Friday, December 28, 2012

Living Life Right-side Up*

Living in a toxic relationship requires living life upside down--in order to stay and survive, one must deny reality and accept that what seems upside down is really right-side up.  The horizon of our life is skewed--up is really down and down is really up.  But we grow accustomed to living an upside-down life; we accept it so it becomes normal.

Recovery begins when we realize that we have been living upside down and start the arduous process of righting ourselves.  The sudden change in perspective may create waves of vertigo as we learn to live right-side up again.  It is traumatic to make the change.  It feels like a blizzard blowing through our lives with howling cold winds and blankets of snow.  Our visibility is reduced and we feel lost.

Eventually, the storm settles down and we begin to gain perspective on our lives and wonder how we ever managed to live so long in an upside-down position.  Everything looks different from this new perspective and we gain confidence in our ability to live as we were intended.

This past year has been one of being turned right-side up and learning to tolerate the vertigo and storms that this dramatic change of perspective has brought.  I have had faithful companions on this journey to learn to live through trauma and change.  I doubt that the shifts required by living right-side up would have been possible without these recovery pilgrims.  One of my favorite quotes about domestic violence advocacy sums it up:   Change for women in a battering relationship "Is often preceded by a transformative experience in which another person, one who stands outside the battering relationship reflects the woman's reality in a way that enables her to acknowledge and assess her risk more objectively." (Zaplin, "Female Offenders: Critical Perspectives and Effective Interventions," 2008. p. 384.)
Transformative relationships--relationships that radically alter our life, that change our perspective, that enable us to begin the journey of recovery.  Transformative relationships often do not occur accidentally but rather are sought out intentionally.  I have found such relationships in my weekly S-Anon group as well as in a small group at my church.  I am blessed by these relationships that have given me space to heal, to grieve and to grow.  Some relationships may not survive the dramatic change of perspective that turning right-side up creates and that is probably best.  But these intentional transformative relationships become key to recovery.

*I am indebted to one of these transformative individuals in my life for this illustration as well as for the lovely snow globe pictured here.  You may not be able to see it but the banner under the globe has four numbers engraved on it.  "2012."  As this momentous year draws to a close, I remember the many changes--ones I didn't ask for and couldn't possibly anticipate--and I can be grateful that they occurred, though I might have chosen a different manner for them to come into my life.  I am finding the joy of living life right-side up, though I still have moments of incredible vertigo.  It is good.  It is very good.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Reflections on Christmas

It is Christmas Day and I am alone.  The tree lights still shine, the Christmas carols are still playing in the the background and I can hear the shouts of children playing outside, fresh from the excitement of Christmas morning.  But I am alone.  I am over two thousand miles away from where I celebrated a lonely sad Christmas last year but I might as well be a billion miles away--my life has changed just that much in the space of twelve short months.  My adult children joined with me last night for our family celebration; we have added one member and lost another in the past year--so much change, so much loss.  But at the end of the evening, they went to their homes and will celebrate with other families today.  And I am alone.

This morning, I awoke with this knowledge deep in my gut--I am alone.  But really, that has always been my condition and is the condition of all humanity.  We are alone even in the middle of big happy families; we are alone even in a healthy and happy relationship.  We are born alone and die alone.  The aloneness of being human is profound.  In my grief, I often long for someone to hold me close, to comfort me like a mother comforts her child--I long for the security of knowing that I am not alone.  But a child is never completely joined with her mother--even in the womb she is a separate and distinct person.

This search and desire for intimate union drives us from the moment of our birth.  But like a hungry child, we are often frustrated and dissatisfied with the connections we are able to forge--they do not quench the deep loneliness of our soul.  We were meant for a deeper connection than what is possible with another human.  Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate that God came down--Emmanuel He is called--God with us.  He came to rescue us from our loneliness; to save us from our shame.  He came to show us that He is present.

