Lost and Found


I write all the time…. in my head. Be it 2:30 in the morning, 7:30 in the shower, or 10:30 at break time, I am constantly telling my story – to myself. I almost wish I had a mini tape recorder that I could speak into so that when I did sit down to write a blog entry, I would remember all the brilliant things I wrote in my mind.

But I suppose to “hear” them out loud would make it all so real and part of me still doesn’t believe that it is real. It’s been almost 8 months since D-day…. The first of my D-days… I have three—Discovery day, divorce day and death day. I told my therapist I’m holding out for #4: Deliverance.

I spent the end of February in Austin. I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to be there but didn’t have a choice. Work was still work and I needed to be a part of this conference so I accepted that it was going to be me and 1200 of my “closest” friends for the next four days. It was also the first time I’ve been to be in a group of folks where the focus was not over a common personal bond such as divorce or death. I dreaded getting those personal questions…. Are you married, do you have children, and tell me about yourself.  

For months, I have struggled with who I am, who I was, and worse, who I had become all through what I believed was no fault of my own. It was easier for me to believe and to say that I was widowed, even though M & I were legally divorced by the time he took his life. But for whatever reason, it was just more soothing to my soul to identify myself as a widow.

So when asked, are you married? I would respond (probably with a sad look in my eyes) that my husband had died. After the obligatory look of sympathy I would get follow up questions such as did you have any children? which was always a painful trigger for me even when we were married. But the fact remained that my answer wasn’t the truth and each time I said it, it would bother me more and more. M wasn’t my husband anymore and I was lying, not only to others but to myself. Each time it would simply remind me that all I was doing was perpetuating the life of lies that had started so many months ago.  Needless to say, I built up Austin to be a battlefield of triggers that I expected to have to navigate.

Through a very funny set of events the morning that I left, I had a breakthrough. I wasn’t in a group setting led by a counselor, or in my one on one with my therapist or even in a prayer meeting surrounded by my church family,  it was me – dealing with a situation that I had neither prepared for nor expected. In this situation, I felt that I needed to explain why something was happening the way it was and without thinking my response was “I lost my husband last year and that’s why etc…” The ladies behind the counter accepted what I said and they didn’t look at me with anticipation of any further information. I smiled to myself the rest of the morning. I had found my proper response, I lost my husband.  It was honest, it was simple and it was all that was needed.

I had to say it just one more time in Austin when asked if I was married and it yielded the same response. Nothing—no anticipation of follow up information expected to be shared. It was oh, I’m sorry and then onto the next topic.

I lost my husband – so simple and truthful and yet only part of the truth. I lost myself too last year. I lost the person that I thought I was, the person I thought I would be till death, not divorce, do me part. However, in my loss there was a lot found. I found depression, I found anger, i found grief, I found confusion, I found lies, I found myself receiving advice—good and bad and unsolicited, I found myself searching—constantly searching. But it didn’t occur to me to find myself.

I have come to realize that I don’t have to identify myself as any “one” thing. I am not either divorced OR widowed. And I don’t have to be defined by what happened last year. I can be defined by how I choose to define myself. I am a kind person, a beautiful soul within a beautiful body, loved and forgiven by an awesome God.

Hello, my name is Z and I have found that I’m happy to be me.

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Forgiveness


Forgiveness is not pretending like it didn’t happen or like it didn’t hurt. That’s called lying. Forgiveness is a decision to release a debt regardless of how you feel.   Tony Evans

Can I forgive M for leaving me the way he did?

Can I forgive M for leaving this world the way he did?

and even moreso, will I forgive M for leaving me the way he did and will I forgive him for leaving this world the way he did?

Right now I feel a bit like Susan in Miracle on 34th Street as she repeated, I believe, I believe, it’s silly, but I believe. I just keep repeating I forgive, I forgive, it’s hard, but I forgive. I now realize that one day it won’t be hard and that’s when I will truly be able to say Yes, I can and do forgive M for everything, and it will be a miracle on my street when that happens but until then… I forgive, I forgive, it’s hard, but I forgive.

Mirror, Mirror


I have been more reflective lately. I’m not sure if its because the numbness is wearing off or if my normal routine is feeling more normal, but every now and again I’m brought back to the beginning by a question that cues up the memories.

Even harder than the question of Why? which I have no control over, I’m often asked by the professionals in my life the questions of possibility…. Do you want to harm yourself or others? Do you think about killing yourself? Do you think of hurting or harming yourself? Are you planning on doing anything reckless? 

