What About Forgiveness?

Credit: sufiuniversity.org

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of forgiveness lately. I’m not sure I fully understand what it means or maybe I am on a journey towards getting a grip on the whole idea. I am sure that I have practiced it. And I am equally certain that I have been forgiven by others.

I have heard time and again of the importance of forgiveness as it frees you up to let go and move on. But I’m not quite in agreement with that advice.  We are told if we don’t forgive that we are holding onto a grudge or anger or allowing ourselves to continue to be a victim. No, no, no!

Forgiveness is a weighty matter and depends upon the circumstances of another’s transgressions.  It is equally dependent on whether the other party has sought to make amends, take responsibility for the pain caused to the aggrieved party or practice redemptive actions.

If someone has not actively done any of that, how can we really forgive? We can accept what has happened to us, grieve and live the pain for a bit and move on to a new and perhaps (if we are lucky) an even better life. I believe acceptance of what happened to us is not passive in nature at all. My current life is living proof of this fact as many of you who have been following me well know.

Here’s what I can do.  I can compliment my former spouse for making two good decisions in his life: marrying me and divorcing me.  Because he married me, I received two gifts that will last a lifetime and beyond: my sons. They are living proof of two decent human beings who understand life’s purpose and bring joy and steadfast love to their world.  Moreover, because he divorced me, I received a second chance at a better life. Everything that has happened to me, the experiences, the people, the places I have seen and the joy I have known would NEVER have occurred if he did not choose to go. Both my sons and I would have missed out on the riches that all these things have brought to our lives. Imagine that!

So here is what I can forgive: his inability to fundamentally commit to family life. The man just does not have the capacity because of his family of origin’s extreme dysfunction. His original wound has not healed. I have genuine sympathy for that young man who suffered because of one parent’s indiscretions. At the beginning of our life together, neither one of us would know the degree to which this informed our marriage. Over time it increasingly held me hostage and spilled over until it took the form of neglect as well as emotional and verbal abuse.

And that is what I cannot forgive yet.  Do I expect an apology? An acknowledgement?  Maybe. Or perhaps if I saw glimmers of hope in his relationship with our sons I could take that step. So far not so good.

In the meantime, I continue to live out loud. A free woman. Let loose from the chains of harsh criticism and passive aggressive behaviors. Walking lightly-some say floating- on this good earth.

 

Renewed Liberation

 

Haunting Thoughts…

Ruminations and Deliberations …

Affirmations of His Implosion 

His Dearth of Self-Examination 

And Unending Needs for External Gratification

Just  a Twisted Quest for Self Satisfaction

A Mere Existence

Never Present

My Fertile Heart

Unearthed

Revealed

A Treasure for Mine and Another’s own Good Keeping

My Soul once Secluded

Pummeled into Submission and Secrecy

Sings without Restraints and Restrictions

My Mind once Sculpted So as to Please

Unselfishly Speaks for Itself

 A Voice Resonating and Resounding

My Body Once Picked Apart

Used and Discarded

Now  a Scrumptious Delight in the Tender Hands of Another

Where once My Very Being was at Stake

Torn Asunder by the Winds of His Words

I Reemerge Retooled

One Righteous Babe

Ready for Reckoning

 

 

The Summer I’d Like to Forget

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#FWF Free Write Friday: Are You Up For This?

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I’ve been debating with myself as to whether it is even worth writing about a decade old story. I have alluded to it in poetry ( Hidden Hunger ,Witness ) but never in memoir.

It is difficult to admit that there was a time that my family went hungry.  The details of how we arrived at our sorry state are way too complicated and frankly, too boring. Here are the highlights:

  • Husband gets fired-not laid off- from six figure job.
  • Husband decides to start own business causing significant decrease in income.
  • Wife works part-time while in a year-long clinical graduate program.
  • Wife told that her job must now carry the benefits, cutting her measly salary in half.
  • Wife told that since her job does not pay in summer, she must get full-time work and the children can stay home alone all day without mom and dad.
  • Wife is not able to get full-time job but finds work that keeps her away from home for just a few hours.
  • Wife’s tiny wages go to food.
  • Wife eats less to save food for kids.
  • Husband squanders all savings  and other finances while secretly making major purchases.
  • Wife tells no one about situation even though her parents live just eight miles away and her brother thirteen.

