D is for Divorce

Divorce

Devastates,

Divides,

Devours,

De-vows,

Devalues,

Denigrates,

Decouples,

Destabilizes,

Denatures,

De-energizes,

Deviates,

Distasteful,

Disables,

Disappoints,

Disenchants,

Disheartens,

Deadens,

Disputes,

Dashes,

Diverges,

Disintegrates,

Disrupts,

Disperses,

Disbands,

Displaces,

Dissolves,

Distresses,

Distorts,

Disdains,

Diseases,

Destroys,

Demolishes,

Denys,

Deflates,

Defines,

Demands,

Deprecates,

Damages,

Divests,

Defeats

And

Disillusions.

Done.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

Furthermore Psalm

I don’t exist…

On paper, I am what I owe,
On the street, alexander supertramp,
At home, a tree fallen in the forest,
At work, a number of hours,
At rest, a vaporized dream.

I don’t exist.

A calendar told me,

“Your days don’t matter.”

nil nisi bonum

 

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

Receiving Yourself in the Fires of Sorrow

 
 
. . . what shall I say? ’Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. ’Father, glorify Your name’ —Gospel of John, 12:27-28

“As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself, accepting His position and realizing His purpose, in the midst of the fire of sorrow. He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.

We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.

Sorrow removes a great deal of a person’s shallowness, but it does not always make that person better. Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me. You cannot find or receive yourself through success, because you lose your head over pride. And you cannot receive yourself through the monotony of your daily life, because you give in to complaining. The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be this way is immaterial. The fact is that it is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.”

Oswald Chambers, from this website, June 25, 2010 reading:

http://utmost.org/

Withdrawal

window

“I can take your kids, I can twenty-eight percent of your income and I can make you pay.” With these words, Evelyn unloaded her pistol of anger and resentment into her husband as often as she could. These projections of malice and bitterness were focused on Daniel for most of their fourteen year marriage. The marriage ended with the death of their marriage. Daniel narrowly escaped the death of despair brought on by caring.

It was three years into the marriage when Daniel found out about Evelyn’s past. Before the marriage he didn’t think there was anything else to know. He found out that things were not as they presented themselves. First of all, Evelyn did not come across as angry. She appeared happy and confident. She was outgoing and friendly to a degree. She felt inadequate around others she deemed smarter than herself and she would often say so. She talked about growing up in a small town, but she didn’t fill in the details until three years later. The wounds of the past were under the surface of a simple veneer of introversion. She liked to be taken care of and Daniel obliged her willingly.

In the third year, Evelyn told Daniel about her small town life during high school: Evelyn’s mother had committed adultery right before her sixteen year old eyes. Her mother was making out with her lover right in their small town family kitchen. Her mother subsequently denied any involvement with the man and then went on to divorce Evelyn’s father and to marry her lover.

During those same years, Evelyn became involved with a seminary student. She went to his room and closed the door behind her. She lay on his bed and then she told Daniel that she was raped by the student. Before she knew it she was pregnant. A male high school friend helped pay for an abortion. Evelyn told Daniel that her parents never knew found out what had happened. She wanted it that way.

Evelyn went on to tell Daniel about her life after leaving high school. Evelyn moved to college and then left college after a year. She moved out west and lived with someone for a time. She had another abortion. She moved to the south and lived with someone for time. They had a child together. She and her boyfriend sold drugs from their house. They took drugs together. Evelyn told Daniel that she worked as a call girl for a time with her friend Rosa. Rosa was a madam. When her boyfriend had overdosed once too many times Evelyn left him and moved to Chicago. She moved to the Lincoln Park area and cut her hair short. A year later she met Daniel. This is what Evelyn told Daniel that third year: “Those things are behind me.”, but Daniel wondered how far behind they were. He wondered about biting dogs at his heels.

Now, Evelyn loved wine and margaritas. She drank wine at home and then she would drink Margaritas at the Mexican restaurant. She wanted to go there often. On more than one occasion, after she drank three gold Margaritas, she would become mouthy, belligerent and verbally abusive to Daniel. Daniel decided that he was not going out to eat anymore. He began to bring food home.

