Friday, November 11, 2016

The Art of Grieving

Someone recently asked me to elaborate on the importance of fully grieving any loss, particularly those associated with having been married to a perpetrator.  I was intrigued by her description of the grief process as an art.  Images of artists painting a masterpiece or fashioning a pot of clay sprang to mind.  Art, I've learned, is a messy process--paint splatters and drips, clay hardens under fingernails and clings to any surface it comes into contact with.  And like art, grief is unpredictable, time consuming and messy.
Grief is Unpredictable

The inspiration for creative artistic expression does not appear on command but rather comes when the time is right--when the muse strikes.  We've all heard of the writer with writer's block and I assume the same phenomenon happens with other artists.  And so it is with grief--we cannot orchestrate when it will arrive--like the wave crashing onto the shore, it comes in and threatens our sense of stability and balance.  It does not come on our schedule so often catches us by surprise.  But grief, like the wave, ebbs and flows.  When it floods into our hearts and minds, we remember that it does not come to stay, it will flow out into the deep once again.

Grief Takes Time

Artistic masterpieces take time to create.  It took Michelangelo fifty-four months to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  It was a huge investment of time and yet his work is still revered and admired today.  To fully grieve a loss, we must be willing to invest the time necessary to grieve.  Too many of us are so uncomfortable with grief work that we try to shortchange the work--stuff the pain, deny or minimize it.  We prefer to complete a simple paint-by-number piece rather than invest the time and allow grief to create the masterpiece it is capable of creating in our life.  Losses that are not fully grieved come back to haunt us when we encounter a future loss.  Like the stubborn clay that sticks to everything it comes into contact with, the pain of our unresolved or ungrieved losses come along for the ride when a new loss is incurred.

Grief is Messy

Have you ever envied the person who can cry gracefully?  Dainty tears streak down a face without gathering makeup or mascara, eyes do not grow puffy nor does the face become red and splotchy.  This is not me!  There is nothing dainty or neat about my appearance when I have been crying.  I am a mess.  The work of grieving is messy.  It is not linear, circular or logical.  It just is.  We often cycle back through the same phase again and again.  There is no right or wrong way to do the work of grief, it simply must be done.  Friends and family may be uncomfortable with the messiness of our grief; they may urge us to "just get over it" and we soon learn that not all help offered is helpful.

So what are the guidelines that can help us during a season of grief?  Here are some things that have been helpful for me:
  • Learn to lovingly contain grief.  Give yourself time and space to experience the pain and to grieve but then lovingly and carefully pack it away for another day.  This is different from stuffing or denying the pain; it is learning that you can contain it to an extent.  I like to imagine packing my grief away in a white box with a large red ribbon and placing it on a prominent shelf in my closet, with the promise that I will return and retrieve the contents another day.
  • Practice extra special self-care during periods of grief.  Be sure that you eat regular meals, stay hydrated, get plenty of rest and do those things that soothe and comfort you.  It may be watching a funny or sad movie, taking a long hot bath, talking to a friend, listening to music, praying, journaling or going for a walk.  Be gentle with yourself and give yourself losts of tender, loving care.
  • Lower the expectations you have for yourself during a seson of grief.  Carefully manage those expectations so you can avoid "shoulding" yourself, i.e. "I should . . . " or "I shouldn't be . . ."  there is no guidebook, no right or wrong way to navigate this season.
  • Invite someone along for the joruney.  Again, remember that not everyone who signs up for this assignment will be able to help.  You only need one or two individuals who know how to be present with you when you are grieving.  Avoid individuals who need you to comfort them;  this isn't the time for that.  It is so easy to get lost in the grief--you need a midwife to coach you through the really tough times.
  • Remember that as long as there is breath, there is hope.  This is not the end of your story!  There is a plan and God is always redeeming the pain in our lives.  The things that Satan meant for harm, He is turning for our good.  Hang onto hope, however small.  Nurture it and allow its warmth to invade the wounded and broken places of your heart.  

