Archives For divorce

  

I have dreams. Some good and pleasant; filled with fluffy clouds scudding in an azure sky, warm breezes, brilliant sunshine, picnic baskets, and sticky fingers. 
Some… not so good. In those dreams, the fingers are sticky, too; not with cotton candy, or caramel apples, but with blood. There is death, divorce, decay, mayhem, mischief, and maybe a glimmer of hope. Hope that I might wake up.
But what if I don’t? These are my Mean Dreams. They have teeth, biting with the carrion beaks of buzzards, fetid, foul, and smelling of the grave.  The air is redolent with their heavy scent.

They will linger long in your memory, too, these Mean Dreams.
Mean Dreams, an anthology of stories, coming by the end of 2015. 

Child of Divorce

randomlychad  —  May 15, 2014 — 2 Comments

You may have seen this video as it made the rounds via social media. Like so many of you, I not only saw it, but lived it. I was that kid. The one wondering if he mattered. The one knowing he didn’t.

I’m almost 45 years old, and I still fight that feeling inside that there’s something wrong with me–that I’m wrong. It doesn’t take much at all to take me back to that place. In so many ways I’m still that little boy…

I know God is my Father; yet I so often relate to him like I would my earthly father. That is to say, there’s a distance there that shouldn’t be. Yet I don’t know how to overcome it.

How could he love me?

I know he does. I’m just not good at feeling it. Faith, and trust, are hard to come by when the scars are still so very real. And God, like a faithful surgeon, often wounds right there in those very places of deepest woundedness… I don’t want to hurt, but I also don’t want to mask the pain.

God, are you listening?

How about you? Do you struggle with knowing, deep down, that you are loved by God?

I’m sure it’s a thing, white privilege. One need look no further than, say, Donald Sterling to know that there’s something very wrong with the world, that systemic racism exists.

That white privilege is a thing.

But don’t talk to me, a white guy, about it. Because white privilege, insofar as I can tell, never did a damn thing for me.

Let me explain.

Behind the middle class fačade, was an empty home. A home devoid of any real sense of security, or love. Emotionally distant, and uninvolved, my dad couldn’t keep it in his pants, “screwing around” on my mom for fourteen out of sixteen years. And my mom? When he left, she had to take on two, and sometimes three, jobs to keep us fed, and a roof over our heads.

The net effect is that I lost both parents.

While there may in fact have been more creature comforts, I was still latchkey. I came home to an empty house day in and day out. Left to my own devices, I didn’t get into drugs, but rather porn. Nobody cared.

Nobody cared when the centerfolds went up on my bedroom wall. They just closed my door, and pretended they weren’t there. There was no dad, or father figure, to tell me that women were not objects, or hos, that existed just for me. Nobody cared when I stayed up late at night, watching the racy movies.

I was, by and large, ignored.

Like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, I was ignored. Until I fucked up, that is. Then it was all OMG! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

But even then it was mostly bark, no bite. People couldn’t bother to really care. I mean my mom once took my cigarettes away, saying she didn’t want me to smoke. She hid them literally on front of face, like I wouldn’t retrieve them almost immediately.

The list goes on. The greatest travesty of my upbringing was that it was virtually consequence-free: there were no real boundaries, and thus no real, tangible, sense of love…

Wait. I can recall one thing that white privilege gave me:

My mom, the counselor, threw me an eighteenth birthday party. She and her boyfriend vacated the house so I could have friends over. Did I mention that she brought me along with her to the videostore to rent pornos? Yep, she did. And she, the youth diversion coordinator, also supplied all the booze we could drink, including hiding a bottle of Southern Comfort in my bed.

Lucky me, right?

So there’s my white privilege upbringing,  people. Didn’t, and still doesn’t, feel very privileged to me. To this day, my relationship with mom is strained; and with my dad, it’s nonexistant.

Divorce and dysfunction hath it’s privileges, eh?

