Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A dark place

Where I live, solitude is rarely a feasible option. I am never alone. Someone always knows where I am. I don't have time to cry. The children need me. After a night ridden with half-sleep and panic, sweating and thrashing and night terrors, I long to stay curled up in the covers. But I can hear my angel baby whimpering in the next room. Gray light steals through the blinds beckoning me to start the day. My eyes burn. Sometimes I long for a dark place. A quiet place where I can regroup. Where I can be alone with my thoughts and sort it all out. But life keeps happening around me, pushing, pulling, yanking me forward, and I am swept up in the river and must keep going. So I do. I have no other choice.

Other times I carry my dark place with me. And it is not the kind of dark that is pleasant and peaceful. It is not the kind of solitude that is quiet and comforting. It is stabbing and suffocating. I am everywhere but I am nowhere. I leave the house but I am not engaged with anyone I meet. They see me, but they don't know me. They speak to me, but they don't understand me. No one can. I am traumatized. 

I've lost everything familiar, and my life as I knew it is over. As my children and I have started a new life from scratch, I have turned to my music. It's one thing that I know won't change. It helps me cope. How I have missed my music. I love to play it and to listen to it and to create it. For so long, I have neglected it, and in all this trauma, it has become a lifeline for me. Medicinal. I can take it with me. I have my own personal soundtrack. My soundtrack is messy and disorganized. It's eclectic. It's unpredictable, like my life now. 

A few hours ago I ran, dripping, soaked through, salty sweat pouring like tears streaming down my face as the soles of my feet pounded the elliptical into submission. For the hundredth time, I drank in this song: "My Heart is Broken." It reaches me in places I can't explain. It is not something I would typically post, and it likely it will not reach some of my readers. But like I said, my taste is eclectic. (For something a little softer, try "My Immortal," below -- same artist, different tone, also on my playlist today.) 

I love other happier, more uplifting music too. But let's be honest, not every day is sunshine and rainbows. Evanescence is soul music for me, and there have been days where I really crave it lately. It stirs me in deep places. Very therapeutic. Sometimes I just need an outlet. She gives me that. Her hard and soft sounds and images set against each other intrigue me and reflect the thoughts and feelings swirling in my heart and mind. Light and dark. Hope and despair. Open fields and prison walls. I am experiencing all of these in abundance. Both sides. Often it depends on the day, the hour, the minute.

What about you? Do you have songs or artists that help you cope? What is your "soul music" and why?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Was it there before?


A few short weeks after I left my husband, I was sitting in a Relief Society lesson about the "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." I wept silently over my shattered dreams. Over simple phrases like "... the family is central to the Creator's plan ..." and "... husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other ..." I thought of my little children -- one sitting in the primary room next-door and one pitter-pattering through the hallway with grandpa in tow -- and about their father, hundreds of miles across the country from us. And my heart broke for the millionth time. As the lesson stretched on, I stared absently at the blue confetti carpet, fighting the urge to rise from my seat and burst out the door. And then suddenly, my ears perked up as one of the sisters began reading the second-to-last paragraph:

"We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

Wow! Holy moly, I thought, was that really in there before? I can tell you, I've never heard it like that before. It just goes to show, the word of God really is eternal. It's such a miracle really. Because the words of the prophets can mean something different to each individual -- to you or to me. But they can also mean something different just to me depending on what phase of life I am in. For instance, when President Hinckley first read the Family Proclamation in 1995, I was only 15 years old. Now, 17 years later, as (an almost) single mother of two, I hear the words so differently.

As I've pondered my experience in that lesson that day, I no longer feel as much despair as I did months ago. Instead, as I've moved forward a little bit on my path, I have a bit more perspective. I've gathered a little more courage, and I have more hope. Sure, I have sad days. I even cry sometimes. And I am often weary. But I know I will not be in this phase of life forever. My children will grow, and so will I. At the very least, I am a mother in Zion, and I have an important work to do. Besides ... Who knows what the Family Proclamation will be saying to me 15 years from now?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The roller coaster

On the other side of the world stands a monster, looming against the sky. Majestic and mysterious, its ominous peaks taunt adventurers, beckoning them, challenging them to cross thousands of miles and travel across oceans only to begin the climb. The summit, at 29 thousand feet, is the highest place on earth. 


