Monday, January 21, 2013

My own bicycle

by vis photography

Of all the relationships I've had in my life, my relationship with Jack is my favorite for so many reasons.  But one of the biggest reasons? He lets me ride my own bicycle.

Check out this adorable couple in the picture with the super cute tandem bike idea on their wedding day. Awwww. One problem. With my ex-husband? I did that emotionally. Once upon a time, I had my own bicycle. But when I got married, I ditched mine. I hopped on the groom's bike and never let go. And boy did he take me on a wild ride! First just over some little bumps and hills. Then into some shady forests and thickets laced with thorns. I cried a little and told him the branches were scratching my skin and tearing at my hair and my pretty white dress, but he didn't seem to hear me. Soon, I noticed he had even stopped glancing back to smile at me anymore. I started getting tired, but I was willing to keep going. We had made a deal. I would be there for him. We were inseparable, a team. Right? But I was getting so tired and so uncomfortable. I began to feel ragged and dirty. And so thirsty. I begged for water, for respite, but he put in his earphones to block out the noise. Before I knew it we were stopping alright, but not for me. For him. Every once in a while he would pause and hoist a beautiful woman onto his lap and bring her along for the ride too. After that, he didn't see me anymore. I was only there to pedal--my hair tangled, my face tearstained, my filthy feet straining with the effort under torn blackened rags. Occasionally, the current mistress might cast a condescending look my direction as her sleek beautiful curls bounced in the wind, with her bright eyes flashing and crimson lips curled in disgust. But then something happened. One day, my bike pedal came apart and I fell, shattered, onto the ground. Detached. Broken. Abandoned. 

At first I just lay there--a huddled mass on the dirt road in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of nothing. I gasped for air. I reeled at the sensation of detaching from the only reality I had known for ten years. Pedaling. And pedaling hard. And never imagining it would be any different for the rest of my life. I fell. And then as twilight set in, it began to drizzle. As the last hope of warm sunshine slipped beyond the horizon, the clouds burst and the dirt road turned to mud around me. Lacking the strength to lift my aching, broken body from the ground, I sank into the muck. The torrent grew, pounding in my head, flashing in my senses. Little rivlets formed, swirled and circled, laughing at my pain. I was sure I would drown. 

The gray dawn found me face-down on the roadside. I had survived through the night, but only just. And then I felt it, a slight warming sensation on my shoulders. Still unable to move or see, I knew the feeling well. It was the sunrise. And then a voice. A man's voice. Calm, peaceful, and familiar. He had found me. Of course he had. Deep in my heart, I knew if I could hold on long enough, he would come. 

It wasn't Jack. It was my Savior. He is the one who bound my wounds. And I will never be the same.

This past year (yes, it has been a year since I left--January 20, 2012) I have worked and prayed and pondered and attended the temple like no other time in my life. I have walked hand-in-hand with Christ. He has given me the strength I've needed to get up in the morning, to make it through the day, when I just didn't have it in me. I guess, in a way, you could say that he taught me how to build my own bicycle. And he taught me how to ride again. This time by myself. But I know because he helped me build it and because he taught me how to ride, it will work this time. Here are some tools and parts I've used to build my bike. Who knows? Maybe you'll want to build (or add to) your own bike sometime and will find these useful:

