RECOVERY

Divorce Stole My Ability to Write

And left a list of things I no longer have.

brick wall with the words "the end"
Photo by Crawford Jolly on Unsplash

The stress of divorce and not knowing how I’ll pay my bills has taken away my voice. Or in this case, my words. My mind draws a blank when usually I can’t get to the laptop fast enough to get it all down before my thoughts are replaced by new ones.

All I can think about now is what I don’t have.

  1. The first thing I don’t have is security.  

Honestly, security is just an illusion we buy into anyway.  We’re never as safe as we think we are. I was married to the one man on earth who I thought would never cheat on me. I felt completely safe in that knowledge. Then I found irrefutable proof he was seeing someone else.  

He works away so I’m sure there have been countless others. He’s obviously very good at hiding things. The proof was gone a couple of seconds after I discovered it.

Unfortunately for him, I’m pretty quick with my screenshot abilities, so his denial of the truth meant nothing to me.

The security I thought I had was a joke. My castle was built of sand and could’ve crumbled at any time. I just didn’t know it.

2. The next thing I don’t have is money.

Not enough, anyway. When I booted him, I booted the one who has made most of the money in our household. I have a good job, but my earning potential is about a quarter of his. I have benefits he doesn’t have, like good insurance, retirement, holiday pay, and weekends off. I just don’t have a paycheck that meets the needs of the household.

3. I don’t have the luxury of knowing what to call my husband.

We’re at the awkward stage between married and not married.  What is that? I don’t know. So, when I talk about him (and I do, a lot), I have to say his name when I’d rather not. He’s not a real person to me anymore. He’s the guy who betrayed my trust and broke my heart. Since I won’t call him the things he deserves to be called, and I can’t call him my ex, I find myself stumbling over any mention of…him.

4. I don’t have protection.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter how old you are. When you become single, you become prey. My social media has blown up with friend requests from men who immediately jump in my inbox trying to “get to know me.” Please. Dude. I’m not even divorced yet, and, oh yeah. I don’t care. Go away.

5. I don’t have basic respect.

He’s dating her in our small town in front of everyone and it’s like a huge slap in my face. I have the choice of pretending not to be aware of it or to not care that he’s flaunting it.  I’m not sure I do care for caring’s sake. It’s embarrassing for me the way his narcissism drives him to do something that lowdown and dirty. He obviously wants me and everyone else to know he traded me for her. And he traded way down, God forgive me for saying so.

The least he could have done is picked someone BETTER than me.

6. I don’t have my family—not all of it.

My step kids aren’t going to keep coming to see me, and I love them like my own. It’s going to be awkward for them, and I hate that. It’s not fair that they should bear the brunt of their father’s bad decisions.

I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when they find out who he’s with now. That’s not going to go well.  As a matter of fact, it’s going to go extremely badly.

Out of all the things I don’t have now, I’ll miss my stepchildren the most.

Divorce is cruel. I never would’ve chosen to go this route if I could’ve done anything else. Cheating is a deal breaker. I didn’t sign up for that.

I’m sure a lot more things will occur to me as I get my thoughts back. A break-up leaves you stunned and disbelieving, grappling for a way to build a new life out of the fragments of the old one.

The betrayal hurt, but I’ve survived much worse. Now it’s time to regroup and get on my feet again. My life isn’t going to be what I thought it was. My plan is to make it better, despite what he did. His moral failure didn’t destroy me. I’ll pray it doesn’t destroy him either.

Even though divorce is taking some things from me, it is also proving to be a blessing in some ways.

woman stepping off a small cliff in freedom
Photo by Drew Colins on Unsplash
  • I have the chance to start over.

All those dreams he kept trying to crush can be pursued even more now! I don’t have to be anything but who I am. I can reach as high as I want to and not worry about threatening someone else’s identity in any way.

  • I have freedom.  

If I want to stay up all night writing, I can do it without making any explanations to another person. I can go wherever I want to go for however long I want to be there and not be worried someone is going to question my every movement (irony, given the fact he was the one cheating). I answer to myself, which is great because I’m fully capable and have always been a responsible person. I didn’t get married to have a parent or be under anyone’s control.

  • I have self-respect.

Not staying in a relationship where I was not being respected and where he was being unfaithful was the best decision I could’ve made for my life. I can look at myself in the mirror and know I’ve done the right thing. I can be an example to other people who may be watching to see how I’ll react.

Knowing I didn’t choose the pseudo-security a more financially beneficial position afforded me makes me hold my head a little higher even while I hunt for change in the bottom of my purse. It is way better to be broke and have self-respect than to be financially well off without it.

  • I have “me” back.

Out of all the things this break-up has given me, this one is the best. He didn’t break me. The parts of me that were hidden for a long time came bursting forth in a single moment of clarity, when I realized I didn’t need another person to validate me.

God has always taken care of me. I struggled for years thinking I had to take care of myself or grasp the security I found in a bad relationship.

All I really had to do was surrender the outcome.

I can’t control the universe. I didn’t make him cheat and couldn’t have prevented it. It was his fault, not mine. It’s true I don’t have some things because of it, and I’m struggling for words right now. They’ll come back. They always do.

In the meantime, I’m going to kick back and rest, thinking of all the things I’ve gained.

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grief, MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

Live Your Life or Plan Your Death

About depression and a pet cricket named Elvis

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

When I was a kid, I had a pet cricket named Elvis.

Mama said you can’t really have a cricket for a pet. The truth is, I never saw him once, but Elvis sang to me every night, so I reckon he decided to keep me instead of the other way around.

