Rocks on My Back

Sitting in church today my pastor asked the question, “What or whom do you need to forgive?” Her question came from the passage about the woman caught in adultery who was about to be killed. Jesus said, “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” And everyone slunk away. Except the woman. She stayed and heard Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and don’t sin anymore.”

I thought about forgiveness, uncertain as to whether it was me I needed to forgive or someone else. And then, that woman’s face came to mind. She had “liked” a post I made last week on my business’s Facebook page regarding the second anniversary of my job. As I sat in church, I realized that I hate her. I hate her.

She is the woman my former husband turned to during our turbulent marriage-ending-year; she is the one who slept with him in secret while pretending to support us in our marriage counseling. While she played grandmother to my younger children, gave them gifts and money, she was sleeping with my husband. My husband.

Fuck her. I hate her. I. Hate. Her.

This was a stunning revelation for me. I have forgiven her, forgiven them. It’s been four years since the divorce was final. I have moved on. He has moved on. They have married. I wouldn’t want him back. It’s a done deal.

And yet, when I saw her name and her profile photo “liking” my post – I was disgusted. Angry. I wanted to puke. I wanted to pick up the stone and heave it at her stupid face. I wanted to pick up stone after stone after stone until my anger was sated and my hatred was spent.

I felt she had once again invaded my life, robbed me of my identity, put her hand in where it wasn’t wanted. Will I never be free of her? Will I never have a place where she can’t find me, can’t assert herself, can’t infiltrate is mine, private or public?

Bitch. I hate her.

I paused to take a breath. This hatred is deep. Really deep. I had no idea.

God, I want to be free of her, free of this hatred. I saw myself, bent down, unable to straighten up from the weight of her, the weight of my hatred, the weight of all those stones I wanted to smash into her face and bury her under. I want to be free of the weariness of this burden.

I closed my eyes in church and tried to be holy, tried to forgive. I told God, “I forgive her.” And then, because it’s really important to me to be honest with God, I changed that to, “God, I really hate her.” And I heard God say to me, “I know.”

That simple statement was a game-changer for me. God wasn’t bothered by my hatred born out of loss, wounding, shit, devastation, betrayal. He was bothered that I am so weary in it, weary of the hating. He wanted to take all the stones off my back and set me free. He wanted me to let her go.

I pictured that, pictured the letting go. It was hard. One of my hands still held a rock. The last rock of vengeance, of justification, of knowing that I had been betrayed and shit on and that I was powerless to change it. No more hoping that she was being tortured for shitting on me. No more illusions that I was better than she was, that I was more powerful because I was good and she was the embodiment of Satan. No more. No more.

The last rock was really hard to drop.

So I told God, “OK. I drop the rock. I lift her to you. Not because I feel like it. Let’s make it clear that I still think she’s a bitch. I am not over being betrayed and shit on. My heart is still devastated by her decision to lie and steal and destroy. But I want to be free of her, so I let go of my right to deal with her my way, and I submit to You as the only one who can make this right between her and me.”

I let her go.

God, I know that I will have times when I want to pick up the rocks again. Please don’t let me. Please grab both my hands when that happens and look straight into my eyes and remind me of who I am. I am Yours. I am not the cast-off one, I am not the one left behind. I am Yours. My hands are in Your hands, my eyes are looking into Your eyes. My back is straight and I am tall and strong. I am forgiven and I am loved.

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A Year Half Spent

I am halfway through my 365 days. No pounds lost, of that I am sure. Maybe a few gained. It is winter. Snow on the ground, cold, the sun low on the horizon in my northwest climate. I feel at a loss of what to do.

I go to the gym, struggle to make it 15 minutes on the bike and 5 on the elliptical. I go through my stretches, weights and balance exercises. Then I go to work. It feels pointless. I am not inspired. I am not motivated. I am not anything.

What’s going on?

First, I feel completely overwhelmed with parenting, work, home and school. What happened to my joy? What happened to all that gives life to me? I feel its lost under the snow and cold and dark. I don’t think I am depressed, though I sound that way. More so – I am soul-weary.