-Journals. Yes, plural. I have kept several journals both for therapy and for record-keeping purposes. Some are nasty. I rant in them. I write terrible things in them. Then I might rip out the pages and burn them. Some are awesome and inspirational. I read those ones again and again. One is a scripture journal that I use specifically for my personal study time. (This is a huge part of my bicycle!) I have one that is electronic, so I can type in it, then delete entire paragraphs, inserts stuff, etc. Most of my journals are handwritten. There's just something about scribbling with a pen or colored pencils, or slopping on some paint. (Yep, I do all that in my journals sometimes too.)
-Music. I have used music to grow closer to my Savior this year. It sounds goofy, but I shut everything else out and only listened to MoTab, and Christian rock for about six months. I even put together a list of fast EFY songs for the gym. Not because I am a dork, but because I really needed that connection and uplift. And it worked. 
-Media fast. For a long time, I just didn't have any desire to do the TV/movies thing. Giving it up for a few months was awesome. I found so much time for personal study, and it really quieted my mind. Not so much "interference," y'know?
-"Inspiration" binder. When I really started looking for guidance from the Lord, it was amazing all the places I would find it. I mean, direct answers, people! Handouts, scriptures, hymns, talks. You name it! Answers everywhere! So, I started a binder with about a hundred sheet protectors, and when I'd come across something, I'd tear it out, print it, photocopy it, whatever--and throw it in the binder. And what an amazing tool it has become for me! I look back through it often and am still discovering and re-discovering answers and direction from the Lord from the things I've gathered.
-Angel box. Adultery and porn addiction are major self-esteem busters. We all know that. But throughout my experience I have come to recognize that there are angels around us to help lift us up. It is one way Heavenly Father shows us he loves us--through other people. Your angels. You've met them. Some of them are on the forum. Some of them are fellow bloggers. Some are your close friends and family members. They send you notes. They make you feel like a million bucks. They send you snippets of great talks. I put together a box of uplifting stuff from my "angels." It helps me through my junk days. 
-My blue book. Sometimes I really struggle with making my scripture study meaningful. But one amazing friend gave me a great idea that has revolutionized my year. Grab a paperback blue Book of Mormon or inexpensive paperback copy of the Bible that is dedicated ONLY to the trial you are going through or thing you want to learn about. (My friend has several copies. Some examples might be "Faith," "Prayer," "Titles of Christ," "Forgiveness,""Dealing with Porn," etc.) Write questions for yourself in the front (i.e., How do I cope? How do I teach my kids about this?), color code them, and mark your answers in the scriptures in the same colors. While you are reading, highlight passages and write in the margins ONLY about that subject. Keep in mind, this is not your take-to-church copy. No one is going to see this but you. Use it however you need to! It has been so liberating for me to do this because I have written things in my margins that are so therapeutic but that I would never have written in my "nice" set of scriptures.
-So thankful. Let's face it. Dealing with all this junk stinks. And it is easy to get frustrated and angry. And I do. A lot. But I'm trying really hard to have a better attitude. It's really hard. Something I've just started doing is keeping a gratitude journal. It's not fancy. It's small. Pocket-size. I don't necessarily write in it every day. Sometimes I write a lot, sometimes a little. Sometimes I jot lists, sometimes I explain a little more in short paragraphs. Life is hard, but life is really good! I've found that even on my most rotten, most awful days, I can always find at least one thing to thank the Lord for. Even if it's just indoor plumbing. And sometimes it makes it a little more real to write it down.

There are so many more. And lots of them are obvious. Regular temple attendance, Family Home Evening, prayer, staying active in the Church. All of that! But I've just tried to share some of the unique things that have worked for me. But maybe you've tried this kind of stuff. Maybe it didn't work for you. Maybe my style is not your style. I can respect that. I'm just sharing what has been working for me in hopes that it might help someone else. ;)

So ... after this long, long post, here's the moral of my story:

I haven't healed completely yet, but I'm on the right track. I can look back now and see some progress! I'm off the tandem bicycle. I'm not a shattered heap on the road anymore. I'm out of the muck. Mostly. Some days it still rains, but I'm stronger now. And even better, I have my own bike--custom made, just for me. I'm still tinkering with it, though. I think I always will be.

But what about Jack? Where does he fit in all of this? I'll tell you. He has is own bike too. And his isn't a tandem bike like my ex-husband's. Funny thing is, he's been through the same process as I have. He was the one doing all the pedaling in his marriage too, and the Savior found him on the road-side as well. And he's worked just as hard to build his bike as I have. Besides that, he has made it clear that he loves my bike and won't ever ask me to give it up. So instead of feeling this irresistible urge to ditch our bikes and hop on a tandem, we are perfectly happy to ride side by side along the road--today, tomorrow, and the next day. And just in case you're wondering if I'm talking about being single vs. being married, I'm not. I happen to believe that for me a healthy marriage or healthy relationship of any kind from here on out will include two bicycles. I fully intend on riding my own bike, the one I built with the Savior's help. Jack lets me do that. That's why I know he's right for me. 