On a normal summer, a cricket chirping in your bedroom would be downright annoying and might even make you want to jump off a bridge if you couldn’t figure out where he was, so you could step on his head. I’m sorry to say I’ve stomped on quite a few crickets in my life, plus a whole lot of other bugs I won’t name here, for fear of offending some bug-loving, revenge-taking, article-reading slight acquaintance of mine.

I tend to hang with a different kind of crowd, but I know you need to watch what you say and do sometimes.

The deep end is a whole lot closer for some people than it is for others, if you know what I mean.

The summer Elvis sang to me was a different kind of summer than most. Mama’d run that old ceiling fan, swearing the whole time that she hated it. It was how we kept cool though. Never bothered me. I liked the noise of it.

When the fan was on, the curtains in my room would billow inward and create a little tent on my bed. I liked to sit in it, and it was from there that I ran a library for the neighborhood kids. I had plenty of books, and I figured it might do some of them at least a little bit of good if they’d read one or two of them. It sure couldn’t do them any harm.

If I didn’t have my little library, I doubt I’d have talked to another kid all summer long. I rarely stepped out of my room.

Most of my waking moments were consumed with writing poems about killing myself and trying to build a new nose out of orthodontic wax. I hated my nose.

I was never sure where the jokes started, but they started in my own family.  My nose got made fun of a lot. Mama said I had “Daddy’s nose,” and the boys would all snicker because I guess Daddy’s nose was supposed to be obnoxiously big or something. It looked like a regular nose to me, but I fell in with the jokes because I knew I was supposed to. I compared my nose to one of my brother’s and we always argued about whose was the biggest.

It’s all I could see when I looked in the mirror.

A nose without a face, just sort of floating there. The one time I experimented with acid, I looked in the mirror and my green bulbous nose was pulsating and growing. I never touched the stuff again.

My nose isn’t the reason I was preoccupied with planning my own death though. I’m not sure why I was sad. I just was. I think I was born that way. It’s taken me a lifetime and unimaginable grief to find joy. Nothing in this world makes any sense. I don’t expect it’s supposed to.

After Samuel died, I was caught up in fantasies about dying again.

Samuel was my baby boy. He died when an intrauterine blood transfusion failed due to doctor error. The grief was unbearable. I stopped writing poetry after that. Occasionally, one comes to me, but not often. Some spaces can’t be filled with words.

I remember sitting on the tractor with Johnny while he baled hay and wondering what it would be like to fall under its wheels. Other times I’d be driving down the road and press the accelerator hard, ready to ram the car into something, but then I’d ease off and live instead.

Later, after I found Mikey dead, there didn’t seem to be a reason to stay on this earth. I was just done. He was only 16 years old. A mother should never have to bury her baby. Mikey made three for me. It was too much grief for my heart to process.

For months, hiding in a coat pocket in my closet was a bottle of pills, ready for me to take myself out of this world.

Mama knew the state of mind I was in, so she went tearing through my house, emptying bottles. She didn’t realize she got rid of my depression medicine. She never found the ones in the closet.

My other kids made it impossible for me to leave, but I carried those pills around with me for a long time before I got enough courage to pour them out.

When I finally got around to cutting myself, I don’t think I had intentions to die.

I think I just needed to hurt myself. I needed to be punished for not being perfect, for failing, for everything. It’s a twisted way of thinking, but everything I was doing at the time was a direct attack against my own life. Too much drink and too many bad choices led to a meltdown.

Recovery for me started on my knees.

I have a lot of things I wish I could say to the young girl back in that room letting Elvis sing to her–things about her nose and how precious life is. I’d tell her to enjoy every single moment and to dance and sing every day like it’s her last one on earth.

You never know when death will come around.

But I know she’s figured it all out for herself. I also know she’s alive and well, and finally made her way out of the darkness.

I don’t know exactly when it was that I started planning my life instead of my death. My nose is the same as it’s always been—just a nose, not too bad. It’s certainly not noteworthy.  I’m proud I have Daddy’s nose, but I hardly ever notice it. If a cricket were to come sing to me in my bedroom now, I’d smile as I remembered my little friend, Elvis, from days gone by. For a minute, I’m sure I’d enjoy the song. Then I’d search him out and stomp his little head, because you can’t really have a cricket for a pet.

They’re annoying and might make you want to jump off a bridge or something, and I’ve got a life to live.

RECOVERY

I Don’t Know How to Do Any of This Stuff

I’m just over here stumbling my way through life.

This probably isn’t even a surprise to anyone who knows me. If you look at my track record, you can tell I’m not getting anywhere fast. Not really.

I’ll tell you something else.

I’m directionally challenged.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Let me explain.

I can walk into a place (for example, a store at the mall), and when I walk out, I choose to go the exact opposite direction of the way I meant to go. Why? I have no idea what direction I was originally heading.

I’m not observant.

I don’t notice things like landmarks or stores I may have passed already. I’m too caught up in my own thoughts—too wrapped up in my world to notice that there’s another one apart from me, unless it includes flowers or other brightly colored objects that grab my attention.

It’s like I just wander around aimlessly, hoping I end up where I thought I wanted to go. And that pretty much sums up my entire life.

It even sums up my writing. This was penned sitting in the dollar store parking lot. I stopped to get cheese and dog food when I realized I didn’t have my life together and knew I needed to get that on paper, instead of doing what I meant to do.

I’d love to say that my insight and self-awareness were leading me to a new path of intentionality, but I’d be lying. How would I know?

I always think I’m going in the right direction, even though I seldom see a thing that indicates the truth of that.