Evelyn took often the kids to her mother’s house after several of these drinking bouts. Evelyn was angry with Daniel about some unknown fault or quirk or some vast deficiency: “You don’t love me.”; “I don’t feel loved.”; the kids weren’t “handled”; the dishes weren’t done or Daniel spent too much time in the kitchen; Daniel didn’t think ahead that Evelyn would be needing a bottle of wine, a “good” movie and the kids put to bed, again. It didn’t matter. Her marriage and her husband were not the perfection and panacea she demanded. Daniel was told by Evelyn that he was supposed to know what she needed before she said anything. “This is what a man does, Daniel. You’re not a man.” Her husband was not taking her pain away. She thought that alcohol and being with her mother would. So she would take the kids to her mother’s house after these evening drinking sessions and stay overnight.

Daniel felt that he was held hostage in his own marriage. Evelyn would threaten to take the children to her mother’s house if something wasn’t done to appease her before she even had an issue too complain about. The situation was unlivable for Daniel but he didn’t want to break his marriage vows and wander off to seek peace. He was committed to the marriage but he felt his hands were tied by the invisible bonds of her past.

After much marriage counseling and endless self reflection Daniel realized that he did everything he possibly could in seeking to remedy the marriage and to pacify the rage which quelled in Evelyn’s heart. There was nothing more that he could do. He wanted the painful spasms of fighting to end. He didn’t want to fight with her. At every turn, though, she found something wrong with him. Her perfectionism had become an obsession of finding the missing ingredient. She wanted a perfect man to fix her imperfect world. The children, and Evelyn‘s mother, would learn how imperfect Daniel was from Evelyn.

Daniel wished that he could surgically remove the growing cancer of hatred and disdain that Evelyn had retained in heart over the years. He understood then that a woman could hold a grudge forever if she wanted to. She could not forgive, she would not forget. Evelyn would not let go of her anger because it became too familiar to her. It became a cherished locket of fury hanging from her neck, always with her, but hidden beneath the surface. It was the locket of fury that replaced the wedding ring on her hand. Five months after demanding a second separation she took off her wedding ring and began to date other men.

Daniel, during the two years of separation leading up to a divorce, found one day that depression had cornered him in his small one bedroom apartment. He had been taking an antidepressant prescribed by the marriage clinic. After a year of taking the pills, Daniel found that the pills made him feel complacent. He felt that things were slipping away from him. He didn’t care about work and he soon didn’t care about the marriage falling apart. He decided to stop taking the pills. Within a matter of three weeks a deep depression encircled him. Daniel sat crying at his desk at work. He felt the jagged edge of every painful chasm in his soul. He didn’t know what to do but he knew that he wanted to get far away from everything and find a place of healing. He called his doctor.

The psychiatrist at the marriage clinic asked Daniel what he wanted and Daniel said, “I want to get away from everything right now.”

“Do you want to sign yourself in to the hospital?”

“Yes”, Daniel answered, thinking of an enormous Garden of Eden which would usurp the enormous load of grief in his heart with its heavenly serenity.

That night Daniel signed himself into the Hospital. After filling out the pile of papers required by the hospital Daniel was given a different antidepressant and a sleeping pill and then sent to bed. His room was shared with someone already asleep, snoring in his bed. Daniel went over to the window bed and lay down on the slab covered with blankets. No sleep came until the early morning.

That was Friday night. On Saturday, Daniel was given a cold hospital breakfast and a little cup with pills. There was no change of clothes only open hospital gowns and elastic slippers. The other patients sat around a little table eating some parts of their breakfast. Each of them was nervous to make eye contact with anyone else. There were some patients who were definitely around the bend. Conversation with them didn’t matter. Daniel sat down that first morning and ate silently. He just stared at the TV hung from the ceiling. A game show was on. Daniel knew that his expectations were not in line with the reality he was seeing. He wanted to leave immediately. It would take a week before he could go home to his one bedroom apartment.

