Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Career Advice: Don't Give a Crap

For 15 years I've worked in tech, more or less consistently minus a couple years I took off to have babies.

The first 5 years I felt trapped and ansy. I wanted to get up, walk around, stop doing the grunt work. It sucked. But after 5 years, something strange happened. I gained competency and started to actually be GOOD at my job. Then I started to enjoy it, because I really had something to say when someone wanted to know how we should do something. And my ideas were... good.

I started to try hard to increase my position. I applied for manager roles repeatedly, only to be turned away. I was ambitious and wanted to further my career. I worked hard and I wanted recognition.

But, during those 15 years, after more than one sexual harassment-type situation and issues that women generally face--not being taken seriously, minimal understanding for mothers/parents and the challenges they face, I swore off tech forever. I hated it. People were mean. Environments were toxic and political. No one seemed to want to recognize any part of my contributions, much less promote me for it and I felt like I'd capped out on my career. I'd maxed my salary and my title. And it was damn hard with kids.

I swore off tech when I had my son. And then I begrudgingly went back to part time work because it was fairly lucrative and convenient. Plus, contracting meant no politics and no stupid staff meetings.

Then, I got divorced and I had to increase my hours to pay the bills. My job was good. My team was decent and I didn't have much of a choice.

But I also didn't care. My first meeting with my new boss (after an acquisition), he asked, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years." I laughed, bitterly, and said, "Not working full time in Silicon Valley, that's for sure!" I have a lot to say about how much burnout there is in SV jobs, how you can work and work and there will be no recognition and a layoff to boot. To my surprise, his response was, "Yeah. I probably only have about 5 years left myself."

And I continued not caring. Another boss asks how much I work. I carelessly tell him 30 hours. I tell him, "I'm so happy I don't give a FUCK anymore." Yes. I swore. To my boss. And I dyed my hair pink.

And, what is my reward? They love me. They REALLY love me. And this is the weird irony. I keep being praised, recognized, rewarded, and even promoted. And what have I done to deserve this? Probably, truthfully, been more dude like. I just don't care. I don't act like I care. I keep my head down, do what I'm told, use all the right words, and do my job. And, for some weird reason, I get respect. I am well-liked. I am moving forward in ways I worked my ass off to get to before and I have done nothing to make it happen. It literally has just HAPPENED. Like my boss is like, "you'll be the lead on this project." I always wanted to be a lead. I'd suggest it, make it happen, work my butt off, then nothing. Now, I don't even ask and suddenly I get what I always wanted. Super, super strange.

Monday, December 11, 2017



What a weird thing.

When you get married, you usually stop dating. Then, when you get divorced, you've been away from that world for so long, you no longer know the rules.

And, depending on the length of time you were married, where you live now, and how old you are, the rules are totally different.

For example, when I was married, dating Apps didn't exist. In fact, Internet dating didn't even exist. Yeah. I'm that old.

This is where I find commonalities with people older than me. Here in the Bay Area people wait until late 20s, early 30s to get married, if they ever do. I got married when I was 23. And divorced at 36. So the only people I know who've been married 12 years, like I was, are people 50+. And those are the same people who have never used a dating website or app.

It's like going forward in time. Now, I don't know what to think! And, I'm in an urban area. There are so. many. people. here. You can date the whole Bay and never overlap once. And, most people seem to be open to sleeping with the entire Bay area and never overlapping once. Which is gross. One guy told me he slept with over 100 women. Yeah. That's not something to brag about. There's all this talk of testing and birth control and protection that I haven't even thought of in years. But, it's important!

There's groups of people who are polyamorous, bi-curious, heteroflexible, and so many other terms I barely understand. There's every type of debauchery around: makeout parties, BDSM clubs, seedy sex clubs, apps where people pay you to go on dates, etc. I mean, wow. You can really REALLY explore here. Dating, for me, if you can even call it that, was watching movies on your boyfriend's couch.

It's a weird world. And a different one than 15 years ago. And a confusing one. But it's really fascinating, too. Good thing I'm older and wise enough to differentiate what I want. But, dang if I'm not a weirdo for my age (all the other 30-somethings are professionals at dating)!

How Do I Feel About Divorce Now?

It's interesting. No one gets married thinking they will get divorced. And, if you come from the midwest, like I do, or you are a bit older and grew up in a more "traditional" world, you can't think of much worse that you could do personally than get a divorce.

In the church (or, at least, the conservative, right-wing, evangelical church I was raised in), marriage defines and validates women as good people. The worst things you could ever do were: 1) get pregnant before you got married or 2) get divorced. A close third that was always implied, but never stated outright, was never getting married. Divorce for men was also bad, but, for a woman, much worse. The general attitude for men was that they might stray and divorce and, while that's bad, it's not as bad as a woman divorcing--especially initiating. There were a few exceptions. I heard things like it was ok if he was hurting you physically. It was ok in the case of infidelity. But, in practice, in both situations, it's STILL not ok according to the same churches.

I have always been fiercely anti-divorce. I haven't even recognized the divorces of some of my friends and believed that they would always be married to their former husbands, whether society agreed or not. I believed that being separated was the right choice for Christians. Christians should not date or even try to marry again. If you want to divorce, too bad. You will always be married forever.

Even when my Christian friends remarried, I STILL refused to recognize their subsequent marriages as legitimate.

So, naturally, you can imagine my cognitive dissonance and general confusion at coming to the conclusion that I wanted a divorce.

But, now, I'm trying to figure this out. I still believe divorce is bad. But not for the same reasons. Divorce is bad because it hurts and breaks up the family. However, there are other things that hurt and break up families where the parents do not divorce (or maybe were never married). There are gradients to this, too. If you don't have children, divorce is less of a big deal. After divorce, there's no guidance. Do you remarry? Do you abstain from sex until you remarry? Do you abstain from sex forever because you are not supposed to remarry? Do you now have a free pass to do whatever you want since you aren't a virgin anyway? It seems like once someone has gotten a divorce, they've now done something SO terrible, that nothing can be worse. So sex outside of marriage, living with someone, ALL much more ok than if you were never married in the first place. Or maybe it's about age? Once you are in your 30s it's more ok? But when you are younger and in prime child-bearing years, it's not ok?

I remember my mom referring to divorced women or single parents who were dating as "confused" or "needing Jesus." But what if you know Jesus and you divorced because your family was hurting inside the marriage? What if you know Jesus and you were traumatized by the person who was supposed to love you and care for you most? What if you know Jesus and YOU traumatized and hurt one or more people who you love? There has to be forgiveness and redemption in here, but that doesn't mean that when I look at someone whose actions gave me PTSD that I don't still experience flashbacks and startle responses when I see them. I no longer believe it's so black and white.

The problem is that I was taught rules. Lots and lots of rules. The reality is that rules can't cover every situation. Grace is all I have left to cling to. Everything I ever believed has been shattered. But I know that God is the one constant. I think about all the screw-ups in the old testament. Like David, the man after God's own heart, who killed tons of people in battle, had tons of wives and children, stole someone else's wife and had him killed to cover up a pregnancy. God STILL used David and even that "illegitimate" marriage between David and Bathsheba. Jesus is a direct descendant of Solomon, a product of an "illicit" marriage that started with an affair. So, I know God is bigger than all of this. And that clinging to him is all I have. I trust and pray that he will bring me to where I need to go. Because no one else seems to be able to help me or tell me the right thing. And, maybe that's ok.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Perspective a Year Later...

