Monday, November 7, 2016

Ending This Story

This weekend I went to Minnesota Tres Dias as a servant.

I won't give away any details of the weekend; you have to get there for that.

Some stuff happened that I will share.

Three men offered me some Grace.

The first one told me that we get our sense of God the father from our earthly fathers.  Our sense of the Holy Spirit comes from our mothers.  How we perceive Jesus comes from our brothers and sisters.

Well, holy yikes. I don't have a clear view of what any of those relationships are meant to be. But the picture is starting come into focus.

The second one talked to me about his vision of the Holy Spirit in me specifically. "Why are you resisting the Holy Spirit."  Here's why.  I don't know the steps.  What do I have to do to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying.  "Nothing, beautiful warrior princess, daughter of a heavenly king. There's nothing to do; you just have to be."

Well, I don't know how to do that yet. But I'm close. Soooooooooooooo close!

The third one wrote me a letter about what he sees at work in me. That letter... Well, I'm going to cherish it.  He spoke to me as his sister, as a loving and gentle man of God, and his words resonate. There is work to do for the Kingdom and I have a role to play.

Just before I left for my three days with Jesus, I spoke to my counselor about my changing role in treatment: "You are now a senior peer. You have a strong voice in recovery. I see you making a difference in people's lives. Don't be afraid to be who you are. Share your story."

I may not be able to hear the Holy Spirit myself yet. But you know? My truth holders can. And I can hear what they're saying.

There is something magnificent happening.

And I'm going to let it happen.

There's no place for Satan or any of my past demons, there's no place for hatred, and there's no place for doubt.

So, friends, this story ends right here, right now. I am breaking the chains of the past.I'm opening a new chapter, with a new plot, a new storyline, and some ass-kicking new characters.

If you want to come with me on this new journey, send me an email to: for the linker.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

I'll Be a Storytella'

I am fighting an uphill battle for survival. My story is not rare. Every woman in recovery has one hell of a story. My sister peers are nothing if not strong, vital women.

As for me?

I'm fighting for my right and ability to love myself wholly, as a child of God, magnificently created and loved by my creator. I am, after all, the apple of my heavenly Father's eye. Doubt it? Read the Psalms. 17:8, specifically.

I have done so many things to achieve my goal. Recovery, I've heard it said, is not for the feint of heart. My own journey started last August (2015). I decided to be sober on July 27, 2015. I relapsed on June 7. I originally spent four months in recovery. I reentered on June 28, and I'm not done yet.

I have found myself repeatedly derailed by people who I expected to love me. This is not an innocuous thing. I was so miserably defeated last June by unkindness that I relapsed. I recognize now that I let others steal my sense of worthiness to the point that I felt unworthy of recovery.

As a consequence of my own disease and behavior, I am under probation for awhile yet. I have submitted to the tenants of probation not only because it would be foolish and illegal not to, but also because I believe my probation officer and her determination to hold me accountable is a key factor in my recovery. I have been vulnerable and completely honest with my probation officer. She's not an easy person, but she is consistent and wants the best for the people she supervises.

My cousin has been acting horribly toward me. In an earlier post, I shared a link to a voicemail he left me in which he called me a piece of garbage. He's sent messages and made threats, and I have refused to engage with him. I don't have a gripe with him and he doesn't have a legitimate one with me. 

Yet he is on the warpath.

Part of his efforts included contacting my probation officer with the goal of getting me in trouble. Aside from the question that persistently pops in my mind, who does stuff like that?, there's nothing he can do. Sober I am the most authentically law abiding person I know. I've never cheated on a test, I don't use my phone while driving, and I always want to do the right thing. He won't get me in trouble based on my own actions.

His fervent and frenzied desire to cause me trouble makes me wonder how far he's willing to go.  There's little I can do to defend against crazy behavior like planting evidence or lying about things.  The best I can do is to make the next right choice and stay on my journey to full recovery.  That I'm doing. I am fully in control of what I can control: I can control my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions.

Worst about all this, I think, is that his mother who once bragged about being my godmother is now bragging about his actions. She's so excited he's supporting her, she cannot see that he is doing wrong, abusive, horrible things. That makes me sad, especially in juxtaposition to the behavior of my own boys who are my own cheering squad and chief defenders.

When they discovered what was going on in my life Monday, both my cousin's behavior and my mother's suicide attempt, my eldest son did all manner of things to support me. He showed up, offered to drive me where I needed to go, and he called his brother. My youngest sent me a heartfelt message; "Mommarooski, I love you. I can only imagine how hard today is for you because I hate imagining what my life would be like without my mom." When I found out what Adam had done and that Jakob was on his way home to be with me, I admit I cried a little. I was pretty silent on my end of the call, and Adam asked, "Are you crying?" I said, "No." He knew.