During the morning smoke break that first hospital morning, outside in the cordoned garden area, it was whispered that someone had hung themselves in their room the week before. Mostly, though, the patients shared cigarettes and talked about what they would do when they got out. Some said they would quit smoking. A small cantankerous Chinese woman told Daniel that she didn’t know when she could get out but when she did she would open her own business in her house after she kicked out her boyfriend. He had called the police on her and they put her in the hospital. She was a manic-depressive, she told Daniel, and she hadn’t taken her pills for a week.

Phone calls from the hospital were limited to one phone in the hallway. It could only be used from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm till 8:00pm. Daniel called his office during the day and told them that he was in need of a short vacation and it had something to do with his marriage breaking up. He wanted to keep his job. The cost of the separation, the cost of two separate homes; the cost of his imperfection was becoming monstrous before his eyes. This financial situation didn’t seem to bother Evelyn, who was waiting for the free ride the court would later give her, except for the fact of her unpaid cell phone bill:

“Hello.”

“Hello, where are you?”

“I am in the hospital for some rest. I’ve been having a hard time with things lately. I stopped taking the medication I told you about. I’ll be here until the end of the week. The doctor wants to see if a new medication works before I leave. I want to talk to kids before I get off the phone. I don’t want them to worry about me.”

“Daniel, you need to take the kids this coming weekend. I’m gonna be gone. And, how is my cell phone bill gonna get paid if your in there?”

“I’ll be here until the end of the week. I’ll pick up the kids. I’ll pay it then.”

“No, no, no. I don’t want it to be late. They will charge late fees.”

“Write them a check.”

“I don’t want to write a check. I have enough going on here. You’re in charge of the finances.”

“I’ll be here until the end of the week. I’ll pay it then.”

“You better. Here’s the kids. You have to pick them up. I’m going to Las Vegas this next weekend.”

Daniel spent the week, until that next Friday which was Good Friday, in the hospital and then he was released. He drove to his apartment, changed his clothes and picked up his kids at the house and took them out for pizza that night. He didn’t forget to pay the phone bill. He paid it late and felt a relief, a withdrawal. His life had been returned to him in the few days he spent in the boxy little room along the boxy corridor of the unyielding hospital floor plan. He would never again let someone break him down as he had let Evelyn. He knew that he loved her. He knew that he wanted the marriage to work and to become more than the sum of its factors. But, he also knew now that he had to chart his own life apart from the unyielding demand for perfection coming from someone’s ruthless past.

In the end, Evelyn won the kids over with her begrudging ways. She had sufficiently belittled their father in their eyes. She told an unwary family law court, her family and her friends that the children’s father was not mentally stable. She gained sole custody. She then received twenty-eight percent of Daniel’s income. With the arrogant flippancy and unbridled urgency of a newborn teenager she took the children and they moved in with a single man who will never hear the portentous ‘third-year’ story retold. In these ways and with a thousand well-aimed shots of disapproval into her husband’s heart she made sure that Daniel paid for the infinite losses of her past. Someone had to pay for this she reckoned. It wasn’t going to be Evelyn. She now believes that she has settled her past accounts.

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

Fifty Minutes

 

door 

The clinic’s lobby ebbed and flowed of people.  A mother and her son came in one door.  A teenage girl came out another door and left through the door the mother and son came through.  A therapist stuck his head out of another door and looked around the room.  He saw his next client and said “Hi, come on in.”  A man, his wife and their son followed the therapist through the door.  A woman came in the front door and proceeded over to the glass window to check in with the half-door receptionist.  This flow of traffic continued for thirty five minutes while I read a year-old garden magazine.  I was waiting for my therapist to stick her head out of a door and say “Hi, come on in.”  I was paying her to open the door, stick her head out and say “Hi, come on in.”  She would listen to me.  I paid her good money.  Everyone else I talked to, those I didn’t pay, would just shrug their shoulders and go about their business.  My life had come to this: paying someone to listen to me.  I, of course, didn’t know for sure if they were listening, but at least the door was closed and they faced me while I talked.  They sometimes nodded, too.  They looked like they were listening, anyway. “You get out of it what you put in it.” is what they told me when I began counseling at Hope Well Clinic.