It’s usually only after I end up in some strange place where I never intended to be that I realize I should’ve taken a different road altogether.

“So,” I think, “I should plan better,” and I make a 60 page to-do list. About two items in on the doing side, I get overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of tasks I’ve created for myself and quit the whole thing. This is further complicated by the fact that I’m a compulsive notebook buyer, and each one is filled with similar lists of things I will never accomplish.

The great thing about having the notebooks with me is I get to write random nonsense and interesting ideas in them, and they’re always handy if inspiration strikes.

Otherwise, I find it hard to justify the fact that I’ll never measure up to those spiral dictators. I don’t give up, though.

One of my favorite blundering-through-life techniques is a little thing I like to call INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

This is where I begin to watch videos, listen to podcasts, voraciously read books, blogs, and everything else I can get my hands on. These help me plan a million and one no-fail ways to get my life back on track based on what everyone else says works.

Guess what? This doesn’t help. I get so much stuff in my head that I couldn’t make a rational decision to save my own life!

Besides, who’s trying to make decisions? I have all this wonderful INFORMATION to sort through.

Sometimes it crosses my mind to wonder if I’m the only one. Do other people plan out their lives and work those plans, or do they just let life happen to them and hope and pray for the best?

I mean, being perpetually lost is NOT the worst thing. I’ve stumbled into places and people I would’ve never encountered had I had a legitimate goal in mind, or at least a goal that came with a plan.

There’s been a bountiful amount of beauty on my spontaneous and confusing journey.

I’ve learned so many things I would have been cheated out of in an ordinary goal-driven, plan-based life.

I’m extraordinarily grateful for my experiences and the savage joy accompanying them, even as I daily attempt to narrow my focus and thereby create some kind of directional path I can follow.

In fact, I’m going to work on that right now. Well, almost right now.

First, I’m going to go find a flower to pick.

Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

I noticed daffodils are blooming, and they’re my favorite. Nothing smells sweeter, and one will look pretty in my hair.

I’ll take my notebook with me just in case.

grief, RECOVERY

Six Simple Truths About Grief

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

I talk a lot about grief and recovery. I probably always will. My son was 16 when I found him dead on the couch one October morning. You can’t go through that unscathed. You don’t ever get to a place where you stop talking about it. 

https://medium.com/the-emotional-mess-2/i-found-your-body-426643165555

Love always comes with the risk of loss.

Death happens just like life does. It’s inescapable. I’m not the only one who grieves. I’m constantly learning things that I want to share, hoping it may help someone else.

Here are six simple truths I’ve picked up along the way.

1. It’s deeply personal.

People get caught up in thinking that because I’ve lost a child, I should be an expert on grief—especially since I seem to have survived it. I can’t count the number of times someone has minimized their own grief in a conversation to me, as if acknowledging the extent of  their own pain somehow makes it seem as if they aren’t aware of mine.

They use phrases like, “But it’s nothing like losing a child…”

Mikey, photo by A Bridges

You’re right. It’s not.

Your grief is your grief, just like mine is mine. It’s not “lesser than,” it’s just different.

We all go through things in our own way.

Sorrow is personal and indescribable. The bereavement you feel is unique to you. You don’t have to throw me a bone in the midst of your crippling loss. I already know how I feel. I don’t need your reminder that you know too. I’d like for you to give me the chance to be there for you.

2. Sometimes being there is all you can do.

I don’t have a collection of magic words to say because I’ve been through hell and back. The truth is, I’ve been through hell, and I’m not back. I’m never coming back. I carry hell with me every day.

Let me explain the loss of a child to you:

“When someone asks me when my son died—it was yesterday, it was a thousand years ago, it’s right this minute, it’s tomorrow.

He will never stop dying.

When a person who experiences such profound sorrow says, ‘You never get over it, you just learn to live with it,’ think about this.

They never stop dying. We have to live every second of every day with that.”


It’s an every day for the rest of my life kind of thing. I can’t always summon up the courage to tell you that grief never really ends.

All I can really do is be with you in your sorrow, hold your hand, wash your dishes, and take out your trash. I can listen when you tell me the same story over and over again, because I know there won’t be any new stories to tell. I can hold you when you realize you will never have another opportunity to take a picture or say, “I love you.”

3. There’s just no answer for some things.

God laid it all out in the Bible for us, so it shouldn’t come as any big surprise. Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time to be born and a time to die. Hebrews tells us that we are appointed once to die. Psalms 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

God knows when our time to die is. We don’t.

It hurts like hell to look at the world and realize some people live to be 100 but you have to bury your 16 year old.

Or your husband. Or your best friend. Or your sister. It doesn’t seem fair or natural. That’s because it isn’t.

4. Death isn’t natural.

That’s why if feels so off when you grieve for someone. How many times have you thought, “This can’t be real?”

Sure, God knew how it would all play out from the beginning, because He made us and He gave us the free will we would use to self-destruct. He knew, but man made the choices. I don’t have to remind you of what happened in the Garden. It’s LITERALLY the oldest story in the world.

You know it by heart. If you don’t, you can find it at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 3.

We’re still making those choices every day.

I remember the second I realized that Adam and Eve didn’t pay the ultimate penalty for bringing death upon all mankind. You can disagree if you want to.

Picture this: they threw immortality away for the frailty of humanity. They were looking to be gods and the consequences were dire. Immediately, they knew they messed up. They realized they were naked—out in the open where they were vulnerable to attack from every kind of enemy, targets for pain, fear, and death. All of these were new to them. They had no protection other than their Creator.