So in the glow of the candles burning on my counter, I remember that I am not alone--that I have never been alone.  I am reminded of the Presence that I have sensed these past months of grief and loss.  I am reminded that I have a Comforter who holds me always and I am grateful.
I remember my recovery friends and the texts and emails I received today from individuals struggling with their own grief but reaching out to me in mine.  And I know that I am not alone.  I have others walking part of life's journey with me--even though each of us has our own solitary journey, we can share parts with another.  And I am grateful.

The kids are off celebrating with other families.  I knew when they were born that this day was coming but I always banked on sharing the empty nest with a spouse who loved me.  Life didn't work out that way.  I'd rather be lonely while truly alone than lonely in a dead relationship so I choose gratitude today.  I choose to be grateful for God with me, for friends who understand my grief and for children who love me and though our family is vastly different this year than last, who still come together to celebrate and laugh.  It is a good day because I am never alone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Man Behind the Curtain

Life is a stage and each individual is the star of his or her own personal production.  When the curtains open and we begin our performance, our production is sometimes comedic, sometimes dramatic or maybe melodramatic, sometimes a parody but always intensely important to us.  In the on-going drama of our lives, we collect props that either enhance or detract from our performance—romantic partners, careers, possessions, children, friends and a set of beliefs that emanate from our core and dictate how we approach the performance of our life.  We hope that when the curtain closes on our life’s performance we will be remembered fondly as an individual who performed/lived well.  We hope that those who have watched our performance will only remember the times we delivered our lines flawlessly and that they will forget those moments when we failed, forgot our lines or fell. 
Life is a stage and we each perform in our own personal production—we live our lives with the curtains open—in the spotlight and full view of others.  We have parts of our story that we keep hidden behind the back curtain—out of view of the audience.  But for the most part, we live out in the open on the stage of life.  From time to time, we need to retreat behind the back curtain of our stage—to lick our wounds, to rest or to contemplate the deeper meaning of our story.  We might even invite one or two audience members to the dark recesses behind the back curtain—they are granted a “back stage pass” to our performance.  We might eventually gain the courage to bring some of the hidden props out from behind the back curtain for our general audience.  You know, our deepest fears, insecurities and parts of ourselves that we are not particularly proud of.  When we find the courage to expose these deeper, hidden parts of our story, we often find that our audience loves our story even more.  They can identify with the deeper parts and with our vulnerability in exposing them.  And we grow more authentic as a performer on the stage of our life.
But there are individuals who never allow the curtain to open but instead their entire life’s performance is conducted in front of the curtain.  They create an elaborate series of props, smoke and mirrors to convince the audience that what they are seeing is really behind the curtain; that the performer is revealing himself authentically.  And they are so convincing primarily because the props they collect for their performance lend legitimacy to the deception of the performance.  They collect relationships and credentials that are impressive, all intended to convince the wary viewer that the facade in front of the curtain is the reality.  They become part contortionists and part projectionists.  When questioned about the authenticity of their performance, they will contort themselves into believable scenarios in order to convince the skeptic of the validity of their performance.  Or they will project their fears and anxieties or blame onto the skeptic and play the victim role.
I was in a long-term relationship to an individual who performed his “life” in front of the curtain but lived his real life behind the curtain.  The man behind the curtain had secrets from childhood that he never revealed completely—oh he brought out tiny bits and pieces when they could contribute to the elaborate deception that he had created.  But the core truths were never revealed—truths about who he was, what he believed and what he wanted in life.  And he was so believable, an academy-award-worthy performance.  He had all the props he needed to bolster his position—credentials, education, experience and expertise.  And I became another of his props, one that was entirely disposable when it no longer contributed to the ruse.  I spent many years trying unsuccessfully to know the man behind the curtain.  The more determined I became to really know him, the tighter he held the curtains together to his real life—he was just as determined to keep me from knowing him as I was in knowing him.
Something about his performance didn’t ring true to me and I questioned him gently, in anger and in tears.  Each time of questioning led to more pain and estrangement and required me to either believe his performance and deny my gut or leave the relationship.  In the end, I grew tired of the effort and was making steps to exit the relationship primarily because I was reconnecting with my gut—that “knowing” in the pit of the stomach.  My gut told me that there was more to this man than what I saw in his performance—that there was a lot of hidden life and core issues behind the curtain—that the curtain even existed.  Before I had my exit strategy fully in place, however, life came in and tore his curtain down and exposed the hidden depravity behind that fiercely guarded piece of fabric.  Suddenly everyone knew his secrets and the ramifications were horrendous.
The man behind the curtain is an incredibly wounded and broken man; a man who has struggled with pedophilia his entire life; a man addicted to child pornography; a man who had learned to embrace and celebrate this part of himself, thanks to a very misguided, unethical and criminal therapist.  The man behind the curtain had secrets that he told no one, except for his colluding therapist—not his best friend of 40 years, not his sister and certainly not his wife.  He had created such a convincing set of props to support his performance and to add legitimacy to his perverted interest in children; he was considered an expert in child development particularly as it relates to spirituality.  This gave him a legitimate reason to study children.  Did he accomplish good things?  Probably but no one will remember them because of the life he hid behind the curtain.  Did he love his own children?  Yes, and as one standing watch throughout their childhood, I believe he loved them in all the appropriate and good ways and none of the bad.  Was he a good husband?  Yes, for a number of years, probably.  But that hidden part of his core being destroyed what “relationship” there was long before I was aware that it had been destroyed.
 So now I am left with a tattered curtain and the evidence of his hidden life, most days it has been intolerable to examine the fragments that remain.  But I am now able to sift through the debris and begin to see TRUTH more clearly than I have been able to withstand up to this point.  And I am finding that truth, no matter how painful, is so much better than deception.  I am finding that living and soaking in truth is healing and empowering, it is life giving.  For far too many years, I lived in the shadow of that performance in front of the curtain, knowing and sensing that there was something deeper behind the performance.  For far too many years I had to silence my gut, quiet my fears and go on believing what seemed unbelievable.  Now I have been given the opportunity to live in the truth—not the way in which I would have chosen it but I am grateful nonetheless.  Because truth sets us free.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Growth in the Cracks