When my therapist started asking me these questions I was just numb and answered too honestly. She made me sign a piece of paper – a commitment saying that if I found myself in a dark place that I would call a friend to take me to the hospital. I rolled my eyes, and even now if she makes reference to it I simply respond… it’s just a piece of paper. When the doctor gave me a “standard measure of depression test” and got to the question on harm, I told him I refused to answer.

In my divorce support group I expressed my frustration with the constant repetition of these types of questions. I guess what makes me so frustrated is the fact that there really is no right way to answer them. If you say No then you aren’t facing your real emotions. If you say Yes, then you’ve got to learn to control your emotions. M saw a therapist every week for the past five years and what purpose did the answer to those questions do for him. No signed piece of paper or affirmative response prevented him from picking up a gun.

When the pain hurts so much that to breathe take a constant reminder to exhale, you will think about every possible way to make it stop. That’s the answer I want to give — but finding someone who understands that level of pain to understand the intent behind that answer is harder that just dealing with the pain. What is the right way to answer those questions and is there a right way? M chose to make a decision that while to me seems negative, at that moment it was positive.. for him… at that moment it was the right thing to do… for him. But it was his choice.

Today for the 190th day in a row I made a positive choice… for me.

A Rocky, Stinky, Sweet State of Normal


My therapist told me to keep writing. I haven’t been faithful to that request. I have been doing a lot of stuff outside of the blog. I’ve been living. Living a new (another) life and finding what has proven to be a rocky state of normalcy for me. In hindsight, perhaps keeping up with the writing would make it feel less rocky.

I have started attending a divorce support group. Last year, I went to one meeting right after M left–it was the week they talked about anger.  I left that class and told the facilitator that it wasn’t the right time for me.  I didn’t “act” like what they showed angry to look like. I had anger in me and wrote about it, but I wasn’t fired-up angry, if that makes any sense. I certainly wanted with everything in me to hate M, to hate her and I didn’t, I couldn’t and I still don’t. I wondered and still do- what’s wrong with me that I don’t have any feelings of hate toward them? Wouldn’t THAT be normal? Don’t normal people lash out and break things and scream at  the top of their lungs until their face is red. Don’t they start fires and burn pictures of past memories and toss belongings onto the lawn, don’t they try to retaliate? And yet, I had none of those feelings. I would share that with folks and they told me I was numb, they told me it was because I understood the love of God for me and therefore could show compassion to those that hurt me. It didn’t make me feel normal to hear any of those things.

In one of my question and answer sessions with A, he came out and asked me one night, Do you blame God? I paused. I cried. I said yes.

I’m a “good, Christian girl” so of course I’m supposed to believe that nothing slips through the fingers of God without Him knowing or allowing. I’m to believe that God is sovereign and that nothing catches Him by surprise. And yet I couldn’t wrap my mind around how five years ago the Lord allowed me (and M) to lose our worldly belongings and have nothing but our family to cling to. Yes, my “family” was quirky but weird as it was to others, it was mine. It consisted of me, M, and our two dogs. Then in a matter of 13 months I lost one dog, then the other dog, and finally M. I lost all of “my” family. I remember saying to God, I don’t understand. What’s next? What else am I going to lose? What’s left to be taken from me?
I was scared to know the answer.

After a pause, A replied Yes, God allows everything but don’t confuse that with Him being the author of it.  And I realized that was an answer my soul could accept. I didn’t want to hear it but I needed to and I didn’t like hearing it anymore than I liked that M and her had an affair and continued to spread lies about me even after they got what they wanted.

I’ve realized I was angry but that my anger was misplaced and the reason it didn’t “look” like what anger should look like, is because how do you “show” anger at the Creator of the Universe when He is the one that I desperately needed comfort from? It’s like biting the hand that feeds you… you may not like what is being served for dinner, but if you’re hungry enough you will eat.  In all of this, I was still counting on the Lord to be my source of strength and to live up to the promises His Word says about having a hope and a plan for my future (Jer 29:11) and that I would have a table in the presence of my enemies and MY cup would overflow (Psalm 23:5).

In my support group, we are in week two of the “trifecta” (anger, depression, lonliness) and I realize that I’m never going to be able to slap or punch M, (and it’s not prudent to do that to her either) but I can be angry at M even though he isn’t here anymore. I have things I would like to say to him, things I want him to know but there are all sorts of ways to work through that. My display of anger isn’t so unusual–anger takes many different forms. Television’s depiction of anger in divorce was what was guiding me to believe I wasn’t handling this normally but I’m handling it as normally as I would handle things.

So my new sense of normal has currently got me in a raw state–like an onion–all my layers are being peeled back and I’m learning a lot about myself. I just hope that it’s not so stinky that I offend anyone, but rather, maybe I will be like a Vidalia onion… sweet and bloomin’!

