More Hard Things

Today, I sat helpless in my kitchen knowing that a friend was facing a hard thing.

Her hard thing isn’t one that I have experienced. Her hard thing is one I can’t really imagine. Her hard thing is one that has stretched and limped and roared and picked but no matter what, she couldn’t make it go away.

Her young adult son has cancer, and today, he closed his eyes for the last time.

As I’ve sat here alone, I have tried to imagine. I have tried to imagine if you see the infant baby staring up at you with utter trust. I have tried to imagine if you see the first day of preschool or the last day of high school. Do you see the moments of frustration or fear that you undoubtedly had and wish you had do-overs? Do you feel the pudgy arms hugging you and the sweaty face pressed against yours with dirty tears running down after a crazy child-moment? Do you see the movies you didn’t allow and the parties you did, or the times you postponed a conversation  because the laundry wasn’t done or didn’t go on a walk because it was too hot out? Do you remember the last carefree laugh, or dinner that wasn’t carrying a shadow, or worrying about things that didn’t include forevers? Do you see past the pictures of the tubes and the needles and the possibilities of potential help drifting by and shouting NO! STOP! YOU DON’T GET IT- this is MY SON to the moments of caring about the color of tie for prom?

Oh my friend, this is a hard thing. A hard thing that will make you dig deep in your soul and shout out in pain and look at the rest of the world like it is nuts for moving on.

A hard thing that will keep you up at night and not let you get out of bed. That will create moments of thinking you could do more and moments of knowing everything was done. A hard thing of pain and sadness and loneliness and utter, despicable emptiness.

But beautiful girl, you can do hard things.

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And you are not alone. He did hard things first, and He will journey to and through this hell with you. Nothing you can throw on Him will make him leave you – not rage, or disappointment, or anger, or contempt, or doubt. Take his hand, beautiful girl. Go.

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Trust.

We just passed a milestone in our world, HUSBAND and I. This past weekend, we passed the 3 year anniversary of the last time he was physically with SW, the last AP. Who was also the first AP twenty-five years before that, when we had a baby marriage of less than 2 years.

I remembered, not because I was overcome with a massive trigger this time. Not because I was fixated on the date or the questions or the anger or the despair. I remembered when Facebook sent me a memory of something I’d posted the day I arrived home from my trip that I’d been on, affording HUSBAND the opportunity to set up the tryst.

I remembered and looked at IT, looked at then and looked at now. Looked at what I thought was going on in my life, based on both the FB post and my memory, and what was really going on in my life, uncovered two months later.

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I remembered and considered how different everything is now: the person I am. The person HUSBAND is. The marriage we have.

People often ask how we got here, how we made it through not just to “stay married,” but to have a marriage we really never had before. A marriage of connectedness. A marriage of intimacy. A marriage of passion. A marriage of love.

And now, a marriage of trust. Trust?

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I would have sworn I couldn’t. Trust him again. Maybe anyone. Almost every adage told me my gut was right. Almost every saying on pinterest. Almost every book, and certainly ChumpLady. Yet…here it is three years out…and I realize that I do, trust him, that is. With healthy reservation, and intermittent verification, but overall, I trust him. So how did this happen, how did we get to this place despite the savage destruction of HUSBAND’s past actions?

He got sorry. Really, really sorry. During our marriage, HUSBAND would rarely say “I’m sorry.” The words sometimes came out of his mouth, but with that inflection that says I’m not really sorry and it is really all your fault but you are so crazy/bitchy/stupid/nasty that I’ll just say it to shut you up. Or sometimes the words came out of his mouth followed by all the reasons whatever had happened (that he was sorry for) was REALLY MY FAULT. But this time, once he began to embrace the bigness of his wrongness, he began to be sorry. No blame. No excuses. No hidden messages. Just sorry.

He received my emotions. Once he moved into real sorrow and began to see what he had done, he allowed me to feel. Somedays I felt rage. Somedays I felt disgust. Somedays I felt sad – really, really sad. Somedays I felt stupid or humiliated or embarrassed. But on the road to trust, for the first time ever in our marriage, I was not manipulated into thinking my feelings were wrong. He just allowed me to feel.