Why is it that kindness smashes my heart to pieces? That gentle treatment and wholehearted love undoes me? That Grace poured out is constantly such a shock to my system?

If my boys were to attack another person for perceived or real wrongdoing and they did a fraction of what my cousin's done to me, I would be horrified by their actions. They would never, ever call someone a piece of garbage. Not ever.

And you know? I'm not feeling all "Ohhhh pity me! The world is so unkind! Don't you feel sorry for me?"

The very thought of living that kind of thinking is deeply repugnant to me.  


Just no to that.
Know what I'm thinking?

I am so profoundly grateful for the way my boys conduct themselves in a world run amok. 

While talking to darling Sara tonight, we got on the topic of Paul's letter to the Romans.  She read this passage to me:
12 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, [a]acceptable to God, which is your [b]spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this [c]world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may [d]prove what the will of God is, that which is good and [e]acceptable and perfect.
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, [f]according to the proportion of his faith; if [g]service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with [h]liberality; he who [i]leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; [j]give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the [k]saints, [l]practicing hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute [m]you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but [n]associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. [o]Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but [p]leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
And that's that.  I'm laying it all down at the foot of the cross, and I'm resting in the trust I have in God's unbreakable Word: "Don't worry, kiddo," he says in a chiding tone. "I got this."

I'm not going to stop writing about what's happening. My story is powerful, my voice is powerful, and I am assuming the role of a mentor in recovery. While living the twelfth step, I will be telling my story over and over and over again. Count on it. It's when we start talking about what God has done in our lives that we become storytellers (Morgan Harper Nichols paraphrase).

Fr Harry once said to me, I want you to be the hero of your own story.

And you know what? So do I.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Holding My Truth

There's something intrinsically beautiful about female friendships. "Women instinctually know how to nourish each other, and just being with each other is restorative" (Tanja Taalijard).

Historically women have provided one another with emotional support and friendship when marriages were often arranged for reasons other than relationship. And those relationships were not exclusive relationships. No, women created webs of friendship.  Says Caroll Smith-Rosenberg, "Friends did not form isolated dyads but were normally part of highly integrated networks."

Today commentary about female friendships proliferate. Rebecca Traister, in her own NY Times article dated February 28, 2016, writes, "Women who find affinity with one another are not settling... they may be doing the opposite, finding something vital."
I struggled with female relationships. My mother was not a good model for me in this respect as in others. Still, I navigated my way into some beautiful friendships. I often found them tarnished though when my husband would talk about his fantasies: "When you said she was here, I imagined I'd come home and find both of you naked waiting for me in our room."

Right. Because that often happens outside of pornographic films.

I also didn't talk about some of the most horrible things in my life with any of my female friends. I felt like sharing things about my marriage would be disloyal to my husband. My mother-in-law unwittingly underscored that belief when I went to her early in my marriage. I told her about some of the things my husband wanted and she advised, "Men want a lady in public and a whore in the bedroom." I thought that meant all men wanted the things my husband did, and stopped talking about it.

And then a friend got involve with a married man, and I thought telling her my story about my husband and I would show her what it's like to be the wife of a man who was being pursued by another woman. I shared everything: his porn addiction and how that played out in our lives, how an employee turned his head to the point of convincing him to send intimate pictures of me to her, and how painful all of it was for me.

It didn't educate her or stop her from her own quest to destroy a marriage.  Instead it changed her target. After I poured out my heart, she started texting my husband and they played games like Adult Truth or Dare. She propositioned us to conduct a partner swap during a weekend stay at a casino. And she ultimately married my husband.

One could imagine an experience like that creating a deep mistrust of women, an unwillingness to be vulnerable again.

It hasn't, oddly.

The opposite has happened.

I find myself in profoundly beautiful relationship with the women who held my truth for me until I was strong enough to hold it myself.

And that kind of friendship is worth vulnerability, and even potential pain.

Bob Marley wrote "the truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for."

My truth holders have not let me believe I am worthless or unworthy. They have felt righteous anger on my behalf when I couldn't feel it myself. They have been patient and kind with me when I'm hateful to myself.

Thank God for the truth holders.

And thank God for my developing ability to hold my own truth.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Owning My Story

I've experienced my share of bullying from the time I was small. I let it define me often over the years.