Sounds like a great place for a roller coaster track, doesn't it? I mean, check out that setup! It's perfect! Think I'm kidding? What about your life? What about mine? We've all heard the cliche: "Life is like a roller coaster." Ups, downs, quick turns, sometimes it's fun, sometimes you scream and get turned upside-down, sometimes you barf your guts out, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I get that. But living with addiction? Living with addiction is like a roller coaster on steroids. To me, it feels exactly like I would imagine a roller coaster ride on the slopes of Mt. Everest might feel.

Don't get me wrong! I love coasters. In my younger days, before I felt old and boring and spent more time in theme parks than real parks, I used to be a real roller-coaster junkie. But when you're riding a roller coaster with a 29 thousand foot drop and you're sure you're going to die at any moment, it kind of takes the fun out of it. And you know what else? When there's a malfunction, I'm a little sick of being the one jumping off the car, freezing my buns off on the mountain, and trying to fix the track all by myself.

Recently I heard an amazing piece of advice from Nora, who is one of the most amazing women I know. She said something to this effect: "We live with our addicts for so long and love them so much that we end up riding their roller coaster. But you have the power to get off the ride!" 

I have really taken this piece of wisdom to heart. In fact, I was talking to my family about it this past weekend, and it has made an enormous difference for me this week. The timing was impeccable. It has been a very trying few days, to say the least, and with all that has happened, I really needed that kind of perspective. 

You know, I have my own roller coaster. It's crazy. I love it ... mostly. And he has his roller coaster too. If he wants to continue to ride Mt. Everest, that's his choice. But I don't have to do it anymore.

Now, some of you may be thinking that "riding my own roller coaster" refers to my divorce, but that's not necessarily true. I think it's deeper than that. I'm not talking about physical or marital separation. I'm talking about a re-assignment of guilt, responsibility, and work. I'm speaking as a wife of an addict here, not as an addict, so my perspective may be different from some of my readers, but ... I think it's important for us -- victims of abuse, neglect, or the fallout from pornography usage or sexual addiction -- to remember that we don't have to inseparably link our emotions and/or actions to the behavior of our addict. In fact, it's just not healthy, and it doesn't help anything. At least it never has in my 10-year relationship. I really feel like Mrs. A nailed it with her post a while ago, "Killing My Own Buffalo." She put it so simply and so clearly when she said: "I am responsible for my own salvation and my own life." And then she went out that day and got everything done that she needed to do instead of wallowing in misery and feeling incapacitated by what addiction had done to her family life. Such a great example! Such a perfect instance of what I'm talking about. So, when I talk about riding your own roller coaster, I don't mean run away -- I just mean find your own way. You can. You must. You will be better for it. And I'm not saying it is wrong to have feelings. It's good to be authentic. Just have your own feelings on your own timeline. You can do this. 

And by the way ... addicts can get off the roller coaster too. It is not impossible to rebuild that track in a more sane location. It's a lot of work. And it will take time. But if you let us, we will probably even pitch in and help. ;) 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Prove me

I've been listening to a lot of EFY music lately, which is kind of funny considering I never actually attended an EFY conference when I was in the church youth program. However, I always did love the music! Anyway, the other day while I was rocking out on my iPod on the elliptical, the song "Prove Me" from the 2006 album came on, and I just thought it just fit my current situation, feelings, and attitude so well that I had to share. 

I am trying to be brave. I am doing my best. But in the end it's never enough. I always need the Lord to make up the difference. It's a process, right? This lifetime, I mean. That's what we're doing here, isn't it? Learning. Trying. Struggling. Learning some more. For me, it's just an especially steep learning curve right now. And I suppose I can either whine and cry about it, or ... I can be glad that it's teaching me to be humble and ask for the Lord's help.* I sure have been bugging him a lot lately. =D

(*Note to self: Read this post on a day when I am whining and crying about it!)

Below is the song for your listening (not really viewing) pleasure, and I have also included the lyrics.