So, it's been over a year since I officially separated and over a year since I announced I wanted a divorce.

Whether it was right or wrong, whether it was a mistake or a smart choice, at this point, I feel some peace. But it wasn't an easy road. I felt I had 2 choices: one crappy choice and another even crappier choice. And I made the choice I thought would inevitably be better for my family.

It's hard to say whether the decision has made life easier or worse for my children, but TBH it feels like it's not better or worse, exactly, just different and still hard, but in a different way.

The good:

  • Getting to discover who I am again. What I like, what I enjoy, what I want. I'm still figuring it out, but it looks a lot different from 14 years ago. I'm faced with new decisions and choices I previously let someone else make for me or that I made with someone else. I learned I could have been more intentional in pursuing my interests while in my marriage. And the other person could have been more intentional about encouraging that.
  • Getting to raise my children with my own rules. I get to make the rules. I don't have to discuss them with someone else.
  • I feel grateful for all I have. I am thankful that I am competent, employed, housed, and fed. I have 2 lovely kids. 
  • I am free from a life of arguing painfully, feeling unheard and unloved, and struggling to get along with someone (although this is a challenge I continue to face with my children!)
  • I get a second chance at having a life with someone that I have things in common with and that make sense for who I am. There were times when I couldn't envision a future with my former husband and wondered how we would be compatible in some ways when we were such different people. For example, I loved going out and doing things. He was a homebody. I could adapt somewhat, but, even after I accepted this as my plight, I didn't love it. I'm thankful I get to reevaluate and perhaps do it better next time (if there is one).
  • I've become better at understanding what I need in another human being that I would date and I'm better at being respectful of other's boundaries and limitations in a way I wasn't before.
  • I get actual breaks from the kids for the first time, ever.
  • I can spend and save my money the way I want.
  • I can decorate my house the way I want!

The bad:
  • Taking care of 2 little kids for any length of time without a partner is REALLY hard. When I was alone it was often excruciating. It's expensive and logistically complicated, if not impossible.
  • I can do almost nothing fun anymore because all free time is taken up doing things I previously split with my now ex-husband: dishes/groceries/lunches/laundry/taking care of kids/cleaning/cooking/bathtime/bedtime/diapers, etc. 
  • I now have the full mental load I had when I was married and then some, plus the mental load of coordinating the kids with their dad, my friendships (and, as an extrovert I need to have people around all the time!), and pickups/drop offs with other adults.
  • I don't have a grownup to discuss the joys and challenges of my specific children with. 
  • I am faced with the reality of what I could have done differently in my marriage. This ranges from realizing I put my husband on a pedestal to seeing how I could have been more respectful in some ways. 
  • I realized that my accountability is to God and my children and I have the freedom to make bad decisions. Within the context of my marriage, I felt accountable only to my husband. Now that that is gone, I realize how much I have to take charge and be responsible for my actions. 
  • I have lost control over what my co-parent does with the kids. Not that I ever really controlled anything anyway, but I have almost no visibility into their life with him. 
  • I don't get as many breaks from the kids during a regular day. The breaks are batched into one time.
  • Less money. I have a mortgage again. I have to pay for all childcare, healthcare, food, etc. Financially, very tough to do alone.
  • Soooo tired. I rarely get enough sleep because I get up with the kids every. single. morning. in perpetuity.
  • Emotionally draining. I'm the emotional output for my children's emotions. They are safe with me, so they feel free to be badly behaved with me. I'm also the output for their Dad's emotions. When he won't comply or bails or gets angry, I'm the buffer, and I'm STILL dealing with many of the things I wanted to get away from, even though they aren't front and center all the time. 
I'm not saying it's better or worse, but it's certainly different and, honestly, harder in its own ways. I'm grateful for the chance to live in a mostly conflict-free home in a jovial style I like, but I wish it wasn't so darn lonely!

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Seeing my True Colors (i.e., Justin Timberlake sings to my soul)

Soooooo... I watched the Trolls movie with my daughter the other day.

I listened to this song. True Colors.

If you haven't seen it (and spoiler alert!), it's at this climactic part of the movie where the main character is discouraged and loses all her color. Basically, when a Troll gets sad, they lose their brightness. Justin Timberlake's character who hasn't been bright in years and hasn't sang in years, sings this song to her.

It moved me.

I could not stop listening to that song.

And it makes me cry! But, there are a lot of emotions welling up in me this week for various reasons and it was a catalyst.

Aaron moved back. But the impact on the kids is high. My life is getting a bit easier. The kids are slowly adjusting. It takes time. There has been so much upheaval in their lives. And it weighs on me. And that's what struck me about this song. The weight of the world can make it hard to shine brightly, to be yourself. To be anything but dark and sad.

But, it's not forever. And, if you can find someone who can see your true colors, who you are, you are lucky. Part of me deeply mourns that I didn't have someone that saw me for me and liked it. Maybe they liked some things. But they didn't like some of the parts of me that I like the best--my happiness, my enthusiasm, my optimism, my artistic sense. We had lots of lovely things in common: politics, religion, religious baggage, active lifestyle, and lots more. We grew up together and had a culture and friends in common. But it turns out that's not enough. And, while he was a good choice for me when I was young, we ended up not really appreciating the other's strengths, but going in trying to change them. I tried to change him. Or thought that I could change all the things I didn't like. And he tried to change me. Or, at least, eventually got pretty tired of the things that irritated him about me: like my being loud, social, enthusiastic. I hope that he can move on and find someone who appreciates and loves him for who he is. Because I wasn't able to give him that. And he wasn't able to give me that.

But, now, I know that it's possible for someone to love me as I am. Accept me. Care about me. Not try to change me. And, it's only fair, I learn from this experience that I should do the same. If we go into a long-term relationship with even ONE thing we want to fix or change about the person, we are in for disaster. Because people change, but not in the ways you want. They can change a little, but you should assume that whatever bothers you will never end and will only get worse. If the worst that person does was directed to you is something you could live with, then you are in a great spot. If it gets worse and is directed to you and that is horrifying, think twice.

I don't regret anything, except maybe bringing children into an already unhealthy relationship. But, I am happy I am learning and moving forward and understanding what can be.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How Christianity is Damaging to Marriages (and Women)

I have a hard time with this subject. It has been a painful year, wrestling with the decision to divorce, owning that decision, defending it to outsiders and mostly myself, despite the fact that I was taught all my life that it is NOT OK.

I believe in marriage. Or, I did. I believed marriage is forever. I believed that divorce was NEVER an option. Until about 1 week before I decided to divorce (even after we separated), I believed that married people should remain separated and never divorce, no matter what.

Despite whatever flaws there may or may not be in those statements, I also believed that marriage was important. Not just a little important, but essential. Critical, even. It was paramount, I was taught, that you get married as soon as you can. Many people in my independent, fundamentalist Baptist (i.e. Christian-cult-like) school were getting engaged in college. To me, marriage was the most important thing in the world and it had to be done ASAP.

