What does it look like to love and show compassion in the midst of pain? How does anyone keep giving when they find themselves in a despicable situation? How do you combat the instinct to withdraw and shield your heart from further damage?
If you’ve ever wondered what depression feels like, or if you need someone to relate to…
The words aren’t coming. I know I want to write, but I feel dry. I’m far from bored. I’m not tired. I’m just stuck. Typing with my eyes closed helps. Like feeling the words instead of picturing them. It probably helps to not be able to read and re-read and edit and second-guess everything you think of, especially on a first draft. That’s what they always say, but how can you possibly do that if you can see all the words you write? It’s natural to want to revise and refine your own thoughts. But it does get in the way of the goal; which is to communicate.
This post is literally a month in the making, so please bear with the random turns it takes…
My dad paid good money awhile back for a series of audio recordings and a workbook to help someone setup a blog. The problem with his plan was that he never listened to the recordings or went through the workbook.
At the end of my four-day Thanksgiving vacation, mentally well-armed with having washed, dried, folded, and put away every article of dirty clothing in the house, I cracked the workbook.
Wednesday night I browsed my computer to dust off my resume. It’s not the first time in the last five years. Apparently I’ve updated that resume three or four times, but nothing has ever come of it, except maybe a raise when I mentioned that I had other options. But I’m sick of coercion. It isn’t satisfying to get what you want by holding someone’s feet to the fire. And I’m probably stupid to think they would come back offering more later. They never intended to offer me what I have now, so they’re certainly never going to offer me more.
In the past five days I have yelled at both my kids, had a sobbing fight with my husband, reamed one of my best friends for her behavior toward one of her family members, got into one major and several smaller arguments with my manager, nearly took the head off one of my vendors at work, threatened to terminate every vendor working on my portfolio, sent an infuriated email to my school’s financial service office, and came unglued with an undertrained Target employee.
May 19th is over. The judge approved the continuance, so I have a new date to wait for. June 30th. We were granted Temporary Guardianship until then. As promised in his barrage of harassing text messages over the last few weeks, the girls’ dad was there. It’s standard procedure for the judge to order visitation, but without a completed report she limited it considerably, thankfully. She told us to let him see the girls for one hour this afternoon.
I felt terrible springing the surprise visit on the girls right after they got out of school, but they took it in stride. We met him and his tag-along girlfriend (New Mommy choice) at a public place. Neither of them looked at us or spoke a word to us all day. We have housed and tutored and spoiled and loved those girls like our own children for two years, and he pretended we were invisible. Better than engaging in a fight, I guess, but really? In my mind, not looking someone in the eye just screams shame and guilt and cowardice.
One hour. Before we got there I told the girls if they were uncomfortable they could let me know by asking if I could get them some french fries. We sat in the booth next to theirs for one hour and listened to low voices. Thankfully, they were okay. No requests for french fries. I periodically poked my head around the corner to let the younger one know I was still right there.
The girls told me after that he told them a “funny” story about one time when the neighbor kids decided it would be fun to throw kitchen knives at a board on the floor. Then the game escalated and they thought it would be funny to throw knives at each other. Hysterical. “Where [the hell!] were the parents?” I asked one of the girls who was laughing, retelling the story. “Oh, they were drinking beer in the next room.”
You don’t have to have maternal feelings to see how screwed up that is. First, that he would tell them of that story as part of the “good ol’ days.” Second, that he encouraged the girls to think it was funny. Thirdly… do I need a third point? Every protective bone in my body is screaming.
Their mom, who we have a signed, private custody agreement with, said he was very harsh with them when they were little, which caused a lot of their early fights. “He would say or do something and I’d say no and stop it, then… yeah.” Her words.
She ran away from him once with the kids and he tracked her down by filing a bogus protection order. He knew that the court would require her to be personally served, so he gave the sheriff the address of a friend who knew where she was. The friend gave the address to the sheriff, and the proof of service that the asshole got back had the address where she was living, the battered women’s shelter. She was supposed to be safe there.
These are only a few examples of the dozens of stories I’ve heard about him over the years. Every fiber of my being says, “No! Stay away. You’re a liability. You abandoned them, by every legal and moral definition of the word. You should not be allowed to raise them just because your pride is hurt.” He had absolutely no expressed interest in having the girls live with him until he found out that we were seeking Legal Guardianship. Now suddenly he’s “Father of the Year,” come to right every wrong of the past by harassing the tar out of us, the court, and anyone else who might not agree with him.
He doesn’t understand that he’s only hurting everyone involved. The girls are happy, content, healthy, safe. They’re getting a stellar education. Both of them talk about going to college.