Having made the decision to insulate myself from bullies, I've found myself developing my own sense of safety.

My mother was the most enduring of the bullies. Her latest effort occurred this past spring. My sister and I were trying to help mom unravel her financial mess. She hadn't filed taxes in eight years, had no money in reserve, and was being taken advantage of by many people in her life.

But she only knows what she knows and fear often convinces us to stay with what we know rather than venturing into the unknown. She suddenly decided to fight against our attempts to help her. As I have always been, I was her target.

Sitting at her house one afternoon, I was trying to explain the paperwork she'd received. She became enraged. She turned on me, spewing forth her vitriol like she always has.  She threatened to call Wright County and tell them I abused her physically and that I was drinking, both of which would violate my probation. For a brief time, I was locked into the misery of the inevitability of being drawn back into the darkness of her world.

Then I realized I did have some power. I called Wright County myself and asked them to come take a report. They did, and I felt safe from her threats for another day.

This week yet another family member attempted to bully me. The whole story is convoluted and nasty, and I'll finish telling it another day.

Briefly, my aunt and I went to court over a financial matter. When the judge told us to try to resolve it, my aunt slapped me. Though I reported it to deputies and the clerk, no one was willing to do anything. On the verge of a massive anxiety and panic attack, I opted to leave rather than stay and defend myself with my receipts proving I didn't owe the money. My journey to improved mental health, to a sense of safety, and to a sense of healthy autonomy mattered more to me than the money.

Once that judgement was entered, my cousin started calling me demanding payment. If I had the money I already spent on my aunt's home, I could sure do that. But I don't have it. He has suggested I am a horrible person, that I treat family poorly, that I am dishonorable, that my immortal soul is in jeopardy, and that I am a worthless piece of garbage. He has threatened to put a lien against my developing business and take out a full page ad in the Monticello Times so someone else can help him collect "his" debt.

And in all the horror of his hurtful accusations and words, I realized something. The work I'm doing in therapy is working. I didn't have the physiological response I would normally have had to his behavior. I used to experience all the heightened symptoms of anxiety and panic, a spike in my blood pressure, the sinking inevitability of judgment by others, and digestive issues. In this episode, I cried a lot, and I experienced severe shaking, but none of the other things happened. It didn't even result in that horrible sensation of doom that always made it impossible for me to sleep at night. I was able to recognize that it's not me that's horrible, unworthy, unlovable, or wrong, and I called those who love and support me, warts and all.

Yep, this is all bad. It's awful to deal with the notion that justice seems to be on my aunt's side and that public perception is that I've horribly treated her.  And the courts seem to agree as they've issued a judgment.

Even if all of that were true, I do not deserve my cousin's behavior.

And so, I'm taking back my power. I'm telling the truth in my own forum and with documentation.  I'm owning my own mistakes.  And, ultimately, I'm outing the bully.  Enough is quite literally enough.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Evil Genius Assignment #18: A World Without Feelings

When I went to treatment the first time, I was all about setting goals and achieving them. I did very well, and felt like I was thriving.

Then I had a relapse. And darn if it wasn't for exactly the same reasons I always drank. More about that in a different post.

In the second round of recovery, I am learning a new way to thrive: I am resting in the care of experts. I am not trying to know it all or control the path of recovery. I am not manically busy in the pursuit of the goal of sobriety. I am not objecting to a single suggestion. Still, I am actively participating.

See. It's like this: recovery is not one-size fits all. There aren't any shortcuts. It's painful and messy and horrible. And I have complete faith that on the other side, there is something beautiful. I am living in that beauty more and more of each day.

I likened it once to my peers as the equivalent of buying bras. You go to a store, let some perky young'n "fit" you, and try on a seemingly endless array of styles until settling for the least obnoxious version. Then you pay way too much money and head on your way, hoping it was the right choice.

That's recovery. You go to groups and listen to people talk about their recovery. You go to therapy and share your journey so the evil geniuses can craft assignments to aid your recovery. And you talk to others on the same path and learn about what works for each of them. Then you try on all the different things until you find what feels like the right fit. And then you find out that the fit only has to work TODAY because tomorrow you may choose a new fit. 

Both bra shopping and recovery are horribly exhausting.

I had a plan for my recovery. One of the only questions I asked, in fact, was how long people were typically in the first phase of recovery (4-days intensive out patient group). "We generally expect the first phase to last at least thirty days." Cool. I was going to do phase one for 30 days and then step down and do phase two for another 30. I'd be done, then, in four months.

Five months later, I am still in phase two. And I am perfectly aceepting that being in phase two is exactly where I need to be.

