humans.

Mom…we need to save him…can we, mom?

I went inside and got sturdy leather gloves and a shoe box with a lid…and we got the poor, scared little critter. Immediately I went to my trusty source of all information, google, and quickly read about the likelihood of the age of the little squirrel, how/what to feed him, how/what to put in his enclosure to help him feel safe and secure, how/what to help him potty…

My precious boy didn’t leave my side…helped to scald the milk…said soothing and comforting things to the scared little squirrel…found all the items we needed and put them in a big box…filled the syringe with the milk…and quickly calmed the squirrel to the point that he could hold him and feed him.

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Meanwhile I went back to google where I learned tons about wild, abandoned squirrels in no time at all. I found squirrel rescue sites and read their advice and information, and learned about the potential of re-releasing this little guy back in the wild after he was old enough. My son was completely captivated, and the squirrel seemed content to curl up in a nook or cranny of his body and sleep.

It was really sweet.

This went on for four days, with all of the family enjoying the antics of the baby squirrel and regularly talking about how and when we would release him. We each enjoyed holding him and feeding him, but it was the youngest son who adopted him for his own.

Until day four.

Day four, the baby squirrel was obviously not feeling as perky. He barely ate, he just wanted to stay curled up, and my mama heart knew we were in trouble. I went back to google, and frantically searched for some answer, some resource. I emailed several of the rescuers and tried calling a few more, leaving messages. Meanwhile, the baby squirrel was failing fast, and I held him, frantically willing him to continue living. I ended up in my living room where I have four large windows, two which look out into our back yard. Tears began to stream down my face…and I began to pray…no…PRAY…God…please God…please save this baby…I know, I know you have thousands of squirrels out there, and I know, squirrels don’t live that long anyway…but I am asking you to save this squirrel…God please save this squirrel…

Before I knew it, I was sobbing, and from deep within came this.

God…You are supposed to love us, not just “us” but me…God, please…please let me know that you hear ME…that you love ME…please God…save this squirrel…please let me know that you care at all about ME…

DesperateWoman

The squirrel died.

HUSBAND had come into the living room midway through my begging. He had stood by me, put his arms on my shoulder. I begged him to pray, too, and have a vague memory of him doing so in some stilted fashion. But even with him there, I was alone. I was alone with him, and I was alone with God. We were there, the three of us, but we were there.                    And there.                     And there.

Alone-RobinWilliams

A little of me died that day too. As the story of my life unfolds, however, it ended up not being the end of the story. In a very odd way, it was the start.

 

 

Better Plans

When I was a young teen, my father was a professor at the University of Colorado for a couple of years. We lived in the amazing, green-belt-wrapped town/city of Boulder, tucked neatly into the valley with the beautiful Rockies looming to the west, and foothills part of the landscape.

There were strong winds that swept down over Boulder off this eastern slope of the mountains. Winds that were called the chinook – after the Pacific Native Americans – and, according to the Earth Systems Research Laboratory, are some of the highest peak winds in the entire country. The winds were sometimes strong enough to blow roofs off, down trees and melt a foot of snow in less than an hour. But for the most part, the chinook was something brief and interesting and part of the lore of living in Boulder.

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So for Christmas one year, my parents had rented a condo at a ski resort for a week. Believe it or not, the day before we were leaving, it was in the mid-70s in Boulder – a perfect day to lay out in the backyard in my bikini and get a tan. Dad was at work, and mom was running around getting last minute items for the trip, and our house was filled with a crew of 4-5 men painting the living room and dining room. I was on my lounge chair, soaking up the sun and the phone rang…and this was prior to cell phones that are perched by our sides…so I jumped up and ran to the door…a sliding glass door…and grabbed the handle to slide it open with my right hand touching the glass with my left hand…and

CRASH

The entire 72 x 80 inch door shattered with a deafening sound. Shards of glass were there – inside the door and outside the door and sticking out of various places on my body.

slidingdoor

I was stunned, shocked, completely confused how this could have happened. I did not fly into the door with my body weight, or press hard on the door with my left hand. I opened it the same way I always opened it, lightly touching the door with my left finger tips to stabilize the opening procedure while pulling on the handle with my right, yet this time the door lay in little pieces all around me. Then I realized that numerous places on my hands and legs and feet were bleeding…some small spots of blood, but a couple quite vigorously.

I ran into the kitchen (to this day have no idea who was on the phone), turned on the sink, threw my heavily-bleeding-hand under the sink while telling the very-shocked-painters to hand me some paper towels that I pressed onto my worst-bleeding-foot wound with the other foot. They began to sort-of-panic (isn’t that just like men? Sorry, didn’t mean to be sexist, but I guess I really did) and I took the role of calming them down.