So why did I think that? Well, good question. Here are the reasons why (according to what I was taught by culture/peers/church):

  • Being married validated you as worthy. I was taught I must be pure for my husband. I was taught you would never be wanted by a man if you weren't pure. And the emphasis there is on the prize of a man who wants you. Interestingly, Elizabeth Smart recounts how she didn't even think it was worth escaping the man who kidnapped and raped her because she was now no longer pure and no man would want her, "I felt because of what he had done to me, that I was marked, that I was not clean, that I wasn't pure, that I wasn't worth the same, that my personal worth, my self values had just dropped. I felt like I was nothing. I didn't feel like another person could love me again, so at that point I thought, "Yeah, I could take the risk of being killed and trying to escape." Source.
  • Being married meant you could have sex. I didn't really care much about sex, but this was supposed to be a big prize, too. I mean, I probably heard a sermon every other week on sex. Whether it was how women shouldn't tempt men, because they are visual and wearing low cut shirts or short skirts would tempt our brothers and we were responsible for them, or how we need to not watch porn, or have sex, or be virgins, etc. 
  • I don't like being alone.
  • In the Midwest, it's very cultural to get married young, have families young, etc. So I felt I needed to do it because everyone else did it too! And, frankly, I was worried people would think I was strange if I wasn't coupled up.
There are many things I could say about these reasons, but I want to focus on the first two.

For one thing, the churches I went to focused on sex SO MUCH. Not surprisingly, these sermons were always given by men (because women weren't allowed to speak in the church). Occasionally, a female teacher would discuss that she went on birth control when she got married or that we might want to buy lingerie for our wedding night, but other than that, this is not a subject that I struggled with. By and large, this message should have been for teen boys. And the emphasis for women should have been much, much more relevant.

Pretty much everything surrounding marriage that I was taught was about sex. How we shouldn't have it until we were married, how women were supposed to sleep with their husbands whenever they wanted it, signing purity pledges, having a True Love Waits ring that told the world we were married to God until we got married to a man, how divorce was bad, how you could never get your virginity back if you "gave it up," etc.  I even heard lovely political sermons on how teaching about birth control in school was not trusting teens enough to not have sex and how abortion was the worst possible thing. I was in elementary school when my parents started making me hold "Abortion Kills Children" signs in the freezing cold on the side of the road and when I got my first fetus that I was supposed to show my friends. "This is what a baby looks like at 12 weeks," I was supposed to say.

But you know what I did not learn? Some of the things that would have been very, VERY helpful when I emerged from the bubble of evangelical, right-wing Christianity:
  • How a husband should treat a wife.
  • What consent is and looks like outside of marriage (cuz date rape is a thing and if you don't say yes, but you don't say no either, did you just trash your purity?!). 
  • What consent is and looks like inside of marriage (not just, do it when you husband wants it because his needs are different).
  • How to use birth control even AFTER you are married. I learned this all on my own.
  • What to do if you've been raped or sexually assaulted or sexually abused and you can no longer say you are a virgin. Guess what most of the "good girls" who got raped did? Assumed it was their fault.
  • What is acceptable behavior from a husband to his wife
I also learned that men and women are different and since men have different needs, women can't possibly understand so they should just submit. But that excuses a lot of behavior. Sexuality aside, it means that when your husband tells you you are crazy, you think "oh well, that's how men are" because that's what you learned. When a husband ignores you and does what he wants, you excuse that bad behavior as "just men." Maybe there are things that women can't understand. But where is the line? When is the bad behavior not excused by a husband "just being a man" and what do you do about it? Who do you talk to? A trusted woman friend? A pastor? A therapist? A couples counselor? How do you reconcile this? And where and how can someone get support to leave and stay away from an abusive relationship or one where the husband is sleeping around outside the marriage? And not be rejected by the church.

And let's not forget the husband that ignores his wife and children, does little to nothing to contribute then pressures his wife for sex. If she's taught to just bend over and do what he says then is that rape? Is he being "just a man" in asking and you doing your wifely duty by saying yes? How bad is it to say no? Are we NEVER allowed to say it? 

And, here's the thing that really pisses me off. I don't know if we as a CULTURE discuss this. I did a quick Google search for "what to expect in a man husband." And, do you know what came up? 3 articles on what a woman should expect in a relationship and the rest were all about "What your husband wishes you knew" or "What you should do for your husband as a wife" or "What husbands want their wives to know/do/etc." Seriously?! I can't even find articles on how women should expect to be treated? THIS IS NUTS.

Let's change the dialogue, people. What do we want for our daughters? Healthy, productive relationships where people feel supported. Not excuses that leave us alone and shells of our real selves.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Today I Witnessed Domestic Violence and I Couldn't Do A Thing

I didn't expect for this blog to detail domestic violence (DV) and/or abuse quite so much. But, as it's a blog that more or less chronicles my life, I suppose recovery and recognition of these things is a big part of who I am and what I'm going through now, so it's fair to be open.

Today I witnessed DV in action.

I emerged from the train station to a man yelling at a woman. They were both walking down the street, with the man pushing a stroller with a little boy, probably about 4. The woman was dressed nicely, holding a stack of papers, like she was going for a job interview or dropping off something in the Financial District. I don't remember his exact words, but I'll try to chronicle it as best I can, retaining the sentiment.

"Don't be saying that to me! That is flat wrong! What's wrong with you that you say that shit about me?" he yelled.

"I was saying don't disrespect me. You can't be doing that," she yelled back.

"I am NOT disrespecting you, woman. You come in here, acting like I'm doing all this stuff wrong. But YOU are the one yelling. YOU need to go do what you need to do. I'm fine. Why are YOU making it all about me? YOU are the one that needs to go. Go do what you want to do. I'M going to take care of MY child." He yelled this entire phrase.

As I heard this interaction, I started to turn to say to the woman, "You don't have to take that!" But as I listened a bit more, I realized it was heated, heavy, and scary. I decided to wait around the corner and see if there was more I could do. When I was in the throes of this kind of public yelling (a HUGE red flag for DV or verbal abuse--if your spouse or significant other will actually yell at you in public, or your arguments escalate to that in public, there is a serious problem--and for me it started around 2007), I was laser focused on the argument. I couldn't see anything around me, except people looking at me. But, in retrospect, I WISHED someone would have stepped in or told me I didn't have to tolerate that. And, I wanted to be there in case something got violent. I had an experience once where someone (a friend who was playing) slapped me in public and no one even reacted, which I thought was a very bad thing. And I wasn't going to do that to anyone. I was going to react, call the police, anything, if it got there.

The woman immediately lowered her voice after that and got closer to the man, so I couldn't hear what she was saying. But I COULD hear him. He yelled things like, "Stop yelling! You're making a scene. Look! These people are all looking at you? Why do you have to complicate things?"

The woman said something, which I imagine was "where will you be when I'm done?" The response was an exacerbated sigh followed by, "I DON'T KNOW! JUST CALL ME, OK? GOODNESS!" He was so angry. So bitter. So... mean. His body language was that of a man trying to tell the woman she was worthless: turning his back to her, walking away in the middle of the conversation. It was painful to watch. He was sending a message to her, "I don't care about you, but if I keep turning things around on you, I'll keep you interested and have control of the situation and probably you."

I kept waiting on the sidelines, hoping that the guy would leave and the woman would be on her way, so I could pull her aside and tell her it was ok. Stepping in can make the situation worse or more dangerous for the woman, so I didn't.

And then I got seen. The man said, "LOOK. THAT WOMAN OVER THERE IS WATCHING YOU. YOU ARE CAUSING A SCENE." Then I got a little scared and walked away and pretended to be on my phone. I heard him turn things around on her. "Why aren't you...?" "Why did you..." "You have to just...." "What's wrong with you that...."