I have been assigned some very intense homework. Much of it is painful, and may never be shared. But I feel compelled to share this assignment. It was revelatory.

The directive was to write a paper to present to my peers. My directive was to write about a world in which there were no feelings.  

That was the only directive too. No word count. No criteria. No thesis.

I set about my task like I do. First, I think about it. Second, I research what everyone else has to say. Third, I craft my response using the best of what everyone else has to say. Fourth, I get an eh.

This was so different. SOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo different.

In fact, I was nervous about presenting my work for what could be the first time ever.

And I find myself entirely pleased with the outcome.

I read it to my peers. I am relieved and gratified by their responses. 

What matters more is I learned something pricelss about myself.

I am free to express what is in my heart.

That's brand new. 

Knowing that means that I'm not actually still waiting to get to the other side of all this recovery in order to find my way to something beautiful.

I've already found it.

And that is what I think Christ means when he says, "I am the peace the world cannot give."

The world can steal our peace if we let it.  And I did. 

I won't let that happen again.


I really love crayons. Always have.

I remember going to on the annual school shopping expedition and looking at those perfect boxes of fresh, sharp crayons.

I longed for the box with the sharpener so badly, I could feel the saliva pooling in my mouth.

That same longing strikes me anew every August when I pass the school supply aisle.

And, man. Those boxes have grown.

I always felt so sad for the kids who only got 8 crayons.  What kind of parent only buys 8 when they can get the big box and have a sharpener too?

Then I became one of those parents who only buys 8 crayons.

Oddly, it was all my boys wanted. They did not love coloring. They would have been happy with one crayon, if they had to have any.

I’d tried to instill a love of coloring in my boys. I’d decided early on that my boys were going to embody the best of the masculine and the feminine, and that they wouldn’t be victims of my Nurture. In fact, my Nurture was going to overcome Nature, if it had to.

We worked hard on coloring. My friends with daughters told me of hours spent coloring the Princesses and having to buy extra pink crayons. No matter what I did, my boys wouldn’t use the red. Or the purple. They ignored the orange, green, and yellow too. They pretty much liked black and brown with a smattering of blue. 

They didn’t care about lines or elements of design.

They mostly grabbed their crayons and scribbled color across the pages as fast as they could before proudly showing me their latest masterpieces.

Taking them by hands one day, I led them on a field trip across the golf course behind our house.
Along the way, I pointed out all the colors, from the rich green of the leaves to the bright yellow sun, and the deep orange and purple of the flowers. “See, boys!” I enthused. “God made the world a colorful place.”

They climbed over logs and splashed through streams during our outing, enthusiastically participating in finding more color. I really thought they “got it” and we returned home where I sent them to finish new, more colorful masterpieces while I made dinner. The new “rule” was that they each had to use 6 of their 8 colors.

I heard them giggling amid much thumping and clattering. See, despite all my Nurture, my boys still acted like bear cubs at all times, and any task was completed in some oddball event resembling a NASCAR-themed wrestling match.

They appeared with bright smiles, masterpieces in hands.

I don’t know what I expected, but what they presented was not it.

While they certainly used many more colors, demonstrating an endearing effort to please me, the crumpled and somewhat tattered pages weren’t what I’d imagined hanging on the fridge. 

No longer merely black and blue scribbles, they were clouds of scribbled color – exactly 6 colors on each masterpiece. 

Their masterpieces resembled what I sort of considered ugly chaos, almost as if they’d violently vomited rainbows on the paper.

With a pair of deep brown eyes staring at me over one, and smiling green eyes over the other, I found myself falling deeply in love with their depiction of the world despite myself and my sense of artistry.

That day what they taught me was that some sort of brilliantly messy and wildly unexpected work of art is waiting to be discovered wherever we bother to look for it.

When I came to treatment, I had an assortment of feelings I was comfortable with, that I understood and could identify.  It was my own 8-crayon box, in a sense.  The “safe” emotions, the ones I understood, were Happy and Sad, Grateful and Hurt.  I had a few shades of shame too.

Opening the orientation packet, the first thing I saw was a Feeling Wheel.  It was something like that huge box of crayons, the one with the sharpener. And the contents of The Wheel felt as foreign to me as that big crayon box would have felt to my boys.

In the first weeks, when The Wheel was passed around the group, I looked at it like the obedient student I’ve always been, but I really refused to see it. I didn’t want to use or acknowledge all those vibrant, messy emotions, and I sure didn’t want to think I was going to find myself actually feeling or understanding them.  For certain, I wasn’t going to like it.