'Dysfunction Junction: Cold Spring NY Photowalk' photo (c) 2010, Nick Harris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I don’t want you getting the wrong idea–I wasn’t beaten as a child. The spankings I got, I earned (helping your buddy try to burn down his grandmother’s garage, anyone?). I wasn’t a battered child, but I’ve got come to the conclusion that abuse is never just physical.

There are psychological, and emotional, abuses, too. And if I was abused, it was in this way:

I was ignored. One of my earliest memories is being told to go away, relax, unwind, watch T.V. And then later, when she checked on me, my mother was aghast to find me drinking a beer in front of Sesame Street. Why? “Because it wat daddy do.”

When I fell, got hurt, got a boo-boo, there was precious little soothing; instead, I was indoctrinated with the mantra “I’m alright.” Even though I most decidedly was not alright. They say the lessons learned earliest go the deepest.
And are hardest to overcome. I’ve been alright far too many times when I shouldn’t have been. Been okay in places I never should have been…

If my mother’s chiefest failing was practiced indifference–emotional diffidence, my dad’s was indifference followed by the bitter wash of sarcastic chasers. I would go from being ignored to verbally masticated, spit out, left to put myself back together…

And I had to be alright.

After their inevitable divorce, the neglect only deepened. My mom, of course, didn’t share her pain; instead, losing herself in work, she hoped (I think) to give others something she couldn’t give herself: an intact family.

And my dad? Our relationship was as defined in the divorce decree: I saw him twice a year. His second wife hated my brother and I…

Divorce touches millions of families. And my life, seen from the outside, may have appeared to be, while perhaps less than ideal, a privileged one. I was white, lived in Scottsdale, had a roof, clothes  food. In short, the basics.

It has taken me years to pin down just exactly what I didn’t have:

A sense of love.

Part and parcel with growing up latchkey was, I guess, a sense of parental guilt. There were precious few boundaries, and even fewer consequences. I was left to my own devices, to indulge in whatever I wanted.

It’s a wonder I just got into smoking, and not drugs. My interest in porn was labelled “healthy curiosity.” If my childhood was defined by anything, it was these three things:

Neglect

Pornography

And Stephen King

I turned inward because there was nowhere else to go, no one to go to. My mom eventually had a live-in boyfriend, who’s example, and idea of culture, consisted of pizza, cigarettes, and “martoonis” in front of the T.V. This was my exemplar of manhood.

I wanted to escape, but had nowhere else to go. My dad didn’t want me, my mom was too busy, and this is “white privilege?”

None of this was talked about. I had to navigate a broken family, adolescence, on my own.

Habits developed then have not always been conducive now to  building healthy attachments. I’m almost 45 years old, and still bitter about what I didn’t have. Why couldn’t I have a normal, loving family? Why don’t I have meaningful relationships with my parents, brother, etc?

For years, as a growing Christian, I thought it was my job to put up, shut up, keep the peace. I allowed so many unhealthy things to happen, so many hurts to go unaddressed. I want to let my parents off the hook, say they did the best they could…

But I don’t believe it.

That’s why I want so much to be done with them. I can’t seem to get past the things which they’ve done, or I’ve done in relation to them. I want to say there’s too much water under the bridge. I don’t feel listened to.

I want to be done, but can’t. Because…

Because God.

He’s the God of second, third, thirty-third, and seventy-times-time chances.

Because He’s given me chance after chance, though I’ve blown it time and time again, I can do no less. I have to try.

If there’s a lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s this: the things we like least in others are usually the things which dislike about ourselves. That hurts to admit.

I’m not perfect (far from it), and neither are they. They dealt with their own demons, as I’ve dealt with mine.

God help me, I’m willing to try.

That’s the best I can do.

