Barefoot in the Chapel

Baptism of Christ

This past couple of months has been so busy…and so beautiful. Since our trip to Hawaii, Will has met with our church leaders and it has been determined that his heart, from a spiritual standpoint, has been changed and softened considerably. Enough so that he was confirmed to be worthy and redeemed through the repentance process to be re-baptized as a member of our church. During this time, I took 10 days to go and visit our daughter and mother of four of our grandchildren in another state. My son-in-law had been deployed with the military leaving them for six months. Needless to say, she is a bit overwhelmed on her own. After a week and a half, we drove home together with the kids and prepared for the onslaught of out of state family who wished to attend Will’s baptism. My son flew in to perform the ordinance. And it was amazing and powerful and so faith-affirming. Time with all three of my grown children was precious and so fulfilling. They are all such incredible human beings! Every one of them is accomplished and happy and such wonderful parents to my grandchildren. My heart is full of love and gratitude for them all.

Prior to Will’s actual baptism, there was a short program in the chapel of the church building. Will and my son were dressed in white and were prepared to enter the baptismal font. As I sat next to them both, I noted that they were both barefooted and it struck me that in the Lord’s house, instead of Sunday finery, they were in the most basic dress they could be in. No adornment, no embellishments, no shirt and tie, no shoes. Simple, clean, pure, white. This is how we will come before God. No pretention, nothing hidden, no distraction from our most pure selves. Barefoot. Vulnerable. Honest. For He knows all and sees all without the filters we use to live this human life.

I contemplated how much simpler life would have been had Will been this open and vulnerable and honest throughout our lives together. How much pain and shame and sadness and hurt would have been avoided had he only been able to be “barefoot” with me and those who have loved him no matter what? I had come across a C.S. Lewis quote a few days prior to this which suddenly popped back into my head.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

This. This is why we go through pain and sorrow and hardship. Because we all have the potential for greatness and to be extraordinary. Because we come into the world barefoot and vulnerable but life teaches us to be guarded and clothe ourselves in a facade of what is deemed acceptable by society. We cannot let go of all the trappings of our humanity, but we can re-learn how to become as a child again. This is done through heartbreak and loss and trial. God sees us as he created us…as His children…open and teachable and meek and humble. Hardship teaches us these things again and we become again as a child and dependent on His mercy and love. We are again willing to be barefoot.

Leigh ❤️

 

Aloha

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View from our hotel room

Will and I just returned from a week in Hawaii. We had never been and this was totally Will’s idea. He took upon himself the planning, the reservations, the itinerary…everything. Our fortieth anniversary is this month and so this was our celebration of forty years of marriage. Forty. Years. That is a lifetime.

Sadly, out of those forty years, Will has been faithful to me for only four. He has been present and sincerely trying to be married for about the last three of those years. Forgive me if I am sound skeptical about full recovery…but, history. On balance, the odds are not great given his past behavior and my past ignorance.

However, that being said, we have now what we have never had. Hope. When one is stuck in such an insidious, destructive addiction, there is literally no hope in sight. The addict feels that he will forever be “broken” and out of control.  When the spouse becomes aware of the betrayal resulting from that addiction, hopelessness is prevalent and anger, hurt, and despair are the emotions which rule our lives. The overwhelming feeling of being shattered is constant.  Hope is an illusion and seems forever gone.

Then something happens. It does not happen suddenly or even at a reasonable pace. It happens s.l.o.w.l.y. Painfully, heart-breakingly slow. Hope begins to infiltrate one’s conscience. Sometimes at odd times or in odd ways. Sometimes, most times, stealthily, catching one unaware or unready.

This happened to me in Hawaii. During a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, there was a Tahitian village wedding vow renewal ceremony that visitors take part in. The vow was not an “I do.” It instead asks the question, “Will I ever leave my spouse?” To which one answers, “No, I will not.” As Will and I took part in this vow with the rest of the crowd, we looked at each other and said these words in answer to the question posed. At that moment, hope jumped in. Will was sincere and actually had tears in his  eyes when he replied. I felt his honesty and with that, felt a great hope that I hadn’t really felt before. I knew at that moment, that there was a future for us and our marriage. I don’t believe that I have known that with any certainty before. It was good. So good.

We had an amazing trip together. I had few triggers and those I managed with little effort. We spent every minute together eating, swimming, shopping, exploring. It was so good for us. I put my wedding ring back on. For the first time since D-day. I never thought I would wear it again. I looked at it as something shamed and broken. A symbol of betrayal and pain. It’s matching partner, worn on Will’s ring finger, had been taken off so many times to assuage his guilt while acting out that it was rendered meaningless. To him and to me. But, he has worn it faithfully since D-day and has the tan line to attest to its constancy. And that is where hope again comes in.