What did God do? Immediately He covered them in animal skins, so they weren’t naked anymore.

He covered their sin and their shame. There were consequences to their actions, but He covered them, physically and symbolically. It was a picture and a promise of the Lamb that would be slain to cover the sins that created death.

5. All hope lies in Jesus Christ.

What I know about grief—what I REALLY know about grief—is that I couldn’t face one moment of it if not for the fact that God sent Jesus to redeem our lives.

I put my hope in this because it’s all I CAN do.

If I didn’t know there was something beyond this life, I couldn’t go on.

I remember in the early days of horror when I was still very crazy. I went running down the dirt road, screaming at God, “Where were You? I did EVERYTHING I thought You wanted me to do and You still took my son!”

I’d wrestled with my faith since Mikey died. How could a loving God allow death at all? How could God even exist? I said I didn’t believe. I was looking toward the sky and screaming when it hit me.

“I’m screaming at God. I’m screaming at God because I know He’s there.”

I learned that grief is not enough to take away the love of God. God has been with me from the beginning. He has been the constant of my life ALL my life. I didn’t lose faith in Him. I was just mad at Him because I didn’t understand.

I still don’t understand.

What I know is that I don’t have to know WHY anymore. God always provides everything I need to get me through, even when I can’t see it. He’s there, even when I think I don’t believe.

6. The death of someone you love feels like the worse thing you’ll ever go through because it is.

It can leave you confused, lonely, cold, and empty. The light at the end of the tunnel is an eternity where there is no fear of loss or death. It doesn’t exist. There will be no more tears. It’s a promise from God to those who believe in Him.

I won’t have to visit a cold stone to talk to my child. God has prepared a place.

Hope to see you there.

grief, RECOVERY

Side Effects of Tremendous Loss

Grief sucks.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

I’m going to go over a little bit of what happens when you have to say goodbye forever to someone you love. First, a bit of context.

Shock.

I lost my kid.

Well, I didn’t exactly lose him.

Horror.

I know where he is. I hardly ever go there. There’s something disturbing about standing on a bit of cold ground while your flesh and blood decomposes beneath your feet.

Unrelenting Pain.

Even more devastating is the crushing sensation in my chest when I drive up to the cemetery. It doesn’t just happen in that moment though. It comes unbidden in unsuspecting scenarios for the rest of your life.

I mean, you know the holidays will be hard. That’s expected. And birthdays. Dates of departure are devastating, but you know those days are coming and can kind of half-ass prepare for them.

It’s those other days, days when things are good. You’re happy and laughing and….

Guilt.

How the hell could you possibly laugh when your child is dead? What kind of monster are you, anyway? Thoughts like these come to your mind and even though you know they’re irrational, you think them anyway and you can’t help it.

And it hurts so bad. Worse, you know it always will. The lump that you keep choking back in your throat is always going to be there. You’re never not going to cry when you hear the song that YOU chose for the funeral because it was a favorite.

Hopelessness.

You can’t fix this. The very idea of that is overwhelming. You feel helpless because you ARE helpless. Looking down the road at life you wonder if you even want to go on at all. Several times you decide that you don’t.

Sometimes you can count on one hand the reasons to stay. I’ve been there.

A few years ago, a young man in the town next to mine committed suicide. It wasn’t long after that his mom laid across his grave and did the same.

Heartache.

I spent an entire day grieving for her, even though I didn’t know her. Or maybe I was grieving for me. I knew what drove her to it. I live it every day.

Isolation.

When it’s your kid who dies, you separate yourself from other mothers. The ones who have never lost a child. They don’t know. You don’t want them to ever know.

You can pick out your worst enemy on earth, and you won’t wish this on them.

This grief is something you hold close.

But you DO want to talk about your loss. You want to talk about WHO you lost.

It doesn’t take you long to realize that people are tired of hearing it. They’re also AFRAID to hear it.

It’s as if the whole world thinks that talking about death means it will come to call.

Maybe it does.

Cold Loneliness.

I always hear the gravel fly from under my truck tires on that final stretch to the stone. I remember walking that road a hundred times. I also remember always ending at the cemetery and not being able to walk back. Someone always had to come get me.

Numbness.

How can everything be so intense when I’m so numb?

It’s like standing under a tree hearing a leaf fall without being able to move to try to catch it.

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

Reality can’t be real when you bury your baby.

Insanity.

Looking back, I realize I’m lucky. I walked through the woods so many times with a gun in my hand. Utterly crazy. Hunters would come down from their stands and lead me out. They didn’t seem to mind that I interrupted their hunting. I don’t know for sure. We never talked. I only talked to Mikey.

One day I stumbled upon a skunk. I was carrying a .22 rifle that day. No matter how crazy a person gets, you always know you don’t want to smell like a skunk.

I realized it was either him or me. He fell over like a cartoon character. I walked around him, probably giving him more space than he needed.

It felt good to kill something.

Then I found the couch. It wasn’t hidden very well. I would have done a better job of it myself. Something like that, you don’t leave to chance.

We called those woods the “forty.” It was forty acres of good hunting land. Full of deer, squirrels, and mosquitoes. Apparently, it had the occasional skunk as well.

The first thing I saw when I came through the pine sapling thicket into the clearing was that couch.

 It had been in my living room just a month before when I found my son on it, face down and stiff. Already starting the rigor process.

Anger.

I unloaded my gun on the couch. Killed it dead, the way it killed my son. My thought process wasn’t lining up with reality. After I shot it, I laid on it and cried myself to sleep. That’s how they found me later.