The Japanese, it turns out, have discovered a perfect artistic expression that illustrates the art of grieving.  Valuable ceramics that have been broken are repaired using a resin with gold powder in it.  One artisan puts it this way "Many Japanese have come to cherish the imperfection of a broken pot repaired in this way, seeing it as a creative addition and/or re-birth to the pot's life story. . . when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful:  SOURCE

We all experience times of breaking, losses that shatter our lives, hopes, dreams and aspirations.  Allowing the art of grieving to work its way into the jagged edges of our breaking can create a far more beautiful masterpiece of our lives that we were before the shattering, a stunningly beautiful new work of art!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

For Better or Worse: Really?

After nearly four decades, I can still remember making these promises to my ex-husband:
For better or worse,
For richer or poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
Til death do us part.

While the vows seemed to encompass all of the possibilities that life can bring--wealth, poverty, sickness, health, good times and bad times--they don't really address what happens to a marriage when pedophilia is present.  Maybe the last line should be amended to read "Til death or pedophilia do us part."  How many brides would agree to that promise?

Aside from the very serious implications of criminal behavior towards a child, pedophilia impacts every facet of the relationship, even if miraculously the pedophilia is contained and no illegal activities take place.  I recently described it this way:

Here's what I know about child pornography or pedophilia from a personal and professional perspective.  It is progressive--what titillates and excites today won't work tomorrow so more graphic material must be found.  It is all-consuming--it will demand more and more of his time and energy.  It requires secrecy and hiding, which will spill over into all of his relationships.  Even when he seems to be present to you and your children, he isn't completely--his mind is absorbed with maintaining his secret life or reliving what he has watched or viewed.  It will eventually render him incapable of normal relationships and work productivity.  One day he will be caught and you and your children may be in harm's way when that occurs.
If I could give advice to that pregnant 23 year old who was me when I first learned of my ex's behavior, I would say "Run!"  I am remarried and the layers of grief and pain that are now healing are rooted in my marriage to a man who was and is a fake.  I have over three decades of junk to heal from--times when I was blamed and accepted the blame for his criminal behavior, times when I felt less than as a woman and wife because I could not satisfy him after I "grew up."  I still struggle with disrupted sleep because I learned as a 23 year old to stay alert during my sleep to the potential cry from one of my children.  I struggle with trust and with shame  I struggle with fear and anxiety.  I live waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I live with trauma responses.
I went on to note that pedophiles have a different relationship to truth than do most people.  The deceptions inherent in living a life of secrecy and of hiding your true self, colors every day and impacts every facet of a marriage.  My ex and I once spent days, if not weeks, arguing about what constituted a lie.  For most of us, this is pretty straightforward and simple--a lie is something that is intended to deceive.  My ex argued that it was not a lie if it could be construed to be technically true, though the intent was to deceive.  It was maddening!  But for someone whose entire life was a lie, his definition didn't seem too important or too big a stretch for him.

Trust is foundational to the living out of those vows and if trust is broken, the vows have been broken.  It is astounding how easy it is for some perpetrators to discard those vows and see them as meaningless.  They never became meaningless to me but I was dumbfounded to discover how little my ex-husband thought of them.  Maybe they were never meaningful to him in the first place.  I don't know.

If marriage is based on promises that are made between two people, and one of the individuals has no intention of keeping the promises, is it a marriage? Is it possible for a pedophile who is intent on hiding his true self from his partner, to honestly make such promises?

On the anniversary of my divorce, I can truly say that pedophilia brought the worst of times and left me below the poverty line.  The actions of a very sick man who was unable to love or cherish anyone other than himself destroyed all that I thought we had built together.  So death would have been an easier separation than this.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Living Loved: Random Musings on Loving Self

As is normally the case for me, I'm reading three books at once and it occurs to me that there is a common theme to be found in all three.  Brene Brown provides an intriguing definition of love in The Power of Vulnerability.  Brown says that
"Love is not something we give or get but something we nurture and grow; a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them.  We can only love others as much as we love ourselves."
Hmmm . . .

She goes on to assert that behaviors that damage love include shaming, blame, disrespect, betrayal and withholding of affection.  If loving self is a prerequisite to loving another it seems logical that shaming, blaming or disrespecting myself impacts my love of self  OK, that hurts--a lot!  I think all of us struggle with self-shaming, blaming and disrespect towards self; all of us abandon or betray ourselves at some point, especially if we are impacted by addiction or dysfunction.  These behaviors do not lend themselves to love but rather destroy or damage love.