I pause and think about that. Do I want to be soul-weary? Do I want to be fat? Do I want a year to go by with me just getting older, slower, creakier, less-abled? Do I want to struggle to fasten the seat belt on an airplane, or fit into a small space, or continue to buy clothes in the plus section?

Nope.

My friend asked me what truth I believe about myself. The truth I tell myself is that no one will love me if I am fat and old and out of shape. What if that was a lie? What if I stopped believing that?

Would I live my life differently?

I would. I would go to the gym because I like getting stronger. I would buy pretty clothes because I look good in them. I would stop eating sugar and white flour because they make me feel bad. I would eat veggies and salads and fruits and meat because they make me feel good. I would laugh more, be outside more, walk and not give a shit how I looked. And I would look good because my light would shine out! I would buy a big ol’ swimsuit and go to the pool because I love to swim.

I wouldn’t give up on myself and look at the ground. I would look straight at myself in the mirror and smile and say, “You are worth loving.”

A year half spent. A half year to go.

Onward. Into the promised land. Into life. Into joy. Into hope. Into not forgetting who I am.

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Moonlit Night

When I was ten years old my family moved from our small three bedroom house to a larger five bedroom in a more affluent neighborhood. My dad was climbing the Cold War ladder of success in what is now Silicon Valley; and my youngest brother had arrived safely into the loving arms of our family. The home my father chose was on a large lot (for suburbia) and was thrillingly two stories high. I was ten, with two other brothers close in age to me. We soon learned that we could access the garage roof from my parent’s upstairs balcony; it was there we would lie on the rough shingles with my dad, star gazing through binoculars and dreaming of other men walking on the Moon. I fell in love with the heavens, with constellations and shooting stars and the Moon. When I eventually came to faith in my early teens, I realized that some day I would be up there – in the heavens – with God and all that cosmic magic.

Over the years, the heavens would come to mean much to me.

Babies, whose hearts began to beat in my womb but who would slip away before becoming fully formed, resided up there somewhere, safe with God. In the dark, at the beach or on my grown-up home-owner deck, I would whisper their names and imagine they heard me. Or at least, that God had heard me and would kiss them with my love.

Tears I cried in private as I struggled as a mom and felt I failed, tears that fell when my marriage failed and my life shattered, those tears I imagined to be the stars. God had said that He put the stars in the heavens and called each one by name. Surely all my tears had names and were there in that crystal vastness.

In good times – and occasionally in the hard times – my children and I would have star parties on the deck. We would bring out all manner of cushions, blankets and pillows, and squish close together as we lay gazing into the dark night sky. We would track satellites, point at shooting stars, tell funny stories and stay warm together. Living outside of the city, the stars were vast and brilliant; constellations and the Milky Way were easy to see.

Tonight’s Moon reminded me of all of that, of all the years I have lived gazing up into the night sky. The velvety black night sky and brilliant white of the Moon has absorbed all my questions, my hopes, my dreams, my grief, my loss. Somewhere in my soul, it has absorbed me.

When I leave this earth at my life’s end, I will soar past the Moon to God’s home in the Heavens. I will leave behind all my grief and all that I love except God. I imagine that I won’t care anymore that I am fat, or that I lost weight, or that I was smart or was lonely. I won’t be tangled anymore in the web of trying to please others or please myself, of setting goals and achieving them. What will matter to me is that I loved well and that I listened well to those I loved. What will matter is that I knew God as best I could know God, and that I am coming home to Him.

In the meantime, on this gorgeous full moon night, as I sip my Bailey’s and coconut milk, and sit quietly on my bed, I am thankful that I learned to love the stars. I am thankful that, while my dad did many things wrong and wounded me beyond belief, he let me know that the stars and the ocean were gifts to me. For him, they were part of the great unexplainable universe; for me, they became a part of God’s anchor for my soul.