But I do like it.

Feelings are how we color ourselves. Without them, we would be nothing more than robots, lacking the ability to care for, or connect with others.

And the world, in a sense, would be colorless.



PS: I don't publish comments at this time, but I do appreciate what you have to say. Thank you for taking the time to read and thoughtfully reply!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Women and Friendship

I have made some amazing friends over the years, and I'm awfully grateful for most of them.

The first time I shared my whole story with someone, though, it didn't turn out so well. The recipient of my confidences is now married to my husband. She used the information I offered freely because I thought it would help her cope with some things in her own life to entice him. He's no innocent bystander, of course.  But that's a separate story.

Factor in that my mother is a wounded person herself and that she actively seeks to cause me harm when I interact with her. I remember a day in March 2014 when Joe was advising me to go to the funeral for CC's mother. I was shocked that he'd offer that advice at the time; her and I were no longer friends. I didn't know, of course, that the two of them were already intimately involved with one another and he wanted a reason to be there to support her in her grief.

Me: I think I'll send something to the H family.
Joe: Don't you think you should go to the funeral.
Me: Hell no.Why would that even be a good idea?
Joe: I'm sure everyone's pretty sad and would like the support.
Me: I know what it's like to lose a mother, Joe. I lost mine a long time ago.
Joe: You're awful. Why can't you just be nice?
Me: ...

There's a wealth of material in that two-minute interaction. For now, I'm just going to let that rest.

My focus is on building relationship with women.

Considering my history, how does one accept women genuinely and authentically?


I don't know the answer.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

That Day at the Field

I love the stroll down memory lane I get now and then from Facebook's "See Your Memories" feature. It's hard some days to remember happier days, and other days I am reminded what a blessing it actually is to be free of the past.

Two years ago today I went to a baseball game with Joe, Jakob, and Joe's dad. After all I'd been through at that point, the day was a remarkable celebration of freedom, sunshine, and family.  At least for me.

It felt good to be safe and sober in a place that I'd always been - my chair behind home plate.

I was wearing braces that day on both hands. The damage to my hands and nerves from the abusive use of the handcuffs in my June 20th arrest has proven permanent. I have no feeling in either thumb or the first two fingers of each hand. The swelling and pain disappeared, though. That's a relief.

Jakob and Joe had some of their usual "moments" on the field.

They met at the mound for a conference. Or something. Those things aren't always as serious as they look.

After their moment, Jakob made his way back to home plate.

 And took his spot. He commands the field, even in these photos, in a way talented catchers do. Watch them sometime.  Jakob's confidence is especially inspiring to me as he's so unassuming and shy in his daily life.

At the end of the game as a new team took the field, players and families stand around talking. I have always done more listening than talking in those moments, and that was true two years ago too.

See, nine days prior, I'd been arrested for a refusal to test DWI. I was also charged with resisting arrest; I'd taken off my handcuffs - not in an effort to resist, mind you, but because they hurt. An additional charge for 4th degree assault of an officer was eventually dismissed; the reports differ about whether or not I'd done something assaulting, and the action itself bore no intent to do harm. I didn't hurt anyone.

In the days that followed - four of them - I was in Hennepin County Jail with a motley crew of fellow inmates. My husband told me I wasn't worth getting out of jail. My dad refused to help too. I am fairly certain they had the notion that "tough love" and bearing the consequences for my bad behavior was key to some notion of recovery. Ironic. Neither of them has ever suffered the natural consequences of their own bad behavior, at least from my perspective. But I was going to pay for my bad behavior. Yes, indeedy.

When he picked me up from jail, Joe was the most verbally abusive, threatening person I'd ever known him to be. He screamed at me three times those heinous words, I HATE YOU.  Imagine it: "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!" He told me I would be complying with whatever he and my dad dreamed up, that I had no power and no choice about anything that was about to happen, and that if I said one word he'd pull over at the next ramp, shove me out of the vehicle, and call 911 to report I had started an altercation with him.  


Scarier in some ways the four days I'd just spent in jail. 

Those moments at the baseball field with Joe and Jakob were the first normal moments in nine days. The first time I'd felt a modicum of safety. The first moments in which I relished what should have been mine to relish.

When I said to Joe how content I'd been to be there in those moments of normalcy, his response shook my equilibrium.

"I hated it. I hate it when you're there. I'm afraid of what you'll do."

Those words were confusing to me at the time. I'd never done anything out of line or unusual at a baseball game! But a person dealing with shame and guilt and a certain type of "bottom" doesn't reason through any of that. I just felt off-balance, unsafe, and demeaned. 