I know these phrases. I know this public yelling. I know the look in her eyes of pain and confusion and torment and sadness. No anger. She is listening to him. She is internalizing it. "Maybe I did do X, Y, and Z," she is thinking. I know she is. I can see it in her eyes. She is pained because her child is watching. She doesn't know how to get out of it. She doesn't know how to make this man hear her. But he can't hear her. She follows after him when he walks away. This could go on for hours. It will ruin her day. It will cause her to be worried about her kid, about herself, about her relationship with this man, whatever it is. She will wonder if she's crazy. She will wonder if she did something wrong and what she could have done differently. She never walked away in the 5 minutes I stood watching and followed him around like a puppy instead. Tears were in her eyes. Why did she follow him instead of walking away? Because she was seeking closure. She was seeking some kind of agreement. Something that would pacify this man and put them back on good terms. Anything to get him to be nice and hear her point of view.

What she doesn't know is that there IS NO RESOLUTION. There IS NO CLOSURE. She will never get from him what she wants because he cannot give it. He can only see his side. He can only blame her for things. He is controlling or selfish or just plain blind to her needs, for who-knows-why.

In the end, I couldn't help. They walked too far away. And it pains me that I couldn't. But, I am proud that I recognized this for what it is. I am thankful that I saw this in action and knew that I had been in a DV situation. Because I experienced this exact. same. thing. Without a doubt. This was my experience in many, many, many public places, on the phone, and at home. Sometimes I think maybe I am crazy or imagined it. But then I see something like this and I recognize the pain and I am reminded of the feelings I had. I could almost have told you what she would do next, it was so classic. And I realize I'm not alone. I DID experience this. I am not crazy. I cannot control the actions of the other. But, I now know that I can walk away and I do not have to take it. Not from a spouse, a friend, a significant other, a family member. No one.

If you see this happening to a friend, don't stand back. Tell her that she doesn't deserve to be treated like that. That she doesn't have to take it. That she is not at fault or to blame for his behavior. Sure, maybe she DID do something wrong or make mistakes. BUT, that is not a healthy way to handle conflict. And she needs to know. And if she can't hear it, be there for her and be watchful.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Weird Stuff That Happens as a Divorcing Woman

I already posted on how you can help a friend who is divorcing.

But I have had some strange experiences since I announced I wanted to divorce and subsequently got one. Here are some examples:

  1. You seek out people who are divorcing or divorced. This is a lonely, painful process and all those happily married couple friends may or may not know what it feels like. If they were divorced before or their parents were divorced, they probably have more empathy. But you seek out anyone who will be there for you--who understands. This is the time you need support and, often, you can only get it from people who are going through, or have gone through, the same thing.
  2. You have to learn how to take care of yourself. Even if your ex-spouse didn't take care of you, sometimes just having them there allowed you to grab food from the kitchen, where you asked if they wanted something too. You have to re-learn what music/TV/etc. you actually like on your own and not the ones your ex-spouse and you compromised on. Now that they aren't there, you have to do it all. And, it can be really hard to remember who you are and what you like.
  3. You start thinking about your appearance. It doesn't matter if you had zero babies or 10. The little things you haven't had to think about in years since you were in a secure relationship, come to the surface. You notice how yellow your teeth are, the fat you didn't realize had caught up with you, the limpness of your hair, your pores, you name it. And now you feel you have to do something about it. 
  4. Other single people assume you know how to be a single person. Guess what? You're single again. Oh, it's been a long time since you were single? Years? Decades? Do you even remember what it's like? No? Exactly. When you are single, you meet single people. But, this is not a world you have been in for a long, long time. Suddenly other single people assume you know that single people talk about sex. A lot. Did your married friends talk about their sex life? Not really. The single people around you assume you know that being friends with lots of people of the opposite sex is normal. Did you make friends with the husbands of other wives you knew? Nope. Not a thing you really do when you are married. I mean, you are friendly, maybe even close, but when the rubber meets the road, it crosses boundaries to be too friendly with married or even single men when you are married.
  5. Which leads me to my least favorite, single and divorced men from all over start coming out of the woodwork to "make sure you are ok." These are usually men that you have known as a couple. Guys you and your former spouse were friendly with. You think, naively, that they are kindly reaching out. Or that since they are divorced, they are also seeing commiseration with someone going through something similar. But no. They aren't reaching out to check on you. They want to get with you. They probably always did, but didn't have a chance cuz you were married. But GUESS WHAT, MAN FRIENDS? That is NOT COOL. NOT cool. Not at all. If my husband had just died, would you immediately come over and start hitting on me? HELL no. At least, I hope not. Divorce is not much different. Whether it has been 6 days or 6 months, it's NOT ok to reconnect with a divorcing woman with an agenda of getting with her. She is recovering and she will decide to date when she is ready. She has grieving and mourning and becoming healthy to work on. Not to mention, if she has kids. Be a good friends with NO agenda and maybe you will have a chance, maybe not. Or, better yet be honest that you want to date her when she's ready and let her have a chance to tell you that you aren't her type. Then you can be her friend, without coercing her,or you can walk away. 
  6. You become more worldly, hardened, and street smart. I've always been a happy-go-lucky type person. I prefer to think the best of people. I want to maintain the illusion that world and life can be generally positive, even when shitty stuff happens. But, divorce is shitty. It is one of the shittiest things that has ever happened to me. It sent me to the darkest place I have ever known. For years before--misery and pain and heartbreak. After--the same. And, all the while, you still have to live your life. You have to get up in the morning, put one foot in front of the other, get the kids ready for school, take care of them, go to work, and somehow make ends meet. And all you want to do is crawl into a cave and stay there until the pain subsides. But you can't. And this hardens you. It toughens you up. It matures you. It destroys whatever illusions of happiness and peace and control you ever thought you had. And it's rough. But, you do become pretty darn strong from it. My goal now is to not let the hardness and toughness dictate my future. I want to continue to be open to positivity in the world.
  7. No matter how long you've been divorced, how many kids you have, how much money you have, or how powerful you are in your career, men will still hit on you when they find out you aren't married. At least now you are world-weary and hardened and you know how to say "BACK THE FUCK OFF" or at least, "thank you, but it's not ok to call me sweetheart." I have had people working for me--to whom I wrote checks--still call me sweetie and honey. Seriously? I am not your sweetie. I am not your honey. I am a woman, but a strong, capable one who demands respect. Respect me or get out. It is not ok. I don't know how men still get away with this crap.
  8. Other people who are divorcing or want to divorce seek you out. Or worse, say that your strength in your divorce inspired them to have the strength to get out of their marriage. This brings up all kind of mixed feelings. I am no divorce advocate and I hate that it happened to me. But, I'm glad I can support people, because it's lonely and shitty and we all need as much support as we can get. So, while I don't want to encourage it for anyone, I am happy to support a person who needs it. But I won't be taking sides or advocating divorce, that's for sure. Every one and every situation is different.

New experiences abound, but no matter what, divorce shocks your system. Men, chill the F out and leave your divorcing woman friend alone. And divorcing women? You are stronger than you think. You are going to get through this.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


I'm about to take my babies to Indiana where they will spend 8 weeks with their dad.

Here's how I feel:

After I drop them off at the airport I will be freeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!

And sometimes I feel like:

After I drop them off at the airport I will be all alone...