Prove Me
by Hilary Weeks

Fearless heart unwavering faith
The kind of courage and conviction that it takes 
To leave your home behind or part the Red Sea 
I wonder did God plant that kind of strength in me? 
Just a seed now but maybe it will grow 

'Till prison walls crumble down around me 
And I've escaped unscathed from the lion's den 
When I have walked so far the handcart starts pushin' me 
Until then ... Prove me 

Centered on the wheel like clay in your hands 
Ready to be shaped and molded by your hand 
And If you'll take this heart willful as it seems 
And through your mercy refine me until I'm complete 
Though I'm weak now you can make me strong 

'Till on a wall arrows cannot harm me 
Until my faith leads me into a grove of trees 
When every nail's in place before the rains and floods come down 
Until then ... Prove me 

I will step into the fire so your love can purify me 
And I'll stay until you say I am through 
Wash away all the flaws and every earthly imperfection 
Until my will turns to you 

Until I trust without hesitation 
When humility has chased away the pride 
Until the day and through your grace I'm welcomed home 
Until then ... Prove me

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To the mothers

I've been wondering all day what to say to you. It hasn't been an easy day. Special occasions just aren't easy in the middle of a yucky divorce. And that's just the way it's going to for a while, I guess. But it's getting progressively better. At least this time, I didn't quarantine myself to my room for the entire day, collapse on the floor behind my bed, and cry my eyes out ... um, I mean, not like that has happened during any recent holidays or anything ... errrrr ... moving on ... But seriously, it was a pretty good day. Even though my heart is hurting, I enjoyed my extended family immensely, and I relished my boys. And I thought about all of you. A lot. Chances are if your are visiting my spot you or someone you know doesn't have that picture-perfect ideal family like the primary kids were singing about in church this morning. This year, the second verse of "Love is Spoken Here" was especially hard for me:

Mine is a home where every hour
is blessed by the strength of priesthood power
With father and mother leading the way
Teaching me how to trust and obey;
And the things they teach are crystal clear,
For love is spoken here.

As I watched my little son singing his heart out -- singing those words -- a sharp jolt replaced the sappy smile on my face and my skin began to crawl as I realized ... that is not his home at all. The poor choices of another have robbed that from him. And my heart broke for him. Maybe you are like me. Maybe that is not your home either. Maybe there is no priesthood, no father, no trust, no love. Maybe the things you teach are not crystal clear to your children because the things you teach are not reflected in the examples set within that home. But you know what? There is another verse to the song:

I see my mother kneeling with our family each day.
I hear the words she whispers as she bows her head to pray.
Her plea to the Father quiets all my fears,
And I am thankful love is spoken here.

I can often feel the Savior near
When love is spoken here.

At the end of the day (which it is ... and boy am I tired!), my conclusion is this: I have done all that I can. I have taught my children the gospel. I have maintained a home where the Savior is the focus and where scripture study is a mainstay. I've knelt with my family each day and I will continue to do so every day for the rest of my life, because even though my home has been destroyed and my dreams of having an eternal family have been shattered, I have the power to keep doing what I know is right. Others may have the power to change my circumstances, but they don't have the power to change who I am. And if I remain strong and faithful, whispering and bowing my head and pleading with the Lord (or offering perhaps a more voluminous plea from time to time--okay maybe a lot of the time lately), I hope with all my heart that I will, indeed, be able to quiet all my children's fears. And I hope they will hear love spoken in the home I will build for them and feel the Savior near. I have to believe that I can make it happen if I just keep going on the path I started on. So, this bump in the road feels a little like a mountain? Bring on the climbing gear, baby! I'm going up and over! 

To wrap things up, I'd just like to leave a thought with you from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. It was sent to me today by someone I love very much and it really touched me: 

"Mothers, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are, better than you are, and better than you have ever been. And if, for whatever reason, you are making this courageous effort alone, without your husband at your side, then our prayers will be all the greater for you. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you. We thank all of you, and tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God. 

May I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.”  (Jeffrey R. Holland, "Motherhood: An Eternal Partnership With God")

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Part of something bigger

I have been walking on air for the past few days, and I want it to last. Want to know my secret? I'm not sure if I'm ready to share the details yet. But when I do, you can rest assured that you will be in the loop! The gist of it is this: I finally feel like I've had a breakthrough, like I am starting to make a difference. I am part of something bigger. And I just can't stop smiling.

I feel again. When I wake up in the morning, I am excited about what the day holds. I haven't felt that way in a long time. I am more patient with my children. When I look in the mirror, I am okay with what I see because I know that I have potential. I can feel it, like a static tingle. I have turned a corner. And even though I am still in the tunnel, I can see a light in the distance.

The warm spring fills my senses, envelops me. I look into the sky and feel it: I am part of something bigger.