Consistent, honest effort breeds hope. Hard work towards meaningful, lasting recovery breeds hope. Acts of selflessness and caring breeds hope. Sincere repentance and forgiveness breeds hope. These are the things that never were, but are now, present in our lives together.

It is no secret that Aloha means hello, goodbye, gratitude, good luck and a multitude of other interpretations in the Hawaiian language. The overwhelming meaning though is described by natives as love. Love for a person or a place or an idea. But mostly a love of life. With hope, comes aloha. A deep love of life. An appreciation for all that is good and beautiful and wonderful in our world and in our lives. Although there have been so few “good” years out of the forty we have spent together, I can say now with a great deal of hope, that we are now learning to enjoy these aloha years. We are blessed. 🌺

Leigh ❤️

Toxicity

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For the last couple of years, a Facebook “friend” has been quite passive/aggressive with snide comments whenever I post an opinion. We differ politically and she simply can’t let those differences alone. Here’s the thing…she was one of the first people who knew about Will’s deception. She’s an attorney who had gone through a divorce and recommended a good divorce lawyer to me. Unlike others, she was quite  stoic about what had happened…no tears, only advice. Of course, she had never gone through this type of betrayal. Her divorce was due to her husband leaving her for another woman whom he had known since childhood…his first love. I get that it hurt her, but to be honest, I always got the feeling that it was her pride that was damaged, not her heart.  Anyway, she had re-married and was very vocal about sharing how amazing her life was.  We were never close…she knew about Will as a bystander as I was confiding with a friend. In the year following disclosure, we never spoke of it again and as far as I know, she never gossiped or spread rumors etc. She did pointedly ignore Will whenever they happened to run into one another where they both worked downtown. She was, however, one of those who avoided me when I made the decision to reconcile rather than divorce. She avoided me at church, at social events and stopped posting or responding on Facebook. Meh. No loss, really.

Well, things changed when her second husband got cancer. She publicly disclosed every aspect of his battle but mostly her feelings about how it affected her. When her husband passed away, her FB feed was an open, mournful, grieving, dialogue of her pain.  Pictures of them and their combined family over the years, memories that popped up and the inevitable sadness that they brought. It was understandable. She had suffered a loss. She was devastated. I was consistently supportive. When I first heard of the diagnosis and prognosis, I texted her and offered support. I continually offered a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. And then an odd thing happened. About a year after her husband died, her posts began to change…dramatically. All of the sudden, she was positive and began posting pics of herself in the gym. Pics of before and after when she started to lose weight and get fit. Her doom and gloom grieving posts about her deceased husband all but stopped. I wondered what had changed but, was positive and again supportive. Then, it all became clear. She announced that she had met someone and would soon be remarried. Ah….I see.  As one part of me was happy that she had found a new man in her life, another part was incredibly sad that her life seemed to change based on whether or not she had a man in her life. It all seemed so superficial.

I got it. I had been there. I had been that person who had lost myself in a relationship. And I grieved the loss of myself once Will’s betrayal was discovered. I lost a lot of respect for her at that moment. I felt sorry for her. Despite all of her pain and her public grieving and her TMI about her sadness…followed by her TMI about her new fiancée, then husband…I remained FB friends with her and was congratulatory and supportive. Because that is who I am.

Over the next year or so, however, she became more and more passive/aggressive in her responses to comments I made…usually on someone else’s posts. She attacked my opinions on social issues, she was verbally derisive regarding people I supported politically, she ridiculed my posts on depression, addiction, recovery etc.  In short, she was clearly not a fan of me or anything I found important.  Even though I had publicly and privately supported her through her struggles, her grief, her questionable motives regarding fitness, her newfound love and happiness, her own political stance and her family circumstances. Through the years, I was supportive and happy and simply there for her…regardless of how I felt about her decisions and choices.  After a comment I posted on one of my daughter’s posts (yes, she is friends with one of my daughters) she posted a particularly nasty comment about selling one’s soul and being a traitor because of a political opinion. This was directed at me. I was hurt. I tried not to be. I tried to shrug it off as I had so many times before. I mean…it was only FB…right? No. This was a wake-up for me. This was another betrayal. I had stood behind this woman through her own trials, her bereavement, her challenges, her grief, her recovery, her pain and her joy. And in return, she had shown her disapproval of my own choices. Her anger at my political opinions. Her dismissal of my own journey through grief and pain and loss. Her ridicule of my newfound joy and happiness in marriage.  I realized that she was a person who could only find joy through her own selfishness. She found her fulfillment only in being tied to a man who completed what she perceived as a FB perfect life. She was definitely an image seeker who needed the attention which social media fed. She was, indeed, incredibly shallow.