Brown's research indicates that knowing ourselves is important but that how we treat ourselves is more important.  I learned the Golden Rule as a child but was never taught that in order to know how to treat others in a loving manner, I had to learn how to treat myself lovingly.  So much of religion focuses on self-denial or self-abasement and teaches that self-care is selfish but not so, I'm learning.

Knowing, accepting and loving self are major themes in Glennon Doyle Melton's memoir titled Love Warrior.  She chronicles her struggles with alcoholism, promiscuity and bulimia and poignantly describes her crushing desire for acceptance, connection and belonging.  By the end of middle school she had learned that the only way to survive was to send out her "Representative" and to keep her true self hidden and protected.  Alcohol and risky behaviors helped to numb the pain of not having her true self be seen and accepted.  Like Glennon, we often believe that acceptance and connection hinge upon fitting in, but according to Brown this is the primary barrier to true belonging.  The thing we long for the most--belonging, that innate human desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves--is sabotaged by our attempts to gain approval and acceptance by fitting into a prescribed mold.

Elizabeth Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her bed at knife-point and and held for over nine months.  She details her experience in My Story. Immediately after her abduction and every day of her captivity, she was brutally raped.  She describes her horror, despair and sense of being incredibly soiled, repulsive and not worthy of love or belonging after her initial rape.  She believed that God and her parents could never love her again.  She describes several events early in her captivity that changed her view of what had happened to her and that enabled her to believe again in God's extravagant and unconditional love for her.  Early in her ordeal, Elizabeth made the decision to do whatever she had to in order to survive.  She had come to believe again in her intrinsic value and refused to accept the view that her rapist had of her.  She was able to transcend the daily assault to her body and sense of self by seeing herself as someone worthy of love and belonging and who was loved lavishly and without restraint by God.

After her rescue and reunion with her family, her mother held her and whispered these words to her:
Elizabeth, what this man has done is terrible.  There aren't any words that are strong enough to describe how wicked and evil he is!  He has taken nine months of your life that you will never get back again.  But the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy.  To move forward with your life.  To do exactly what you want.
You be happy, Elizabeth  Just be happy.  If you go and feel sorry for yourself, or if you dwell on what has happened, if you hold onto your pain, that is allowing him to steal more of your life away.  So don't you do that!  Don't you let him!  There is no way that he deserves that.  Not one more second of your life.  You keep every second for yourself.  You keep them and be happy.  God will take care of the rest.
This became the mantra of her recovery.

So loving myself is a prerequisite to loving my spouse, my children, my family of choice or family  of origin, my friends, my neighbors and my God.  Loving self means that I "Don't shrink; don't puff up, but just stand my sacred ground." (Brown)  I show up and allow myself, the real me and not my "representative" to be seen.  It means that I do not abandon or betray myself and that I root my intrinsic value in my existence and in God's extravagant love for me rather than the values or opinions of others.  It means that no matter what happens to me, my past or pain does not have to define me or my future.  I can choose health, recovery and yes, even happiness.  I can choose love.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Living Loved After Betrayal

When I named 2016 the "Year of Living Loved", as is often the case, I had no idea how hard the year would be.  It seems inevitable that driving a stake in the ground and setting such an ambitious goal would be the perfect set-up for multiple challenges to that goal. And they have come--in droves. Living loved requires letting go of the wounds of the past--of those times when we were not loved for who and what we are.  It requires daring to believe that love is possible, that betrayal of trust is not a given and taking this plunge into belief can be downright terrifying!

It seems like nearly every week I hear from yet another partner of a pedophile.  The stories are gut-wrenching and tragic.  One common theme is the shock of discovery and the dawning of the realization that the man they love and have built a life with is not who or what they thought he was.  Whether he is alive or dead, in prison or walking free, still married to them or divorced, the devastation and totality of this betrayal is unfathomable.  How does one even begin to recover after learning that her husband and lover preferred sex with a child to sex with her?  And how does one begin to love again?

Living loved, as I am learning, must begin with loving one's self.  And while this is a big enough challenge without adding in betrayal and pedophilia, it can become overwhelming to the devastated partner.  She may blame herself, believing that if she were just _____, he wouldn't have turned to a child.  She may hold herself responsible for his crimes, or feel that somehow she should have known.  It is incredibly difficult to love one's self after marriage to a predator!  And if the discovery involved a public scandal, she may feel the wrath of a community, church or the judicial system.