I noticed cracks in the sidewalk today--nothing new, right?  But particularly so in the part of the country where I live that is prone to frequent earthquakes.  We have cracks everywhere.

But these cracks had grass growing up through them.  Recent rains have germinated the dormant seeds lying in the cracks and new life is springing up.

Seems to me that grass growing in the cracks of concrete is a good metaphor for the growth a broken and cracked life offers.

I may be a "cracked pot" but I know there are tender shoots of green growing through my cracks--I am healing and changing.  And that is exciting!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Worst but Best Gift

Christmas Day 2011 I was given the worst gift I had ever received in my life.  We had just returned from a family Christmas trip and I was already dreading the first Christmas Day without any of our children present.  Our refrigerator had turned into a freezer while we were gone so what little food we had was frozen solid.  There was no ham roasting in the oven or friends coming to share this most special holiday with us.  I was sad about the state of our Christmas Day but heartened when he said he wanted to talk after he returned from church.  Our relationship had been in troubled waters for a number of years and I was hopeful that maybe the family trip had worked some magic; maybe he was willing to really work on us; maybe this day would be the beginning of a new relationship. It was and it wasn’t.

The worst Christmas present I ever received was my husband of 33 years telling me he no longer wanted to live with me or be in relationship with me.  To say I was devastated would be a huge understatement.  I had drawn a line in the sand months before but hoped that it would incentivize him towards working on our relationship rather than ignoring it.  I was the first one to utter the word “divorce” but hoped that it would be a reality check for him—that he would feel the urgency that I did to re-animate our dying relationship.  I still held hope for us; I still believed in us; I still wanted “us.”  I knew in my gut that he didn’t really want “us” but I refused to admit it to my heart.  But once he uttered those words, my heart broke with the knowledge that my gut had been right and like Alexander, my day was a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”[1]  It was the worst day of my life, or so I thought at the time.  It was the worst gift I had ever received, or so it seemed.