When I was lonely, before my life fell apart, I would talk to my husband. But, yeah, that's not happening anymore.

If he wasn't available, I would call my mom. But, again, that's not happening anymore, either.

I've rarely been alone for any length of time since March 1 of this year. Because I've had kids around me all. the. time.

I'm scared.

I'm all alone.

How do people do this?

I've never been alone. I've never been an adult with no one to talk to. I suppose I have friends and they will be hearing from me.

But... it's not the same.

In so many ways I'm thrilled and I can't wait.

In so many other ways I feel terrified. I'm an extrovert. I like being around people. I need support. Or even ANYONE to talk to...

I'll have a few weeks of vacation. I'll have work. I'll be that desperate single person working all hours of the day and night and asking people if they want to go out for drinks.

I have no idea how I will adjust.

And, as soon as I do, I'll be back in the thick of it again.

Life is... confusing... and weird... and full of so much uncertainty... I had no idea, living in the white, middle class bubble I've been in for years. Until my bubble popped. Or, more like, shattered.

Monday, June 05, 2017

When a Mother Won't Help Her Child

Once there was a woman. A strong, fiercely independent woman. She worked very hard to do the right thing. She got 2 degrees, she got married, she got a good job, and she had 2 kids, a boy and a girl. She did all the right things people are supposed to do. And then, it all fell apart. She normally didn't ask for help unless the situation was dire.

She was in a bad situation and she reached out to her mother. She listened over the phone, since she lived about a 3 hour plane ride away. Her mother encouraged her when she wanted to get out of the bad situation. She told her about a similar bad situation she had been in before, which she had never before shared.

It quickly became apparent, after leaving the bad situation, that the woman was pushed beyond her limits. She needed help with the kids. She needed help with her job. She needed help in every sense of the word. She exhausted all her resources and community in all the ways she could. Shortly thereafter, the woman and her mother were in the same town for Thanksgiving. The woman begged her mother to stay in the same place as her because she needed the help so much. After initially agreeing, the mother decided to stay with her son instead.

The woman said, "I drove, for the first time ever, by myself with my two kids, 5 hours. My youngest child will not sleep where I am staying. I don't have the energy or ability to leave. The place I am staying is not fun for my child, so even when we do eventually all get up, I cannot provide the stimulation he needs, much less that of my older child. I am tired and emotionally drained. Can you please come and help? Even a few hours would be good."

Her mother responded with excuses, "I have to get food, I wanted to sleep a bit more, and I was going to take a shower. I cannot."

The woman sadly now felt worse. She was struggling. She asked for help. If she asked for help, she was desperate. At the end of her rope. And it was met with excuses.

"Ok, then," said the woman. "Could you come and help later?"

"No," replied her mother. "I have to go grocery shopping later, and help your brother with his dishes and laundry."

"Mom," the woman pleaded, "I'm sorry to keep asking, but since you are my mother I figured it was ok. Is there any way you could help me instead? Because I am desperate and I have rarely asked you for help directly before. I may complain to you. I may tell you my problems. But I have made it a point to not ask you for things unless I absolutely need it."

Her mother did not respond. Instead, her Dad came over. And that was helpful. Thanksgiving continued, with the woman confused and miserable and depressed. A counselor advised, "Perhaps your mother cannot provide the support you need right now. It's best if you can accept that." So the woman didn't talk to her mother for a few months while she worked on getting to a more stable place. But the loss of that relationship stung. The fact that her own mother wouldn't help, much less recognize the pain, was baffling to her. Even when they spoke on the phone, her mother talked about how much worse other people had it. Not once did she empathize and say she was sorry she couldn't help the way the woman needed. But the woman decided to forgive and move forward.

A few months later the woman asked her mother if she could visit during her child's spring break. Her mother didn't work and the woman hoped her mother could help with the kids while the woman worked. Her mother agreed.

While she was there, the woman profusely thanked her mother. Her mother's presence alone was enough to create breathing room for her. She was beyond grateful. Her mother wasn't as hands on with the kids as the woman had hoped, but that was ok. She helped in other ways--cooking, cleaning, simply being there to listen.

The woman asked her mother, "could you come and visit again? This was so helpful and I'm having such a hard time. Could you do this again in a month? Or even every few months?"

"We don't have the money," her mother said.

"That's ok, I'm happy to pay. You have saved me so much money in babysitters, food, and peace of mind, it's more than worth it. Plus it's only a 3 hour flight."

"I don't like packing," her mother said.

"I would be more than happy to buy duplicates of your items and keep them here if it meant you could visit more often," the woman pleaded.

"Well, I don't want to get sick," her mother responded. "And I don't like travel."

"Ok," the woman relented. It was clear her mother did not want to come. She did not want to help. She did not want to empathize and tell the woman that she was sorry she couldn't help her and that she had limitations.

The woman accepted that her mother would probably not come regularly. And they remained friendly, talking about their lives, etc. Until one day, the woman became so desperate she was practically suicidal. She could not manage her children, her jobs, or her circumstances. She was at the very end of her rope. Again. And she reached out to her mother. She had exhausted all other support and resources. She texted her mother, "Please, if there is any chance you can come in the next month, it would be a huge help. I am desperate. I am at the end of my rope. I'm depressed and worried that if I don't get a breather I will go so far off the deep end that I won't even be able to work or take care of my kids. Please. If there's anything you can do, I would be beyond grateful."

Her mother did not respond. And the woman found out that her mother instead went to visit her brother, who has no children and minimal responsibilities compared to the woman. After her mother had told her she didn't like traveling and she didn't like packing and she couldn't afford it, and her daughter desperately begged her many times to help, the mother visited the other child instead. Over and over.

What would you do? Would you help out your daughter? Or ignore her and her children in their time of desperate pleas, and instead visit your other child?

If you hadn't already guessed, I'm the woman. My mother doesn't like me as a person. Our personalities are different and I overwhelm her. And yet, I still hold out desperate hope that she will help me in my time of need. What's worse, she insists that my brother needs more help than me. She visits him to "help" him all the time. He has no kids. He has a wife that is disabled, but between the 2 of them, managing a small apartment is doable. Every person to whom I have told this story reacts in horror. That a mother would ignore and refuse to help her own child, especially in such dire circumstances. These are people that see me every day, including therapists, and close friends. People who see how overwhelmed and fatigued I am. No one can fathom that a mother would act this way towards someone going through what I am very visibly experiencing. And, yet, it's another blow to a person who is already going through a hard time.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Would you consider this addiction?

This is a story. A story about addiction. At least, I think it's an addiction.

My friend, Susan, (her name has been changed) lived with this guy, John (name has also been changed), for many years - more than a decade.

The first couple of years they were happy. They loved each other and loved doing things together. Things changed a bit and they moved after a few years to a location farther away from friends and family.

They explored the new place together and had a good time. They loved drinking cocktails together at all the new places they visited, but never got terribly out of control--once in awhile, but not often.

But, after a few years, John started going to bars without her. It was only a few times a week at first, and at night, when Susan had other things she wanted to do anyway. When they moved, only Susan had a job, so John had extra time on his hands. He would do some job searching in the morning, and then spend the rest of the day at the bar. He would be there at night until late. She would often go to bed and he would still be there. She complained, but he was defensive, saying this helped him. Eventually he got a job and things got better, but he would still go to bars most days after work. On weekends they would do things together, like hiking and biking. But on weekdays, bars were his go-to for most of the evening. She would try to go to the bars with him, but he would often ignore her while she was there and talk to his friends--the other regulars.