It’s Not Just Divorce

randomlychad  —  November 19, 2013 — 1 Comment

It’s Not Just Divorce

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Joe Sewell

Folks, I have the great privilege of hosting Joe Sewell today. In his own words, Joe: is a 51-year-old software geek living in West Melbourne, FL, after he and his parents bailed on the Eastern Shore of Maryland when he was 18. His lovely wife, Joy, has put up with him on more than major holidays for 20 years so far. Joe writes about Biblical stuff on his blog, Consider This, whenever he gets something to write on. Joe also participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010 and produced a weird self-published book, The Quantum Suicide of Schrödinger’s Cat, available on Amazon and CreateSpace. Joe also contributed a piece for Anne Jackson’s Permission To Speak Freely and for the Not Alone! anthology. He claims to have some other book ideas locked in his head, but cannot seem to find the key at the moment. Joe is scared of kids, but can handle his 5.3-pound Rat-Cha, Cocoa. Joe first guest posted here last year with Choosing to Forgive My Pop. You can follow Joe on Twitter @joe_sewell

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I am constantly amazed by the similarities Chad and I have. I almost wonder if we were twins separated from birth. I wouldn’t wish that on Chad, though.

Recently he talked about his parents’ divorce, and it spurred me to think again about my own story.

The executive summary is this: it’s not just divorce that can affect your child for life.

My mother left my father after 25 years of marriage. I was 24 at that time, but still living at home for no reason other than convenience. No, I wasn’t the geeky kid living in the parents’ basement, mainly because Florida homes cannot have basements (the water table’s too high).

Here’s the main point, though: I saw the divorce coming since I was 8! That makes 16 years of emotional torment as I watched my mother take … well, I wasn’t privy to exactly what she was taking at the time.

The first issue was that there was a 25-year age difference between the two of them. The generation gap was in effect even in the small town in which we lived, in an environment that was rural enough to be “inbred” in terms of emotional maturity. People did what they did because they were “supposed to.” No other reason was ever offered, so there was no point to discuss.

Pop, as I mentioned in my guest post relating to finally being able to forgive him, was stubbornly old-fashioned. Men had their place, and women had theirs. Don’t bother talking to him about it, because that was the way things were “supposed to be.” I saw no affection between them since I was probably 5 or 6, maybe 7. By the time I was 8, I got all the under-the-breath complaints Mom had against Pop. She didn’t dare talk to him about it, she says. It wouldn’t matter much anyhow, because in his eyes he was the only one who could be correct in such a discussion.

Much of my hatred for him grew during those years. Much of the emotional stress I still deal with started then. My desire to escape the torment by pulling the trigger of a probably-loaded gun came when I was 10.

They weren’t divorced, but the torture was still real for me.

The event that pushed [sic] her over the edge was the day when she told Pop that the door knob wasn’t working properly. He tried his best to fix it. She tried it again and said it still wasn’t right. He pushed her aside, into a wall. I didn’t know about that event until a few months ago, even though it happened in 1986. I did know then, though, that she “coincidentally” got a good promotion with the hardware company she worked for, but in a city that was roughly 80 miles away.

Pop knew what he had done, but was in deep denial. He kept saying it was the “change of life” that caused her to do this. The very few times she showed up back near home (also near where her own father, the only grandfather I knew, lived at the time) Pop would be in tears. He was a “man.” He wasn’t “supposed to” cry. He did.

So what did that do to me? I have been married almost 20 years now. Since I didn’t know until recently what pushed Mom over the edge, I have lived with the fear of pushing my own wife, Joy, too far without warning, with me being too stupid to know until it was too late. I have lived with the dread of having children and passing the damage on to them. That even led to a serious crisis of faith that God is still healing.

Divorce is necessary sometimes. Even Jesus allowed it under certain conditions. In our society today, though, with a lack of caring about marriage, divorce is all over the place. The only reason the numbers are so low, I suspect, is because more and more couples are living together as if they were married, but they haven’t bothered to make the real commitment that must be the foundation of every marriage. If Chad and I were so damaged by our parents’ divorces, what’s going on with today’s younger generation? For that matter, we have a generation of baby-producing semi-adults already afflicted in ways Chad and I probably cannot even imagine.

There is still hope. The damage may be done, but Christ still will clean us up, still heal us. That healing and cleaning may not be complete this side of Heaven, but His commitment to us is far more trustworthy than that of any married couple. Check out Romans 8 for a start.

We’re damaged property. Welcome to Earth.