Living loved is the dawning realization that at the core of who we are, there is love--it is God within.  No, we are not gods, but as image-bearers of God, underneath all of the pain and wounds of our past, there is love--love deeper and wider than we can imagine, love that is pure and abundant.  Living loved requires tapping into that love so that we can love ourselves and others from a source that is uncontaminated and without end.

My husband often quips that he is "waiting for the other shoe to drop."  That expression pretty much sums up the stance that one takes after trust has been betrayed or love not been forthcoming from significant others in our life.  We expectantly wait for evidence of betrayal or that we really are not loved as we thought we were.  It is a trauma stance and as survivors of incredible interpersonal trauma, partners of pedophiles have to work on laying down that expectation and dare to believe that love is possible, that faithfulness and loyalty are not outdated concepts, and that we can trust again.

But we trust with eyes wide open.  We trust with a strong connection to our second brain--the gut.  Most of us can look back after the devastation of discovery and recall times when we thought something odd, or felt that something was off in our partner's behavior or attitude.  That was our gut talking to us, we just did not have enough information to take it seriously or we discounted it and didn't pay attention to its warning.  But now we pay attention and listen attentively to that intuitive nudge.  We choose to trust until we have evidence that a person is not trustworthy.  It is a gamble for sure but the only other choice we have is to remain in the devastation of our betrayal, to become bitter and lonely women who fear love and connection.

Brene Brown asserts that we break in community so we must heal in community.  This year I am discovering the brutiful work of healing within an intimate relationship, that community of two.  It is both brutal and beautiful!  It takes courage and grit and most of all, patience when triggers come.  It is a daily choice to trust and to believe and to recommit to both my marriage and my own personal healing.  Because I am learning that living loved is a blending of both--it is living in authenticity and truth, showing up and allowing myself--that true self, that core of love--to be seen and loved.  And the result?  The result is glorious and transformative and is worth the work and grit that living in that sacred space demands.

Living loved is refusing to allow the pain of the past to dictate my future; it is a fight that is definitely worth the struggle!  It is a goal I will continue to press towards, long after 2016 melts into 2017 and my hope is that you will as well.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Broken Hearts

Someone that I love dearly recently experienced the breakup of a romantic relationship and it is entirely appropriate to say that she has had her "heart broken."  there are many things that break a heart--death, rejection, abandonment, betrayal, a wayward child or spouse, disappointment and loss, to name a few.  Relationship loss is probably one of the most devastating ways a heart can be broken.  The depth of grief felt is a testament to the depth of the love that was lost and to the sense of hopelessness over destroyed dreams.

Not many of us are fortunate enough to get through life without at least one heartbreaking experience.  Have you ever met someone who seems to have no capacity to grieve with those who grieve or to offer compassion to those who are hurting?  Chances are, they have never truly experienced heartbreak, or if they have, they have numbed or denied the pain of the experience.  They remind me of Job's friends when it comes to their inability to tolerate or understand the pain of one whose heart has been broken.  Contrary to what most assume and certainly to what my loved one currently feels, there is great value in experiencing heartbreak; in the grander scheme of things there are some benefits and opportunities the experience offers:

Hearts broken open have a larger capacity to love than those that have never been broken.  It is through heartbreak that we more thoroughly open ourselves to the hurts and pain of another.  We develop more empathy and are less black and white, which makes us more accepting and open to others.  And that openness and compassion increases our capacity for love in a profound way.  When a glass breaks, it loses its capacity to hold a liquid.  When a heart breaks, its capacity to hold another, to love and to empathize increases rather than diminishes.  It becomes a more useful container than it was before it broke.

Hearts that have been broken open offer an opportunity for deeper self-reflection, transformation and growth.  Heartbreak offers us a glimpse of the contents of our internal world.  When a full container is broken, the contents of the container spill out.  When one's heart is broken open, we can more clearly see the "stuff" that is inside--maybe "stuff" we were not aware of or had forgotten about.  Prior losses that have not been fully grieved, insecurities, distorted thought processes, coping mechanisms that are no longer adaptive are just some of the "stuff" that may flow out of a broken heart.  Heartbreak creates a mechanism and motivation to once more undertake the work of healing and transformation but at a deeper level.