"Two Bicycles" - Marylene Proner

Side note:
If you have read any of the materials for the Addiction Recovery Program, you might have come across a story about a tandem bicycle. In that story, the addict (or loved one) sits on the back to pedal and trusts the Savior to sit in the driver seat. That, my friends, is a different analogy altogether. Now THAT is the kind of tandem bicycle ride I would love to take. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rebound vs. Slam Dunk

photo credit
People often ask if Jack is a "rebound relationship" for me. Ah, the dreaded term. You know, he even asked me himself once. Rebound relationship. What does that even mean? It sounds so insulting. It minimizes the importance of the relationship to pretty much nil, doesn't it? It makes it a joke, makes it sound temporary, like the person is some sort of a toy--disposable--to be used and then cast aside. Right? So I guess you probably know what I'm going to say. Is Jack a "rebound" for me? Um ... no. Heck no. That is a resounding "NO."

Jack. Is a SLAM DUNK.

It's funny, though. Having so many people ask me about "THE REBOUND RELATIONSHIP" made me stop and think. Is this a requirement for a divorcee? Must I have a rebound relationship in order to get it out of my system and then move on to a substantial relationship? Divorced ladies out there? Or therapists? Single people? Anyone? What are your thoughts?

Anyhow, I suppose I did have a rebound relationship before Jack. An unexpected one. I guess it was a relationship? More like a crush? I don't really know what to call it. But I didn't let it get physical at all. I mean not even a little bit. Because at the time I was technically not divorced yet. I was sorely tempted, but I didn't. Anyone who really knows me knows I'm stronger than that. :)

But first let me back up a little and set this up a bit, because I think it's important to note that, um ... guys in my life again? This was not originally in my plan. When I left my now ex-husband, I was done. I mean, completely turned off. No more sex drive. I mean, not even a little. Ready to raise my kids on my own. Not because I was a feminist or a man-hater. I just didn't feel it anymore. No zing. No tingle. No desire to ever be in love again, to date, and certainly no desire to be involved in another serious relationship. That would require trust, something I had no understanding of anymore ... something I'm still struggling with. A lot.

So here I am in June, doing my thing, and then my kids have their first visitation with their father. All of a sudden I'm "single" again for six weeks. At first I was so disoriented. I felt so alone. But then something funny happened. I was at the grocery store, and a cute guy winked at me. Wha? I was seriously startled. I think I looked around to see if he was winking at someone else, but he watched me walk away, too. And I smiled back. Whaaa? Weird. And something stirred inside me. All of a sudden it hit me: I'm appealing? Weird. The opposite gender finds me attractive? It had been so long since I had felt that way that I guess I'd forgotten what it felt like. I had just assumed that my general style screamed, "I'm a frumpy exhausted mother of two!" And I guess it just so happens that when I don't have two preschoolers hanging all over me and all over the shopping cart, I'm a little more wink-at-able at the grocery store. Cool. Actually, it made me feel a little guilty at first. But then I thought, Why? Why should I feel guilty about a guy winking at me? I didn't do anything wrong. I was just walking into the grocery store. After a while I started getting used to it again. Male attention, I mean. But it did feel really strange at first.

So, there were the random guys. Cute strangers offering a wink, a smile, or a whistle. But then there was Landon. Nice guy, ladies man, huge flirt, LDS, divorced, with two kids (just like me). He offered what most of my friends and family couldn't: a complete understanding of my situation. But, he was also a guy. And, woah. All of a sudden there was chemistry. Chemistry?! I was not prepared for that. And then he started asking me out. I told him, no, not until my divorce decree was issued, and he laughed at me. So then, every day the question was, "Are you divorced yet? Wanna go out?" Every day. It was a fun few weeks. I enjoyed his company. But I never did go on a date with him because the decree was issued--ironically--on the day I got on the plane to fly home. For a long time I regretted the fact that we never got past friendship and my "crush" phase. But in retrospect I know everything happened the way it needed to. Landon played his part. He taught me how to feel again. I didn't know it was possible. And even though we never really had a "relationship" per se, he definitely helped me rebound back into the game. And I will always be thankful for that.