The couch was burned and buried after that. I never saw it again. It’s a good thing. I would have killed it again.

Disbelief.

You should never have to find your child’s body. It should never be cold and stiff. Your child should not die. It’s a travesty. It’s an injustice. It’s the worst thing that can ever happen to a Mama.

I feel all of this again as I pull up to the cemetery.


Tinnitus.

My ears have been ringing since the day the keening started. The doctors call it tinnitus. I know it’s the echo of my own voice screaming for the life of my child.

Another side effect of a morphine overdose I didn’t take.

Flashbacks.

Call it PTSD or call it whatever. I have flashbacks. Who wouldn’t? Not as many as before, but they still come. Usually when I’m driving, which is inconvenient at best and life-altering at worst. I don’t drive to the cemetery much.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

It triggers me.

Anxiety.

I doubt it will ever go away. Terror has a strong grip on me. I wake up at night with my heart pounding and all I can do is call out to Jesus. No one else can help.

I’m afraid when my kids are out of my sight and I’m afraid when they’re with me.

He died on my watch.

My watch is scarier now. I will never not check to see if my kids and grandkids are breathing. I always think about it.

All night long.

Insecurity.

As a Mom, you think there’s an instinctive way that you’ll know when your kids are in danger. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that instincts can fail you. I didn’t know. You don’t always know. I question my ability to be a parent and keep my children safe. I question my grandchildren’s safety when they’re with me.

Children can die. The headstone in front of me is proof of that.

Side Effects.

I’ve only gone over a few of them. I wish that life and death were an easier process, or maybe I don’t. What makes it so hard is also what makes it worth it.

Love comes with a potentially high price tag.

We don’t know how things are going to turn out. It would be less risky to never take a chance—refuse to love—but life wouldn’t be worth living.

It would be a simple choice to never have children or truly love another human being because of the chance you may have to bury them one day. To make that choice is to choose to live without the greatest gift of your life.

Even knowing what can happen, I will always choose to love. It’s hard to say it, and hard to know it, but it’s infinitely worth the pain.

RECOVERY

How do you handle life when everything goes wrong?

Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth getting out of bed.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Two flat tires.

That’s how my day started. I was driving to work on these fantastic Louisiana roads, and the best I can tell, I went in a pothole.

I’m not sure why it took out two of my tires on the sidewalls, but there were a couple of huge holes looking back at me. This is certainly not how I meant for my morning to go. I had higher hopes than that when I crawled out of bed.

It seems like bad luck comes in waves. First, I caught the hubs cheating. Okay, that’s awful—maybe not even comparable to a flat tire or two. In the end, that one will cost me a whole lot more.

This tire thing was just like icing on the cake.

For a few minutes, I thought about hurling myself into traffic and taking my chances with one of the eighteen wheelers barreling down the road. Luckily, I gathered my wits together and called a tire store instead. $421 dollars later, I was fixed up. They even gave me a ride to the office while they worked on my vehicle!

So, what DO you do when life gets crazy and overwhelming?

One answer (and not a very good one) is to isolate.

Isolating means to withdraw from other people and try to get through everything on your own.
It can also mean to withdraw from other people and AVOID dealing with anything.

Often when we isolate, we use distractions or substances to keep us from acknowledging our mountains and doing the work it takes to overcome. This causes more problems to pile up until our lives become completely unmanageable. That’s 12-step talk, for anyone who hasn’t been through it. Recovery is an amazing thing.

Isolation is NOT the preferred solution but it’s something I’ve tried and made bigger messes with before.

Another choice that you could make (and I’m guilty of this one as well) is VENT.

Everyone knows what venting is, but here’s an explanation anyway.

Venting is when you seek validation, approval, or sympathy by telling your side of a story (often with dramatic emphasis) on social media or to another person or group of people. This is my own definition, just like the definition for isolating, but it’s basically what venting boils down to.

Here are some ways that venting can be damaging:

  • Feelings often change, but once the spoken or written word is out there, it’s out there. You can apologize, but you can’t unsay it. Someone can forgive you, but they’re unlikely to forget.
  • You can hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe you mean to rage about someone and at the time, it doesn’t make you feel bad (even though it should). Collateral damage happens. That person may have children, parents, grandkids, or other individuals in their life that you just victimized unintentionally with your words. It hurts to hear bad things about people you love, whether it’s true or not. It isn’t fair to throw shade on everyone even if a certain person is shady and you want it known. Please think twice before venting!
  • Venting often damages the venter more than the ventee. I don’t think that’s proper terminology, but you get my meaning. It makes you look bad. JUST DON’T DO IT.

It’s okay to cry.

It may be hard to go through a bad time without crying. So, don’t. There’s a lot to be said for the cleansing and healing effects of a good, blubbering, crying session!

Get it out of your system.

Just don’t make it a long-term event. Cry, then stand up, wash your face, and move on with life!

Community.

Photo by Phil Coffman on Unsplash

I find it useful to plug into a community of like-minded people when going through the rough times of life. Ideally, you already have a group like that. If you don’t, seek one out. Look for people that you know or know about who believe like you do, worship like you do, and who will hold you accountable for getting your life back on track.

The truth is it’s YOUR LIFE!

How you live and whether you end well is ultimately up to you. You can hang your head in defeat and quit trying, or you can shake it off and get back behind the wheel.

For me, the most important thing I can do is lean on God.

He’s my constant whether things are going good or not so great. He’s my shelter in a storm and the rock I’m standing on. No wind will blow me away, and no waters will drown my soul if I cling tightly to His hand.

