Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hope for the New Year

In 2011 I "accidentally" fell into the practice of giving each year a name as a way of establishing my hopes or goals for the upcoming year.  I knew that I was facing a divorce but had no idea of just how traumatic life would become in the coming weeks but my name for 2012 established my belief or hope that while I might be a single woman again, I would never be alone.  This phrase derived from my faith that God was a very real presence and that He would be with me throughout the year, no matter what it might bring.
2012 ~ Never Alone
2013 ~ Provision
2014 ~ Prosper, Transform & Delight
2015 ~ Healthy Connections
2016 ~ Living Loved
I almost forgot about this practice in the joy and festivities of the past holiday season, which in itself is a testament to the level of healing that has been accomplished in my life.  In publishing my last post, however, the word for 2017 became obvious.  And in a world that grows increasingly chaotic and fearful, it is an appropriate word.  My word for 2017 is HOPE.

Hope refers to an optimistic attitude, a feeling of trust or anticipation of good things to come.  It is a desire for something specific and can either be a noun or a verb.  We look through the cinders of what was once our beautiful life in the HOPE (noun) of finding a treasured memento or we are HOPING (verb) for our perpetrating partner to change.  But unlike more positive emotions we may experience such as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, inspiration, awe and love, hope comes with a unique characteristic.

According to Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, a social psychologist, hope "comes into play when our circumstances are dire--things are not going well or at least there's considerable uncertainty about how things will turn out." (Psychology Today, March 23, 2009)  She goes on to assert that "Hope literally opens us up.  It removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture.  We become creative, unleashing our dreams for the future." (Ibid)  The opposite of hope, then, is fear.

Hope demands action--it requires that we do something.  It offers an opportunity or invitation for us to choose optimism over pessimism, to trust rather than to fear and to believe that this circumstance is not our defining moment.  It urges us to trust that this situation is not our story's ending.  According to Dr. Fredrickson, this choice is vital.  "Hope and fear are not mere words or facial gestures.  They're deeply felt neurochemical stances toward our current circumstances--stances that alter our outlooks, our actions, as well as the life paths that unfold before us." (Ibid)

I can vividly recall the sense of despair and hopelessness that I felt in the days and weeks after my door and life came crashing down.  I felt powerless and very fearful of my future.  I was easily triggered from the trauma I had experienced and terror kept me awake at night.  Hope seemed elusive but inexplicably, it rose up in my core.  I chose to hope even when my circumstances remained unchanged.  In a sense, hope was all that I had left and I hung onto it like a drowning person clings to a proffered lifesaver.

It seems to me that we all need a healthy dose of hope about now.  Fear closes us down and causes us to cower but hope requires that we open ourselves to the future and to finding creative solutions both personally and corporately.  It is time to figure out how to rebuild and repair our broken doors and hope offers the key.  So for 2017, I choose HOPE.  Won't you join me?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Scrambled Eggs on Christmas Morning

As I stared at the bubbling eggs cooking in the skillet Christmas morning, my mind immediately flashed back to Christmas morning five years ago.  My ex and I had returned from a family Christmas trip the evening before and were alone in our cold Midwestern home.  Our refrigerator had turned into a freezer while we were gone and the only thing I could muster up for our Christmas brunch that lonely morning was some semi-frozen eggs that I scrambled.  It was after our make-shift meal that my ex told me he was tired of being in a marriage where he could not be his true self and he wanted a divorce.  It was a dark, dark Christmas day.

But this Christmas, exactly five years after that sinister day, I scrambled eggs for my newly reconstituted family.  Four new members have been added to our group in the past five years, including my new husband, a daughter-in-love and two adorable granddaughters.  As our family gathered this Christmas, there was laughter, raucous play and teasing but no tears.  We are healing, we are recovering.  Hope is alive and well in our family.

Each week, it seems, I connect with yet another partner or former partner of a perpetrating pedophile.  While the details of each story may be slightly different, the general themes are so achingly familiar.  The shock of betrayal and the horror of discovery are overwhelming and grief incapacitates even the strongest of women.  Unless you have lived through it, it is impossible to grasp how comprehensive and devastating this journey is.  Nothing makes sense anymore and yet so many confusing elements of life with a pedophile begin to come into focus.  The one commodity, however, that is scarce with each one is hope.

Learning that you have been or are married to a pedophile robs you of a future you had believed in as well as the past memories you treasured.  Every memory is now tainted with the knowledge that the one you were/are married to is not who he claimed to be.  Hope for the future fades quickly and despair becomes a constant companion.  My story and the countless others who have come before me is one of hope rising from utter despair--our narratives declare that as long as there is breath, there is hope.

While I felt like my life was over five years ago after scrambling those eggs, it wasn't.  Those were dark days and darker ones were on the horizon--days when doors would come crashing down and my ex's secrets would be broadcast on the nightly news.  But like the seed nestled in the dark soil waiting for the warmth of spring hope was alive, even when I felt hopeless.  Life was not over and my little family was not destroyed.  Hope called forth resiliency and strength--it was life-giving.  And it is something I gratefully pass on to those who feel robbed of hope by the betrayal of their perpetrating partner.

Scrambled eggs on Christmas morning remind me that eggs must be broken and beaten, much like the promises tying two individuals together when pedophilia is present.  But it is in their breaking that they yield the hope of a delicious and nourishing meal.  I regret that my children had to experience the heartbreak of their father's betrayal and of our divorce.  But I do not regret the freedom from the impact of pedophilia that we now enjoy.  I am grateful for the hope we now experience and for the opportunity to pass it on to others who are where we once were.  I think I might just go and scramble some more eggs.  Happy New Year and hang on to hope, dear ones!