2018: A Year For Hope (Week 28)

By the grand old age of 20, and after less than two years of marriage, I was on my way to becoming a divorcee. Having married right out of high school, I was making a very modest hourly wage – certainly not enough to live on my own. My parents graciously received me back into their home while I got back on my feet again, and while I’m grateful for their kindness, it was uncomfortable for all of us.

Soon after I filed for divorce, I left my data-processing job at a semiconductor company and I started anew as Receptionist at a small manufacturing company. This was an exciting new environment for me and my strong administrative skills were quickly noted by the President and Sales Manager, affording me several opportunities for advancement within the company. It was also while at this company that I started dating again.

Why is it that after a divorce (or break up of any long-term relationship) we are so quick to “get back in the game”? Under what reasoning do we think that we can process the searing pain, relational loss and likely also some sense of betrayal in a matter of 3-9 months? Where were the counselors to caution me about dating again so quickly? Certainly not at home, for my mom was in full support of my return to the dating world. After all, I’d already “tasted the forbidden fruit” and so naturally I would have desires that demanded to be satisfied again. And isn’t self-gratification more important than taking the time to process your emotions, evaluate the mistakes made, and experience at least some level of spiritual and emotional healing?

I didn’t even wait until AFTER my divorce, I started dating DURING my divorce! Lord almighty! But this is what the world tells us to do … to “Get back up on that horse!”

Try
Colbie Caillat

Put your make-up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?

It was 1980 and I was a young blue-eyed, blond-haired woman-child in the age of “Enjoli” commercials telling me that I could and should have it all; love, career, and financial success. I quickly captured the attention of the two single engineers that worked on the other side of the reception area. They regularly flirted with me and I ate it up. “J” took me on a few dates, but it quickly became obvious that he was only interested in one thing, which by the way he was already getting from his on/off girlfriend. And while tempting, I didn’t want to be used in that way. I’d already had a taste of that … I knew better (or so I told myself) than to go that path again, and so I refused any further invitations from him.

“T” however. Well, “T” was another species the likes of which I’d never encountered before. He was from South America and literally oozed sensuality. He was a smooth operator, but in the most charming of ways. At first he flirted with me from a distance while his buddy “J” had a run at me. He was sizing me up, laying the groundwork.

The women in the office talked about “T”. They said he was a womanizer. They said he had kids in South America and was looking for a ticket to bring them to the US. They said to steer clear of him.

But “T” made me feel attractive and desirable. He admitted he had kids in South America that he wanted to bring to the US. But he also said he had “sown all his wild oats” and that he now wanted to settle down and have a family with a special woman … a woman like me. He told me everything I wanted to hear … everything I needed to hear … and I agreed to go on a date with him.

As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve been listening to Andy Stanley’s message “Three Myths, Part 1, ‘How to make sure next time is better than last time.’” We all experience unpleasant endings in life … job endings, relationship endings, etc. And if we will take the time to evaluate our experiences that led to those unpleasant endings, we just might successfully course correct so that our next time is better than our last time. But that takes energy, honesty and personal responsibility. It also takes time – time to process, time to heal. And when you’re young, who has time for that.

While tempted by “J’s” smooth talking ways, the remembrance of my upbringing and desire to be a “good Christian” helped me to exercise some modicum of self-control. But all that went completely out the window with “T”. I am utterly ashamed of the way I behaved during our first date. Thankfully, mobile phones with cameras hadn’t been invented yet and so no one was able to document our scandalous behavior as I gave way to the torrent of desire that he (12+ years my senior) so artfully stirred up in me. It is by the sheer grace of God that despite his persistent and seductive invitations, I managed to get myself into my car after he brought me back to his place (a small house which he rented with 2 other guys, one who just happened to be “J”). * Sigh *

I clearly remember the image of him in the rearview mirror, wearing a red sweater over a white shirt tucked into well-fitted jeans as he watched me drive away. I said to myself “that man is the devil himself” and then I drove off before I behaved even more atrociously than I already had. I had no idea how true those words would prove true over the course of the next 10 years.

What kind of lies do you tell yourself? What won’t you see because if you saw it, it would derail the fantasy you are trying so hard to live out?

Date number two didn’t end “T” in the rearview mirror. I stayed that night, and a few other nights after that. He asked me to move in with him, and told me he loved me. It was music to my ears, and when I was with him I felt like the most beautiful woman-girl on the planet.

Whereas “M” left me feeling used, betrayed and undesirable, “T” adored me, hungered for me, and promised me the very thing that I wanted more than anything else. A family! He wanted to live with me, for me to be mother to his children (once we brought them up from South America), and he promised to marry me as soon as my divorce finalized.

Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose, buy it all, so they like you
Do they like you?
Wait a second,
Why, should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing
You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try, try, try, try
You don’t have to try

With our pitiful combined incomes we somehow managed to find a 3 bedroom house to rent and moved in together while my divorce was being processed. I sold my custom made diamond wedding set (to one of my sisters to wear as a stunning pinky ring) and with the funds we purchased airline tickets and flew his kids up. And in preparation for their arrival, my sisters helped me sew curtains out of decorative bedding and turn the little dump we rented into something modestly welcoming and homey. Before the kids arrived, I had made a “welcome home banner” for them, and had their rooms staged with gently used stuffed animals and other yard-sale finds appropriate for their ages. We were going to be a family and I was finally going to be seen, heard, and loved unconditionally.

“KNOWING better doesn’t mean you have the strength, or power, or self control to DO better.” ~Andy Stanley

I had married “T” on my 21st birthday just two weeks after my divorce finalized. Red flags started going off almost immediately, but I ignored them. I had to. Acknowledging that I might have made a mistake would have meant that I’d be alone again, that I’d be a failure again. And my battered psyche just couldn’t handle that. I needed him, because I needed to be needed and he made me feel needed. So when he started disappearing for long periods of time on Saturday mornings, I quickly accepted his explanations that he was just handing out with friends after Karate practice. Sure it bothered me that one of those friends was a woman, but he promised me they were just friends. He loved me!

True, it infuriated me when I saw him knock the legs out from under his 10-year old daughter because she didn’t wash the dishes right … layed her flat out on the floor with a sweeping leg kick. But I yelled at him – told him I’d not put up with that, and he promised not to do it again.

And I was uncomfortable with some of the things that happened between us behind closed doors – but the Bible says that happens ‘in the marriage bed’ is OK, right?

Besides, by this time we had already moved his son and daughter (ages 13 and 10) up, and I had a family to call my own. The voice of shame spoke to me and said “You made your bed, now lie in it.” I obliged.

His Saturday morning delays grew longer, much longer, and eventually he told me about a 3rd child. He had also been spending Saturdays visiting his youngest son who lived with his ex-wife just a few towns over. Well I wanted a family, right? Imagine this … before my 22nd birthday, I was on my second marriage and was now raising a 13 year old stepson, a 10 year old stepdaughter, and a 2 year old stepson on the weekends.

Over the next few years we both experienced some professional success. We managed to buy our first house in 1983, a tiny little 2 bedroom place that was just big enough. And then I got pregnant, a dream come true!! With tremendous excitement for the life growing within me, we flipped that tiny house and moved a little farther out towards the east side of town and into a 3BR 2 BA split level ranch that had a large partially finished lower floor that could be finished off to add 2 more bedrooms. We were in love. We were a family. And we were having a baby. Everything was falling into place, and I was finally going to be happy.

Take your make-up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
‘Cause I like you

Before I continue with my story I want to share this beautiful song by Colbie Caillat called “TRY”, which has an even more powerful video. I’ve listened/watched to it about 10 times while writing this post.

Friends, are you TRYing? Are you TRYing to be what someone else wants you to be, or what you think you should/need to be in to be loved and accepted? Are you TRYing to please your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife? Are you TRYing to please a boss or seeking the approval of a parent? Man or woman, young or old, gay or straight, pause a moment and please hear this. You don’t have to TRY.

You are beautiful.
You are loved.
You are valuable.
You, today, now … just where you are, and just the way you are.
Because Jesus loves you!
Just where you are, and just the way you are.
He doesn’t need you to clean-up, pretty-up, dress-up, or fake-up in order to love you.
He just loves you. And try as you might, you can’t come up with a reason for Him not to love you.
He loves you with a perfect and all-consuming love, today and right now.
In your messiness. In your imperfection.
His arms are open to you, and He is inviting you in.
And as you draw near, if you listen … you will hear Him say this:
“I’ve already paid the price for you, son/daughter. Rest in me. You don’t have to try anymore.”

Two final notes. Last week I shared a preview of my next painting, intended for this weeks post. But it is really more appropriate for next weeks’ post, because it’s in 1984 when things really started to unravel and “The Nightmare that was Mr T” began.

Secondly, while I’m trying to write my testimony in a (relatively) chronological order, I may not have all the timing right and perhaps even misremember some of the details. In truth, I have spent the last 25 years trying to distance myself from this part of my life and so if you notice some inconsistencies between these posts and perhaps something written back in 2014 or 2015, please know that it is not intentional. I’m being as truthful as I can with the details as best as I can remember them.

=====

All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

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