Joe's behavior, rage, and reactions are no longer confusing.

He was actively engaged by that point in using my own bad behavior to manipulate those around me into believing his version of events. In the text message between him and my former friend, they discussed their efforts to turn people against me and take their side in the coming months. With the exception of my dad, no one that matters to me supports them. Just the opposite: the revelation of their affair has hurt so many people including the children of both marriages.

As much as I hated Joe after the events of our trip to San Francisco, I still believed that I could chose to love him.  I believed that things would turn around, that at some point we would morph into what people believed we were - each other's best support and friend. I believed we were in a valley, but that we would eventually make it out of the valley and find a mountain top. I believed we were a unit and that our hearts would heal and we would be the old "Joe and Kari" we'd once been.

God had a different plan, and it's beautiful. 

Walking on the right path doesn't mean that things are easy or that I always make the right choices. But it does mean that eventually things will be how they're supposed to be.

My great struggle right now is trying to forgive Joe and my friend for what they took from me. I hate them for destroying my family - the one I sacrificed so much for. I hate them for taking my table - the only piece of furniture I ever bought without following all of Joe's rules and restrictions, and which I loved. I hate them for using my time shares - the ones I expected to use with my family into the future. I hate them for the way they've managed security - the kind that comes with having a second income and your job.

You know though? Jesus hated bad behavior too.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Choosing Love

Loving is not the simple thing popular romance would have us believe.

Loving is a choice. And having been wounded in the battle, so to speak, it's not an easy choice for me to make.

Loving is the only thing we are truly called to do as Christians, as the body of Christ.

And I've made the choice to love.

It's different this time.

This man met me when I was at my worst physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  I was still drinking, much to his dismay. I was a mess in all ways.

Yet he saw something of value in me.

He listens to me when I speak, and he has apologized to me when he did something that wasn't just. He prays over me and taught me to pray for myself in supplication and with longing for Jesus to be my warrior. He offers words of affirmation about things that most matter to me; he told me I have a heart for Jesus. He accepts all my weirdness, and celebrates it. He shares his ideas with me and listens to me when I agree - and when I don't agree. He wraps me up in his arms and keeps me close to his heart. He protects my heart. He is so proud of me; he talks about what I'm doing and expects my success at every turn. He thinks I am beautiful, inside and out. He makes me laugh. He buys me the most ridiculous things - a part for my car, a charger for my phone, a pair of jeans, a silly piece of yarn. He lets me tell him about my freaky dreams. He wants to build me a house. He is careful with my body; he would be crushed if he left a mark on me. He feels real anger for people who have wounded me.

I don't need any promises; those I've heard before. I don't need to talk about the future; right now is all we have. I don't need him to be something he's not; I've been deceived by men.

This is new and different and good. And in the goodness, there is restoration of hope in my heart.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Aftermath, Part 2

I have long thought that my biggest issue with the way my marriage died was not the affair.  After all, I'd been telling my husband for YEARS to just have sex with someone. I was beyond sick of his recurring fantasy in which he would come home to find me and one of my friends naked and waiting for him. In his porn-addicted mind, things like that scenario happen all the time and everyone is fine with it. In reality, it is demeaning and sick to think that women exist and maintain relationships solely to satisfy some guy's ridiculous fantasies.

No, my issue was not with the affair, but with the manipulation and the apparent willingness of my husband and my former friend, people who were actively professing their love for me, to figuratively crumple me up like a used piece of paper and toss me carelessly in the trash. There's actual psychology behind what they tried to do.
Gaslighting is just one of the many weapons in the arsenal of personalities hell-bent on having their way even if it means doing so by subtle and covert means of conning others... [These] aggressive personalities... will do whatever it takes to secure and maintain a position of advantage over others... A common element among all the tactics manipulators use is that they cause the person being targeted to doubt their gut instincts about what's going on. Their gut tells them they're under attack or that someone is trying to get the better of them, and they intuitively go on the defensive. But because they can't find any clear, direct, objective evidence that the other person is merely trying to disadvantage them, they start doubting and questioning themselves... The goal is always to win or secure whatever it is they want. And they'll do whatever they have to do to get it. Sometimes the most effective way to do that is to avoid red-flagging their intentions but rather to get the other person to unwittingly but voluntarily surrender. Instill shame, instill guilt, instill fear, or instill great doubt, and the other person will likely back off the stance they really wanted to take. (Jade Small's "Gaslighting as a Manipulation Tactic: What it is, who does it, and why.")
There were numerous instances when Joe must have wondered how I knew what was going on despite his careful attempts to hide it all. One night he texted me from the Monticello Community Center (MCC):
Joe: It's going to take me longer than I expected. I have diarrhea.
Me: Well you should probably come home. You'll get dehydrated.
Joe: No I can finish. I'll just come in the bathroom every so often when it gets bad.
Me: Okay. Well, keep me posted.
Several hours later he came home. I was putting shoes in the front closet when he walked in the door.  I looked at him and knew. I said, "You've had sex."  He flipped out and aggressively counter-attacked. "You're so paranoid. I had diarrhea! I can't even be sick without you thinking I'm having an affair."