He did not hurry the process. HUSBAND did not say “aren’t you over this yet?” He did not ask me if I was going to punish him for life. He did not push me to move at any pace other than my own as I moved into my own healing, and began to consider whether I had interest in being married. To him.

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He allowed me to ask questions. And ask them again. And again. Betrayal is trauma. Trauma survivors often need to relive and rehash the times and moments as they work to put it all together in their brains: to assimilate the perception of reality with reality.  HUSBAND did not enjoy my repetitive questions, but he endured them. He endured them and answered everytime I asked. He did not act frustrated, or put-upon.

He practiced truth telling. Even in the little things. Instead of telling me he had left the office while he was still packing up, or that he was on the highway when he was still a mile from the entrance ramp, he started telling the truth. And if he reverted back to those habitual untruths, he told me. Quickly. “I told you I had a burger for lunch…actually, I had two.”

He became consistent, and wanted to show me. His actions started to match his words. They really never had, but they’d never been HUGELY off, so I was conditioned to just believing he was a poor planner, or miscalculated time or money or whatever. But once he moved into recovery, and he began to see truth and practice truth, he wanted to demonstrate to me that he was different. Going to Lowes? I was sure to get a text part way telling me where he was. And when he got there, a selfie with the store sign behind him. A text when he was leaving, and his arrival back home in a reasonable time frame.

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He became transparent in any way I needed. Or even ways I didn’t need. He shared all his passwords. He showed me his phone log. He told me when he spoke to people that I might have fear about. He shared conversations with coworkers and friends and neighbors. He told me any struggles or thoughts that he had about the process, and revelations as they unfolded in his recovery. When he didn’t know what to do with some of my pain, he held me. He held me and prayed for me and stroked me and told me again, and again, and again, how sorry he was. He became bare in every sense. Bare, and vulnerable.

And slowly, without me being able to perceive it happening, I began to trust. To trust this new man that had I shared my bed and my life and my heart with, yet whom had never really shared back. Now, after three years, our two broken souls have mingled intricately and I see that we are beginning to fill the wounds with truth, and with love.

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Glorious Moments

Last day of September, and here in the deep South, it is still feeling like summer. Yet…a small hint of the coming cool has wafted in the last couple days. You have to get up early to feel it, but it shows in the crispier glow of the sun, the clearer blue of the sky, and the magnificent sunsets almost every evening.

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I love this time of the year. I love all of it…the leaves, the clothes, the decorations. I love that I have a fall birthday, and there is college football to cheer (or cry) for. I love that I can wear boots again and that I got married in this glorious season.

Ahhh….marriage. Right.

Marriage that held such promise when we spoke our vows and danced our dances and toasted our flutes. Marriage that I thought would be so strengthening for me – a place in which I could bloom and grow. Marriage as an ungirding to all the potential choices and opportunities and prospects of a glorious future.

Ahhh…future. Right.

We laughed in the face of all challenges that came up (or so I thought). We had baby one and baby two and baby three and baby four and dreamed of their futures and taught them to dream and to believe and to try. Just try. At least try. Step into that glorious maybe.

Ahhh…maybe. Right.

But somewhere along the way he didn’t really believe it all and honestly, neither did I. We were set on a course though, and had no understanding of how to change it. So we kept up the façade on the outside. But he was finding solace in drugs. And alcohol. And other women. I had no idea – he hid that part of him so well – and I found solace in my work. And my babies. And my pretensions, you know, the ones that allowed me not to see the true parts of my life. The glorious mask.

Ahhh…mask. Right.

So when the truth began tumbling out in the form of infidelity, I could not pretend any longer. I could not pretend that what I wished my life to be was really what it was and I had choices. Choices to press down the pain and sweep it under the rug. Choices to run far, far away from the madness and blame it all on him and hate him with a vengeance and get lots of support because I would. Choices to be rabidly filled with vengeance and hurt everyone I could in my wake. Choices to sever any ties at all and refashion the rest of my life in whatever manner suited me. Choices to slow down, to watch, to listen, to learn about him and about me and to heal – and then decide which road I would take. Choices to learn to peel off the past and to dispel needing to design the future and accept…and live in…and revel…the present. The glorious present.

