This past weekend, my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. It has been both a privilege and an honor to have Lisa in my life. And I know that for such a momentous occasion as this, she would have liked to have gone to a place like Hawaii, but that wasn’t feasible at this time. I was able to book us a couple of nights at a local resort, arrange childcare for our kids, but still wanted to make our anniversary a memorable occasion. And that is where Anne Jackson comes in. She seems to have made it her life’s calling to help people get free from all the junk that weighs us down—whatever that is. And she—along with Susan Isaacs and Solveig Leithaug—were going to be in town for the last stop of the fall leg of the Permission to Speak Freely tour. As I have been truly blessed, encouraged, challenged, and changed by reading Anne’s books (her description of her “sex education” resonates with me, because it strongly parallels my own), I got my wife and I tickets. Not exactly a romantic notion, I know, but very memorable. We got to meet strangers who felt like lifelong friends, folks who really cared about us, and invited us into their stories. It was an intimate evening, perhaps not in the traditional anniversary sense, but one that my wife and I will never forget for the rest of her life. Anne, if you happen to read this, Lisa knows now—she knows!–that she is not alone. Thank-you for giving us the gift of going second. It is a gift we hope to “pay forward.”
One of the highlights of the evening were getting to hear of Solveig’s experiences as a single parent—this really made me appreciate anew all my own mother did after my dad left. Honestly, for so long I’d only considered how my parents’ divorcing affected me, and hearing of Solveig’s struggles confronted me smack dab in the face with the fact that my mom had pain of her own with which to contend. This, I think, is yet another sad fact of divorce: the pain of it isolates—isolates the parties going through it certainly, and isolates the children who have no understanding of what’s going on, or why. My own pain isolated—insulated–me from the fact that my mom had to have been hurting, too, and she was doing all she could to hang onto our home, friends, whatever was left of the life we knew. And all I did was resent the fact that she was gone so much, because my dad—in leaving—basically took her away, too.
Another highlight of the evening was getting to both hear Susan Isaacs’s testimony about her dad, and talk with her about it following the event. To say that her experiences paralleled mine would be an understatement. And as hard as it has been, I did what Susan had to do with her late father: I finally drew a healthy boundary that, for now at least, has essentially severed the relationship with my dad. Unfortunately, it was so unhealthy for so long, I know he doesn’t see it that way. I’ve written of it before, but it bears repeating: in the name of what I thought was Christian love, for the sake of what I thought was “honoring” my dad, I let him hurt my wife for a long time. But no more. For my wife’s sake, for my son’s sake, I had to man up and protect my family. It wasn’t easy—didn’t feel “right” at first—but I’ve settled into this decision. And I think it is one of the best things I could have ever done for my marriage.
I have to say the most surreal moment of the evening—surreal, but very nice (yes, I stole that from Notting Hill)—was when Susan, with whom I had corresponded on Twitter, recognized me as “Gandalf” (my former Twitter handle), and spontaneously hugged me. I hadn’t expected her to recognize me at all, so this was very cool.