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Homeless Heart

This afternoon I came home from work exhausted and fell into a deep sleep. Two hours later I woke suddenly from a dream. I was in a large church; it was stone and had many rooms. I had past knowledge of the church; I remembered rooms and secret passageways but when I searched for them they were either walled up or I could not find them. I knew my office was there, but it was not the office I currently work in. The walls of the church were high, very high and made of large, tan carved stone blocks. The rooms and inner courtyards were large and airy; beautiful. The sense I got was that it was familiar but no longer intimately known by me.

I thought I had discovered one secret passageway from long ago, but when I lifted the tiny access grate, there was a small pregnant cat sitting on a tiny shelf inside a clean, unused fireplace. I felt surprise at her presence and uncertain how to proceed. She sat motionless, and I slowly lowered the grate.

In one room, I watched two men tune guitars as they prepared to practice. I wanted to play with them, but knew I was not good enough. I had been good enough 20 years ago, but now would only be able to play simple chords to their advanced finger strumming. In another large room, two more men were preparing to play; again, I faced the same issue of past but not present knowledge or skill.

In a large courtyard I talked with one young man; we looked at the carvings that circled a young tree. I thought the carvings in the stone were Celtic or Catholic. They were old, ancient. But then, when I touched them, they were really just part of a grey rubber mat. Not special at all.

In another outdoor section a tall and handsome man was speaking with me. We were just getting to something interesting when his young son arrived with an extremely tall and handsome man. The son was as tall as his father; he had something private to share and they excused themselves from where we were. The very tall man remained. I realized he was the brother of the man I had just been speaking with. I asked him how tall he was and then apologized for my rudeness. He bent down, lightly touched my nose, and said yes, he was 6 feet 9. In reality he was much taller. He then threw a tire into the air, which spun in a large circle and I realized he controlled with his mind. He was darker skinned, Mediterranean, and I felt small next to him.

Then, I was with a Greek man. We talked for a few minutes and then his mother arrived. Suddenly we were outside in the sun, on a large concrete or stone area. It was sunny, beautiful and white. Everyone but me was dressed in black and white. He was a minister and he took his mother up the four or five stairs to the front of the stone area to introduce her to the congregation. After telling everyone she was his mother, they came back down the stairs to join six other men and women, and shouted “Opa!” They started dancing a traditional Greek dance, the ladies lifting their skirts. The mother lifted hers up so high I could see her white granny panties, her black stockings and garters. I thought about how unashamed she was, and how happy she was to be dancing with her son. I saw that they were a family and loved each other.

Then I woke up. My immediate thought was “I am emotionally homeless.” I felt grief that I am alone, an outsider, an observer but not a participant. I am in the church, looking for my place. I remember what was, but am not part of what is. I do not know what is to come. I have memories of the past, but the present is oddly unfamiliar. I have no home. My sadness is acute. I am the outsider, the observer, hungry for place but not finding one. I have a homeless heart.

The tall man was an angel, of that I am convinced. Others might have been angelic, particularly the brother of the tall man. I think the church symbolizes my life. I have a deep faith in God, a faith that crosses cultural boundaries and continues to be refined. The church was large, beautiful, complex, intriguing. I loved it and wanted to explore; but I also could not find a place for me. I felt alone.

I wonder when, if ever, I will find a home again. The odd restlessness of my heart continues. I love my desert home, land, trees and quieter living outside of the city. I love the peace God has given me in a time of great upheaval. And yet, I yearn for something I cannot name or find. My homeless heart hungers, and I feed it food or media or busyness. I keep looking for where I can rest and truly be home.

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Weddings and Grief

My son is getting married in a few months. This week he and his love put up their wedding website. In it they named the bridesmaids and groomsmen. None of my son’s siblings were included in that list. His fiancé is an only child and did not included any family members, either. I was grieved by this but could not seem to say why.

 I asked my son if he told his younger brother that he wasn’t included in the groomsmen. My son responded back strongly that it was really none of my business. On one level – I agree. Who my son has in his wedding is his and his fiancé’s choice. On another level it brought up an incredible amount of pain for me.