I read your blogs, I see you reaching out for each other, I reach out too. It gives me hope. I'm not alone. None of us are alone.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Seek shelter in the storm

"Men, so very many, find they cannot leave [pornography] alone. Their energies and their interests are consumed in their dead-end pursuit of this raw and sleazy fare. The excuse is given that it is hard to avoid, that it is right at our fingertips and there is no escape. Suppose a storm is raging and the winds howl and the snow swirls about you. You find yourself unable to stop it. But you can dress properly and seek shelter, and the storm will have no effect upon you. Likewise, even though the Internet is saturated with sleazy material, you do not have to watch it. You can retreat to the shelter of the gospel and its teaching of cleanliness and virtue and purity of life."

~President Gordon B. Hinckley
in "A Tragic Evil Among Us" Ensign, November 2004

Friday, May 4, 2012

Zumba and pomegranate jam

Wesleyan University

In my past life, I loved to dance. (My past life being the one before marriage when I was thin and single and spent money on things like dance lessons rather than diapers.) But during my current life, I don't exactly have the time or financial means to pursue such things. So, Zumba will have to do. And actually it is a great alternative with plenty of benefits: 1) I inevitably leave drenched with sweat, which a great balance for my stress-induced chocolate binges lately; 2) I have plenty of "stuff" to shake, and shaking it is better than glaring at it in my bathroom mirror, right?; 3) I can pretend to have some sort of latin lusciousness for an hour instead of hanging out in boo-hoo, frumpy, neglected, self-pity city; 4) I get to yell really loud and sometimes punch the air and nobody cares because the music is super loud and they are all doing it too; 5) it's already included in my gym membership and child care is taken care of (score!); and 6) I get out of the house instead of following my instinct to crawl into a deep, dark, black hole and die. See? Lots of benefits. Definitely a win-win with the Zumba. I highly recommend it.

So ... I actually made it to a Zumba class today. It was a blast. I was moving, grooving, shaking, yelling, punching, sweating, and pretty much having a ball, except ... there was this gorgeous blonde in front of me. Now don't get me wrong. I don't usually judge people based on their hair color. Many people I love are blonde. But I am telling you, this girl was practically perfect in every way I could see, and it really started to bug me. Her perfectly-styled hair was down, so it swayed and thrashed with the music. Her curves were perfect. Her outfit was perfect. Her toned, tanned arms and lean body were perfect. She never missed a dance step. And she was directly in front of me. And as the class went on, I felt the hate well up inside me and grow until I began to gag on it. And then it hit me. It's her, I thought. It's the woman my husband cheated with five years ago. Now, let me clarify. This is a completely ridiculous and illogical thought. I now live on the other side of the country from my husband and both his mistresses that I know of. So it couldn't have possibly been her. Right? But the longer I danced, and the longer my eyes burned into the back of her perfect body and her luxurious blonde hair, the more panicked I became. In my mind's eye I could see the photograph of the woman as I had five years ago. She was nude, tanned, blonde, with her back turned toward the camera. I felt ill. It's not her. It's just a blonde girl in a Zumba class. My body pulsed with the beat of the latin music. I punched the air. I screamed with the rest of the class. But maybe too loud? Could they hear me? Even over the music? I pictured the blonde dancer standing in the middle of a night club using her latin moves to seduce unsuspecting married men. Don't cry. They'll see you. I began looking -- frantically -- for another spot on the floor. I had to get away from her. But there was nowhere to go. It's such a popular class. We were packed in, wall to wall. And nobody was willing to switch places. Keep moving, keep moving. Feel the beat. Just get lost in the beat. I HATE HER! Finally, 45 minutes into the class, I threw in the towel, literally, and stormed out the studio door, my heart racing from the emotional and cardiovascular impact. Breathe. I started a lap around the track to cool down. And as I walked out of the ring with my head down and my shoulders hunched, I felt totally and completely defeated. 

The main studio where Zumba is held is surrounded by glass walls, and the indoor track circles around them. So as I walked around the loop and cooled down, I glanced through the windows at all the sweaty people, all the smiling faces. I knew what I was missing. I also knew that I had to take back the control, so that's what I did. As I walked and cooled down I started thinking about something that might seem kind of funny. I started thinking about pomegranate jam. 