When they moved to a larger place, Susan thought they could have a liquor cabinet in the new house and maybe bring some of his friends to them. So she started building a collection of liquor in hopes he'd stay home and hang out with her. They would have his friends over sometimes, but they would talk together and not pay much attention to her.

When it was just the 2 of them they would watch TV while drinking (because he didn't want to do much else). They didn't talk or hang out, except on weekends. She focused on doing things she wanted to do: taking classes, participating in groups of women at church and elsewhere. She didn't love the drinking, but also didn't know how to tell him to stop, since this was something he really enjoyed doing. She didn't want to take it away from him and it didn't seem ridiculous. She felt conflicted.

Then, Susan got pregnant. She couldn't drink, but she didn't care that much. John was mostly willing to stop drinking too. But he would still go to the bars and hang out. Once in awhile he'd stay home to take care of her. He was the boyfriend she'd always wanted while she was pregnant.

A week before the baby was born, John got laid off. That's good timing, in a way, she thought, John can be with her and the new baby and maybe even stay home with the baby when she went back to work. John was pretty hands on and helpful, only going to the bars once a week at the most. Susan suffered from postpartum depression and she had a hard time coping with being a new mom. He supported her as best he could. Soon, she found a new job and they had to move again, leaving John staying home with the new kid.

Sometimes John would drink while home with their daughter. But he wouldn't get out of control. When they moved again, things started to go downhill. Susan wanted to quit her job, but John insisted that he wanted to stay with the child. Susan became dissatisfied quickly with both the job and feeling like she was missing out on the life of her new child. John was a good father, but he started going back to the bars more heavily when she would return from work. He would yell at Susan, "it's your turn now. I'm out of here," and leave for the bar. They wouldn't see him for the rest of the night. Eventually their daughter started crying every time Susan came home from work because she associated Mommy coming home as Daddy leaving and yelling. Susan begged and pleaded with John to please stay home and have dinner with them at least, to go to the bars after. He would do it for a few days, but would eventually slip back into that pattern.

Eventually, John got a job, but it was not a good fit. He changed careers and it wasn't a good one for him. He got depressed and quit after trying for a year. He was so depressed that he went on disability. To cope with his depression he went to the bars more. At least, that was what he told Susan. And she believed him because she wanted to help him and thought that maybe the social outlet helped. He never came home super drunk, so she figured it wasn't a big deal, but he continued to go and get more depressed.

After a few years of this, Susan continued feeling dissatisfied. Every time she'd bring it up with John, he'd have a good reason why he needed to continue to go to the bars that she agreed seemed reasonable and logical. John wanted more kids, but Susan didn't. She felt bad enough having to work with one child, much less 2. Eventually, she agreed that she would have another child, but this time John would have to work while she stayed home with the kids. He tacitly agreed.

He was nice to her again while she was pregnant. It felt good. He was available and attentive and helpful. But when it came to her quitting her job, John was adamantly against it. She did it anyway, and he was forced to find work. He changed careers again to something that, again, wasn't a good fit. After another year, he quit. He was so miserable from being depressed and working and going to bars and drinking all the time he decided he could no longer work and had to stay at the bars all the time. He would come home occasionally to shower and sleep, but then go right back out. Susan didn't see him very much and when she did, he was unkind to her and the kids.

When I think of this story, I see addiction, do you? Addiction to alcohol, maybe. Addiction to going out and being validated by other people, certainly. I see neglect, lack of love and consideration for a family, time stolen away from relationships with a significant other and children, and a habit that caused anxiety in John's ability to work. Susan supported him all this time, even through his addiction, but in the end it ruined their relationship. This was a slow decline over 13 years.

Have you figured out who this story is about yet? I am Susan. My former husband is John. But the addiction is not going to the bar. Replace "going to the bar" and "drinking" with "playing video games" and you start to see a serious problem. I would never have called this addiction and I laughed and defended my husband anytime someone would say that. But when I replace the words "playing video games" with "going to bars" or "drinking," I see a serious issue. I, and my children, were neglected as a result of his video game playing. Eventually I paid all the bills and did all the housework. Why? He played video games. When we were done, he had no support system. Why? Video games. He would stop to eat. He would stop to work out. He would stop to watch sports. It clarifies some of what happened in my relationship. Addiction or not, video games created a major issue in our relationship and eventually (or possibly forever) were prioritized over me.

It Is Through Pain That We Grow

Every week on Monday or Tuesday I seem to have a crisis. Something occurred to me or happened over the weekend and by Monday or Tuesday I have sorted out my emotions and the situation enough to determine what the problem is.

And each time, I experience pain. And each time, the pain is less. And each time, after the pain, comes insight and tremendous personal growth. I realize something shocking and helpful. Sometimes it's even life-altering.

Yesterday I had one of those.

My kids were Skyping with their dad. My son is now fully aware of his Dad, that he lives far away and that he's going to see him soon. He talks about him all the time. He asks for him a lot. He cries when he sees pictures. Just a few short months ago he was uninterested in Skype. Now, he looks forward to it and even asks for Daddy, getting upset when I take him away for any reason.

Sometimes the Skyping is active and engaged. We have tried various strategies: listening to audiobooks together, playing games together, asking questions, various times of day, etc. The things that seem to be most successful are regular times and established activities. Less successful is unstructured time. I know it bothers my kids when they don't know what to say or do to engage with their dad, so I often facilitate when they start disengaging or wandering off, which happens at least 10 times per hour of Skyping.

Yesterday, I noticed that while they were listening to an audiobook, their Dad was playing video games. I could tell because he was turned slightly away with his gaze slightly to the side of the screen. Later, I attempted to clue him in to how I take care of the youngest (who has changed dramatically since he last saw him), in an attempt to understand what he needs. But I noticed he was playing video games then, too.

I haven't honestly noticed this before. For a moment, it struck me as odd. "Well, that's weird," I thought.

And then it hit me. This used to be my normal. He liked video games. I never thought of it as an issue. When it seemed like it was getting in the way of life, he was mostly respectful about turning them off or compromising. At least, I thought so. He'd always played them. They were a little annoying at first, which is normal--everyone always has something that you don't love that you learn to live with, I thought. When we moved to CA we lived in a very small 1 bedroom apartment and he would play shooting and war games in the living room. I started to wonder why I felt anxious all the time. I learned it was from all the war noises in my living room. The sound effects are good. Too good.

When we moved, we designated a room for playing video games. He put on his headset and played XBox Live with his brothers. It never really bothered me because he had a separate room and he made the very good point, I thought, that he didn't have many (or any) friends in the area and this was his way to socialize by connecting with his brothers who were playing, even though they were far away. I saw no issue, really. Except, once we moved to California, and then to the 2 bedroom apartment, he very slowly, almost unnoticeably, stopped doing many other things as often. He was tired after work, he'd say. He unwound by watching TV and playing video games. If I wanted to see him or hang out with him, I had to do that with him. I didn't play the video games, so when he did that many nights (while I would go out and take classes or do my hobbies in the other room), I was all alone. We didn't want to spend money so we didn't go out too much. But, after a time I started to feel a bit... neglected... ignored. That's when I almost had an affair.