His uttering those horrible words were perhaps the most honest thing he had ever said to me or at least said in years.  My gut knew his “problem with pornography” was greater than he believed but his arguments were so persuasive.  My gut knew that his attraction to children was sexual but his denial and rationalization made sense in a crazy way.  And to argue against his position was to argue with his “therapist” as well and created unbelievable discord and difficulty for days.  So I silenced my gut; I disconnected from the truths it was screaming; I ignored the knowledge that it tried to communicate to me.  Until he gave me the worst gift ever.  And therein lies the paradox:  the worst gift became the best gift because it gave me freedom to reconnect with my gut, to leave the destruction and death of a shell of a marriage, to begin to rediscover myself, or maybe discover myself is a better description.  I wonder if I ever truly knew who I was outside of relationship.
The worst gift ever was my exit ticket.  As a domestic violence advocate, I understand cognitively and theoretically why women stay in destructive relationships.  We are committed to the fairy tale of our relationship—you know, the rose-colored version that ignores the facts our gut screams to us.  And in the cycle of violence, the honeymoon phase gives victims a glimpse of their “knight in shining armor” once again.  Survivors of domestic violence often stay in the relationship in spite of the violence just to experience the honeymoon phase again.  It confirms their belief that the relationship is good; that their partner is kind; that the violence is an anomaly and often that it is their fault.  While my relationship was not violent, it was destructive but it wasn’t all bad—he wasn’t a “monster” but rather a respected and accomplished member of his profession.  He was generally kind to me but always distant.  And he had a zillion excuses as to why our relationship wasn’t thriving.  So my hope persisted even when the evidence was overwhelming.
The worst gift gave me permission to listen to the truth in my gut.  After Christmas Day, he vacillated once or twice in his decision, which was confusing to me.  And once or twice, I was tempted to beg him to reconsider—after all, ours was a great “love story,” wasn’t it?  What a shame to consign it to the divorce heap.  But I had begun listening to my gut again and I could no longer ignore the evidence it presented to me—much like a prosecutor laying out the case against the accused.  I began telling myself the truth about the relationship and the truth began exposing the lies of the “rose-colored, fairy-tale” version.
The worst gift revealed the heart of my “prince” in a way I had never seen before.  While he professed to love me, I believe he married me because he saw me as the solution to a problem he had wrestled with for most of his life.  When I failed to solve the problem for him, I was disposable.  For many years I was confused by his intense anger towards me and the resentments he nurtured.  I only saw brief glimpses of the anger and resentments.  It came out in very passive aggressive ways but was there nonetheless.  It didn’t make sense to me.  And to be honest, on that Christmas Day, I didn’t see all of this.  But my heart opened to the truth and the reality that he did not love me the way I thought he did, that he had never been as invested in the relationship as I was and that he had not been attracted to me in over two decades.
The worst gift gave me freedom to walk away; no, it was more like a mandate or order to leave.  As the oldest of four children in a family that had all the dysfunctions of an alcoholic family without the alcohol, care giving and responsibility were my middle names.  I had long carried the heavier burden of care giving in the relationship.  He needed me and I loved to be needed.  I was like a first responder to an emergency—first on the scene and last to leave.  But his gift gave me the permission I needed to walk away—to begin to focus my care giving on myself.  To finally lay down my need to take care of him—I had outgrown it many years earlier but the roles we had established early in our marriage were firmly entrenched.  It was hard to change them and he had little desire or motivation to do so.
These gifts hidden within the worst gift ever became critical in the days that followed.  Without them, I may have chosen a different course of action; I may have felt obligated to stay in a destructive marriage, to my own detriment.  Two months after that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, our house was raided by a task force charged with tracking down those trading in child pornography.  They arrested my partner the next day and his employer fired him two weeks later.  Without the gifts, it would have been hard to divorce him when his life had just exploded in a very messy, serious way.  All that I had been taught as a child about denying or minimizing my own needs in order to care for others would have kicked in.  I would have felt the social pressure to stay and “help” him through this.  But the gifts revealed by that worst gift saved me and offered me another option.
In a few weeks, I will celebrate Christmas again but this time I will celebrate as a newly divorced woman.  Last Christmas, my ex-husband gave me the gift of a new relationship—just not in the manner I would have chosen.  It will be an important mile-marker for me; one that I want to commemorate by sharing and savoring what I have learned thus far about the best gifts of the worst gift.  There are new gifts that were birthed by this worst gift that I will examine and cherish during this season.  No longer am I living with an active sex addict; no longer am I in a confusing relationship with a pedophile; no longer must I deny the truths my gut knows.  I can choose my destiny now—it is no longer tied to his.  I am free to be me and to learn just who I am and what my place is on the planet.  I have been given the opportunity to turn loneliness into solitude and to embrace the solitude.  The greatest loneliness I have ever experienced was what I experienced during my marriage.  Living alone for the greater part of this year has been a gift and one I am entirely grateful for.
Yes, there is grief as well but I am learning to embrace it as a gift—the tears I shed are cleansing and help loosen the knots in my soul that came from so many years of denying the truth.  This is neither the road I envisioned nor the place I thought I would be in one year ago but it is good and maybe it is even better than what I envisioned.  I am learning to grieve and yet feel gratitude at the same time—another paradox.

