Late Spring 2016
names have been omitted in this post
I had driven for an hour… it was a sunny late spring day… the type of day you open the sunroof and with it release all your worries and cares you otherwise hold all too tightly in your neck, back and shoulders, sending them on their merry way. It was a day of Orange Fanta sitting in the cup holder, the wind ruffling my hair, cropped leggings and an oversized tunic under a jean jacket and slip on wedge sandals. It was a day of summer being on the cusp of our reach and with it all the wonderful possibilities of lazy nights outside on porches enjoying fading sunsets, carefree fun on blankets with picnics, late night drive-in movies and motorcycle rides to escape the daily grind of adulthood. Stereo systems blasted beside me from other vehicles as I exited the freeway toward my destination. I made the right turn onto a main thoroughfare and not much later was sliding a key into the apartment door I had reached. The lock released and I pushed open the heavy door, entering and locking it behind me. The interior was dark… my sandals made noise on the tiled floor as I crossed the entry space and I could hear Pearl Jam playing softly in the background. I was accosted with cigarette smoke in the air and a candle was burning on one end of the work table nearby. I approached it and set my handbag down on one end and took a moment to gaze at the long table's contents, my eyes trying to adjust in the blackened room. Canvases and easels of artwork were spread everywhere along with brushes, palettes and tubes of paint… a mini art studio was set up in lieu of a living room. Growing up in the art world and having painted myself prior to my divorce I was at ease in this environment. Beyond the easels and artwork was a small couch and recliner chair. He sat in the recliner chair silently taking a drag on his cigarette.
"I didn't think you were coming." His deep voice came at me in the darkness.
I turned, making my way through the maze of artwork and found him sitting in the recliner. He studied my face intently and waited for a response.
"I had to make a stop first." I told him. I'd had to drop a t-shirt off at my exes home for our daughter.
"Everything okay?" He asked.
"No…" I murmured.
"You want to talk about it?" He asked with understanding in his tone.
"I thought you were going to quit." I asked in a caring tone, ignoring his question and gesturing to the cancer causer resting between two of his fingers. My usual go-to-way of handling stress in life was humor but not today. Another tool I used was subject changing when I wanted to avoid a topic. I had always been excellent at changing the subject… but not with him. It never worked with him. He always managed to steer back to whatever I wanted to avoid.
"I am… I'm weaning myself off." He told me "I've cut back significantly."
"That's good." I encouraged. I believed him. He wanted to quit. He had tried so many times.
He put his cigarette out and ran his hand through his hair.
"You ready to get started?" He asked, gesturing to my portrait he was working on nearby.
I gestured for him to move over and make room for me on the recliner. He looked surprised and puzzled but acquiesced and moved aside to let me squeeze in between him and the arm of the chair. He peered down at me tucked in beside him… "Hey, Jen… you okay? You never said what was wrong." He pointed out. I knew it. He'd noticed.
"Can we just not talk about it?" I asked him, feeling a headache coming on. I glanced up at him, "I don't want to talk about it… He's been causing more stress recently and I just… "I trailed off, suddenly incredibly exhausted by the conversation. I didn't need nor want to discuss it. I just wanted some comfort. I didn't need a fix… there was no human fix unless you were a judge with a brain or someone who could get me a new life; ID, papers, millions of dollars and a place there was no extradition. Third solution would be enough money to pay him off to leave me alone… everyone had a price he always said and yet for the fun of giving me grief I didn't believe he had one when it came to this situation. Some people just enjoy causing unmerited grief in life. Hence the possibility of any of those solutions coming to fruition were slim to none.
Instead of always scrambling and over thinking
to find a fix or solution often what we need
to be doing is praying to God about it.
At the end of the day prayer was the best solution to this and having faith God was giving me the grace, power and strength to move forward, grow and be chiseled … therefore there wasn't much to discuss. It was one thing for me to write about it… to share the ins and outs of what my divorce and the child custody issues to follow had entailed… for others to glean encouragement, to be able to relate to it, to find comfort, hope, understanding and even say "Yes! Me too!" in fellow frustration and… lastly to give those who can't relate an eye opener of what it's like to deal with someone personality disordered. But in that… I didn't always want to talk about it. Sometimes it was nice to pretend for five minutes or more that he and the issues he caused didn't exist. Focusing on the storm makes it bigger not better. Friends and work often provided me a much needed distraction from it that I dearly appreciated. Sometimes it was refreshing to just have a regular life and actually live it. Humor also helped immensely. God doesn't expect us to put our life on hold just because were in a mess but to trust and keep pressing forward.
New International Version
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for
which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
"Hey… it's gonna be okay… " He said soothingly. "I think you're exhausted." He observed. It was true. I hadn't been sleeping well and was maxed out. " Why don't you just sleep? I'll sit here with you. Take a nap and if you feel like it we can work on the portrait later… okay? And if not I'll bring it next time I see you." He offered kindly. I could have cried like a baby. Of course I didn't. I nodded with tears that threatened but didn't fall and simply fell asleep curled up in the crook under his shoulder. Hours later I'd wake in a panic at how late it was and fret that I should be home by dark… him saying I would be but insisting I stay for pizza first... pointing out I hadn't even eaten. After eating greasy pizza on paper plates and going over plans for the portrait he ensured I had a cold bottled water for the road, stressing that I must text him I made it home safely.