I said almost. I talked to a wise friend about it who said that if you feel like having an affair it usually means there is something wrong in your relationship. So I looked at it and determined that I wasn't getting enough attention. Whether I communicated this to him explicitly or not, I'm not sure. But I definitely made an effort to convince him to get out and do more things with me--to build our relationship. It was one-sided, but it worked, for awhile.

Eventually we had a kid and moved to Oakland. In our house he played video games every night on the big TV in our living room. If I wanted to hang out with him, I had to be where he was. So I watched TV on the computer while he played video games on the big screen. Eventually, my neck started to hurt from turning to look at the small screen. And, of course, I wanted to spend time with my husband who, by now, pretty much ignored me all the time, except to criticize me.

After some conflicts around the video games being "too flashy" (which, let's face it, they can be bright, flashy, and unsettling, even when you aren't looking) before I went to bed, we finally compromised by getting a smaller, separate TV in the living room. He would play on it while "hanging out with the family," listening to audiobooks with our daughter, and while we "watched" TV together. He would tell our daughter to stop looking at the video game sometimes. But other times, he'd try to involve her. I don't know that it was always clear to her which time was which, which caused issues. But, when I would tell him to please stop since we were around, he would comply. And I thought it was ok.

Eventually, he wanted me to tell him things while he kept playing video games. "I can still pay attention to you," he'd say. But, it was clear he couldn't or didn't. Because he didn't always hear me.

I'm 90% sure this contributed to the destruction of our relationship. Eventually he felt he had no friends and all he did was sit alone and play video games. If my daughter wanted to see him, she had to go sit with him up in the bedroom and play quietly while he played video games.

He said he was anxious and this was his coping mechanism. But I'm starting to wonder if playing too many video games made him more anxious. It certainly prevented him from leaving the house and being social. Which probably fueled his anxiety. I don't know which came first or made what worse, but when I told a few people this story, the result was total shock. And I still don't feel the shock. To me, it was life. It was compromise. It doesn't seem all that weird to me, still, to think about having 2 separate TVs. He had good reasons, I thought. And, I was desperate to spend time with him, even if he was distracted. Maybe I knew that this was the only chance we had at building our relationship or strengthening it and connecting. But eventually it overtook that...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Today is my Wedding Anniversary (the last one, I guess)

Since my divorce won't be final for another month or so, technically I'm still married.

And today is my last wedding anniversary: 13 years.

Surprisingly, this is not the worst one. This one is better than the last one and possibly better than most.

Most years we forgot about our anniversary and laughed about it. But we were often doing something crazy:

2004: Getting married (duh).
2005: Moved from Lafayette, IN to Muncie, IN.
2006: Traveled to Las Vegas for work/fun
2007: Moved from Muncie, IN to Santa Clara, CA
2008: Traveled to Europe for work/fun
2009: Again, traveled to Europe for work/fun
2010: Had a baby, went on a road trip up the coast of the USA up to Vancouver and back
2011: Can't remember
2012: Can't remember
2013: Went to Italy
2014: Went to Palm Springs
2015: Had another baby 6 months earlier and my life was starting to fall apart
2016: Went to a bitter marriage counseling session ending in a car ride home where I was told by my soon-to-be-former spouse that he wanted a divorce.
2017: Divorcing

Most of these were happy memories. I grew up with parents who enthusiastically celebrated their wedding anniversary every year. Where we were expected to celebrate it also. Where we were supposed to get cards and gifts and it was a big deal. When I got married, I didn't want to celebrate it that dramatically, but I did want to remember it. I found it kind of funny that we forgot about it.

Until it wasn't funny anymore and I really did want to celebrate our marriage, our relationship. I craved being appreciated and someone caring about how far we'd made it together. But it never seemed terribly important to him and I was happy to accept that.

But the downside is that you have to keep appreciating each other. You have to try. You have to intentionally keep up the relationship. It is alive. I'm not sure if he didn't or we didn't, but at any rate, our wedding anniversary would have been a good time to intentionally reflect on our time together and what we appreciated and did not appreciate --what we could do differently, how we could improve. I'll certainly make sure that's how it goes for any future relationships--marriage or otherwise.

And I feel good now. Last year was hard. Painful. Excruciating. Everything about the anniversary hurt. Today, I look back and see how far I've come and I feel really really good about it. I celebrate that I am not in that level of pain any more. That I'm not living in the twisted heart reality of abuse.

Mother's Day was hard, yesterday for many reasons, but today feels like a day for celebration.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Healing Slowly and How You Can Help A Divorcing Friend

My life is returning to a new normal. Things are stabilizing. Kids are sleeping. I am working. The pain is less and less.

But the pain still comes up.

What pain? Guess what? Breakups are painful! Did you know that? Did you know that divorce is a breakup? Not just any breakup either. A brutal one. The decision to end a marriage hurts. A lot. And I can't even imagine what it's like on the other end.

Some things that happen to a person who is getting divorced (on either end, but primarily from the view point of the person who initiated it):

  • Stress
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble eating - either you literally cannot eat because you have horrible indigestion constantly you have no appetite, or you have an appetite so huge you can't stop eating. 
  • Pain - physical, emotional, mental
  • Trouble performing daily tasks
  • Job performance goes down
  • Social skills reduce
  • Trouble driving - accident prone
Yes. Really. You suffer physical symptoms from heartbreak.

Here's are more things that can and do happen, adding in more stress and pain:
  • Losing your home
  • Losing your job/finances/source of income
  • Sharing your kids (and you may feel like you are losing them)
  • Legal fees, legal issues, etc.
  • Continued trauma (because if you see the person over and over for legal paperwork or children, it is painful and can re-activate trauma). In a less-than-amicable divorce, this can go on for years
  • Managing your kids emotions and transitions between or from the other parent
  • Losing friends
  • Questioning yourself
  • Questioning everything you ever knew to be real or healthy
  • Questioning your own mental health
  • Questioning your spirituality
  • Depression/anxiety/etc.
  • Drug/alcohol dependence/abuse or other risky behaviors (I've seen this one a lot lately from some friends and I certainly had a bit of a phase myself that is now thankfully over)
  • Sadness mourning the loss of what you thought you had or wanted to have or thought you could have
  • Continued pain and sadness at random times for no apparent reason
To get to the point where you want to divorce, especially with kids and a background in faith that values marriage over the people in the marriage, it is incredibly traumatic. Sure, there is some relief and excitement about a new life. But you were faced with 2 very terrible choices: stay and experience pain or leave and experience pain. Either way, you are screwed. If you leave, you have endured pain for a long time before you made that choice. So you have lived in pain and pain and pain and now have more to deal with.