[1] Viorst, Judith. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. 1972. Aladdin Books.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Cesspool of Sex Addiction

At the conclusion of a recovery meeting recently, a newcomer turned to me and said, “There is so much pain in this room.”  She is right.  Living with or having lived with someone with a sexual addiction or compulsion is incredibly painful.  And it is dirty. It is dirty emotionally, it is dirty mentally and it is often dirty physically.  And we are repulsed by it.  Others in our circle who know or suspect our secret are repulsed by our lives and often by us, though they may try to keep their feelings hidden.  But we see it and sense it.  It is revolting.  It is disgusting.  It is dirty.
Have you ever seen a backed up septic system or walked through that brown sludge that covers the drain field?  Have you ever had to clean up a basement with feces floating in the standing sewage water that has come up through your plumbing?  “Mucking out the stalls” from a horse seems like child’s play compared to the horrendous experience of cleaning up human waste.  Imagine living in that cesspool—imagine sitting in it daily, raising your kids in it, sleeping in it, preparing meals in it.  That is what living with a sexual addiction is like.  The smell of it pervades every activity, every moment of every day.  You cannot wash it away, deodorize it enough and no air freshener is strong enough to erase the stench that it creates.           
Sex is a gift we are taught.  And it is when the partners love and respect one another; it is a beautiful expression of that love.  But when it becomes an addiction or compulsion, when one partner seeks others outside of the relationship or engages in perversion, it becomes a cesspool.  The most sacred part of a romantic relationship is violated, trust is broken, and vows are betrayed.  All addictions are the same, right?  NO!  A sex addiction strikes at the heart of a relationship; it destroys the glue that holds two people together.  Sex is personal and interpersonal.  It has the power to provide great pleasure and satisfaction but also has the power to create incredible pain when its sacred oath is violated.  When it is used to cover up deep wounds and grows into something over which an individual has little power or control, it stinks.  And it can remain hidden so easily.  Deception walks hand in hand with addiction but especially with a sexual addiction.  An alcoholic might deceive another about how many drinks he has had but eventually, his inebriated state will become evident to the invested observer.  At some point in the binge, deniability becomes impossible, but not so with a sexual addiction.  Not so.
For some, the belief that each individual has the right to seek sexual expression in whatever manner he or she desires undermines the magnitude of sex addiction.  When we examine specific behaviors that the addict is prone to engage in, we can find areas of disagreement.  Some feel that adult pornography is not a problem, that sex with someone of the same gender is perfectly normal and ok, that a strip club is a good outlet for a man’s sexual proclivities and that masturbation is completely healthy.  Others would disagree.  But getting caught up in the morality of specific behaviors involved in a sexual addiction ignores the bigger picture.  In a committed relationship, sexual activities outside of the relationship, without the knowledge or consent of one partner is a violation of the sacredness of the commitment. 
Social drinking is acceptable and not considered to be a problem.  I think we can all agree on that (except maybe for extremely conservative religious folks).  But when “social drinking” becomes breakfast, lunch, dinner and a nightcap, we become concerned.  When the imbiber cannot stop drinking and when his life becomes unmanageable, we agree that he has a problem with alcohol and we feel comfortable calling him an alcoholic.  Its not the alcohol that is the problem, it is addiction and the necessary consequences it brings.  Certainly the alcoholic’s addiction and resulting behaviors impact everyone living in his household.  Certainly the deception involved in maintaining an addictive lifestyle is damaging to all of his relationships.  But one could argue that his addiction does not necessarily destroy the commitment he made to his partner.  He may remain faithful to his relationship promises even though he is a falling down drunk. 