Broken hearts do heal but on their own timetable; there is no rushing the process.  When a heart heals after having been broken wide open, it has an enlarged capacity to give and to receive love, a deeper self-awareness, and greater compassion and empathy for others who similarly hurt.  Healing a broken heart is not easy work, however.
  • Healing involves choice--not all who experience a broken heart choose to allow the pain to transform them but rather transmit that pain to all they come into contact with.
  • Healing requires a change in perspective--rather than focusing on the specifics of the breaking, the healing heart focuses on the growth potential the breaking offers.
  • Healing demands surrender--surrendering the right to exact revenge, demand justice or hold onto bitterness.  Surrender involves accepting those things we cannot change and holding it all--the circumstances and pain surrounding the heartbreak and the future--with open hands rather than clenched fists or tight death grips.
  • Healing becomes redemptive when the heartbroken seek to reach out to others in compassion, kindness and love.  The heartbroken become the very best of healers--wounded healers
No one would voluntarily sign up for the experience but when heartbreak inevitably happens, a unique opportunity presents itself.  Maybe we all need a bit more heartbreak?  Maybe the world would be a kinder, gentler place if we allowed pain to transform and change us into channels of peace and compassion for others?  Maybe heartbreak is the solution rather than the problem?  Maybe, just maybe?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Year

This is my 100th blog post!  While I had planned a different sort of post for this milestone, I think this is appropriate.  Thanks for journeying with me on this road to healing and activism.
Thirty days hath September
April, June and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone
Which hath but twenty-eight, in fine,
Till leap year gives it twenty-nine.

In the quest to keep our calendar year synchronized with the astronomical and seasonal year, an extra day is added to February once every four years.  Adding a day to the year is a corrective measure since the earth does not orbit around the sun in exactly 365 days.  A number of superstitions and traditions surround this four-year phenomenon, including:
  • A woman can propose marriage to a man on February 29
  • Marriage and divorce should not occur in a leap year
  • Couples should avoid having a baby during leap years
  • Natural calamities abound in leap years
  • Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable during this time
The last leap year was in 2012 and it was on February 29, 2012 that my life was drastically and dramatically altered.  Before the sun was completely awake that cold winter morning, the police broke down the door of the house I shared with my daughter and now ex-husband in their quest to serve a search warrant.  They had been investigating my former spouse for a number of months, documenting each time he downloaded child pornography.

There are things I will never forget about that morning:
  • the crash of wood splintering
  • my daughter's scream of terror
  • thundering footsteps of officers with weapons drawn headed for the bedroom I was in.  In their eagerness to secure the scene, they ran right past the room the target of their investigation was sleeping in.  With the help of Ambien he was oblivious to the terror my daughter and I were experiencing.
  • opening my bedroom door in an attempt to get to my daughter and seeing so many men in black, shining a bright light in my eyes
  • my embarrassment at only being in a nightgown and feeling the need for a robe
  • the humiliation of being forced to sit with bedhead and morning breath for hours while the sanctity of my home was invaded
  • the impatience I felt at the chatter of the officers assigned to sit with my daughter and I
  • maintaining eye contact with my terrified daughter, trying to communicate love and strength to her
  • her stoic and resourceful presence even after they had forced her to the floor at gunpoint when they entered the house
  • my helplessness at no longer being able to protect her from the knowledge of her father's secret and criminal behavior
  • my screams of rage and terror when the officers finally left and I was alone in my dismantled life and house

Scene from "The Impossible"
These are the things I will forever associate with leap year, specifically leap day.

In a technical sense, one could argue that today is the first anniversary of our world explosion day but I'm glad I am further down the road of recovery now than I would have been one year after that fateful morning.  This blog has been part of my solitary healing journey; it has provided a venue for processing what happened to me.  And it has proven that even the most heinous pain can be redeemed.  I have seen that redemption process in the many women who contact me or leave comments because they are in a similar life explosion.

February 29, 2012 was a pivot day for me.  It was preceded by 33 years of marriage to a man who had a secret identity but who worked hard to create an illusionary facade as a successful family man and professional.  The days that followed were filled with trauma, betrayal and scandal.  This event did not begin and end on that 366th day of 2012 and while we are healing, it will always be the defining day in our family history.