Here's what you can do if you ever have a friend or family member who is getting divorced:
  • Cook for them
  • Bring them food or groceries
  • Offer to stop by
  • Offer to watch their kids for them during the day/night/evening/weekend for a couple hours or arrange and pay for a babysitter
  • Come over and clean their house or arrange and pay for a cleaner
  • Give them a gift (some that I've gotten and was so grateful for include flowers and banana bread)
  • Stay in touch with them - reach out every couple days in text or email or call them to let them know you love them and are there for them. Commit to doing this all the way through to the end. This could be months or even years. 
  • Listen to them. Support them without taking a side. That is, empathize by letting them know that this sounds really hard and you love them. If you are close, ask reflective questions, like "How do you feel about that?" or "How did you respond?" 
  • If your friend asks you for something and there is ANY chance you can do it, do it. If you can't be kind and empathetic. As in, "I'm so sorry you are experiencing this and I can't do that right now, but I'd like to help. Can I do it another day/time/find someone else to do it?"
  • Be encouraging: "You will get through this!" "It's temporary." "You are strong, even if you don't feel that way," etc.
  • Tell them you are so sorry and give them a hug and ask what you can do for them
  • Arrange and pay for a therapist and babysit their kids for free while they go
Do not do these things:
  • Ask them if they went to marriage counseling
  • Try to talk them out of divorce or help "fix" them
  • Accuse them of not seeing the other side or try to get them to see the other side. In most cases, they have tried VERY hard to do this already and the result is still the same
  • Offer advice unless asked or unless you intend to help your friend follow through (as in, "Don't react to that text message! It can only hurt you! Text me when you feel like reacting instead!") and don't be offended if they don't take your advice, no matter how sound. Let it go and understand that they need to learn to make their own choices, however terrible
  • Talk about the former spouse (about how happy/sad they look/seem/are, information about them and how they are doing--drinking too much, happy with their new person, etc.)
  • Ask about the former spouse (as in, "How's so and so?" You don't know. You are trying to avoid knowing until you can heal)
  • Tell them their children are badly behaved
  • Ask them why they don't just get a babysitter or pray or talk to someone in church if they are overwhelmed--they are overwhelmed! When you are that overwhelmed you can barely function, much less reach out!
  • Tell them to get their act together in any manner (as in, kids are precious! Don't complain!)
  • Tell them they could have it worse and tell stories about a friend or relative who had or is having a harder time than them
  • Avoid them because you don't know what to do or it's awkward
  • Stop communicating with them because you don't know what to do or it's awkward
  • Tell them they are wrong/sinful/etc. for getting a divorce--the reasons are super personal and you may not always know what trauma in their past it may have brought up
  • Unfriend them on Facebook
  • Show retribution of some kind because you are on the "other person's side"
In general, be sensitive and take action to help. They lack the mental, emotional, and physical resources to reach out or even function. If this is on top of mental illness or trauma already, you exacerbate the issue by making "helpful" suggestions. The best thing you can do is listen and support. The divorce process can take years and recovery is slow. The person will often miss their former partner, but that doesn't mean that being with them is good or even safe for them. 

Try not to demonize the former partner. It IS possible to empathize without being one-sided. For example, a friend of mine going through this tells me what she is experiencing. When she asks for advice I try to ask her questions, such as, "do you think that was a good response?" "What are you going to do next?" If she doesn't know, I tell her that's ok. She will, in time. Maybe her former husband texted her something nasty. I can say, "Wow! That sucks! That was not very nice of him!" and then I can see him and he can show me a nasty text she sent and I can say, "wow! That sucks! That was not very nice of her!" And in neither case did I say, "Well, I think what he/she meant was blah blah blah." no. That's taking sides and it WILL come back to bite you.

Love your divorcing friends. They need you now more than ever.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Well-Meaning People Can Reignite the Trauma

I received a phone call last week.

The call was from a church friend from long ago that I haven't talked to in about a year. They have an incredible story of marriage--how they and their spouse were separated for 2 years and then got back together by the grace of God. It's awesome and I love their testimony. However, sometimes when someone has an amazing story, they believe it can happen to everyone. And I would love it if that were true! But I don't think it is, since we are all different people in different situations with free will.

The call was disturbing because my friend led with "God told me to call you." And subsequently went into my divorce situation.

I have avoided this friend during the last year mostly because I knew they would try to pressure me out of divorce, and, when you are going through that, you are already in such a painful, agonizing place that you cannot take opposition. There is already so much opposition--from yourself, your former spouse, kids, friends, family, etc. You feel you have to justify yourself, even to yourself, so much. It's horrible. I was presented with two very bad options and I picked the one I thought was best. And it was a terrible, agonizing choice. In the meantime, you are trying to manage your own emotions, what your kids are going through, plus hold down a job (or 2), manage logistics of custody, paperwork, the usual things like doctor's appointments, playdates, school, childcare, and so much more. There are no more resources to manage anything else. If I didn't have a person who offered tangible support, I couldn't associate with them. I just wasn't able to.

So when they called I was happy to hear from them.

Until they told me how I was going to miss God's best, how there would be a price to pay for divorce, etc.

I asked what exactly they were trying to say? Don't divorce? How exactly does one reconcile with a spouse that left his kids and moved to another state, despite his being very, very wealthy (now) and being able to find some way to live here? Are you claiming that the institution of marriage is more important than a safe world where me and my children aren't being emotionally and psychologically harmed?

Don't give up on him, they said.

Ok. So if he miraculously turns into an amazing God-fearing person who moves back here and shows me how he can be here for his kids and he turns around in an incredible way, then sure. Maybe I'll consider it. If I can get past the trauma I experience just seeing his face and hearing his voice.

You are married forever in heaven, they said. You can NEVER break the bond, no matter what happens on earth.

Do you know what this phone call did? It sent me spinning. I'm in a good place after many, many, many difficult and upsetting months. And it sent me right back to the beginning. The self-doubt, the pain, the trauma--it's as if I was reliving it all. And I wondered, is this from God? I want to be sensitive to what God has for me. I want to do the right thing. Is there even a nugget of truth in there that I needed to hear? I felt wounded and pained yet again.

I called my mom. If anyone is going to tell me I made a mistake and God wants me to stay married, it would be her. She is a "crazy Christian lady" as I like to call her. Which means she's about as conservative as it comes on the Christian spectrum. But she loves Jesus. And she knows God. So I asked her what I should do/learn/understand.

I had told this person that God gave me peace about my decision. I was afraid God would be mad at me, so I didn't talk to him for awhile. And, when I came back and sought him, I was shocked at how loving and gentle his response was. Maybe I made the wrong choice, maybe not. But his message to me was that he loved me no matter what.

My mom reminded me that there is no condemnation in God. A person with a prophetic gift needs to work under the authority of someone. Plus, if this person hasn't been a part of this process with me and hasn't seen it or gone through it with me, they really have very little they can say. She reminded me what I've already known and seen in my own life: God is gentle. The Holy Spirit is gentle and loving. The enemy (as she said) knows when I'm in a good place and how to throw me off. And that's what it felt like.

And here's my advice to well-meaning people: if you aren't part of the end, please don't make judgements. If you must know, ask. If you want to support and love and help to hold me up during this horrific and painful time (for me and the kids), I need it. But the way to do that is not to tell me things that will make me feel really horrible again. To get to this point, someone has agonized and agonized and agonized over the decision. They have not taken it lightly (usually). They only got here with extreme pain and torture over the idea. Especially if they were always taught that the institution of marriage is more important than the people in it. It isn't helpful to hear how divorce is terrible and will make your life awful. You already know. You are already there. You don't need more people tearing you down.

And, if you don't know the whole story, PLEASE do not guess it. I stayed and tried to work on it and prayed and tried and prayed and tried for a decade. I stayed for 12 years through all kinds of mistreatment. And, when I finally ended it, I'm the bad guy? Not the person who did bad things for 12 years? Why aren't you calling him? Why are you telling me? I implore you to not use faith as a reason either. It can help, but mostly it serves to hurt.

I can apply this to so many things: divorce, coming out as gay, determining that you are transgender. All these things are demonized by Christians and are traumatic to come to terms with. So, please do not judge. Do not use faith to hurt people who are already in pain. Thank you.