Roses in Winter


M’s mom, JM, came into town between the Christmas and New Years holidays. How are there even words to comfort a mother who is there to collect her child’s belongings and settle his outstanding affairs?  The night she got into town, JM went to “her” house to see what was to be collected and to make a plan on how to get the items moved out.

The day of the move came and “all” of M’s items were out in the yard. I’m not sure who helped her move stuff out of the house or the garage but it was all on tarps and no one was allowed to go inside the house. Our church had several men with trucks and trailers ready to help move items to donate, to ship back to AZ, to trash, or to return to me. They were in and out of there within a two hour time frame with everything neatly wrapped up. Notice I put the word “all” in quotes above… there are still a few things that are unaccounted for– things that anyone that knew M knew he would never have parted with, but they are gone and the only assumption is that they are with her and allegedly her new boyfriend. (shaking my head)

It’s been three weeks and I finally went into the garage to see what came back to me. Each item could tell its own story, each item had a memory of its own… each item was so definitely M and my life together that where once I was so sure it was going to be easy to part with them, now I pause to consider the act of saying goodbye.

Some items will be sold, while others donated, many of the items will go to friends of ours….things that I think they would like to have to remember M. One that brings to mind so many memories is our GPS. If you read my earlier blog post you know that I sold my ring and purchased a GPS for myself since M had taken both of ours. I got a message about a week ago that B had located our primary GPS (which we had named Conway Twitty) tucked far beneath the driver’s seat of the car.  I thought Conway Twitty was gone for good but I’m so thankful that it was found and that its coming back to me. Conway Twitty took me and M on adventures all the way up the east coast as we visited his family in VA and NY, and it provided plenty of direction in GA as we learned new destinations. Additionally, stashed in M’s large roll away toolbox was found the handheld GPS that was used for geocaching. Appropriately enough we named that one Johnny Cache. These two items bring back smiles and I’m glad that even in the midst of all the craziness of what went on, that I can still find good memories and I can smile at the good times. I will keep Conway Twitty but Johnny Cache will go to friends that used to geocache with us–hopefully it will provide them memories of good times in the past and memories that their family can enjoy for the future.

I know M doesn’t exist in his stuff, but looking at all of it, its still easy to see him. Since M was no longer a daily part of my life, it’s still hard for me to believe that he is gone. I find that I repeatedly look at the death certificate for confirmation that he really is dead — I have a hard time typing that word, let alone saying it out loud.

When I was younger, I cross-stitched a small sampler, “Memory is the power to gather roses in winter.”  I’m not naive enough to think that my roses with M didn’t have thorns, but I’m thankful for a memory that finds the moments when my thorns had roses.

Whoomp There It Is


We all have friends who see through right through us. Some friends are gentle about it while others just come right out and call Bullshit.   My friend A is one that just calls it as it’s seen.  Our conversations usually start with me throwing out some questions, mostly pondering but inevitably A will always say… there seems to be more to that question and I usually respond with “No, not really, I was just wondering. A few more questions and more pondering from me, and another question from A, “What is the basis for these questions, stop beating around the bush.” And in the midst of just chatter, it finally comes out… “I feel alone” and A says…. “there it is.”

I think I feel alone because there just don’t seem to be enough of the “right” words (whatever those might be) to soothe my soul, to soothe my mind, to soothe my heart. Friends share words that offer me great comfort but I don’t know if I need twice as many words because I’m splitting my grief between the loss of my marriage and then the loss of M. I honestly don’t know.

I have another friend MB, she is more of the gentle side of calling bullshit. MB has been in the thick of it all with me since day one — 5 months ago. A few months back, before M passed away, MB and I were getting our nails done and she was remarking on how I was doing. Based on something I said she called me out on a way that I had been acting around her. And she was right. I do act differently around different people. Some I feel safe around to just be as I need to be in that moment, while others I feel are tired of hearing me talk about it and don’t want to be in the trenches. And I’m personally torn because I still feel as if I need to be/should be “over” this by now. Anyone that knows me, knows that when a task is at hand, I like to rip it apart and work right through it, sometimes, making up the solution as I go along.  Up until these past few months, I was always the practical one, now I tend to be more emotionally driven.– be it working through a problem because I’m happy, or sad, or motivated.

There really isn’t a sense of normal anymore, but then again, I don’t know what normal would look like. I get to make up my new normal now and I’m wondering if I’m ready for it? I guess that’s the big question during all of this chatter that I’m saying now…

Am I really ready to move forward?  and there it is.