 The door opened and Melody stuck her blond head out the door.  She saw me, smiled and said, “Hi, Denny, come on in.”  I replaced the garden magazine back on the small table between two doors.  I followed Melody and went through the door that separated the outside world from the ’inside’ world.  On the other side of the door was a long hallway with many closed doors.  I knew what was going on behind those doors:   The mysteries of life being sorted into sanity, into something someone could use, something for people to get handle on.  I followed her down the hallway past the closed door sanctuaries and entered her small corner office.  Melody was new to the clinic so she didn’t have a window, just a reproduction of a Kandinsky, Composition X, I believe, hanging on a four foot wide egg shell painted wall.  A floor lamp hung its one light over a love seat. A lava lamp on a small table in front of the Kandinsky provided a pink glow to Melody’s right cheek. I sat down on the left side of the love seat and nestled a burgundy pillow behind the small of my back.  I leaned back into the shadow cast by the lamp and rested my head on my hand.

 Melody is a five-foot-two gorgeous blond with a petite figure that appeared to bubble out from her effervescence.  Her clothes were fashionable, maybe from Saks or Von Maur or Nordstroms.  Her look spoke volumes.  I appreciated the care she took in her appearance.  She didn’t look clinically challenged at all, just “peachy keen”.  A bevy of natural blond hair framed her oval cherubic face.  She appeared so angelic that it was easy for me to ‘see’ her every two weeks.  The visit with her provided for my own emotional ‘face lift’.

 Melody and I had developed some positive transference during our bi-monthly visits over six months   I was able to talk to her openly about most things and yet at the same time I held back on the one piece of the puzzle that confronted my daily life.  The reason for this resistance was the fact that a previous counselor, Jim, at the same clinic had told me that if I wanted to live as a woman and follow through with the surgery the Clinic, the Christian Clinic, couldn’t help me.   They couldn’t say why they wouldn’t help me only that they wouldn’t.  I was left to assume that they weren’t sure what do with the issue or that they just thought it was sinful or destructive. They couldn’t say why.  I later learned that Jim died from lung cancer.  I found this out when they cancelled my sixteenth session with him. That’s when they turned my case over to Melody, a licensed clinical counselor who had just joined Hope Well Clinic.  During my time at the clinic I saw a psychiatrist, too.  His method of dealing with me was to medicate me and then to take five minutes during the next appointment to ask how I was doing and then charge another $250.00 for another script.  I later decided not to medicate the pain. I decided that the financial pain was worse than the emotional pain of not being able to live as a woman. My impending personal financial recession brought about by his incessant billing was causing me severe emotional depression.  I quickly put a lid on the meds.

 There were reasons to talk to someone:   a 14 year long divorce that started as a marriage to Marybeth; my leaving a successful business partnership in hopes of saving the dissolving marriage; the accidental death of our eighteen year old son during the marriage, the everyday loss of my two children to an angry alcoholic woman because of the divorce; the loss of two significant jobs, long term joblessness and the financial collapse of my life.  A page of scripture verses or a bottle of anti-depressants was not what the doctor should have ordered.  Instead, someone just needed to listen to the pain being cast out of me like a demon from the recipient of the personal holocaust.

 “How are you doing this week, Denny?” Our dialog began with Melody’s opening line.

 “Alright, I guess.  No major tragedies the past two weeks.”

“Good.”

 “Marybeth is being a jerk again.

 “How so?”

“You remember how I told you that always threatened me that she would take my kids, take 28% of my income and make me pay?

 “Yes.”