About a month ago, my girl Mac wrote a blog post about pomegranate jam that made me smile. Basically, the gist of it was that those of us who have been affected by porn view the world differently. We are sensitive to things that would seem insignificant to others. I would add that those of us who have been affected by porn and adultery view the world differently. (Hence, my little experience with Miss Blondie in Zumba class.) As the days passed and I watched the comments on that blog post evolve, I was impressed with Mac's final conclusion, and it has really stuck with me. Essentially, she said: "I wanted to show porn that it didn't own me!" And today as I walked around the track, watching all those people enjoying the class I had just walked out of, that is precisely the thought that came to my mind: "I want to show porn that it doesn't own me!" So, do you know what I did? I marched my booty right back in there. I planted myself right back in my original spot, behind my imaginary arch nemesis. I shook my stuff. I finished that class. I had fun. And that's not all. Nope. When it was all over, I introduced myself to Miss Blondie herself. And she was really nice. As it turns out, she wasn't my husband's mistress after all. And now I can go back to that class next week without worrying about facing her. Maybe I'll even make it the whole way through without a panic attack. 

And it's all thanks to pomegranate jam. Thanks, Mac. ;)   

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Millions of shades of gray

I didn't laugh today. However, I did get out of bed. And I did take care of my children. So, I consider it to have been a successful day. I also received the first draft of my divorce papers and plunged into a deep, dark place that I wasn't expecting to see after several days running of sunshine and blue skies. (Truly! I've had a wonderful few days!) It never ceases to amaze me how reading the next set of legal paperwork can set me back so far emotionally. I feel as if I was drowning at the bottom of a swimming pool when I left my husband. And ever so slowly, I've been bubbling closer to the surface. But every once in a while -- oops -- here comes a rock falling through the water and banging me in the head. The ones from my attorney feel more like cinder-blocks aimed right at my midsection that cause my body to cave and plunge to the bottom again. Not that my attorney is such a bad guy. He's actually really great! It's just that the legal issues I've had to handle, the ordeal, the emotional strain of it all has often been almost more than I can bear. And today I finally figured out why. It's not just black and white, like the lines of type on the crisp, orderly contracts I've been poring through. It's mushy and amorphous, complicated and confusing. There are so many shades of gray.

Take the divorce itself. Is it right? I know it is. Is it easy? Heck no! Is it always so plain and perfect and obvious for me to see the end from the beginning? Not a chance. You'd think after all I've been through, it would be so clear, right? Porn addiction, lies, double life, neglect, utter betrayal, adultery = I hate him = divorce. No question. Easy-peasy. Right? But it's just not that cut and dry. Know why? Because I'm human and I have emotions. That is where the gray comes in. For instance: pain. Pain makes things gray. Staying is painful. Leaving is painful. What about fear? Fear is like a gray shadow. I was so afraid to think about what would happen if I'd stayed after all I knew; however, leaving is one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. My conclusion: There is no easy answer.

And what about "adultery"? (This one really infuriates me!) The term "adultery" really shouldn't be gray, but somehow it has become that way. We live in a world where there is a new, wider spectrum of cheating: sexting, prostitution, exotic massages, matchmaking websites for adulterers, lap dances, iphone apps for cheaters, cybersex. Every day, there seems to be some new and exciting way for people to get their sexual kicks other than wholesome sex with their own spouse or an even more secure way to hide the infidelity. The other day, I actually read a list of terms on a website that defined several different types of affairs and I was suddenly enlightened as to how my husband could claim he did not "actually have an affair" five years ago in spite of  being heavily and exclusively involved with one woman via phone, email, and text over a year-long period. It seems to some people this is not technically "adultery"; it is just an "online affair." Now let me see if I have this right. If I was reading correctly, couples today are aware of this cheating spectrum, if you will, which includes an array of  choices like pornography, emotional affair, online affair, sexual affair. They sit down, discuss where they are going to draw the line in this spectrum (what is/is not acceptable in their relationship and what is/is not considered cheating). Then they decide what to do about it if the other spouse crosses the line? That is honestly one of the saddest things I have ever heard. My heart aches to hear such a hard, pathetic reality being broadcast as though it were common knowledge. Is it common knowledge?

Is this gray area in marriage just part of reality?

Was I bamboozled into thinking I was marrying someone, giving my entire heart, body, and soul exclusively to him without reserve, without question and that I was justified in asking for the same in return?

I feel sick. All these shades of gray cloud my eyes and my brain. They make everything so foggy that I feel as though I'm suffocating.

I can hear the black thunder. It's raining.