IN a 2010 study by researchers at the University of Chicago, only 6 percent of former foster youths had earned a two- or four-year degree by age 24. Those not in college may be in jail; 34 percent who had left foster care at age 17 or 18 reported being arrested by age 19. (New York Times, 2013)
Their dad checked himself into a mental hospital four years ago, told the staff there that the girls’ mother was dead, and he didn’t have any friends the girls could stay with while he was in a psyche hold. The truth was that he had filed another bogus, emergency police report to have their mother forcibly removed from the house two months prior, and Spike, his only friend, lived ten minutes down the road.
The girls went into foster care. After having multiple “no contact” orders issued against him for harassing the case workers, the foster parents, and the social workers, their dad moved across the country with a new girlfriend. Spike helped their mom find a place to live and get back on her feet. And she got them out of foster care.
Who the hell lets that happen to their children and still, four years later, doesn’t see how horrifying it was?
This is an ugly business. And I’m not an ugly person. God, show me justice. Please.
Do you ever feel like you’re bleeding all over everyone?
I’m anxious about tomorrow. I’m desperately trying not to be, but the desperation is coming out in casually conversing with people about what we’re be up against. It’s not helping. I’m trying to make light of an issue that isn’t light. It isn’t casual. As soon as the gravity of the situation hits them, I watch them back-pedal, stop listening, and try to end the conversation.
“Oh, sorry! Did I get blood on your shoes? Sorry, let me see if I can clean that up for you. I can’t believe I bled on you. That’s so inconsiderate!”
Clearly, I need an outlet, and the world around me is proving to be a pathetic sounding board. I don’t know where to start, or if this is the right place, but I’ll be at the courthouse in less than twelve hours, and there are many many unknowns. I keep telling myself not to worry about tomorrow. It will bring enough trouble of its own. But I keep thinking there’s something I might be able to prepare for.
I’ve filed all the paperwork. I’ve got all my copies ready to go. I even have court clothes picked out. Check. Check. Check! I’ve been working toward this day since last summer, and the most disheartening thing is that it won’t be over tomorrow. We might sit in the waiting room all. day. long. just to hear what we already know: the court investigator has filed a motion for a continuance.
We’re not related to the girls. Their parents live in two different states and have only had a half-dozen points of contacts with the girls in the last two years. Their father is a menace. Their mother has a hard time following-through. It’s complicated. A social worker was assigned to the case two weeks ago to complete the investigation and give their recommendation to the court. Social workers are busy. No surprise there. The investigation isn’t done. They haven’t even called us yet.
This level of stress doesn’t get a resolution tomorrow. It gets a pat on the head and told to keep waiting.
How the hell am I supposed to sleep?
“Praying that the court does what’s best for the girls.” It sounds encouraging doesn’t it? But when it’s delivered to me from a friend, it really feels under-handed. Her three natural-born children are sleeping soundly in their beds. No one is fighting to take them from her. She doesn’t know what this is like. She doesn’t understand what it feels like to have to convince a court of law that you’re a better parent than someone else. It’s not an argument I ever thought I’d be in, especially not with someone I’ve been trying to avoid since I was eleven years old.
I knew the girls’ dad when I was a kid. I kept my distance. Even then I knew his kind of instability was not something I wanted to be around. Talk about bleeding all over people. His insecurities and issues were out for the world to see at a very early age. My friends steered clear too, and now no one will listen to him. No one will take him seriously. No one will stand up for him. No one believes he’s right to fight us on this, not even his own mother.
She will be at the hearing tomorrow too. One, big, happy, dysfunctional, volatile family. God help us.
So I’m in a bad mood lately. You know when someone quits their job but keeps showing up? That’s how I’m feeling this week. I’ve had too many knock-downs to have any motivation or inspiration to continue to do my job well. I’m operating on bare-minimum effort, which honestly makes me ill. It’s not who I am, but it seems to be how my company prefers their employees to be: sedated by frustration to the point of pure apathy. What the hell am I doing there? It’s sucking my soul dry.
Not always. After four years, though, you would think my days of pulling teeth to push an inspiring notion would be over. You would think they would just go with it!
I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, electrifying a corpse and then, like an idiot, believing it’s alive! But the damn thing keeps dying and my resources are burnt-out and all I have to show for my efforts is the smell of fried, putrefied flesh.
That was graphic. I guess I finally have an accurate description of how I feel about corporate America.
I read Warrior Freya’s response to Morton’s Fork this morning before I got ready for work and I’ve been mulling it over for the last several hours. What would I do if I had to choose between reading and writing?