 “That is what she is trying to do right now in the divorce agreement.  She wants me to agree to this arrangement and I am saying no.  It is costing me a small fortune to pay a lawyer to fight this.  My own lawyer keeps telling me that I can’t do this and that I can’t do that.”  My own lawyer is pretty useless if you ask me.  My lawyer expects me to just lay down and give Marybeth sole custody and I refuse to do this.  These are my children, as well.  I lived full time with my kids until this… this…this person decided to break up our marriage and our home with her perfectionism and her alcoholic rage.”

 “I thought last time that we agreed that we weren’t going to keep talking about Marybeth.”

 “I have to.  I am so angry at what she has done to our family, to the kids and to me.  Now she is living with some guy who looks like her father.  All of this in front of my two kids.”

 Melody lets me talk about the Marybeth situation but I realize that she has an agenda and is waiting to move on.  She just nods and looks dolefully at me while placing both feet on the floor in front of her rocking chair.  Her feet didn’t touch the floor unless she rocked forward to make a point.

 “I would like to get a different lawyer but I can’t get the retainer money together again.  I am deep in debt because of this whole divorce business.”

 Melody leaned forward.  “Yeah, that is hard.”  “Well, we have to get you through this, past Marybeth.”

 I leaned toward Melody and spoke directly to her large green eyes:  “I don’t understand it when people make vows and then they don’t fulfill them and just walk away from them.  How can you just walk away from a vow?”

 “”It happens every day.”

 “Then it isn’t a vow, is it?” Denny crossed his arms against his chest.

 “It is at the time.”

 “What?!” His threw his arms open into a wide questioning flare.

 “People say things and things change.”

 “What?! “For better or for worse” are the words we said to each other.  “To death do us part.”

 “Things change, people change.” Melody uncrossed her legs and then crossed them the other way.

 “Vows don’t change.”

 “Let’s move on and get past Marybeth.  You have to go on with your life.”

 “My vow to her was my life!”

 “That has changed.”

 What?!” Denny was incredulous.

 “The divorce is going forward and you must get past this and move on with your life.”

 “I can’t get past this.  Vows are serious things.”

 “She is with someone else.  You can’t make her love you.  You have to let go.”

 “I didn’t want the divorce. I wanted reconciliation.  I wanted to work through these things.  She was always pointing her finger at me and she never once took responsibility for our marriage.  That’s why I went to counseling in the first place.  She said that I was the problem. I was supposed to please her and if I didn’t then she said I was the problem – because she wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy but I thought I had a vow to fulfill and that I must keep working at it.  Happiness would just have to wait.”

 “People sometimes need to go away to realize what they left behind.”

 “What?!”  Denny’s face was bright red, flushed with anger.  “Once she sleeps with this other guy, her father, it is over for us.  I don’t want that to happen. We had children together; we have fourteen years of trying. We made vows.”

 “She changed her mind.  I don’t know why.  Let’s move on to talk about you.”

 “This is me!” Denny returned.

 “OK, but she is not going to change.  Let’s talk about what you can change instead.”

 “She and I were one.  How can you change that except by splitting one into two?  Don’t you understand?  We are getting a divorce because she is not happy!  That’s the reason!”

 “I understand.  She has changed for whatever reason.”

 Denny fell back into the glow of the pink lava lamp, his cheeks flushed red against the soft rose light. He knew that Melody’s ‘agenda’ took precedence over anything that he had wanted to say regarding Marybeth.  He had come through the labyrinth of doors, rooms and hallways into her office so that he could talk to her about these things and she had already moved next door.

 “Denny, remember when we first talked and I asked you about the Healing of Memories Prayer?  We talked about what it was and about bringing up the past.  You said that you were open to praying with me this prayer.  Is that still the case?”

 Denny shifted his legs and then leaned forward putting his hands on his knees.  “Yeah, I’m open to that.  I don’t see why not.”

 “Good, well if you are in a good place then we can try it today. I wanted to make sure there is enough time to pray and to work through whatever comes up.”

 “Alright.”