Whoa. Overreact much?

Joe and CC both accused me of "hacking" my husband's email, following him or them, and other stalker-like behaviors, none of which I engaged in. When my lover of twenty-nine years had sex, I knew what that looked like. And he'd had sex. By that time I had so little confidence in my gut-instinct, I just backed down. I probably was crazy or paranoid, I thought, to doubt someone who's never been a cheater and who has so vehemently denied it.

The day I found proof of their lying and cheating, July 16, 2014, one of the things I asked him was about diarrhea day.
Me: And that day you said you had diarrhea... you were with her?
Joe: Yes.
Joe: But I had diarrhea too.
Me: Gross.
Me finding proof of their affair saved my mental health, but it enraged them.

My discovery of their affair and my unwillingness to be quiet about it enraged Joe to the point of physical battery three days in a row. He tore my rotator cuff and gave me bruises on every visible and some less visible parts of my body. When I called for help on the third day, he lied to them about what had happened, and given my existing record I suspect, I was charged with two counts of domestic assault. When Jakob found out, he was upset and demanded his dad retract statements that were clearly lies.

It enraged CC to the point of deep and abiding hatred for me that I'm guessing will never fade. I could be wrong about what gave birth to the hatred; I would have to guess it started when I stood in the way of her first attempt to win a married man. But me finding out about her affair with Joe and telling people about it cemented her feelings. Sadly for her, that hatred will only impact her future, not mine.

Joe and CC had a goal.  They wanted to continue their affair while they each continued to manipulate friends and family to be on their "side" in their imagined future. They committed to keeping the history of their relationship secret, and it was a secret they vowed to take to their graves.

Their plan went something like this:

Joe would divorce me while maintaining that he just couldn't stay married to someone struggling with addiction and presenting himself as someone who really had tried his best.

CC would divorce her husband after convincing her daughter, brother, and some others that she was in a miserable relationship and deserved so much more, that she'd given it her best effort and sacrificed her own happiness for her children long enough.

They would each pretend to date others; in fact, they had a plan how they would answer Adam (the only one they thought might see through their lies and want to meet someone his dad was dating).

Eventually they would magically connect in a completely moral fashion via their friendship and common interests as recent divorcees and a commitment to working out at the MCC.

They had absolutely no shame about what they were doing. Despite the fact that they didn't want anyone to discover their activities, they never considered doing things the "right" way. Neither of them had the courage or honor necessary to end their marriages and focus on their own situations or their own children before they engaged in their relationship.

The excerpts:

CC: That's a tough question. My first thought is that I would wait until after she has been served. I wouldn't want to hear that I was the last one to know that my husband was filing for divorce, but in the other hand, you haven't kept it a secret.
Number 9: Yea.
CC: Maybe it would be good to meet with Staci before she gets back to just talk through it and explain our reasoning before Kari gets back.
Number 9: I think I will tell her that this week alone has let me think it's best for us.
CC: I would talk with Adam and Jakob though.
Number 9: I will them for sure.
CC: Do you have any idea how long it will take the lawyer to serve her once she has the money?
Number 9: No. I'll ask in an email Saturday

CC: Yes, Clint will have lunch.
Number 9: Does he know what it's about
CC: I got a call from Grace to sing in a funeral on Monday. Maybe I'll see if he wants to do lunch after that.
CC : I just said I wanted to talk about some stuff and not to bring it up at dinner the other night, so I have no idea what he thinks.
Number 9: Once we are together we still aren't telling anyone about the time line of our friendship or are we then?
CC: I don't think it is a secret that we have been friends for a long time. Clint knows we play racquetball. It's just that the friendship can't turn into a relationship until we are both free to peruse another relationship.
Number 9: I told my dad that we are good friends
CC: What did he say?
Number 9: He didn't say anything
CC: Did Kari tell him we are having an affair?
Number 9: No. I told him she text the boys that.
CC: And he never said anything?
Number 9: Nope. I told him we are friends but that's it. That's why I'd rather not tell them the truth ever.
CC: Sounds good to me. Like I keep saying, that secret goes to our graves
CC: I think what amazes me about your dad is that whenever I see him he is always so friendly and talkative. But that is so unlike the person you describe he is.
Number 9: He doesn't share feelings well.
Number 9: You can tell at my funeral.
CC: Nope. I'd still have to live with it.
Number 9: I thought maybe you'd want to get it off your chest.
CC: Nope. To my grave.
Number 9: Lol
CC : Do you have any other secrets like that?
Number 9: None from you.