My faith isn’t what gets me through; it’s the One I’m faithful to.

This is why two flat tires and an impending divorce didn’t defeat me today.

There will always be potholes. And there will always be God.

RECOVERY

Cheating Often Leads to Drastic Decisions

At least I didn’t cut my bangs.

Photo by Cata on Unsplash

I also didn’t burn all his stuff in the front yard, although the thought did cross my mind.

Radical things happen when I’m upset, but so far, I’ve avoided any major destructive action.

I just got out the paint.

Breakups are hard. It doesn’t matter if they’re “what’s best in the long run” or not. They’re freaking hard.

So much to consider.

Who gets what? What to do about this and that. Hiring a lawyer when you just found out you’ll be broke for the rest of your life. Yep, they’re hard all right.

Especially when you get to the age where you think all that’s left is to ride out the status quo until you skate into glory.

I’ll even venture a little further out on this limb and go ahead and say breakups suck even when you have quite a few under your belt.

More than a couple decades of life ought to be enough to prepare you for the devastation divorce brings. Sadly, it isn’t—especially when it all kind of came out of the blue.

I’m not saying I’m not ready to move on. Truth is, I’ve already cut the ties, both in my mind and elsewhere.

One day I was married and losing my mind because I discovered he was cheating on me. I was mourning the loss of trust and love. 

The next day I woke up DONE.

It happened just like that.

I thought we would work it out. I was searching for answers, reading everything I could get my hands on about how to “get over” your spouse cheating on you. Angry and hurt, I felt helpless and lost, even asking myself what I did (or didn’t do) to make him cheat.

And I prayed. I prayed for myself mostly, but I also prayed for him and for us. I looked EVERYWHERE for answers and there weren’t any to find.

So, I quit.

Maybe because of the silent treatment he was attempting to use to manipulate me into doing what he wanted me to do.

It had always worked before.

I’d get enough of it and apologize to him for everything I could think of that I’d ever done wrong in my life. I’d be so relieved and grateful when he would suddenly act as if nothing was wrong.

This time, the silence was nothing but a welcome relief from all the lies. He tried using the same worn out technique to control me AFTER he CHEATED on me!

It’s possible that he genuinely didn’t realize that I had proof of his infidelity. The lies were the same. I just didn’t believe him anymore.

He thought it was “business as usual.” I wondered how he could still try to manipulate me after what he did.

How do you even dare?

For the first time, I could see his disrespect was intentional. Sounds moronic, I know. I was just so used to making excuses for him that I believed them myself.

It’s so obvious now.

What a delicious game he played with me for so long! But to what end? What did he hope to gain? Did he set out just to hurt me? What would be the point of rendering our entire marriage obsolete?

Instead of ending up with a devoted wife, he will likely end up alone. If not alone, he will surely settle for less than he had.

I loved him.

And I trusted him. I wanted the best for him.

Then, I caught him cheating and I LET HIM GO!

And painted my bathroom.

Photo by melissa mjoen on Unsplash

Looks good too.

RECOVERY

Today the World Became a Lesser Place

But it didn’t happen without a fight.

I didn’t know Brenda very well. I saw her only three times in my life, twice at church and once at her father’s funeral. But if you ask me how I can speak with authority on this, I have an easy answer. She was LOVED by so many people that I love.

It took quite a while for the cancer to take her body. It never beat her spirit. She fought a hard fight, and she did it her own way.

She was a warrior.

When you’re a kid and you have the whole world in front of you, death seems so impossible! If it’s even a thought in our minds, it’s fleeting. And even then, it’s about something besides US, like maybe a frog that that got run over and fried on the pavement. Never a human, never ourselves. We’re damn near invincible, or at least that’s what our hearts would have us believe.

I can imagine Brenda skipping down the sidewalk, blowing bubbles with gum that cost a nickel at the little mom and pop store up the road. Cancer never entered her mind. She believed in love, life, laughter, and possibilities. The very idea that she would one day leave her own children motherless wasn’t even a tiny consideration.

Photo by Anita Austvika on Unsplash

Yet now there is this gaping hole where Brenda used to be.

Even though she was equipped with guts and strength and FAITH so strong, there finally came a moment when she didn’t have enough of herself left to stand and fight the war that was waged against her body. She accepted the freedom that eternity offered. Her heart was right. Her mind was good. It was her body that failed her.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Even though everyone fought to keep her here, when it got closer to the end and pain wracked her small, exhausted body, her family prayed she’d just let go and stop the fight. She wasn’t going to win it. There was obviously a plan bigger than ours. A kingdom stood ready. Her king was waiting elsewhere.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the value in the glass you’re looking through.

In fact, it would make more sense to hurl it to the floor and watch it shatter. To rail at God and ask Him, “Why?” This was no ordinary life you took this time, God! This one was full of hope, promise, and joy. She was a MOTHER, a DAUGHTER, a SISTER! She TRUSTED you! Her whole FAMILY believes in YOU.

I hear the faint sound of wind blowing. Beyond that, there’s only silence.

And Jesus walked on water.

He healed the sick, made the blind see, and turned water into wine. Yet Brenda slipped away from here.

UNHEALED.  

People do, you know.

They die.

And I know that even though the world is a lesser place, Brenda is free.

And if she ever skipped, she’s skipping now. If she blew bubbles, she’s blowing the biggest one ever! I also know she could probably catch that frog that’s hopping by if she wanted to. She’s safe now. It doesn’t hurt. CANCER didn’t win.

Photo by Andressa Voltolini on Unsplash

I just don’t know how to say all that to the ones I love, who loved her so much. They will grieve—pain is part of life in this broken world. It’s all just temporary.