 My oldest son suffered greatly in his relationship with his father. In the end, the relationship broke apart. Now, at 28, my son has his own “family” in a new town, stellar men and women who fill the roles of father, mother, siblings, and grandparents. My son has always included me in that family and sees me as part of his inner circle. He loves, respects and cares for me.

 But it is not my family. As the wedding plans are made, I feel anew my grief over all that we have lost.

 What am I discovering?

 I am discovering a well of self-hate. It’s deep and dark and ancient. I am shocked by the waves of it that crash onto the shores of my heart. I blame myself for so much: failing in my marriage, getting fat, not communicating well, not being good enough. I push myself so hard; I realize it is because I do not believe myself to be a person of value. That ancient message, planted in dysfunction and abuse when I was very young, still speaks to me in the wounded places of my soul. While I am able to give grace and mercy to almost everyone else, I cannot seem to extend it to myself.

 I am discovering that I feel voiceless. I yearn to bury my head in the sand. In fact, I woke up this morning and told God I was going to do exactly that. Bury my head in the black pit of loneliness, grief and self-hate. And stay there for a long time. I have allowed too much suffering and participated in too much brokenness. I feel on the outside, invisible, unprotected and without an advocate.

I am discovering that there is much here to explore. Why I feel without a voice. Who took my voice away? Why is it so hard for me to care for myself? To create margin, to cry, to let myself be weak? Why do I hide away when my heart is broken?

I had coffee with one of my closest friends today. We talked about the usual stuff, and then I told her about the above and how I had been crying all morning on and off. She listened and then said, “It sounds like you feel your family is being torn apart again.” Which, of course, is how I feel. And then she said, “It’s hard to let go of control. To let your son have his own life, his own say, with his fiancé.” She is right.

I do have to let go of the wedding, who is and is not invited. I have to let go of having someone there for me, who knows me and all that was lost through abuse and divorce. Someone who understands that weddings in broken families are both celebrations of new love and reminders of the ache of loss. My children don’t know that for me; they know their own pain, but they do not know mine.

Somewhere on this journey of healing the place in me, I will need to find my voice. I don’t want my voice to be buried in the food or sorrow, in eating what does not feed my soul. I don’t want to bury my voice in silence, either. I will need to be wise in sharing my mom-pain and my single-mom pain in the proper places – with my friends and not with my son or his fiancé. I will work on this, on leaving bad food and mom-drama alone, and in nurturing myself through good food and letting go of control.

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Temptation

I woke up this morning feeling depressed. I had two disturbing dreams and felt so alone. I instantly said to myself, “It’s too much to do school. I just need to quit.” Then, of course, I remembered that I actually really enjoy my school work, it’s just everything else that I am responsible for weighing down on me.

I got up, made coffee, fed the dog and went to sit on my deck. It was early morning, quiet, cool breeze, no one else awake. I looked at my planters where the few flowers left are wilting from lack of water and thought about how they represent me. I feel unwatered, unkempt, dried out from the heat of life. I know I should get up and water the flowers, but I just don’t want to. I feel the same way about getting up and doing all the things that would care for me. I just don’t want to.

This month my oldest daughter told me she and her husband will be moving out of the country by the beginning of December. They will live in a more remote area of Canada, accessible only by boat or seaplane. I am happy for them – it’s been a long dream of theirs and it will be a great place for them to live. And yet, it makes for a very long travel day for me via car, ferry and water taxi. Not the simple 3 hour drive I now make to their home.

Shortly after my daughter gave me her news, my oldest son let me know he had proposed to his girlfriend and was getting married in early January. Again, great news, wonderful news, and yet – transition and changes and learning. Both these life events will happen at the same time my first year doctoral work is due. It will involve a lot of planning and staying on top of my schedule to pace myself through the fall and early winter.

As the news of the move and wedding settled in, one of my teenage daughters began therapy for anxiety and PTSD; another teenage daughter is thinking she wants to transfer high schools for one that is much better in fine arts – which she needs. It just involves a lot of schedule shifting for me and adjusting my work schedule. While I am the boss and have flexibility, it will still be a challenge.