My story is not just about a marriage that went south or a husband who misbehaved and was caught.  It is also about organized religion's failure to respond appropriately, colluding therapists, the criminal justice system's zeal and then compromise and society's discomfort with the fact that predators do not fit the comfortable caricature we have created for them.  My story is not an anomaly, unfortunately.  The major systems involved have fatal flaws in them when it comes to really protecting, supporting and defending victims, including secondary ones, against predators.
As I reflect today on that event four years ago, I grieve.  I grieve that while much as changed in my personal life, little has changed in our societal response to predators.  I grieve that so many other families are experiencing their own world explosion days silently and with little or no support.  I grieve that very few are willing to get in the cesspool of pedophilia and addiction with wounded and betrayed partners and children.  It is lonely and frightening, stinky and messy--not a suitable place for good, law-abiding, church-going citizens.  I grieve that so many of these cases seem to be occurring in churches and that the response is often exactly that of the predator--minimize, deny, rationalize and deceive.  I grieve for the women who are made to feel responsible for their husbands' deviancy, for the innocent children impacted either directly by the molestation of the predator or by his betrayal of trust as their father, or both.  I grieve and I truly believe that Jesus grieves as well.

When will we get it right?  There is too much at stake to keep hiding our heads in the sand--too many lives are being decimated.  Our children are vulnerable--not just in leap year but every day of every year.  We need a multi-pronged approach to this insidious problem and that must include the predator's partner and his children.  It is time, way past time.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Pretty Bird in an Ugly Cage

I wrote this piece a number of years ago for a dear friend in recovery from a devastatingly abusive marriage to a minister.  Recovery from any form of abuse is difficult and it takes time--the amount of time differs for each individual.  As I have walked through my own days of recovery I resonate with this piece even more.  The abuse we know often seems safer than the freedom of the great unknown.  My hope for each of us is that we find our wings and begin to do what we were created to do--FLY!
She didn't know that marriage to Prince Charming would come at such a cost to her freedom.  She was accustomed to flying and the bars of the ugly cage he had prepared for her were shocking and frightening.  She learned to survive in his ugly cage by singing prettily to soothe his rages and by dreaming of what it was like to fly.  She remembered the feel of the wind beneath her wings and the exhilaration of freedom to choose her own destination and destiny.  But dreaming and singing were all she could do because the bars restrained and constrained her world until each day's goal was just to survive somehow, the ugliness and meanness of his bars and tether.

Her freedom from the ugly cage was costly but she paid the price and relished the opportunity to fly once more.  She thought about the myriad of choices facing her and the many destinations that she now could freely set course for.  But the choices and options overwhelmed her; somehow life was simpler in the ugly cage--just sing, dream and long for what could not be realized.  The paralysis that confinement had taught her did not drop off as easily as the door to the cage had opened.  Sometimes when no one was watching she ventured back into the cage and slept in the comfort of its confinement.  The world was large and while she now had the power to make her own choices and to determine her own destiny, that choice was frightening and the cage offered comfort.

So, like the circus elephant that tethered as a babe learns to walk only in the circle his chain allows and does not venture farther than that tight circle once the chain is removed, she flies but in small circles.  There is safety and security in small circles because it is easier to flee back to the safety of the cage.  Flying longer distances away from the cage means potential danger and risk and that is too frightening.  Where will she sleep?  What if she cannot find food?  What about the predators out there looking for pretty birds?

So she spends her days longing for the exotic lands that beckon her; she dreams of the possibilities but continues to feather her nest in the shadow of the ugly cage.  When opportunities come to test her wings once more and to really soar, she finds reasons to stay in the shadow of the cage.  She spends her days singing prettily and flitting about another cage of her own design, still dreaming of the possibilities and desiring to fly but continuing to tether herself.

How I long for the pretty bird to fly once more; to decide on a destination and to set her course.  I long to see her stretch her wings, chart her course and rid herself of the weights that she has designed to keep herself grounded.  She was not meant to live life in a cage; she was designed to fly.  She has the freedom, she has the ability, she has the longing but she is still flying in small, tight circles around the ugly cage.  The dynamic her "Prince Charming" began continues to work even though he is no longer present.  Fly little bird, fly.  Throw off the tethers; stop just dreaming about life's destinations. Spread your wings and soar.

As an addendum--the friend who inspired this is flying--she is soaring in the glory of freedom and I count it a privilege to have her in my life.