Death will come for us too—then life and eternity!

I can hear my own footsteps as I walk through my silent house. I think about life, cancer, and death. My heart hurts, and there’s a lump in my throat. All the words I could say keep running through my head.

The last time I felt like this, I thought I was dead.

Today the world became a lesser place, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.

RECOVERY

THE THIEF OF JOY

In this world of influence and social media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. Teddy Roosevelt told us a long time ago that “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I believe that reality speaks for itself when you look at the increasing number of teen suicides since the invention of certain social apps that are being used as bullying tools. Here are a few truths to fight back against that old stealer of joy:

  • God created YOU to be YOU! He gave each of us a unique set of gifts and talents to be used for HIS glory. You are the only person who was designed to be exactly like you—so be that! And be that BEST YOU that you can be!
  • What you see on SOCIAL MEDIA isn’t real. Faces are airbrushed. Backgrounds are blurred. Vacations are faked. Waists are slimmed. Lots of things are made to appear one way when they are just the opposite! Isn’t it better to be authentic than to wear a mask for the rest of the world to see?
  • We ALL fall short of what we could be! It would be great if we all lived up to our potential, but clearly, we don’t. If someone is pointing out what they perceive to be YOUR shortcomings, it’s probably just to take attention off their own.
  • You may not really want what you think you want. Think about what it would REALLY mean for your life if you had the things THEY seem to have! What if you had that dream job? How much time would you have to spend away from your precious family? What if you had all their money? Would you really know who your friends were at the end of the day? How about that car? Okay, maybe it WOULD be cool if you had that CAR! Okay then! Quit wishing and start figuring out what it would take to earn the money to buy it!
Photo by Efren Barahona on Unsplash

Since you know that it is self-defeating, here are several things you can do to get out of the comparison trap and start to lead a more productive life:

a.  Work on being a better YOU! We could ALL use improvement, remember? You don’t have to make a huge goal. Just try to be better than you were yesterday! Stretch yourself a little further every day. Take more risks toward a better future!

b.  Tend to your health. Start eating better. Make one healthy food choice at a time. Take the stairs more often. Walk across the parking lot instead of parking as close to the door as possible. Drink more water.

c.  Practice humility and gratitude. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes in your life to just take the time to be grateful for all you have.

d.  Give others more of your time, energy, money, and resources. You will be blessed more than they will.

e.  Get rid of things cluttering up your life. Do you really need that porcelain figurine from 1976? Are you ever going to fit in those jeans again? I’m sorry to tell you that the answer to both of those questions is probably NO!

f.  Love more.

g.  Go to church.

h.  Pray and read your Bible (if you don’t have one, go get one).

i.  Journal. Writing your feelings down helps you sort them out and is extremely helpful when trying to work through situational anxiety.

j. Paint, draw, take photos, or do anything artistic! You will be so busy that you won’t have time to compare yourself to ANYBODY. Also, you will have accomplished something wonderful (no matter how it turns out)!

Hope these tips help the next time you’re tempted to compare yourself or your life to someone else! Remember, the most important thing that you can be is YOURSELF!

RECOVERY

12 SURPRISING THINGS GRIEF WILL TEACH YOU THAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO KNOW

(With One Bonus Lesson at the End)

Joy and grief grow in the same garden.

My first introduction to death was at the tender age of 18. This was before I knew the first thing about living, so I sure didn’t know how to process the fact that people could just stop doing it. Especially important people, like my Daddy.

He was bigger than life to me, and his life seemed way more important to me than mine. I threw myself face down on the floor and began my first attempt to barter with God.  Apparently, God wasn’t interested in reversing the process and taking me in Daddy’s place because I’m still here, and writing about it after all these years.

God has a way of giving us just what we need to survive at the time, and sometimes scarcely more than that. Somehow, I managed to get up off the floor and scrape together just enough of whatever it is that it takes to survive.

I had to make a lot of hard decisions that I wasn’t ready for back then. It was like going from zero to sixty—I grew up fast. I didn’t have much choice.

The tragedies in my life have continued. I have not only buried my father; I have also buried three sons. Two of them were infants, one was almost 17 years old.

I am forever changed. Some days I find the courage to talk about it and some days I don’t. It would be easy to wallow on the hard days, but today I choose to honor life by talking about what grief has taught me, in the hopes that it will help someone else when they go through the darkness.

THE TAKEAWAY                                   

  1. PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.

This seems like a no-brainer. I can’t elaborate too much on the obvious, but if I have learned anything it’s to put the people you love and your relationships above material possessions and the pursuit of them. The Bible, in Mark 8:36, asks, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Don’t sell out your family for money or recognition. Don’t trade your time with them for anything that seems glittery and beautiful. You can’t get the moments that you lost back again. You can’t even get the moments that you spent back again, but at least you have the memories of those. Let your memories be full of laughter and joy when you can, but also go through the hard stuff with the ones you love. The darkest night spent with someone you care for is better than the brightest morning alone with your things.

2. WE ARE NOT IMMORTAL.

Surprise! Life here on this earth does not last forever. We die. Our forever is not going to be spent here in these bodies, doing this stuff. There’s really no need to save the best for last! Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Use them! Get out your best dishes, wear your best clothes. Have dessert first if you feel like it (I don’t recommend this all the time though. It’s not that great for your waistline).