There's more, but the gist is the same. Manipulate others into thinking what they're doing is right, and congratulate each other on being together. 

Without their own words revealing their actions and plans, I would have been left accepting full responsibility for the demise of my marriage.  As it was, my marriage had no chance of surviving.  As good as being free of Joe has been for me personally, it's been horrible for my children and for CC's husband and children. And it's been horrible for our community of friends and family. 

As thankful as I am that Joe put the file of their chat on our work server under passwords everyone at the office had, it's tough to remember their words, especially when he shares the bare brokenness of my heart and they dismiss the collapse of my world as if it was nothing. He forced himself into all of my therapy sessions and then shared what transpired with CC. I wrote him beautiful letters trying to recall the good parts of our marriage, and he shared those with her. I existed in a painful and dark world, and they mocked me, even wishing for my disappearance.  

I wasn't the horrible person, the failure, the liar or the cheat.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Aftermath, Part 1

This weekend I was at Minnesota Tres Dias #20. It was a blessed weekend in so many ways. Spending time with other Christians, especially Christian women, is affirming. Somehow the loving connections we make endorse the way the Father loves us.

During the weekend, one of the speakers approached me.

"Did you know you're about to be under spiritual warfare? Has anyone warned you?"

"No?" I answered with that tentative query in my voice that means, "What the hell are you talking about, strange lady?"

She shared a warning from the Holy Spirit. I've had these warnings before, and they always freak me out a little bit. Probably especially because they've proven true.

I'm glad she warned me. After two nights of little sleep and days full of efforts to care for the weekend's attendees, I was exhausted. When I crawled in bed, I decided to catch up on email.  It's midnight on Saturday night at this point. Mixed in the eighty-six new emails was one from my former friend; I call her CC.

Spiritual warfare, indeed.

The email was a vile attack on my integrity and mental health. It was a bitter diatribe, full of the hatefulness of someone I believed was part of my past. Along with her claims of perfect happiness in the person who "completes her," she describes me as a person I certainly don't recognize.

This is not the first time CC has attacked me. She did it once before, a long time before Joe was interested in her.  I was crying when I brought him that email, and asked him if her portrayal of me was accurate. In one of the rare moments when Joe actually was able to provide emotional support, he hugged me after reading the email. "That's not you, Kari!" he said several times while I cried. I would guess his opinion has largely changed, more because of how she presents me than anything I ever did to either of them.

I lay there that night for four hours, four hours I can never regain. I thought hard about how to respond. I revisited the old me, the me who thought I could fix everything myself and who believed there is justice for the righteous. Then the new me stepped up to the plate! Physically and emotionally exhausted, I finally (FINALLY!) turned to God and laid it at His feet. "I can't figure this out, Lord. Help me!" were the last thoughts I had before I fell asleep.

A couple hours later I woke with the certain conviction that I would do nothing. Nothing. I wasn't going to respond. I wasn't going to contact the other people to whom she spewed her poison.  I wasn't going to revisit the past or defend myself.  In fact, I couldn't defend myself.  Just like in my past experiences with CC, defending myself means breaking the confidences of others, and I won't do that.

Over the years since our friendship ended, I have heard from people who are angry at and hurt by CC. She's destroyed much that people found precious, and my marriage is not the least of those things. I have given the exact same genuine counsel every single time: "Forgive her. She's a hurting and broken person deserving of compassion. Free yourself!"

Those are words I take to heart.

Image result for love your enemies

I forgive you, CC. You are hurting and broken. You deserve my compassion and the love Jesus calls us to give even to those who willfully hurt us.

My forgiveness is heartfelt. But my desire to be free of her anger, hatred, and manipulation is also heartfelt. What does one have to do, I wonder, to be free of someone who is that bitterly angry? The only conclusion I can draw, the only thing that might free me of her is my own failure.

And failure, my friends, is not an option!