So, despite the many ties that we have together (church, friendship circles, children, history) I unfriended her on FB. This may seem trivial to some, but for me, this is not something I did lightly. I actually prayed over it and meditated through it. This is normally just not who I am. I am not a bridge-burner. I am not a friendship-ender. But, I (again!) realized something very important. I am not willing to be abused any longer. This is a lesson I keep teaching myself. I learned it early on in my trauma with my mother and sister. I learned it with my daughters. I learned it with Will. I am continually becoming stronger about who and what I will allow in my life. I haves freed myself of yet one more toxic person in my life and it is very liberating.

I am sometimes a slow learner and it sometimes takes my awhile to identify the toxicity a relationship is bringing to my life. But, I can say that I am not afraid to rid myself of the bad and welcome the good anymore.  I am so willing to embrace the happy and leave behind the harmful.

Leigh ❤️

Four.

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Today is May 17, 2019. Four years since D-day. Four years since my world was shattered. Four years since the day I became irrevocably changed. Four years since life, as I knew it, was over.

And four long, difficult, heart-breaking years of grueling recovery and healing.

And it’s not enough.

I don’t know where I am on my journey. I don’t know where my road is leading. All I know is that there are horrible memories that still overshadow the good memories. That balance has not been restored. I know, also, that it is hard, hard work to make those good memories that used to come so effortlessly. But, I still try.

Maybe in another four years, or eight…or twelve, the memories will shift and the bad will fade and be less painful. Maybe the good memories will be overwhelming and wonderful and crush the bad from my recollection. Maybe rain isn’t wet. 😏

I came across a numerology chart the other day which describes the characteristics of numbers, and while I don’t subscribe to numerology or really even understand it, I thought the associated description of the number four was interesting and perhaps apropos to my current state:

Those who walk a life path with the number four have an almost unbreakable spirit and astounding capabilities of self-control. 4 reminds us that equality of all sides created the strongest structures. It’s energy is that of stability.

Hmmm…Can’t really count on all of that.

What I can count on is myself. What I know for certainty is that I will keep working on healing. I will keep doing the best I can with what I have. And I will keep looking for more. More happiness, more contentment, more gratitude, more grace.

I think I’m getting there. Slowly.

Leigh ❤️

Before and After

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Today is the last day of April. Which means that tomorrow begins the month of May. In seventeen days, it will be four years since d-day. How I wish I could erase that day from my memory! EMDR has not done it’s job where that memory lives in my brain. It is still as painful and vivid as it was when it happened. There are few things in my life that are sharp and clear as my memory of that day. Every word, every action, every feeling is embedded within me. The clarity with which discovery of Will’s profound betrayal provided me was no less than earth-shattering. I felt it in every. single. fiber. of my body. I still feel it as acutely now as I did then.

So, has anything changed? It has been nearly four years. Why does that day, that moment, those emotions still feel raw and fresh? Will I ever be able to erase them completely? No. Not ever.

The difference is that I can now experience them and absorb it all as part of me. That day changed me. It changed who I thought I was. It changed who I thought Will was. It changed everything. How I thought, how I felt, how I reacted to events, how I approached relationships, how I expressed myself, how I saw the world. Everything.

And sometimes, I miss the old me. That girl was perpetually optimistic (on the surface.) She felt loved by Will, her kids, her friends (at least, what she thought was love.) She was content with life, even though it was really hard at times (although she didn’t understand WHY things were SO hard.) She was fulfilled with a life of family and church and home (Will was not foremost because he was so distant…she accepted his excuses that he was busy with work and was grateful he worked so hard.) She was happy (but, given what she knew about happiness, this was SO misguided.)

I am clearly not that person anymore. I am optimistic still…but it is measured and not the blind unrealistic hope that I used to have. It is more rational and less…desperate. I am beginning to feel love again..from Will and my children and a few very carefully vetted friends. I have a few old friends that I know love me. They know about Will and love and support me the same as they always have. Contentment is nowhere to be seen at this point. I don’t know that I will find a level of contentment for a very long time. I am still less trusting of people in general and of Will in particular. I cannot be content without trust. That will take way more time than just four years. I am not completely fulfilled yet, but I am getting there. My family is still my everything even if they don’t love me as fully as they once did. That does not diminish my love for them. Will has become more present and more a part of my everyday so that has definitely been more fulfilling.

But, happy? That is a difficult one. The old me was not truly happy. I was happy with what I *thought* was my life. It was mostly a delusion. It was so full of gaslighting and lies that it was no life at all. At least, not a real life. Now, life is real and difficult and exciting and boring and joyful and frustrating and funny and absurd and maddening and fun! It’s become such a mix of experience and emotion that there is no one word that can describe it. It is still hard and sometimes overwhelmingly sad. There is still regret and anger and grief over the past. But there is also a lot of hope. And clarity of what truly is and is not “Life.”