My writing is synonymous with my prayer life. It contains the thoughts of God toward me and my thoughts toward Him. It is the best way I know to be truly honest about what is happening and how I’m reacting or responding to it. That said, there was a time in my life when my prayer life was very one-sided. I would write. I would cry. I would plead, but God’s Voice was silent. I didn’t know how to hear Him.
I wasn’t more than five years old when I woke up in the dead of night with a single question resonating in my mind: “Will you follow Me?” I remember thinking of the Bible story of Samuel and how God woke him up in the middle of the night. I knew it was God’s voice. I knelt beside the bed in my grandparent’s house and prayed a simple prayer of receiving Him into my life.
Over the next ten years I went to church with my family. I learned all the Bible stories. I listened to my parent’s reaction to the teachings. And I learned sensationalism: God is in the warm-fuzzies, God is in the chills, God is in the tears, God is in uncontrollable urge to “speak in tongues,” God is in act of falling over when you “feel His presence,” God is in the shouts and dancing. God is in the manifestations. If you cannot see it or hear it, you are not seeing Him. You are not hearing Him. These things were never expressly taught, but it is certainly what I learned about hearing the voice of God.
Thank God for my dad.
My dad is also an introvert, and the sensationalist ideals never sat well with him. He argued against it for years before finally leaving the institutional church and seeking out a home group that could talk about real life, real responses, and actually hearing the voice of God.
I followed his lead to some extent. Some of my friends started going to a youth group down the road. At first I only went because I wanted to be with them. The youth group I went to in high school was growing the church more than Sunday morning service. The kids there were going to youth group on Thursdays and then convincing their parents to go on Sundays. “Big Pete” taught us about God’s love. Only God’s love. Always God’s love. Unconditional, pure, and devoted love. I knew I was hearing truth; not mystery, not sensation, but undefiled Truth.
Over time I started seeing the toxins in my Spirit from sensationalist Christianity rise to the surface… and God’s voice disappeared.
I didn’t know what to do. Where was He? Why couldn’t I hear Him anymore? Was He real? How could I know without seeing Him?
Fast-forward ten years. I was living on an apple ranch in Washington state: a retreat from the world while I was healing from my divorce. After a weekend visit to my grandparent’s house in Idaho, I was driving back to the ranch with the windows down, listening and singing along to Skillet. Suddenly God’s voice was as clear as I have ever heard it. And He was singing the words of the song back to me:
You have been more faithful than the morning sun
You have been more faithful than knowing the night will come
You have been more faithful than the changing of seasons
My eyes filled with tears. Through years of detoxifying my Spirit, He saw that I continued to trust. I continued to believe, even though I couldn’t hear Him. My Spirit knew Him, but our communication was shrouded in mystery. He gifted my Spirit with Faith. I never doubted His existence. I never renounced my belief. I had no proof of His existence in my life, but Faith carried me through those critical years of formation.
Although I identify myself as Mrs. Spike, this blog isn’t about how faithful I am to my husband. It’s about a gift God granted me when I could have turned from Him. Always Faithful.
So to answer the prompt, I chose writing, with only the hope that someday I would read the Words I was desperate to hear. And I would do it again.
I woke up from the most incredible dream yesterday morning. I can’t decide if it’s the stuff of a best selling novel or maybe just one person’s favorite video game. In either case, I can’t get it out of my head. I started working on an outline for a short story, at least. I haven’t tried my hand at fiction in a long time. I don’t remember ever being very good at it, but it’s a story I want to tell, so maybe it won’t be terrible.
Other than that, I don’t really want to write today. If I summarize, I’ll sound cold. If I try to expand on this last week, I might not sleep much tonight. I thought maybe the time for feeling numb and detached was past, but there’s a certain degree of protection in denial. I’ll have to unpack the events as they start to affect me. In short, my dad’s life is in chaos, and the daddy’s girl in me has no idea how to handle it.
Time was a drag at work today. By 2:00 it felt like I had worked a double shift. Maybe the ultra-productivity of last few working days and spending 11 hours deep cleaning and purging the house on Saturday made it seem slow. I dive into mass production when I’m avoiding my feelings. I guess I’m like a lot of people in that respect.
The good news is that my naturopath supplements are continuing to have a positive effect. I spent almost all day yesterday around groups of friends. When we came home last night, I didn’t feel like I needed to decompress for several hours. In other words, it didn’t suck the life out of me to be around people I love. I’d say that’s pretty positive! I’m also not craving coffee at all hours of the day, which I’m sure is helping me sleep better.
Superbowl was awesome, by the way. I especially love how it turned into a hockey game at the end. [End relating to media.]