I spent the summer of 2004 in a state of shock, or as a friend said “survival mode”.  I knew things would get better in the fall when my job resumed to a nearly full -time position. But the 12 weeks of empty bellies seemed endless. A wall of resistance and repudiation was put up by my husband. In his eyes it was my fault for not getting full-time work. Not his fault for getting fired and pursuing something that barely brought a paycheck in to pay bills.

I felt stuck. As summer turned into fall, a latent anger was born. I took it out on everyone but him at first but then it boiled over when I found out about another major purchase he had made. I went into therapy where I began to unravel the pieces of my situation as well as my marriage and more importantly, myself.

We never went hungry after that summer. I refused to have my sons experience that dull, hollow feeling that comes from not having enough to eat ever again. Their father never accepted responsibility for his decisions and instead continued to lay the blame on me. But for the  next summer and for all subsequent summers, I secured positions where I could make money and have my children productively occupied and supervised.

Life trucked on, the marriage ended, battles were waged and the three of us (as many of you know by now) have a wonderful, wonderful life. He lost us but we gained ourselves. I still worry about food and going hungry. I cannot have the refrigerator or cabinets or the pantry ever be empty. It triggers that feeling again.

The boys and I did talk about that time a few years ago. I apologized to them for what happened but they both said I did the best I could. They had come to understand the circumstances that caused the situation in the first place. It was just one of many moral violations committed by their father.

I eventually confessed to my family, who were at first angry that I did not come to them for help. I was too ashamed and I knew I would suffer the consequences of revealing the secret. It didn’t seem worth it at the time.

And do I have shame today? No, I let that go a long time ago. Although I was not conscious of it at the time, I was being abused. The blaming, the passive aggressive behavior, the snide remarks began in earnest that summer. They increased over time until I finally realized what was happening.

When one is in the midst of negativity and abusive behavior, it is nearly impossible to see a way out. One only wants the abuse to stop-not for the abuser to leave. Strange dichotomy but oh so true. Lucky for me, he left. But he still abused from afar in various ways. I only got stronger and my children got wiser.

We know how to feed our bellies and our souls. Loaves and fishes abound. Abundance is present. And we are very grateful.

Never let yourself be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

~Robert Frost

 

This was THE most challenging free write for me.  I really went back and forth as to whether I could write about it. Frankly, I didn’t want to. But sometimes you just have to put your muscle into it. It was NOT cathartic. It just had to be written and done with once and for all.

Temporary Darkness

Credit: www.creativetimes.co.uk

 

She stood in line at the cafe’; nearly anonymous in her cloak. Her hands in the front pouch, her movements silent and slight.  She nourishes herself  in the feeling of wanting to be hidden. To shroud herself in the hood of her over sized sweatshirt.  To comfort herself in the October night’s darkness and seek the void.  Mint tea and chocolate were necessary and perhaps a better alternative to a glass of red wine or a shot of tequila. She wasn’t drinking these days anyway. Hadn’t had even a sip of lightning in over a year.

She spent the day being stripped of her dignity. Questions asked.  Barbs and jabs. Silent jeers. Scoffs and sneers from across the table, trapped in that room for hours. It was about as soothing as walking barefoot on gravel. His false accusations and twisting of the truth had her seeing red. Was this once the man who made her heart sing?

She knew it was just another step in the process. Probably the worst or most unlucky bit of the situation. Positively draining.  Self-comfort was necessary. When she placed her order, the sympathetic manager touched her hand and leaned in as if to give her a hug.  She handed her the tea and treat. “It’s on me,” she said. Her eyes brimming and her throat in a grip, she managed to eke out her welled up appreciation.

The hole of blackness still overwhelmed her. But somewhere -not too deep inside herself- were the beginnings of the path toward that pinprick of light.

