Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On Raids and Handcuffs One Year Later

One year ago today I was awakened to the crashing sound of my front door being battered in, screams of "Police, hands up" and dark figures in my bedroom with guns drawn.  Just writing that sentence still takes my breath away.  Never in my wildest imagination could I anticipate that this could or would happen to me.  I sometimes thought of the possibility of the police executing a search warrant because of my ex-husband's online search for pornographic images of children.  But to break down my door with an army of officers with guns drawn?  This was preposterous to me then and still is.  My ex-husband was not suspected as a terrorist, murderer or rapist.  The use of extreme force in our situation stuns me still.

I pulled my robe around my shaking body as I was escorted from my bedroom to my dining room table, where my daughter was already seated with an officer at her side.  I waited while the "army" went to my husband's room and woke him up.  He had slept through the melee that intruded on our home prior to the sun coming up.  They brought him downstairs and sat him at the breakfast table where his interrogation began.

A detective introduced himself and waived the search warrant at me but refused to allow me to read it.  He began questioning my daughter and I about internet file sharing and when we asked him what that was, seemed satisfied that we were not participants in the crimes he was investigating.  So we sat for hours, with at least one officer with us at all times.  I had to ask for a glass of water, in my own home; I had to ask permission to go to the bathroom and then be escorted by an officer, in my own home.  I had to ask for my glasses, still by my bedside, I could not just go and get them.  I watched as hordes of officers tracked mud through my home--carting boxes in and out.  I was not allowed to have my phone until it had been cleared by the computer forensic team so had no way of reaching out to anyone.  This was America, was it not?  How could this possibly be happening to me.  It seems surreal still.

The detectives returned the next day and placed my ex-husband under arrest.  Standing beside my distraught daughter in our foyer, I watched as they placed handcuffs on him and listed the charges against him.  I watched as they walked him out the front door and placed him in the squad car. I watched as the car sped away and knew the familiar route they would take to the county jail, a short ten minutes away.  I watched, still in disbelief and shock.  For all my fears and concern about his involvement in child pornography, I never imagined this day.

The past year has been so difficult; his criminal case is still unfolding, our divorce, a nightmarish experience, has been finalized, and my kids and I have struggled to work through the devastation visited upon us.  Not often, but sometimes, I find myself seeing the experience through my ex-husband's eyes.  His career has been destroyed, his freedom is very much at stake, he is estranged from his children and he faces certain financial ruin.  I feel tremendous empathy for him, which is better than the bitterness and anger I have been consumed by for far too many months.

But today, I can't get the image of him being placed in handcuffs out of my mind; today the memories of the raid are so fresh and real and still traumatic.  When I remember the sweet man I thought I knew, I grieve even more for the very sick man he has become.  And I see the handcuffs as a symbol of the disease or obsession or compulsion of addiction that has bound him for most of his life.

Today I will pause and remember and then be grateful.  In the past twelve months, I have learned that gratitude has the power to demolish fear and anxiety and from a trauma perspective helps ground me in the present rather than in the memories of those traumatic moments.  Today I am grateful that the knot I lived with in the pit of my stomach for over three decades has disintegrated.  Today I am grateful for healing that is evident in my own life and in my children's lives.  Today I am grateful for life and possibilities, for the warm breezes that blow through my window and through my life.  Today I am alive and I am free, for that I give thanks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Under the Shade of the Tree of Self-Knowledge

My inbox today contained two posts from different bloggers regarding trees and knowing self.  Seems too much of a coincidence to ignore, particularly since I have spent much of the past days writing about just this topic. 

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan who writes of spirituality, wrote about St. Catharine of Siena, a church mystic.  She pictured the spiritual life as a large tree--the trunk of the tree is love, the core is patience, the roots are self-knowledge and the branches are discernment.  "In other words, says Catharine, love does not happen without patience, self-knowledge, and discernment."  Father Rohr goes on to say that "Today we have little encouragement toward honest self-knowledge or training in spiritual discernment from our churches.  We prefer the seeming clarity of black-and-white laws.    By nature, most of us are not very patient.  All of which means love is not going to be very common." (Richard Rohr, Radical Grace:  Daily Meditations, pp. 184-185.)

Then a favorite poet sent this verse today:

under the trees
"it had been a lifetime for others --
and now she wanted to know herself.
sitting under the trees,
she asked herself how she was feeling
and she began to really listen."
(terri st. cloud, Bone Sigh Arts)

Knowing self . . . loving self . . . having patience with self . . .  discerning truth about self in relation to others and the world . . . kind of foreign concepts to most of us.  It is preferable to rely on the old "tried and true" or "black-and-white" laws or truisms.  Deny self . . . others need to come first . . . too much knowledge is not a good thing . . . and on and on it goes.

And yet the Golden Rule tells us that we are to love others as we love ourselves.  Seems to me we can't truly love others until we learn how to love ourselves.  And loving self is far more than just an attitude or pithy saying, it flows from knowing self, having patience with our foibles and humanity and accepting who and what we are.  It requires listening to our inner voice--connecting with our gut and finding the time to really KNOW.  Truly knowing and loving self is a vital prerequisite to truly knowing and loving another.  But so often we get this backwards, preferring to spend more time getting acquainted with another than truly knowing ourselves.