So why this story? There was no man involved, no relationship, no HUSBAND or cheating or loving or even family-of-origin stories here.

Right after the door crashed down, everyone (mostly my parents) blamed me. It was surely my teen-crazed desire to answer the phone…I had crashed into the door…I had wrenched the door open with force. I replayed the incident over and over and over in my head while nurturing the physical wounds, and knew this was not so. Eventually, we learned that it was very likely the glass had been weakened and bore cracks and fissures due to the winds…cracks we couldn’t see…cracks that were actually the cause of the shattering which could have happened to anyone.

Some have suggested that for me to go back and examine my marriage may cause more pain, stunt healing or lead to self-blame. For me, on DDAY, I was the glass door. I looked healthy and clear and shiny with no cracks or hints of instability. But it wasn’t true. And as much as I am me, and I am separate from HUSBAND, WHICH I FULLY BELIEVE, because we were married we were also inextricably woven into one in a mystery I cannot fully understand, so any brokenness in him really was brokenness in me. Those crazy chinook winds had blown over and in my life and over and in his life and over and in our life, and left microscopic cracks and fissures and schisms that I glossed over or thought would be better tomorrow or could not see because they were just so small…but then

CRASH

The entire 27 year marriage of HUSBAND and me came crashing down. Shards of my life were strewn across the years and the dreams and the reality of all that I was.

That gaping hole where the door once stood, where the marriage once stood, has to be rebuilt. It could be a single-hung glass, or perhaps a double-pane, but either way if it is going to stand the chinook bearing down again and again as life does, I want to understand how the original construction allowed those cracks and fissures to form. I want to change the plans, to be able to withstand the winds and not be in danger of shattering again, and to do so, I am willing to take apart every bit of the process and rebuild step-by-step with stronger, smarter, better parts. In my case, HUSBAND also wants that for himself, which is what is allowing us to consider remaining married, to work toward a whole marriage which I can see now, we never had before. If he wasn’t willing to invest and to dedicate his heart and mind and being to both going back with brutal honesty, and moving forward with humble bareness, I would be on this journey alone. Because that is what I am doing, and now, we are doing – going back with brutal honesty, and moving forward with humble bareness.

Looking back, for me, is the only way to build forward.

foundation

 

Early Fractures

I married my dream man and couldn’t wait to live the rest of my life with him. And he with me. Our pictures of that night are still magical…with so many friends and neighbors and family gathered around to care for us, to cheer for us, to love us and support us.

What fractures were there in those early days that I was unable to see or to detect? Were there any?

Through digging and digging and digging, HUSBAND and I have found many things now that were little fissures in the outward cover of perfection we wrapped ourselves in.

fissuresandfractures

Things like the reality that HUSBAND invited a woman with whom he had had an indiscriminate sexual relationship with a couple times some years prior…to our wedding. A woman that I did not know, and had asked who she was and why she was on our invitation list. He’d answered me only a partial truth…telling me that she was always present in the mundane as a member of his home-room all years of high school (true) and part of his group of high school friends (true-ish) and of course, no one that he had ever considered dating (okay…he never dated her, but does fucking count)?

Looking back…maybe that was a little crack?

Or possibly it was a fissure that he had given me a pretty PG rated version of his actually XXX rated growing up years, all the way to the weeks immediately prior to our beginning to date, that I accepted fully? It wasn’t until 27 years later and the revealing of his double life that I finally found out he’d always had a double life when it came to me…that the man I thought I’d married was really a shined up version of the man I’d married – regarding his drug past and his sexual past. A fracture?

Then…there was our wedding night. I’m not sure what I expected, but romance definitely figured in there somewhere. After our large wedding in which we spent lots of time shaking hands and hugging necks and dancing and laughing and toasting and drinking ended with us darting out to jump in the back of the limousine, I pictured being wrapped in intimacy, entering our hotel room – the bridal suite of course – scattered with rose petals and candles glowing, perhaps. I anticipated my new husband drinking of the beauty of the moment, and making me feel like I was his perfection in the way he looked and touched and tasted me. Instead, we came into a regular room (why spend money for one night on anything else?) and had rather perfunctory sex and a brief cuddle that resulted in HUSBAND sleeping quickly. I got up, went to the bathroom and filled the tub…got in…and wept. A story I never told anyone until after I discovered HUSBAND betrayed me time and again.

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Could that have been an early fracture?