I think that possibly the best way to describe myself before d-day was that I was existing. I was existing in a life that I had convinced myself was optimistic, content, happy. Now, even with all the trauma, the loss, the betrayals, the illness, the ups and downs…all of it…I feel like I am living. I am living my life with a full awareness of who I am, who I am becoming, and who I want to be. I am no longer who I was (or who I thought I was) and I am okay with that even if I miss that naive girl sometimes. I am much wiser and stronger now and able to withstand the things that come my way. I am clear-eyed and compassionate. I am tougher than I ever thought I could be and my heart is healing.

I am a walking, living, breathing  “before and after” ad for betrayed spouses. 😂

I can live with that.

Leigh ❤️

Erase, Adjust, and Carry On.

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So, I took a few days to run away recover from Will’s horrible treatment of me. It has been a wise decision. I took the whole day yesterday to treat myself to an all-day spa treatment…mani/pedi, massage, facial, lunch. I have NEVER done that before. Never.   I had one slight tinge of guilt for such an extravagant expense…but soon realized that the cost was about the same as one massage parlor visit by Will in the past..so, really, it’s all about perspective. Anyway, I am currently at a resort hotel locally where comfort and indulgence is a priority. And, I have to say, I am having such a lovely, peaceful, reflective time. I need to do this more often…regardless of Will and his issues. This is healthy and so, SO good for my soul! I have treated myself to wonderful food, downtime, and an abundance of time to read, sketch, and hike. Things that I don’t do enough. And while sketching, I realized a profound concept…the eraser!

I am very much an amateur artist. I sketch things that inspire me now and then. I am not very good, but I enjoy it as a sort of therapy.  Sketching, for me, is a time to reflect, relax and it provides a good outlet for my sometimes inhibitive side to be released. As I was surfing the internet yesterday (for what, I honestly don’t remember 🙄) I came across a beautiful site of southern Italy and amazing photos of the stunning fields of sunflowers that are so prevalent in that region. When Will and I traveled through Tuscany many years ago, I was impressed by these same fields and bought a beautiful hand-painted plate of a single, perfect size flower which still graces our dining room wall. One photo I came across as I surfed particularly struck me and I decided to sketch it. As I began my new drawing, I sketched, I erased, I considered my perspective, I re-drew, I erased and I re-sketched, until I had something that pleased my eye and my sense of proportion and balance. And then…the epiphany! I erased! I obliterated the ugly, the disproportionate, the “oops” that regularly occurs when I sketch. And I made it better. I re-evaluated and took stock of the picture as a whole and I adjusted. To make the end result as close to perfect as was humanly possible. It is a constant process. Sketch, evaluate, erase, re-draw, assess…and then carry-on to the next phase.

You already know where I am going with this analogy, but for me, this was such an enlightenment! Why, if I can expend so much thought and time into a trivial endeavor like a simple sketch, can I not take the same care and considered reflection when it comes to my marriage? Yes, I get that it is a much more emotional and personal issue, but it should be basic precept for something that I have spent over forty years working on. (Even if Will has not been much of an active participant in this same project called marriage 😏.)  This is less about Will and more about me and my mindset. I have spent weeks, even months, on an intricate project like a drawing, a needlepoint piece, a refinish item or a sewing endeavor. True that these are material things and are not of an everlasting or eternal nature, but during the process of creating, they require focus and attention and a certain amount of dedication to complete. Why then, in creating a solid marriage or relationship, something that should last a lifetime and beyond, would I not employ an equal or, indeed, a greater effort to ensure success? Arghhh!!! Why has it taken me this freaking long to figure this out?!?!

*SIGH!”

Sometimes, I wonder, not if Will is ever going to “get it”, but whether I will ever really be in a place where clarity and simplicity of thought takes center stage in my life. Not to deter from the fact that Will behaved in an unacceptable manner…he clearly did. But, to re-focus on my own reaction and response. Which is still a work in process. As we both are. One does not survive four decades (or longer) of dysfunction without deep-set scars and ideologies of life unscathed. But, that is not to say that one does not possess the very basic utility of an “eraser.” We can (and MUST) utilize the God-given gift of the eraser (or, in other words, Christ’s atonement) to undo the ugly, the unfathomable, the hurt, the “oops” of life! Much like a pencil which sometimes takes a deviant path from what the artist intends, life can take a path which is errant and unacceptable. We can then either allow that path to obstruct and distort the whole, or use our eraser to re-evaluate, re-assess, delete the error and correct our course.

We can re-draw our future. We can erase the ugly and focus on what is next. It is not simple. It is not without shadows of regret or missteps or remnants of hurt pain or bad decisions. But it is a positive move towards a better and brighter tomorrow. Those who know me know that I am not about platitudes or Pollyanna optimism, just plain and simple facts of life. Like a project of skill, or hope, or faith, marriage and happiness is something which requires endless reassessment and readjustment. Using the eraser which we have all been given is the most powerful tool we have.

Leigh ❤️