3. TAKE YOUR MOMENTS WHEN YOU CAN GET THEM.

Embrace the precious times of your life. You don’t know what the future holds! The Bible talks about this too (a very wise book), when it says in James 4:13 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”

Love on your family. Stare at your children. Watch them breathe. Take a moment to revel in their smiles. Say all those words you’ve been holding back. Just in case this is all you will ever have; make it the best moment it can possibly be!

4. IT’S OKAY TO LIVE AGAIN.

You are not betraying anyone by going on with your life. Continuing to breathe is not a curse, and you have no reason to feel guilty for it. God has appointed each of us a time to be born and a time to die (Yep, that’s from the Bible too).

If you are reading this, it wasn’t your time to die. It’s hard and it hurts and it’s unfair and all of that. But it’s the truth. Oh, and you aren’t God. It wasn’t your choice. You can let go of that now.

Keep breathing. Keep going. Keep trying. Make it a great life! Do you know what the absolute best thing is that you can do for the ones who have stopped living? For you to keep on living, and to lead a victorious life.

5. LAUGHTER REALLY IS GOOD FOR HEALING.

Don’t feel guilty for finding enjoyment in your life. Let the joy come back. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still heartbreak. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten. Joy and pain can inhabit the same house. Let them.

6. GOD KNOWS YOU’RE MAD AT HIM.

He can take it. This is His world. Nothing happens without His knowledge and permission.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. Everyone dies–also hard to get down, especially when that someone is your child or parent, spouse or sibling. Or grandparent.

You are insignificant to God because He allowed it to happen to you. It also is not a small thing that He gave His Son to die, knowing that He would ultimately beat death. I mean, that was the point.

He kicked death’s ass so I could see my kids again someday. Yeah, I was mad at Him for a long time. Sometimes I still am. Then, I remember the cross, and I get through. I know where my hope is.

7. WE AREN’T MEANT TO DO THIS ALONE.

Don’t isolate and expect to get through it all on your own. There’s no need in it. If you don’t have friends or family who will walk through your grief with you, find a recovery group.

There are moments when you need to shout, cry, fall apart, and vent. You might just want to share some funny old memories. Maybe you don’t know what to do with your anger and unforgiveness. That’s what these groups are for. People are better than things and substances for helping you to get through. They need you too.

8. LIFE IS A MIRACLE.

Do you know why you are still here? Neither do I. It’s a miracle. Treat each breath as the gift that it is. Embrace the fact that you are alive and go dance in the rain.

9. ALL WE LEAVE BEHIND IS WHAT WE GIVE TO OTHERS.

No accomplishment, no amount of money, no possession will matter after you are gone. When people think of you, let it be because they remember what an impact for good you made on their lives.

Stand up for what is right. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Love everyone the same. Don’t discriminate because of color, social status, or wealth. Give everything you can give to other people. You can’t take one thing with you where you’re going anyway (no matter which direction that is).

10. IT’S OKAY TO CRY.

You can grieve for as long as you need to grieve. I believe that there are some losses that you will always grieve for on this earth. The loss of a child is one of those. If you need to cry, don’t let anyone tell you that you should be “over it.” Your grief is your grief. Feel it and live your life anyway.

11. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND YOUR LIFE TRYING TO MAKE THEIRS MEAN SOMETHING.

Their life was not in vain, and neither was their death. It has already taught you so much! You have precious memories to hold forever. Their lives already had meaning, and they always will.

Don’t spend your whole life setting up foundations in their name, donating to causes in their name, furiously trying to immortalize them. Let them rest in peace.

You don’t have to make their life mean something. The best thing that you can do to honor them is to make your own life mean something! Work on that. Take responsibility for you. Get better so you can help other people.

12. THE NEXT “YOU” WILL BE DIFFERENT.

This journey that you are walking through grief will change you. That’s okay. You might think that you were meant to be that other person who was never touched by loss.

Things would have turned out another way. Perhaps you can make a case for that, but I doubt it. Life, death, and God did not steal anything from you. Remember that everyone’s time is appointed to them! That means that you are meant to be the person touched by loss. The question is “why”?

Use the things you have learned to help other people. Sure, you are different, but you’re not lesser than. You have a world of experience now that was very hard-earned. Don’t let it go to waste. Use it for good. When the opportunity comes, take it.

Bonus: SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SWIM THROUGH THE RIVER

There are times in your life when you need medication to get you through the hard stuff. There’s no shame in taking it when you do. Other times we try to self-medicate by using all kinds of things–alcohol, narcotics, sex, food, distractions–just about anything you can think of that we believe will take our minds off the hurt.

They all work for a little while. The problem is, when you step back from all you have done to numb the pain or forget the hurt, it’s still there. Not only do you find the loss and grief is still right where you left it, but you have often piled a load of guilt and remorse on top of it through behaviors and addictions that you wish you could change.

It’s hard to turn your life around when you find yourself in a situation like that, but it can be done. You have to make the decision to embrace the joy and faith that are still in your life and turn around and swim through the river. Sometimes that’s the only way to survive, and then you can turn around and help others across too.

These are some of the surprising things that grief will teach you that you actually need to know. Somewhere down the road, you will have the chance to share them with someone else in a way that helps their heart. Doing it will help your own.

just a doll that looks like Samuel…

RIP Samuel Allen Dowden, born dead, July 17th, 1998

Happy 21st

Here’s a link to this post in Medium if you’d like to pop over and see it! There are lots of other things to read from other writers as well that I think you would enjoy and benefit from:

https://medium.com/@allisondivinebridges/12-surprising-things-grief-will-teach-you-that-you-actually-need-to-know-2f62f64430fe?sk=c59e4995417409aa533fb3ae5dd2a05d