  … My previous therapist, Susan, was a psychologist.  Her office was in her home in a northwestern suburb of Chicago.  Susan was very friendly and approachable.  So much so, in fact, that she saw me once a week, charged me only $30.00/hour and we talked for two to three hours at a time – costing me only $30.00.  I would not call her a typical therapist but we did enjoy talking with each other.  We talked about everything:  her dog, her son, her friends, her life, church, spirituality, movies and so on.  I didn’t know who was more pixilated:  me or Susan.  After a year or so of sessions with Susan I traveled closer to home, to Hope Well Clinic in Wheaton.  I did that for post-marriage counseling and because I was giving Susan more counseling then she gave me in return.  I later found out that Susan had some serious health issue that resulted from her breast implants leaking silicone.  The silicone had affected her brain.  She became mentally handicapped as time went on.  During one session with Susan the year before I learned that she had dated a plastic surgeon and that he had done her breast implant surgery.  That relationship apparently had deteriorated over time…

 “Why don’t we pray and see what the Lord brings up from the past.  Are you ready to have these things come up?” “Do you feel OK about this?” Melody leaned toward me and folded her hands.

 “I’m not worried about the past. I’ve been there before.  It’s right now that has me bothered.”

 “OK, let’s get started.  Father, we pray for Denny.  We ask that You would bring Denny to a place in the past, a place that You want to heal.”

 We waited in silence.  The room was quiet except for the low hum of the lava lamp.  The hallway was quiet except for the closure of a door somewhere.  I didn’t know what was going on in the lobby.  I was deep in thought and the prayer was reaching even deeper into my soul.  After ten minutes of silence I began to see an image in my mind:  I was standing in the doorway of my bedroom.  The bedroom was in the house I had lived in since I was eight years old.  I understood that the house was empty, no furniture and no people.  I was alone.

 I began to cry softly.  The aching pain of being alone had followed me throughout my life.  A rush of sadness came to my head and poured out into tears which fell from my bowed face. In my vision I stood in the doorway looking into the bedroom.  It had now become pitch black.  I was enveloped in darkness within an empty house looking into an empty room.  It was then that I heard a voice say to me, “Run free.”  I instantly saw a little Indian boy running around without a shirt.  He was happy and utterly free.  He didn’t have a care in the world.  I knew then that the Lord had given me this understanding because this vision was so intimate to my understanding.  This image of this shirtless Indian boy was something I had immediately recognized in my spirit.  I realized that God had set me free from my past and had given me freedom to go forward with my heart’s desires.  Only the Lord knew exactly what was in my heart – the desire I had not mentioned to Melody or to anyone since I told Jim.  The spirit of the little boy now lived in me – the spirit of freedom.  The past no longer pinned me down.  People would no longer be able pin me down with their prejudice and fear.  I was free to go forward with my life.

 Melody asked what I had seen and I told her about the empty and dark bedroom in my childhood home.  She asked me if I had heard anything and I told her, “The Lord said, run free!”  She looked at me quizzically and I kept my thoughts to myself.  She asked if I was OK and all I could say was, “Yeah.”  I knew that if I had told her my understanding of the vision that she would seek to negate my vision and suppress my perception of it because of a Hope Well Clinic policy based on ignorance and bias and, perhaps, fear.  My heart was dancing but my eyes didn’t move from staring at the floor.

 I wiped my face and fell back into the loveseat with a sigh.  I sat in her office with a red face and a growing smile.  I knew that I was loved by the Lord and that I was heard by Him.  I was not alone anymore in my very personal struggle.  The session ended with Melody saying, “Well it’s time.  Let’s get together in two weeks and see how you are doing.”  I went through her door again, down the hallway of doors and into the lobby of many doors where I paid my bill.  I left the clinic and found my car in the parking lot.  I would return just two more times to see Melody.  Everything had a different perspective now.  The Lord had heard me and He had answered my prayers. I had gotten out of it what I had put in it.  And, more.

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved