Category Archives: Healing

New Me in New York, Part Deux

I’ve been in New York for two weeks now.

Even in winter, it’s everything wonderful I remember: towering architecture, flashing marquees, glowing stage lights and bright, yellow taxicabs; crowded subways and quaint cafes filled with people from all walks of life. The bustling noise and busyness is always offset by a quiet, wooden park bench, and the harsh wind and cold, made warmer by the coo of a lone dove perched on the fire escape.

I love this city with all my heart.

I’m staying in my friends’ apartment in West Harlem, while they are away for several weeks. A couple of months ago, while I lay sick in my bed in Pasadena, I declared over social media I was going to allow people to love me this year. Almost immediately, I received a phone call. My friends responded with, “Come to New York, stay in our place and pay what you can. And by ‘what you can’ — even if we don’t get a dime, it’s okay.”

I burst into tears, accepted their more-than-generous offer, and started packing.

Here I am, and I even survived – I’d say frolicked in — the big blizzard of 2013.

I heart blizzards.

I heart blizzards.

There is always beauty after the storm.

There is always beauty after the storm.

It’s hard to not project into the future, however. I started looking for apartments so I can live on my own, but quickly got discouraged because I can’t afford it. I’ve been auditioning as much as I can, but nothing happens overnight. I need work, and badly. I want so desperately to be able to support myself and really make this happen. I am determined to not have to move back to Los Angeles, with my tail tucked between my legs, and nothing to show for my time here.

I’ve been given a second chance and do not want to fail.

*****

I’ve lived in New York City before. I moved four years ago, on February 13, 2009.  X accompanied me on the plane ride out, for I didn’t want to go alone. I was still reticent about the decision we had made – and prayed for – together, but somehow I knew it was a huge step forward in my life.

We arrived at JFK and lugged my three tattered suitcases through the subway, towards Morningside Heights (Harlem). The same couple housing me now had offered their couch for a couple of weeks while I waited for the room I had rented in Queens to be available.

As we crossed the threshold into my friends’ tiny apartment, I immediately felt at home; peace.

X and I sat down on the blue, velvet couch and sipped homemade coffee with our friends. We all marveled at how I had finally arrived in New York, with a job, and an opportunity to shoot for the stars — at least for six months. I complained about having to swing the off-Broadway show I was in (I want to go back and slap my entitled attitude!), and worried about how I’d manage a six-month separation from my beloved husband.

The answer was simple: we’d endure. It was only six months. The potential opportunities were worth the possible struggle of loneliness and separation.

Yet, those six months – February to August, 2009 – were the cruelest, saddest and loneliest times I have ever experienced in my life.

“I love you more than anything, Leslie,” X reassured me, after we had finished our coffee, and were waiting on the curb for his airport cab to arrive, to take him back to Los Angeles.

I kicked a chicken bone out from under the heel of my boot and brushed the tears from my eyes.

“I hate the thought of not being with you,” I cried. “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and your unwavering support and encouragement means the world to me. I could not do this without you. I honestly couldn’t have dreams without you, because I think you believe in me more than I believe in myself.”

“I support you one million percent,” X replied.  “I will hate being away from you, too, but we’ll make it work. After all, we love each other and are most important to each other.”

The cab arrived. My husband hugged me, slid his tall, thin frame into the back seat, and drove away. I would see him in New York just once more in the following six months. Little did I know then, I had already lost him.

*****

Four years later – I have gained a whole new me.

As I have wandered the city these past two weeks, I know I am different.  I feel it.  I may be alone, but alone doesn’t necessarily mean lonely. I have bigger dreams than I ever had the courage to dream before.  I feel calm. Humbled. Confident. Expectant. Excited. My future has never been more unsteady or unsure, but I know it will be all right.

I am not worried about failing.  Just by being in this vibrant city this very moment, and every millisecond that follows — for however long I am able to remain – I have already succeeded.

Lost Entry

I’m moving to New York in less than two weeks.

It’s surreal. It’s terrifying. It’s beyond exciting, it’s crazy, and it’s about time. I’m packing up my beloved, cozy Pasadena apartment – the place I have healed from my divorce for the past two years – and cramming it all into a 5×10 storage unit. A week from Monday I will board a plane with a suitcase, my book of audition songs, a pair of really good heels, my computer and a huge-ass smile.

I am going back. 

Since I made the firm decision to go just four days ago, I have little time to pack and move out.  Last night, my friend Lisa came over to help me sort and toss things I don’t – and didn’t ever – need.  For example, I have a plethora of Post-It notes and an abundance of Scotch tape. I have rusted tools I don’t even know how to use, and I’ve kept a box full of tax returns dating all the way back to 1999.

Lisa opened up a bottle of ironic red wine and we got to work. Her task was to organize the Scotch tape. Mine was to sort and toss documents.

When I moved out of my house in April 2010, I made a point to keep only important or necessary things regarding my marriage (original marriage license; tax returns and receipts; mortgage and divorce papers).  Still blinded by hurt, betrayal and raw emotion, I threw away almost anything else that reminded me of X and our marriage. I couldn’t bear even his handwriting in my new apartment.

I wanted all evidence of him in my life, gone.

I opened the box containing the ancient tax returns and found a mid-sized, bright, red notebook. I almost tossed it, sight unseen, but was more curious as to why my 2010 self had saved it.

I flipped it open, and took a sip of my wine. The first several pages contained audition information dating back to 2002. I wrote down every audition I had – including the Brian Setzer Orchestra (which had “BOOKED!!!” and a huge smiley face written all over it). Each successful page contained evidence of my marriage: scribblings on paint colors for each room in our house, a home repair “To-Do” list, plans for a happy dive vacation X and I took to Panama in 2005, and then, suddenly, notes from my first, desperate phone call to our marriage counselor, concerns about leasing our home, and a preliminary division of debt and assets.

For having covered so many years of our 10-year marriage, the notebook was only half full.  The last writing contained a journal entry I don’t even remember penning.

I gasped as I scanned the pages.

“Lisa! Listen to this,” I exclaimed, as I set my wine glass down on the coffee table.

I leaned forward and began to read, aloud, the carefully printed lost entry.

October 4, 2009

I feel like having sex with X displays total weakness. I need it, and he gets it, but he doesn’t have to work very hard at — or for — it.  There’s still no sign of emotional consequences for his actions. I don’t doubt at all he thinks of her while he is having sex with me.  He doesn’t even really kiss me – and this new way he kisses is extremely different, which means he kissed her A LOT and apparently was taught not to slobber anymore. It makes me beyond angry to think that my husband’s lover taught him anything.  She was 14 years old when X and I got married.  I wish he would have done her then and gone to jail.

But I am weak.  I am getting what I want, too, and if I can pretend he’s actually really into me, it’s a good day. I don’t feel so rotten and ugly and rejected.

X leaves for Spain tomorrow. I don’t even know when he will be back. No doubt he’ll pine after his lover – with all those romantic places and it being Europe and all. I don’t doubt there will be many a Spanish, Portuguese or Brazilian girl to catch his eye, and with his [male] companion there will be late nights and lots of parties.

Perhaps X won’t be tempted, but he certainly won’t be thinking about me. Me, the last person on his mind for the past six months.  Yeah, it’s going to take time. What a rotten predicament. He’s the first person on my mind and I’m the absolute last on his.  I feel like the nerdy, zitty, overweight teenager who is desperately in love with the popular, attractive and charming athlete – who doesn’t even know she exists.

X is barely aware of my existence.  My own husband doesn’t notice me.

So I have given in and given him his needs and he gives back nothing but a hug or an arm touch here and there.  What a stupid fool I am.  Stupid, stupid fool. Thinking I can desperately try to get him to notice me, love me, need me, miss me – those days are over and another person has taken that place.  I am cast aside like yesterday’s garbage. Maybe there’s something worth salvaging in the stinking, rotting trash can but there’s always something new or better where that came from.

I have no pride. I am totally broken.  God, my only hope is in You. I still believe You can/will redeem my relationship with X, and I confess my total impatience. I also can’t force anything to happen.  People don’t change, which absolutely includes me. He got tired of me and my “deal” and found, quickly, someone to take my place. And that connection is still stronger to him than anything he or I ever had because I am too familiar, too predictable, too blasé.  Too “moral”.  Too Christian.

All X can see is his career. Now I know what it felt like for him when I was in New York.  It’s like some sort of cruel payback.

“Oh, God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek You.  My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You. In a dry and weary land, where there is no water…” (Psalm 63:1)

“People,” says God’s wisdom, “do not expect either truth or consolation from other people. It is I who made you and I alone can teach you what you are.” ~Blaise Pascal

God, I feel like I am a walking contradiction. I am totally impatient for X – I so desperately want him to fall in love with me again and love me more fiercely and passionately than ever, yet I neglect my relationship with You in the process. No matter how much X rejects or hurts me I keep coming back for more. I concentrate on his unfaithfulness yet I am doing the exact same thing to You.  I have been unfaithful all the while, to You.

God, I still pray for wisdom and strength; hope and trust.  Just because X utters the words, “I love you,” and has sex with me does not mean he is faithful or true.

I want so much to believe him.

God, I pray for this trip he is taking to Spain. It could be the culmination of everything good and healing; of redemption, else it will just be a continuation of the same old story; of limbo.

But that is for him. Not me.

God, I seek You and trust that X will return to You (and me); I fervently pray for him; that You would protect him from the predictable, yet devastating wiles of the devil.

It does seem as if X has taken some steps forward – third time’s a charm! – but I am still hesitant to believe or trust him fully.  I want to.  I want our marriage to survive. And so I will commit to it and trust that You, Lord – You alone will move mountains and redeem us.  I want my marriage to be beautiful and holy. But I might be the only one at this point.

Ephesians 6:12 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of the heavenly realms.”

God, have mercy.

* * * * *

God did have mercy. Additionally, He showered me with His love, kindness, goodness and grace. Because of Him, it has been revealed how strong, worthy and beautiful I truly am.

I am never cast aside. I will always be noticed. I will always be loved.

I want so much to travel back in time and tell my hurt, betrayed, dejected self everything will eventually be more than all right.  That is not to say times will have been easy. Even as the pain and memories have faded, my divorce will always be a small part of who I am.

I surprised myself last night when, in addition to the lost entry, I found one of the very first (and only remaining) pictures I have of X and I together.  We were standing on a beach in Santa Barbara, holding one another and grinning from ear to ear.  It was obvious we were happy in love. Both my arms were wrapped around him, tightly.

I stared at his face, then mine, and his again. And I remembered, even last night, how I loved that boy. My first love.

I felt a strange sensation in my chest, and my throat tightened.

“Oh, my goodness, I’m going to cry,” I admitted, slightly embarrassed.  I passed the picture to Lisa.

“It’s OK to cry,” she soothed, as the water welled up in my eyes.  “You knew, even then, who he truly was.”

I nodded my head and allowed the tears to wet my cheeks.

“I did. That – I pointed to his fresh, smooth, familiar and happy face – “is the X I knew and loved, and want to remember.”

I dried my brief tears, and carefully returned the picture to its original envelope. I then placed it into the deep recesses of the accordion file, along with the single person tax returns I do need to save, for a few more years. It will all go into storage, until it’s time to move again.

And so, my life continues to catapult forward.  This new adventure upon which I am about to embark is a huge leap of faith; a swan dive into the unknown.

One thing is for certain, however: God is with me. He was with me then, He is with me now, and He will be with me in the days, weeks, months, years and eternity to come.

Hot French Waiter Part Deux

Andrea and I landed at Charles de Gaulle in the early morning.  We fumbled around the airport, found a way to purchase train tickets into the city, and, although exhausted, we happily planted ourselves on the commuter train.

I glanced around at the passengers and noticed a young woman reading the bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love.

“That’s what we’re going to do, “Andrea joked.  “Except we’re going to Eat, Pray, Love in a week!”

We burst into excited laughter.  Our adventures were just about to begin!

Once we made it into the city, we navigated ourselves  — and our ridiculously heavy luggage — through the underground Metro.  We had rented an apartment in the Marais for the week, and were desperate to settle in.

Thankfully, Andrea speaks fluent French (I told you I have amazing friends), so we were able to make our way to Rue de Quincampoix looking far less touristy than we actually were. We met up with the apartment owner – a lovely young artist – but quickly realized that neither of us had Euros to pay the rent.  (Note to self: change money before getting on the plane!)  Delirious, we scrambled around the neighborhood to find a bank.

Money and keys finally changed hands, and we were officially Parisian residents.  The two-story, 290-square foot apartment was much smaller than either of us had expected, but it had everything we needed.  As soon as we climbed upstairs, we didn’t care.  The view of the Parisian rooftops, not to mention the steeple of St. Paul- St. Louis Church (and the sound of its glorious bells), was worth the price alone.  Sharing a bed was funny, but we were used to it.

We headed out, still dressed in almost two-day-old clothing.  I was convinced that I smelled like re-circulated air from the plane, but it just didn’t matter. 

We were in Paris. 

We lunched at an outdoor café, just blocks from our apartment and the Pompidou Center.  I turned my face towards the warm, glowing sunlight and inhaled the sweet afternoon breeze.  It smelled of cigarette smoke, baked bread, history, B.O., champagne, romance and hope.

I suddenly realized that I had fallen in love.  Paris had my heart.  I was transfixed, and hungry for more.

We finished our light lunch and were off to the grocery store to stock our tiny kitchen with the most delicious French cheese, bread, jam, yogurt, tea, lettuce, fruit, vegetables and, of course, wine.

We returned to the apartment, took turns hovering in the Barbie-sized shower, and headed out again.

Over tired/excited, I dressed in the most ridiculous outfit I had packed – a green mini dress, a gold scarf my sisters had bought for me in Italy, a black leather jacket, and brown, almost-knee-high boots.

What not to wear in Paris…

There was no set plan, but to explore.

We strolled towards the Seine.  Our first stop was at a little café on the corner, overlooking one of the many famous, picturesque bridges.  We had easily been lured in by a Hot French Waiter (Part Deux!), who eagerly served us.  We nibbled on cheese and sipped little glasses of Kir as we watched the afternoon sunlight start to fade into a glorious, bustling city glow.  Somewhere beyond my view stood the Eiffel Tower, in all of its glory.

I can’t believe I’m here! 

Inevitably, I had to make my bladder gladder, so I excused myself inside the restaurant.  Not looking where I was going, I ran into Hot French Waiter Part Deux and almost knocked over his tray of wine glasses.

“Oh!!  Je suis désolé! Pardonnez-moi!!”  I blushed, and tried to fake a good French accent. Maybe he wouldn’t notice that I couldn’t speak a lick of his native tongue.

He smiled, and grabbed my hand.

Êtes-vous marié?

I stared at him. My hand started to tingle.

“What?  No…no, my name is not Marie,”  I replied, and then I realized I had blown my cover.  Actress fail.

He threw his head back and laughed.

“I ask yooooou? Eeeeef yoooou? Are married,” he repeated, slowly, as if I didn’t understand English, either.  His thick French accent was palpable.  I took in a deep breath.  Paris felt so good.   And, there I was, standing in the middle of a romantic café, holding hands with a man.  Just like that.

That familiar, wide grin spread across my face.

“No, I am not married.  I am very single!”  I laughed.

“Ouais!”

Still holding my hand, Hot French Waiter Part Deux got down on one knee.

I gasped.

“Veux-tu m’épouser?  Will yooooou?  Marry me? Beaauuuutiful, smiling woman!”

He stared deeply into my eyes as his lips lightly brushed the top of my hand.

Oh.  My.  Lorn.  

My heart fluttered, my knees grew weak, and my bladder screamed at me.

“Uhhh, can I get back to you on that?  I have to find ‘les toilettes’!”

Good one, Les.  

He laughed, jumped up and gently guided me towards the restrooms.

Hot French Waiter Part Deux was busy when I returned to Andrea and our table.  I gave her the quick replay.  Why, yes, I had just received a marriage proposal within hours of landing in Paris.  My life really wasn’t all that bad.

“You have to kiss him!”  She urged.

“What?!  No!  No, I can’t do that!”  I shook my head, and felt the hot flush of embarrassment rise to my cheeks.

“You said you were coming here to kiss somebody,” Andrea pointed out.  “He just asked you to marry him.  You can certainly give him a kiss!”

She was right.  I was just so overprotective of myself, not to mention inexperienced.  I had been on a handful of dates and only kissed three men since filing for divorce from X.

I took another sip of my Kir and reflected on my “love life”.

In August of 2010 — on X’s birthday, to be exact — I had a wild, unexpected makeout session with an old college crush.    It was our second date – the first having been three months earlier.   It was new, exciting and dangerous, and everything felt so…wrong.

He never called me again.

In December of that year, my friend basically dared me to kiss him, so I did.  It was actually very sweet, but I insisted that we remain friends.

And, I had met a guy just a couple of weeks earlier, while in Minneapolis.  I was out to dinner with my lovely friend and fellow Vixen, Julie (she is married to Brian Setzer).  The restaurant was packed, so we sat at the bar.  I thought nothing of it as I struck up a conversation with the friendly, cute bartender.  He happened to be extremely smart, and a talented filmmaker, as well.

He asked me out on the spot.

I was shocked.  That never happens in Los Angeles.  At least not to me.

Why not?  I thought.  I was leaving town the next day, so nothing was going to happen.

Much to my own surprise, I found myself agreeing to kiss him, as well.  He was old-fashioned, chivalrous and sweet.  He treated me well and respected me.  He also begged me to keep kissing him.  He told me that he had never met anyone like me before.  He was crazy about me, all in a matter of a few hours.

What was happening?

My self-protective, Don’t-come-near-me-and-hurt-me-you-douchehound signal had begun to flicker off.  Apparently a stronger, Come-ask-me-to-marry-you signal had switched on.  I needed to find a balance.

Andrea and I finished our “happy hour”, planted a few Euros atop the bill, and got up to leave.  Hot French Waiter Part Deux swiftly re-appeared.

He held out his hands, as if I had mortally wounded him with my sudden departure. After all, I had never responded to his marriage proposal.

I walked towards him, put my arms around him, and hugged him hard.  I then planted a bold, firm kiss on his cheek.  He seemed rather surprised at my expression of affection.

“Merci,” I whispered, and then turned and sauntered down the cobblestone street, feeling happy, confident and – I daresay – sexy.

My French kissing warm up was complete.

Paris, Part 1

Saturday, May 14, 2011                                                                                    Dallas, TX           

Finally left Minnesota.  It was not at all what I had expected.  I didn’t think I’d meet some guy and have a pleasant “date”.  I didn’t think Bemidji would be what it was.  I didn’t think I’d have more grief to process.  I just don’t have it all figured out, and that’s OK.  Part of me is scared to go home; scared not for Paris, but the aftermath.  I am scared that I’m unworthy; that I have to figure it out before anything can happen.

It’s just not true.

I’m growing.  Learning.  Changing. 

Am I running?  A little bit.  Los Angeles has been difficult these past eleven months (when I last got out).

I am realizing that I can’t push anything.  I can’t force anything to happen.  I have to allow life to be natural.

And then I wonder, where is he – this magical, mythical man that everyone thinks I’m going to meet?  I’m sitting in an international airport in Dallas, Texas, soon to be heading to FRANCE.  And I just can’t help but wonder what he is doing right now. 

Where is he?  Who is he?

I have to let him go even before I know him.  I have to be open.  I AM open, but I have no idea how much further You want me to go.  How much deeper?  How much more self-reflection and introspection does one have to go through to heal?

Healing.  Heal, heal, heal.

I think I’m getting there.

Four days later, Andrea and I excitedly boarded a plane to Paris, France.  We skipped down the aisle to our respective seats (I danced and sang), flopped down and kicked off our shoes, ready for the ten-plus hour flight to the most romantic city in the world.

The male flight attendant sensed our excitement (who isn’t excited about boarding a plane to PARIS?!), and asked us what the purpose of our trip was.  Andrea giggled and exclaimed, “We’re celebrating Leslie’s divorce!”

Someone on the plane clapped.

Suddenly, we had somewhat of an audience, so Andrea and I tag-teamed sharing my story.  The flight attendant’s eyes grew wide, as he listened.

“Wait – hold that thought,” he interrupted, and raced to the back of the plane.  He returned with two mini bottles of vodka, and the female flight attendant, who wanted to hear my tale, as well.

I have to admit: “Sister Wife” hooks ‘em, every time.

“Girl, you are going to get laid,” the flight attendant squealed, and then proceeded to tell me how she would be living vicariously, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I laughed, nervously.  I was not — and am still not — interested in casual sex.  I believe that sex is sacred; special.  And since my self-esteem had been in the toilet for so long, I couldn’t flush it further, no matter how much I long(ed) for a romantic, passionate, hormonally charged encounter (in Paris!)

I had, however, made up my mind that I was going to kiss somebody.

I explained that my divorce had been official for a couple of months, and an 8-day jaunt to Paris with my “wife” was the perfect ending to the madness of the past two years.  It was exciting to think that the world was finally starting to become my oyster.

As Los Angeles rapidly disappeared underneath the wings of our 747, I started to think about the last time I had been to Paris.

It was September, 1997.

X and I were both studying in England for the semester: I in London and he in Oxford.  We decided to take the Chunnel one beautiful September day, and, a little over two hours later, found ourselves wandering the streets of Paris.  I remember it being beautiful, and so much more exciting than London.  I remember the Louvre; I remember the croissants and coffee.  I can still sing the song we made up to remember the Metro station closest to where we stayed.  I remember snapping pictures of the Eiffel Tower, and “stalking” the tunnel where Princess Diana had been killed, just weeks earlier.

It was completely adorned with flowers.

I remember my short, choppy blond hair, my chunky belly and my horrifically bad choice of shoes.

I also remember being blissfully in love, and engaged to be married to my favorite person in the world.

We were in PARIS!

X and I only stayed for the weekend.  One night was spent in a small, dark hotel (in separate beds, of course!), and the other was spent on twin bunk beds in a youth hostel.

It was a rare thing to have a room to ourselves in a cheap hostel, so we were excited.  We were determined to be good; behave ourselves.  After all, we were saving sex for marriage.

Of course, we inevitably ended up messing around.  Clothes came off, and we passionately pushed the boundaries of our pledge to stay pure until our wedding night.

The next thing I remember is a lot of blood.  Blood everywhere.  On the sheets, on X’s hands, on the pillowcase.

When I finally realized what had happened, I was mortified.  Guilt, shame and embarrassment flooded over me.  I cried.  X held his head in his hands. We prayed, and asked forgiveness for our naughty behavior.

Although we hadn’t had sex, we clearly had broken…well…you know.

We cleaned up the mess and made up some story to get fresh sheets.  I slept alone, on the top bunk that night, feeling like a terrible, dirty slut.  I actually wasn’t naïve enough to believe that my virginity had been taken from me, but something in me changed from that moment on.

I remember telling X that Paris wouldn’t ever seem as romantic again.

And, because of my guilt, I didn’t want to return.  I wasn’t interested in Paris anymore.  It held our shame, and we left it there.

X and I maintained “good” behavior until our wedding night, which ended up being a long, drawn-out, two years later.  It was a terrible struggle, but we managed to stay virgins, however you look at it.  It is something of which I will always be proud.

At the same time, it made the betrayal of X’s infidelities slice even deeper into my soul.

Cut to: Fourteen years later.  Divorced; unsexed; unaware of my actual attractiveness; free.

It was time to re-claim Paris for me.

It would only be a matter of hours before I would kiss my first Frenchman.

Ack, X and K

Two days after my court hearing, I boarded a plane to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

My main purpose for heading to the Midwest was to reconcile with my long-lost, dear friend, K.  I hadn’t seen her in seven years, and we had only recently reconnected.

K and I had a beautiful history.  At the time I met her, she was in a dating relationship with X’s best friend, whom I shall refer to as “Ack”.  The couple hailed from a small town in Minnesota, and fell in love the summer before their senior year in high school.  After graduation, Ack moved to California to attend Bible College.  K stayed in Minnesota, attended college for two years, and then took a job as a nanny in Massachusetts.

I met K one weekend when she was in town visiting, and we were instantly friends.  We kept up our friendship via handwritten letters (email was a bit of a foreign concept back in those days).  Eventually, K took the plunge and moved to Southern California to be closer to Ack.  She and another girlfriend of hers from Minnesota became my roommates during my senior year at Biola University.

It was 1999.

The other Minnesotan roommate married X’s other best friend in June, I married X in October, and K married Ack nine months later.  We all settled in South Pasadena, just blocks from each other, and our friendship blossomed.

It was perfect.

The six of us were inseparable; unstoppable.  We were newlyweds, best friends, and adventurers.  We were young and had lofty dreams, but we were committed to our marriages.   We planned to take over the world and raise our kids together.  We enjoyed dinner parties, intellectual conversation and Bible studies.  The boys traveled to the Middle East together, for they shared a passion for the culture, and the girls stayed at home, waiting expectantly for their husbands to return.

Eventually, the other couple followed their calling into mission work, where they and their three children still flourish to this day.  Ack and X continued to travel together and found a single male friend to add to their danger/thrill-seeking lifestyle.

In the fall of 2003, K got pregnant.

It was unexpected news, but we were beyond excited.  There was going to be a baby in the mix!

So, the boys took off on a trip to Lebanon.  I accompanied K to her 14-week ultrasound appointment.  It would be the second time she would see and hear her baby’s heartbeat.  I had never seen an actual ultrasound before, and I was ecstatic.

K lay down on the table, and the friendly technician slathered the cold gel across her taut abdomen.  We chatted excitedly as we waited for the image of the baby to appear.  We also bemoaned that fact that both our husbands were gallivanting around Beirut.  It was time for them to settle down.

The technician continued to probe K’s belly for the image of the baby, until – there!  I saw it!  A teeny, tiny, miniature human being.  Totally formed.  Amazing!  I started screeching with excitement.

K lifted her head off the thinly veiled hospital pillow to catch a glimpse of her child.

She looked at the technician, and then at the screen, and said, matter-of-factly, “There’s no heartbeat.”

Silent tears flowed down the sides of her perfect, porcelain cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” the technician said, gently, and turned off the screen.

The rest of the appointment was full of shock and sadness.  Later that evening, K somehow managed to get a hold of her husband.

Ack told her he would come home, even though he and X hadn’t completed their itinerary.   We all later learned that a majority of these overseas trips consisted of partying, dancing, picking up women, kidnapping/dangerous situations with terrorists (yes, true), and God only knows what else.

He made it a few days later, just hours after she had a surgical procedure to remove the dead baby from her body.  Ack promised K he wouldn’t leave her like that, ever again.

Yet, two weeks later, he had already planned another trip.   Ack, X and their single friend traveled to Somalia to chase pirates in the summer of 2004.

K had had it.

And so, through a series of tragic, painful and devastating circumstances/events, K left.

We were all shocked.  Our team of unstoppable six went down to a confused, broken five.  What is worse, we all judged and hated K for leaving the way she did; for destroying her marriage.

I was the most judgmental of all.

I wrote K a massive email and vomited my feelings.  I chastised her and implored her to stay in her marriage.  I tried to wrap it up by telling her that I loved her, and would always be her friend, but it seemed hopeless.

She thanked me for my honesty, and disappeared.

So, the team of feeble five (including single male friend) upheld Ack and helped him through his divorce.  We felt sorry for him, and didn’t really know how to comfort him.  Not one of us 20-something Christian kids could imagine what it would be like to lose our spouse like that.

K was an evil monster who had destroyed Ack’s soul.  Ack clothed himself in all black, and we excused his subsequent destructive behavior.

Eventually, Ack moved in with X and me for a few months, and I took care of them both.  I did Ack’s laundry.  I sorted his mail.  I warded off collection agents who called our house, looking for him. I did my best to comfort him.  I committed to hate K for him.

Ack swore to make women fall for him, just so he could break their hearts.   And that he did.

In the summer of 2009, when I knew something was terribly wrong with my own marriage, I reached out to Ack. He was, after all, a Christian, and my husband’s best friend. 

Do you have any insight on what’s going on with X?  I wrote, trying to conceal my desperation.

I am too much of a girl (emotional, crazy) to figure him out right now. I would appreciate anything you know or have observed; no offense taken at all.

Ack responded. 

He thought we were both selfish, and didn’t understand how our marriage worked.  He believed that we genuinely didn’t have common goals anymore, and hadn’t worked very hard to make each other important or even interesting to one another.  He believed that X was over my whole deal in New York, and I had stopped being interested in X’s life a long time ago.  There was distance, X was selfish, I was selfish, and things didn’t look good from his perspective.  But, ultimately, he didn’t know what was going on.

But he did know.  He knew about the affair, the whole time.  And, one month later, I discovered the truth through Ack and X’s Skype conversation.  They talked candidly about my husband’s love for “UKR”, as if it were the most common, known fact in the world.

Over the past three years, the truth about my ex-husband and the people with whom he surrounded (and still surrounds) himself has slowly, painfully come to light.  The betrayal that I felt in my broken marriage almost seems to have been doubled.  I am shocked and saddened at the massive, seemingly guiltless capability to lie, manipulate, deceive and destroy.

I have joked to close friends that if I ever see one of those boys again, I will cause a large scene.  I will obnoxiously approach him and screech,  “What’s up, DICK?!”

Then I think, What would Jesus actually — not Christianese-commercially —  do?

The answer is, He probably wouldn’t call someone a dick.

Sigh.  I struggle, to this day, with forgiving that cast of characters.

Yet.

When the mask of self-righteousness has been torn from us and we stand stripped of all our accustomed defenses, we are candidates for God’s generous grace.   -Erwin W. Lutzer (1941- )

K reached out to me when she learned of my separation.  We began to re-form our bond in the exact manner as it had begun: through written word.  I was overjoyed to rekindle a friendship that I thought had been destroyed.  When the opportunity presented itself, it only seemed fitting to jump on a plane, even just to hug my friend.

I spent several days with K in her warm, cozy home in northern Minnesota, and cherished every moment.   She has since re-married a wonderful, joyful, patient and loving man who simply adores her.

K and I laughed and cried together as the ugly scales of past hurts rapidly shed away.  The fragrant, yet crisp spring air was full of forgiveness and grace.

New healing had begun.

“I Just Want to Heal”

It was extremely difficult to forgive myself after my night in jail.  As I had predicted, I beat myself up constantly.  At the same time, life had to go on.  I worked, and I hid.  Very few people knew about my arrest.  Those who did were extremely supportive, loving and encouraging.  Still, I worried.  It was hard to put the fear of the unknown out of my mind.

I hired a lawyer to help me with my court case.  I was done doing things on my own. My “do it yourself” divorce was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausting.  I knew I needed help to get through the misdemeanor as smartly as possible.  I owed it to myself, and my new life, to treat myself right.

I hoped and prayed for a reduced sentence, but all I could do was wait for my court date in May.

In the meantime, I spent a lot of time alone.  I poured out my pain and brokenness as I started to process my divorce.  It was finally final, yet I felt more confused than ever.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lord. 

Sunday morning and I’m hiding.  Why am I hiding?  I’m afraid.  Why am I afraid?  What is happening?  I think (I’m feeling) the brevity of the divorce, working, my mistakes, my infractions, hopes, curiosities, deep desires…why do I constantly look at all men’s left hands?  Seemingly, all the good ones are taken.  Why do I feel like I’m never going to get married or have a baby?  Like I missed my chance?

My pride is in the way.  Pride and fear.  Pride, fear and shame.  Forgive me, Lord.  I am such a big piece of crap, and without You I am not even worthy of being a thought of crap.

I am tired.  Weary.  Spent.  Don’t have energy.  Need rest.  Need You desperately.  May You be blessed by my heart and worship, O Lord.

(I feel like) my obsession with wanting someone has become idolatry.  Wanting this “perfect” relationship because my marriage to X was so hard in the end.  And that there is this mythical, perfect person out there.

Wrong answer.

Why am I OK being alone?  Because I am protecting myself from hurt and pain.  I don’t want to be hurt again.  Terrified of a broken heart.

If I have feelings for someone then it all goes to pot. I end up rejected, or not treated very well.  So, I’m hiding.  I’m hiding and I will continue to isolate myself.  I feel crazy.  Lord, I need help.  I acknowledge my desperate need for You; for grace and redemption.  I confess my jealousy of people who have strong marriages and beautiful children; who have people other than themselves for which to live.

Got a message from an online dating guy who thanked me for my honesty and “thoroughness”.  He acknowledged me as a woman of God.  Oh, Lord, would that be so.  I can’t think of a greater compliment.

I am divorced.  I am divorced.  I am divorced.

Who am I kidding?  How on earth will I overcome a divorce, relationship issues, desires, how?  You will carry me.  How will I get through next weekend?  The rest of tax season?  Court?

You.

God, I’m sorry that I keep looking to see Your blessings and cease to recognize You, the Giver.  I should be seeking You with all my heart.  Am I doing this?  Am I just expecting results instead of waiting for You?

I confuse myself.

I am struggling, Lord.  I’m trying to get up and do all this on my own.  “Look at me, Jesus!  Look what I can do!”  But the truth is, I can’t do ANYTHING.  Nothing.  I can’t even open my mouth to speak or sing without You.

You have given me gifts because of Your abundant grace.

PAIN.  Pain in my heart.  New healing, new awareness of who I am and who God is.

Later —

Happiness is not found in another person; a circumstance; an opportunity.  Completeness is found in Christ alone.

Why does it take me sinking to the floor of the valley to realize this; to rest in it?  At the same time, it is OK to long for — or even be afraid of — a relationship.  It has been a year since I left X.  And healing has come but I am sure there is much further to go.  I don’t want to hear people tell me I’m not ready because I so much want to be.

But my heart knows.  I have to heal. 

I’m so unworthy of You, Lord.  I hide my face in shame.  How can I even begin to grasp the breadth and depth of Your grace?  OH, GOD, I am restless.  So very restless.  I don’t know how to be content.

What can I do, but thank You?

What can I do, but give my life to You?

I long to be pursued, I long for a man to know me.  I long to have that moment – “did I just meet you?”

I am so broken.  So broken.  I hurt, I grieve, I ache.  I cannot find purpose.  I need You.  I just want to heal.

Learning to live day-to-day is probably the singular, most difficult thing I have done yet.  I am trying not to worry about upcoming events; trying not to plan or control my future.  I can’t do it.  I cannot live on my own, without Your grace and mercy; without Your blessing.  How can I even get out of bed in the morning without Your grace?

With You, I can face anything.

UNiversary

Last night I had a gig at a Halloween party.

Costumes were required, so I assembled the sluttiest outfit possible with pieces from my closet.  I affixed tarantula-like eyelashes to my lids, and slipped into a plunging, black, satin V-neck jumper that shockingly revealed more leg than chest.  I pulled on a pair of fishnet stockings, and strapped my ankles into my favorite pair of C.F.M. shoes.  (If you’re confused, look it up.  I’m not helping you on this one.)  I dubbed my costume, “The Chick Singer”.

Halloween is such a great excuse for a woman to dress like a slut.

The party was a snoozer, but the band was good (Hello!).  I made friends with two 10-year olds who were dressed up as “Before and After”.  One wore a crisp, white gown adorned with pearls and ribbons; the other wore the torn and bloody version, along with ghastly, ghostly makeup.  The girls were best friends and great dancers.  “After” even had a choreographed routine that involved astoundingly good break-dancing.

I sang my face off for three hours, danced with the ten-year olds (and other females dressed as sluts), collected my wages, and happily bid farewell to Simi Valley.

As I drove back home on the dark, empty 118 freeway, my ears were still ringing from the drummer’s last, lengthy solo.  I shut my radio off and glanced down at my phone.  The time read 1:07 a.m., on Sunday, October 30th.

I gasped.

It’s my wedding anniversary.  No, wait.  It’s my UNiversary.

I waited for a flood of emotion to hit me.  I almost felt guilty for not realizing what day it was.  Sure, I have been aware that the day was drawing near, but once it actually dawned, it didn’t make much of an impact.

I casually steered my vehicle and furrowed my brows.  I tried to force myself to tears.  Surely there’d be something in me that felt sad, or a sense of loss – or even nostalgia.

Nothing.

And – dare I say – it feels so good.  Because it’s so right.  I am not supposed to be married to that person.  I am healed, and I continue to heal, and it’s all an amazing testament of God’s grace.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 …this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

As I sit in my cozy Pasadena apartment on this gorgeous and joyful morning, I do recall a funny memory from that day, twelve years ago:

My husband and I had not registered for wedding gifts, so our guests gave us money.  As we drove away from the church, bound for our bridal suite at the Hilton, we realized we needed to deposit the cash and checks into my bank account so we’d have an extra cushion for our two-week honeymoon in Cancun and Belize.  It was early in the evening on that Saturday, and no banks were open.  We managed to find a grocery store near our hotel with an ATM that would accept deposits.

There we were: a fresh, young married couple, just an hour away from consummating our marriage. We giddily traipsed through Ralphs in our wedding attire.  It must have been quite the sight.  I took charge of depositing the checks as my husband stood in line to buy a Coke and a Butterfinger.   As I waited at the machine for the deposit envelope to be accepted, a woman stopped right next to me. Her shopping cart’s dirty wheels came dangerously close to marking over the satin trim on my bridal gown.

I felt her studying me for a moment.

“Oh, I get it!” she chirped, loudly.  “You’re a bride for Halloween!  That’s sooooo cuuuute!  And funny!”

I stared at her, and adjusted my veil.
“No, actually, I got married today.”

She laughed.

“So what kind of Halloween party are you going to?  Your costume is really sweet.”

I stared harder.
“No, I actually got married today.”

A look of realization, then confusion, spread across her face.

“Oh!?  Congratulations!!  Where…where’s your husband?”  She asked, craning her neck over the bustling crowd of shoppers.

I glanced up at the line where my other half had previously stood.  He was not there.  My eyes darted around the store, but he was nowhere to be found.

I shrugged.  “Oh, he’s around…somewhere.”

She smiled, politely.  “Well, congratulations, and…Happy Halloween!”    — and slowly pushed her cartful of groceries out the sliding door.

From now on, I think I’ll stick with the slut costume for Halloween.

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