Sometimes in life we don't need discussions… we don't need explanations or long tired over-spoken synapses of how this or that happened…. when we are already at our emotional limit of coping and have been enduring all too much for too long… when we are feeling exhausted maybe from not sleeping well and specific stressors in life that have piled up… sometimes all we really need or want is someone saying "I get it. You're exhausted. Come rest." Sometimes all we need or want is rest in the crook of a strong arm or the warm hug of someone we trust… someone who is a place we can fall safely and not worry of being judged, taken advantage of or used for hidden motives. It's in those moments where no deals are made like we lived with for so long but instead where real love flows freely… where rest and healing can happen because nothing is expected of us. And those moments are the really great ones in life.
Love. It's something we all want and yet not everyone gets. It's sad but unfortunately the hard to swallow truth. Some people go their whole lives not experiencing the love they've given or not knowing anyone intimately special to give their love to. We all want to believe in the fairy tale… in the nonsensical philosophy that there is one special person out there wanting and or trying to find us. But the truth is that's not reality. Love can be a feeling at times or even initially, yes… a wonderful dopamine injected world where everything fleetingly comes up roses… but it's also a choice… a choice we make with purpose even in the difficult, maddening and disappointing times. Our prince or princess, our king or queen isn't coming… instead over the course of our adult lifetime we may come in contact with those who might potentially be possible candidates to fall in love with and then choose to marry. Timing plays a part as well… even if we meet someone amazing if we aren't both at the same emotional or maturity stage needed it may fail. Who we choose is not fate, it's called free will. Not as romantic sounding as the cliched idea that we each have a soulmate out there and not meant to be negative but much more realistic.
The truth is God isn't going to say: "Marry him" or "Marry her"… we can look for a Godly man or woman, yes, and if Christian should… but in that God isn't going to start waving a flag and go "Hey! Pssst! Over here! This is THE ultimate one!" Although it would certainly make life easier if He did(!)… unfortunately, it's just not going to happen, as He has given us each the choice to choose just as He's given us the choice to choose Him.
Paint Me A Picture of What Love Is…
What we can do is look at what the character is of the person were dating…. do their traits match those of a Godly man or woman? Are they someone who is representative of Christ? Are they living a life of kindness? What state is their heart in? Whether we are Christian or not…we can ask this: Are they bearing fruit or rot and decay? No one wants to be with someone who has a heart of deceit, manipulation and meanness. How do they treat you? Perhaps even more important is how do they treat others? That is incredibly vital to observe. How do they treat their friends? Family? The waiter? The man or woman taking their order at the drive thru? Most telling is if you're dating a man what is his view on women? Any man who lacks respect for women in general will lack respect for you. No matter what your political views we can see that Donald Trump is a perfect example of a man who holds zero respect for women. Any man who believes crass jokes are okay will believe he can subject you to the same. Any man you date whose best friend behaves poorly toward women is not someone you want to date… he's chosen this individual to be his best friend… it says much more about him than what you may initially realize. I learned this lesson the hard way firsthand in my marriage. Looking to the future anyone I date I will carefully discern their closet friend(s) character. Look closely at the character of those close to who you date. It matters.
Maybe that's why it's so hard to come to terms with our choices upon realizing we out of our own free will chose wrong. If our goal is to be equally yoked but only one person chooses God we aren't a match. Yes, unfortunately it happens. We marry and either didn't see any signs because they were well hidden, or maybe we saw signs but not enough to give us more than a slight pause and then sped full speed ahead to marriage… or we saw signs and blatantly ignored them. Whatever the scenario we now have this bittersweet gift called hindsight and with it any and all the painful consequences of our choices.
Life Was Once Black…
But There Is A Palette Of Color & Light Waiting…
Perhaps now we are in the next chapter of our life… maybe we are divorced and have taken the chance of dipping our toe in the dating pool… only to have been burned a couple times and realized we chose wrong again. The question is are we aware? Are we aware of how we chose wrong? Are we learning anything? When I was married I was with a man who is very Type A, a go-getter, a high achiever, traits similar to me (minus my adhd that often throws me for a loop and highjacks a tendency to be type a which can actually be a blessing as it gives me the ability to laugh at myself) and additionally a first born like myself… put aside all the adultery, lying and crazy-making behavior he's orchestrated and he was not a good match in hindsight.
After taking some time for myself post divorce finalization I with great trepidation yet hope began dating. The first man I dated was at best unmotivated. He was the complete opposite of my ex in regards to drive. The second man I briefly dated appeared to be a great match but come to find out not divorced yet which caused issues and conviction to which I soon cut seeing him short. The third man I dated was even less motivated than the first. I started realizing what I was doing… On the first and third relationship I was going from the extreme of being married to a high achiever to dating lazy and complacent. The consequences of their behavior led me to feeling great frustration at their lack of get up and go. And because they weren't pursuing any purpose in their life they expected me to fill their every moment and attention. Good grief. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I began evaluating what I did like about the two men that had drawn me to them in the first place. The first one could be incredibly nurturing and yet disappointingly in the same week be incredibly clueless and cruel. The third one was easy to talk to, shared a great sense of humor but gladly served from a heart that also held quite the ego. I realized that whoever I one day dated seriously long-term must have balance and priorities. He had to have a healthy work life balance… he needed to have goals and ambition, yes… but he also needed to know that wasn't the be all end all of life and that faith and family are the ultimately most precious priorities.
After we leave behind the narcissist or sociopath we've been with we can look forward to the future and in that if we one day decide to dip our toes back in the dating pool take heart in knowing we are not alone… others are finding their way as well… admittedly we may not have all the answers but in that we have the great ability to learn lessons which is molding us for something greater than ourselves… to be transformed and humbly share those lessons and love with others… and that despite the mess God is right there beside us, as our suffering matters to Him and in that it brings us closer to Him and then to others… to share that light and enable us to minister better to others yet giving Him the glory. Just like a canvas that has been painted black He can bring color, light and hope back into your life once again.