A sexual addiction steals the heart of the addict.  It becomes his all-consuming passion.  He begins to neglect his real-life relationships in search of the thrill of one more affair, one more binge on pornography or one more hook-up.  His heart leaves the relationship and looks elsewhere.  As the addiction grows, the risk of discovery or of devastating consequences grows—not only for him but also for his partner.  She may be exposed to sexually transmitted diseases as a consequence of his addictive behavior.  Or, she may be caught up in the aftermath of his discovered criminal activity.  Her self-confidence and self-esteem take a direct hit and she begins to cover up in shame.  An alcoholic’s partner is not judged as “less than” due to the alcoholism; a sex addict’s partner often is.  And she knows this.
When she risks disclosing her secret, she may face rejection and judgment.  She can sense the wrinkled up noses of “nice, ordinary people,” who do not live in a cesspool, or so they believe.  She knows that the behavior of her partner is offensive to most; it fails the “smell test.”  She is fortunate if she finds an individual who is willing to sit with her in the mess.  She is fortunate indeed.  Most prefer not to sit in the cesspool and understandably so.  Many prefer that she just leave and clean herself up so they can then sit with her.  But leaving is complicated, especially when there are children present in the relationship.  And she so hates to give up on the “fairy tale” of her relationship.  Maybe she is dependent upon her partner financially or maybe she is just so worn down by the rejection of the addiction that she cannot fathom making it on her own.
My reply to the newcomer’s comment about so much pain being in the room where our recovery meeting was held was, “But there is so much hope as well.”  So often it is easier to focus on the pain rather than the hope because the pain is so real and so intense.  The hope is found in others who are willing to sit in the cesspool of sexual addiction—therapists, recovery friends, clergy—they hear horrendous stories of some of the worst behavior possible.  And they remain steadfast in their commitment to helping those impacted by the stench of sex addiction.  For it is in sitting with another without judgment but rather with empathy that healing can begin, that hope can emerge.  Co-pilgrims journeying together through life, sharing the joy but also the pain—this brings hope. 
There is hope in the incredible resilience of the human soul.  We are much stronger than we believe, especially when we join forces with another or with our Higher Power.  We are able to heal, though it seems an impossibility at times.  We are able to transform our pain into growth and into potential for change.  Farmers will tell you that nothing enriches soil as much as manure—the stuff we try to hide, bury or get rid of because it stinks, because it is disgusting.  But manure releases nutrients that fertilize the growing plants.  The cesspool of sexual addiction holds the potential for fertilizing and nurturing new growth in individuals, so there is hope.  There is hope, even in the stench of sexual addiction but it takes courage to search for it—those small nuggets of hope mixed in the brown sludge of our lives with an addict.  They are worth finding because they hold the secret to survival and even to being able to thrive in spite of or maybe because of having lived with or living with a sex addict.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thoughts on My Firstborn's Birthday