Then, this past week, my college age son who lives at home injured his ankle and may have fractured it. A late night ER visit, ice, crutches, pain meds, and another shift in schedules as he can’t drive for a bit. No wonder I am feeling like those unwatered dried out flowers on my deck.

The temptation for me is to eat my way through this month. To “water” my soul with food, to feed the soil of my heart with all those things that make me gain weight and feel like shit. Eating emotionally is a long-time habit of mine. I survived high school and sexual abuse by eating; I felt comforted by the food and felt filled up though it was a false filling. Now, in these life changes and life challenges, I just want to be filled up again.

As I write this, I am sitting with my laptop on my legs. I can see my belly and the fat on it as I write. I want to find a way to be filled up that doesn’t involve eating. At least, not eating what I know is not going to make me feel good. I don’t want to give in to temptation. I want to be strong while the winds blow, strong while the sand shifts. I keep thinking, there has to be a way through all of these life events that doesn’t involve me trashing myself in the process.

I know the mantra, “One Day at a Time.” So far today, I have stayed in my eating program and have given temptation the finger. One day at a time is the way to lose weight, but also the way to creating enough space in me to water the flowers. I will push forward today, just today, looking for what nurtures me, looking for the path through temptation’s barbs. This is the most I can do and the least I can do to love myself along the way.

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Out of Sorts

I am grumpy beyond belief. I think I know why. This past Friday I drove 3.5 hours to visit my son at his college. I took my two teenage daughters with me. We had fun, but I was tired to begin with, and then slept poorly at night. I made some poor food choices, some good food choices. Mostly, I was just needing solitude and did not find any. Saturday, we drove home again and back into the heat and messiness of my house and life.

The next day, my adult daughter and I traveled 2 hours to visit family friends. Again in the heat, and again, my soul wanted solitude but it was not to be. My adult daughter decided to return home with me and stay over a couple of days; her husband will be joining us later today. My house is still messy, it is still hot outside, and I am still yearning for solitude. And yet – these times with my children at college and with friends are priceless; our visits are spread out over the year and time together is golden.

What is it that is going on with me? I think it is more than wanting solitude. I think it is a deep yearning to be different. I yearn to be at the right weight for me. I yearn to leave the desert and live by the water again. I yearn to have a partner, someone to share life with. I yearn to write and teach. I yearn to be alive again in the deepest recesses of my wounded heart.

And so, I feel restless and bored and exhausted and grumpy. I feel “less than.” Less than those who are slender, less than those who live uncomplicated lives of joy, less than those who have it together – or seem to have it together. I feel alone, solitary, unknown – and unworthy of being known.

What does this have to do with food and fat? This weekend I was with a single friend of mine who I enjoy spending time with and who enjoys spending time with me. I have ruled this friend out as a potential partner – not for the issues that he might have – but because I am overweight.

This friend and I love each other as only life long friends who have suffered great loss can love each other. We know that the other has suffered greatly. We know that the other has had significant parts of their heart die through traumatic life events. We know that the other has learned to survive, to laugh again, to begin to find new life. And yet, because I am overweight, I feel on my guard with my friend; I have already judged myself to be less than, to be failing, to be worth-less.

And so, today, if feel out of sorts. I don’t want to go to work; I don’t want to clean my messy house; I don’t want to work on my school assignment or talk to anyone. I just want to be asleep and be alone. I want to escape to the ocean and be a different me: slender, smart, funny, joyful, alive. I want to be rid of the real me.

Am I willing to accept me today as I am? Am I willing to keep eating the right things and not medicate through food? Am I wiling to love myself even when my house is messy, my life feels overwhelming and I feel exhausted? I am willing to ask myself what it is that I truly need, and to either pursue that or to give it voice while I think about how to answer that need?

Today, I think I will simply continue to push through. I will enjoy time with my daughter and son-in-law; and with my teenage daughters, too. I will let go of trying to figure out the future. I will eat well and work hard at not judging myself to be ‘less than.’ I will speak nicely to my broken heart, reminding it that losing weight takes time and that its OK to love myself during the process not just at the end.

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