Like Maggie in the Runaway Bride we acquire a long string of failed or broken relationships because we spend so much time trying to convince others in our lives that we are exactly what they want and need.  We focus on the other to the exclusion of ourselves and then are shocked when our relationships fail to live up to our expectations or hopes.

So today, I'm going to kick my shoes off, spread a blanket under the shade of my tree of self-knowledge and just listen.  I'm going to ask myself deep questions such as "Who am I?" "What do I really want to do with my life?"  "What dreams have I lost somewhere along the way?  "What do I value and believe?"  "Who do I want to be when I grow up?"  And . . . I'm going to listen, really listen to my own heart.  And I am going to offer patience, compassion and love to my fractured and broken but incredibly beautiful and worthy self.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Circuitous Route to Acceptance

Dates and anniversaries mean something to me and I am facing some big ones in the next weeks.  It has been a momentous year--one that I hope never to repeat.  Approximately one year ago a cataclysmic event brought multiple imposed changes to my life--changes that I did not want, did not anticipate and could not prevent.  I find myself in a pensive mood most days as I reflect back on the unbelievable events of the past twelve months.  Often the year just seems surreal; the shock of all that has happened stuns me still.

In the immediate aftermath of the raid on our house and my ex-husband's arrest on charges of possession of child pornography, I walked around in that wonderful state of denial.  I was not denying the reality of what had happened but I was numb to the pain of this new "normal."  I recall saying that "numb is wonderful," that is until it wore off!  I have circled around and through the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining and depression have been my constant companions.

Frankly, anger has been my favorite stage.  Anger is just so empowering--it puffs me up with strength and righteous indignation.  I do not feel weak and powerless when I am angry; I don't feel the helplessness that I felt when the police broke down our door before the sun came up on a cold February day, when I am angry.  Unfortunately anger masks the deeper emotions underneath--emotions that are not empowering and that can quickly plunge me into the depths of despair.

I read recently that blaming anger is a "negative way to keep the old person around." (Carnes, P., Betrayal Bonds, p. 142).  It creates a negative intimacy with someone who has betrayed us.  As long as I angrily blame my ex-husband for the devastation that he brought on our family, I am still connected to him in a negative way.  Ouch.

So, I am learning to let go--to open my fist and release my anger about the past, to allow it to fall from my fingers like sand.  And as I let go, acceptance comes.  "Acceptance is about fully acknowledging this reality and my feelings about it." (Reflections of Hope, p. 137).  Like tumblers falling in place in a lock mechanism, acceptance is sinking into the deepest part of me.  But acceptance means that I must grieve more deeply what I thought I had in my life. "To finally grieve means to accept that your life did not turn out the way you wanted, the way you deserved or the way it should have." (Carnes, P., Betrayal Bonds, p. 142).  And grief is such hard work.

But with acceptance comes peace.  Each week I recite the Serenity Prayer with my recovery group:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  With acceptance comes serenity.  There is still pain, there is still grief and I am certain there will be anger and depression again.  But I am appreciating this circuitous route to acceptance.  I am appreciating the gift of serenity that only comes through acceptance.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Tyranny of "Not Enough"

In a world obsessed with flawless beauty, wealth, popularity and intelligence
the message received is always that of "not enough."
Not enough money
Not enough beauty
Not enough intelligence
Not enough popularity.
Always not enough
Always missing the mark
Always falling short of expectations.
At home, at work, at church and at school
the message is ever "not enough."
In friendships, marriages, and work relationships
always "not enough."
It's like a curse written on my forehead

I was not enough in my home of origin.
The rules always changed so it was impossible to be enough.
I was not enough in my marriage
But then I did not know that it was impossible to be enough for him.
The churches I grew up in told me that I was not enough spiritually;
Taught me that I was less than a worm.
Made sure I knew that I was not holy enough for God.
Religious workplaces have told me that I am not enough
Because of my gender
Or because of my last name.
My culture tells me that I am not enough . . .
Not thin enough
Not popular enough
Not pretty enough
Not sophisticated enough
Not successful enough.
It's like an epitaph written on my yet-to-be-needed tombstone:

My head knows that these values and messages are wrong.
But oh my heart bleeds today with my "not enoughness."
I struggle to feel enough
It is a monstrous effort.
Because the list of 'Not enoughs" is endless.

We live in a culture of scarcity
The fear of never enough is pervasive.
It's time for a radical revolution
It's time for each of us to stand in our own enoughness.
We are enough simply because we are.
The revolution has begun in me
But I need to be reminded when I begin sinking
In the quicksand of "not enough"
I need you to pull me out before I am sucked under;
Just as you will need me when you get caught in that wretched swamp.
We need each other to fight against "Not Enough."
He is a formidable enemy.
And he does not give up easily.

I want to wear a necklace that simply declares
A strand of shiny gold around my neck with the engraved words "Enough" 
Dainty but strong; beautiful but bold; elegant but determined.
It would be my personal statement of enoughness
My personal declaration of war on the tyranny of not enough.