Ahhh…present. Right.

No. Wrong.

At least my perception of the present was wrong for most of my life, until infidelity revealed. Until horrible and dreadful and excruciating and soul-sucking and mind-blowing and self-blaming and him-hating and her-disdaining. Until my distorted understanding of my past and my fairy-tale view of the future crashed so horrifically with the reality of the present and I had to acknowledge it. Or lose me forever. The glorious forever.

For real, the glorious forever.

It was standing at the precipice of choices and seeing that the very path promising the most pain was the path to my freedom when I knew. I got it. I understood. My Savior was at that same place 2000 years ago. He saw the road to freedom and healing was about to be covered in blood and betrayal and abandonment and thrashings. He didn’t want the cup…He asked His Father to take it from Him. But He saw. He knew. He knew it was the only real path for all of our healing. He could have chosen another way, a way to save Him alone, but this way, this awful, horrible way ensured we could be part of His story. This way –going directly into and through the pain-was the only way He could provide us complete and utter curing from our bondage to our confusion and our self-inflicted wounds and our other’s-inflicted-wounds and our fears and our prejudices and our disappointments and our doubts and our… So He took the cup. In that moment, I saw that He did that – He took the cup. In that moment, that present, and here I was in a present and I had choices but most of them were about the past hurts or the future changes and I chose the present. The present with no understanding of the future, but the glorious realization that He had this. He had me. He loved me. Glorious love.

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Ahhh…love. Really. Love that led the way.

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Victory

Some victories are so sweet. The victory of overcoming fear when I started a new school – I attended tons growing up as a military girl –

I remember the fear the night before, the stories that bounced around in my head, the plans I mentally made to deal with this or that or that or this. And the feeling of walking into a new room and being introduced as “the new girl.” Going to the lunchroom and knowing there were rules but no one had told me the rules and if/when I broke one wondering what the punishment might be – from administration, but worse, from peers.

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Unhappy Teenage Girl Being Gossiped About By Peers

But the victory when I wasn’t the new girl anymore and had at least a few people to share secrets with and I knew where to sit and with whom.

The victory of completing a routine on beam…not just without falling…but soaring. Knowing I’d hit every moment just the right way and that the judges were struggling to find the blemishes in the performance…receiving the embrace of my coach and then seeing the score. Such sweet victory.

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As a young driver, I was determined not to be a typical girl which I defined as indecisive and inattentive on the road. I wanted to drive like a boy with daring and confidence and an arm out the window and my head thrown back. Oh, the victory when one of my friends commented that I drove like a guy.

It was a sweet victory each time a precious new life emerged from me…all plump and squished up and crying. Holding that new life and staring into the eyes of creation – that is a victory so sweet and so timeless and I’m forever grateful.

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It was bittersweet victory as each milestone flew by in the lives of those babies…kindergarten…transition to high school…proms and honor societies and graduations. Now the victory of seeing my beautiful girl pledge her love to her mate, and the boys seeking education beyond high school and graduating and working. Oh, the beautiful victory.

I thought it was a victory when I said my own vows. When I pledged myself to love forever even if things got really bad for any reason. I thought it was a victory for me. For HUSBAND – he told me it was as he gazed into my heart. For us. But it was so soon, so early in our delicate oneness that he broke those vows. Far too early for the oneness to be strong, he went outward to another woman and set a pattern of seeking pleasure for his pain that excluded me rather than embraced me. I couldn’t figure out why the victory of love and marriage had turned so distant and felt more like a marathon that never ended rather than the short sprints of joy and life with victories sprinkled in. But it was all those lies, all those deceptions that HUSBAND was either living in, or covering up for, that created a space between our oneness that only he knew how to bridge. Because only he knew the real story.

So the victory in this? The victory is that truth…truth really has freed me and freed us. It has no hold anymore, no ability to fool or separate or speak words into my heart that destroy. Truth revealed and the excruciating process of healing is victory like none other.

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