 

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This week’s prompt from Kellie Elmore was a five word bank. I had started writing a story last night without seeing this week’s prompt ( By 9pm last night I was tucked in listening to The Moth Radio Hour-great storytelling show, by the way!). Her words fit perfectly into what I had drafted. This piece was born of a small trigger; I was removing my hoodie sweatshirt when a flash of memory came flooding back prompting me to get the ideas out of my head before they festered!  The word prompts from Kellie are below:

Red – Mint – Gravel – Sing – Unlucky

The Aftermath

Credit: www.submit.manscostyle.com ( “A Wounded Heart” by Tim Dwyer)

 

In the dark recesses of my mind

I hear the gunfire of your wounds

Land mines of domestic destruction

Improvised explosives shrouded in verbal volleys 

Scattered shrapnel

Stinging pain from your  scoffs

Mocking my every move

 

In the dark recesses of my gut

I taste the heaving

My attempts to digest your vile invectives

your vicious vitriol that holds my virtues in a vise

 

In the dark recesses of my heart

I feel the agony of your aggression 

the abscess of your abandonment

 and the anguish of your annihilation

.

 

For those known and unknown who are experiencing abuse. Mine is past but the pain is sometimes present.

Witness

Hunger by TessCummings

Credit: howtheotherhalflives.deviantart.com (Hunger by Tess Cummings)

 

The list resides on a yellowed pad

Necessary nourishment for the coming week

We stop here first before our feastive task

Caffeinated fuel and friendship

A 21st Century Communion

In the shop’s short distance

A dear friend is spied

A light touch to greet her

Deep hugs and hushed whispers

Our minds meeting for a minute and more

 

But ensconced in the corner

Nearly unnoticeable from view

Sits the Serpent Sipping sumatra opposite a slender lass

His head a crusted flesh

 

For me: a glimpse of recognition

A trickle of fear

A tiny rat-a-tat-tat of  the heart

But for the first time a small measure of sincere safety, a healthy emotional distance

A graceful departure

 

This crinkly creature

This squalid stranger once starved three loving souls

Sacrificed them for his vision quest

 

Yes, the memories linger still

Days of bare cupboards and hollowed tummies

Secret stashes hidden from him

Stunned into silence

Bullied and Blamed by the Beast

A Buried Hunger hidden from everyone and ourselves

 

At present day an unfilled refrigerator and a paltry pantry give rise to a familial panic

A sign of a decade’s old deprivation

 

The yellowed pad travels with us

The list an act of defiance

A shout out loud

A second slaying of the dragon

And always a Harvest of Hope

The Heart of the Matter

Credit: We Heart It

“Where we choose to be, where we choose to be–we have the power to determine that in our lives. We cannot reel time backward or forward, but we can take ourselves to the place that defines our being.”
―     Sena Jeter Naslund,     Ahab’s Wife, or The Star-Gazer

Long I ago I ceased wondering and worrying and feeling ashamed of decisions I had made regarding my life’s choices. Like if I didn’t get married 24+ years ago maybe I could have avoided the heartbreak, abuse and eventual diminishment of myself that the union ultimately gave me. Maybe I would have had a different career, different partner, different house, different community, different friends. Maybe it would have been better?  Really, who cares? I made the right decision at the time ( no one had objected, everyone loved him) and I stayed longer than I should have. Even I don’t know when the right time would have been after so much time has passed. And really, who cares? I have two beautiful, grown sons and a pretty satisfying career as a result of being their mom. I got to raise boys who are becoming contributing members of society as a result of my hard work.

I used to think that I was failure because I became a divorced woman. Like the marriage’s demise was a reflection of my own inability to maintain a commitment. When my father told me that he was proud of my decision to obtain legal help and move out of the relationship while protecting myself, it affirmed that I was doing the right thing. People often said they were sorry that my husband had left. I was not. Really, I did not care.

As time moved on, I was acquiring the abilities to become a more independent woman. I got my Master’s degree in the midst of all the turmoil while still working full-time. I took on my former husband at every obstacle he put in my way. Sometimes they were pebbles. Sometimes they were boulders. But, really who cares? They need to be moved and surmounted on the road I was building to a better life.

Today I stand at a crossroads. I have proven to myself that I can be on my own and very happy. I have made amazing financial decisions that secured my present and I hope my future. I have moved out of the past to the point that it seems like it never existed. I am working on being present in my present life, letting go of things that I cannot control and planning a new life with the man I love.

I would not be writing and living my life if the pain of the past had not occurred. I am grateful to have gotten out of it. My experience-through publicly writing about it here at WordPress- I hope has given others inspiration and the seeds of strength to create their own lives and speak their own truths.

Open your mind. Open your Heart. Speak your mind. Speak from your heart. Live by your instincts. Live your life.

Post inspired by Kellie Elmore’s:

#FWF Free Write Friday: Quote Prompt