Thirty-one years ago today, the birth of my first-born son created a family; where once there had been two, now there were three.  The couple became parents in the month of December, no less.  I remember dressing my baby boy up in red and laying him under the Christmas tree on a green quilt for a special picture—he truly was our gift from God so we named him “John.”  When we despaired of ever having children due to infertility issues, he came.  While I thrilled the first time I heard his heartbeat, seeing him for the first time after nearly thirty hours of labor was amazing.  The child for whom we prayed had come and I was ecstatic.  Today I remember.
A month ago, I stood and watched while my firstborn son became a dad to his beautiful gift of Grace.  I was there when the couple became parents and watched the amazing transformation from two to three—the birth of a family.  And soon, we will dress his little one up in red and lay her on the same green quilt under my tree and give thanks for her birth.  My little boy has grown into a strong man who loves and respects his wife and daughter and works hard to provide and care for them.  I am so proud of the person he has become—a man of integrity, honesty and hard work, a kind soul.
But tonight my thoughts are lost in the wonder of that night thirty-one years ago.  We prepared for childbirth but nothing can even begin to prepare an individual for the thrill of becoming a parent.  It is an exhilarating and terrifying experience and one that is overwhelmingly about love—love that is complete, total and all consuming—an immediate love between parent and child, the fruit of love between lovers.  But my happy thoughts are mixed with sorrow for the family that began with the birth of my firstborn has been torn apart because of the actions of another.  Our family is like a boat lost from its moorings and struggling to stay afloat in the angry waters of a perfect storm.  All that we believed in and treasured has been challenged and broken by betrayal.  So tonight I weep.
I weep because the man I thought I knew and certainly loved betrayed our children and me.  I weep because the dreams I cherished when we became parents have been destroyed.  I weep because my children weep.  I weep because I feel sorrow and compassion for the young mother, who once was me, with hope and fear in her heart.  I weep because I now know how her “storybook romance” turned out—that her prince became a frog.  I weep because holidays will never be the same; birthdays are forever altered.  I weep because my precious granddaughter will never know grandparents who are a complete marital unit.  I weep because the family I thought I had has been so drastically and forever changed.  I weep, wipe my tears, blow my nose and then weep some more.  Tonight I weep.
I sense there will be many more days of weeping as we end out this year of horrendous imposed change and loss.  In a few days I will remember the day I took vows as a bride and became a wife.  I am sure I will weep then.  Then Christmas will come.  Last year we were all together in the city on the bay—our last as an intact family—the last family portrait, last gathering, last celebration.  Christmas Day will forever be the big “D” day—when he asked me for a divorce and I spent the day in my darkened room sobbing into a pillow to stifle my screams.  After the first of the year, my youngest child’s birthday will arrive. Last year her father and I celebrated together with her; this year will be different—she and I will weep.  And then we will stop and remember the day our lives came crashing down with the shattering of our front door.  And we will recall the horror of police cars, handcuffs and mug shots.  I’m sure we will weep as we pause and remember.
“Life breaks and falls apart,” so goes the song.  Cruel words, cold hearts, broken vows and shameful choices create deep wounds, lonely aches, bitter nights and wasted years.  These things I know well.  I am living in the “life breaks and falls apart” place.  I understand bitter and burning tears.  I am waiting for the promise of the song, however—that none of this will go unredeemed.  I’m waiting for the place where grace will be amazing.  The shattering I understand, the redeeming I am waiting for.

The cruelest world, The coldest heart
The deepest wound, The endless dark
The lonely ache, The burning tears
The bitter nights, The wasted years

Life breaks and falls apart, But we know these are
Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled, It may be unrestored
But when anything that's shattered is laid before the lord
Just watch and see, It will not be unredeemed

For every choice that led to shame
And all the love that never came
For every vow that someone broke
And every life that gave up hope

We live in the shadow of the fall, But the cross says these are all
Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled, It may be unrestored
But when anything that's shattered is laid before the lord
Just watch and see, It will not be unredeemed..  (Words by Selah)