Then & Now…

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I know an amazing man who I look up to. I am not alone in this, as there are literally many in the world who value this man’s opinions and perspective. I could get into an entire post about him, and why, but I won’t. I think, periodically, about the different advice I’ve heard him speak over the years. Most recently I’ve been recalling a talk he once gave about New Years Eve and personal reflection.

Reflection… It’s hard to not reflect on what my life looked like a year ago, in contrast to today. I would imagine the idea behind this reflection exercise is one of encouragement, and probably at any other point in my life, had I done this, I would be feeling some. Today though, right now, I can not.

This time last year I was renovating a house I loved, with my husband (whom I also loved). Our youngest was getting ready to begin her Junior year of high school and our older daughter was a newlywed. Believe me when I say that I have no disillusions of a perfect or filtered life, I know it wasn’t perfect but I also know that I was present and grateful. I loved Saturday brunches, day dates, inside jokes, bantering, having someone who held me at the end of the day, etc. I knew there was a weakening of my husband’s presence in our marriage but, at that time, I still believed his promise of valuing me and loving me before anyone else. Having been abandoned by every significant relationship in my life, he had earned my trust and faith that he would never dispose of me. Though, deep inside, I still felt disposable and ugly, I believed him when he said I was not and that he could never be without me and that he found me beautiful.

I had a mother. Was she perfect? No. The majority of time, in fact, she was incredibly verbally abusive and cruel. I still, however, had a mother. I could still pick up the phone and call my mother to placate the defeaning truth that I was without a family.

I had an exciting vision of what I wanted, as both a writer and in my career. I had direction and drive, though to be honest, I was feeling a little numb due to house repairs, the significant debt that was accruing due to our fixer upper’s unimagined needs, and the impending arrival of my mother to live in our house. I had a husband who, though he was not a reader, was supportive and believed in my writing. We also, together, had a little podcast with a pretty solid little following.

I was straddling the fine line, then, between the benefits of my mother living with us, and the negatives. The benefits? She could live out the rest of her days without the sadness and stress she’d been under; I could eradicate her worries; My daughters could have a more regular presence of extended family thus increasing the quality of their lives as well as my mom’s; we could maybe actually have some chance at having some resemblance of an in person relationship. I tried to see the glass as half full, I guess. The negatives were crowded, but the three largest were her verbal abuse and treatment of me, how she could possibly emotionally wound my daughter and her overwhelming pessimism. I mean, wasn’t it my responsibility to take her in, even if she had never identified with any sense of responsibility around being my mother?

Today? Today things look very different. Predominately, every day I am well aware of the reality that I am disposable to my husband. I am not his choice, nor am I someone he could see himself fighting for. I have no confidence in my dream/passion for being a writer. My youngest was deeply wounded by my mother, and then by us as our marriage failed, and by me as I failed her as a mother. Her life changed exponentially and I am faced, every day, with the effects and consequences of that which have shaped her immeasurably… I have no relationship with my mother, despite the proximity in which we live. (It is the least amount of miles separating us, since I was twelve.) It is a small apartment without any of my belongings in which I live, in a town where I have no friends. And while I still find myself filled with gratitude and awe, I also walk through every day with the weighted burden of the hurt and damage I am responsible for, all that I’ve lost and can not get back, and my own worthlessness in this place.

As a woman and I person I know that I have value and worth. This is the one positive. I did not know this last year, at this time. I could not feel this or identify with its reality. As a mother, daughter or wife, however, I do not. I had wrapped myself up in my wifehood and motherhood before. I existed in them and they were my world. Beyond that, I believed some in myself and the mediocre talent I had for writing. Now? Now I do not really exist within my motherhood or marriage, but I also do not exist outside of it. I have no faith in my writing and I also know, at 40, if it were up to me to support myself, I would starve to death in complete destitute-homelessness…

What has changed between last year’s today and this one? Everything. Everything has changed. I have changed. I once grasped a hope and lighthearted something in conversations about tomorrow or the future that I simply cannot fathom now. As with a child learning about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, I feel deceived about life, love and commitment. I have finally come to realize that I will never be THAT PERSON. Not to anyone. I have really wonderful friends who care about me and have been awesome sources of support, but what I have ached for is more than that. It is that feeling of belonging to someone who will not let you go. I have been let go so often that I’ve finally realized that being held on to is not in my life plan. This is said with so much less woe-is-me and more in the tune of ok then, I get it, so now what?

In so many ways I have lost everything. Not the majority of my friends, but certainly everything I thought I was. I have gained too. My sense of self-worth. My willingness to fight for myself, even if no one else found me worthy. This is a good thing, a beautiful and courageous thing. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay the rent or keep bread on the table. It also does not bridge the gap between my possessions and myself. (Sidenote: anyone have a few grand lying around that they don’t need? Ha…)

Most mornings I wake up, overwhelmed by the heavy awareness that I no longer know how to feel hopeful or navigate a day. I am battle weary and ache from head to toe. Still I move forward. I try. I listen, I am open to learn. That’s the best I’ve got. This time last year, I’m not sure I did those things…

Originally…

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The separation between Chw and I found me really transparent as I journeyed through that season. It is a time, in my life, that I will always be scarred by and forever altered. It’s ironic because we have been divorced before, but that time period was a cake walk compared to the heart-carnage of those seven months. Even now, there are days when I awake and am confronted with every single one of my worst nightmares become reality. On those days it takes everything in my power to get out of bed and function. I truly am but a shell of someone else…

A few days ago Gen and I were talking about love & marriage… She is fascinated by the fact that I knew I would marry her dad the second I met him, and then, decades later my older daughter met her now-husband and had the same certainty. Trying to explain to a dramatically romantic 17-year-old that this wasn’t something we dreamed up and willed to happen, is difficult. In both cases, mine and my daughter, I’m pretty sure weren’t fixating on anything, but instead just filled with a knowledge that this person was the one we’d marry.

In all honesty, it’s that very fact which made both my divorce and this separation hard to swallow. It’s an interesting story, to my daughter (and to me too) so I thought I’d share it with you…

When I was barely fifteen, I had a pretty traumatic break-up. It wasn’t that this boy was the love of my life as much as the fact that a relationship so intimate should not have occurred in the first place. I was young, I was damaged and this only served to wound me more. It was after the recovery began that I sat down and made a list. I simply prayed that God would show me the best features for my husband, because at that point I was beyond terrified of loving anyone else, for fear of the hurt…

My list included a lot of things that I found attractive or appealing. It also had a few things that I couldn’t quite explain, regarding their existence on my list. Time passed and I began dating someone whom inhabited very few of the things on my list, but I cared so deeply for him that I didn’t care. Looking back with this sort of adult reflection I realize this person was actually my first love. The first heartbreak had hurt, but it wasn’t about love as much as lust, codependency and an unhealthy need for someone to want me. This other relationship was love. It was that quintessential coming of age sort of experience that formed a vital part of me. The heartbreak eight months later was searing but bearable because I’d grown up some. I understood more. Also, my heart was being ripped to shreds in other ways so that goodbye took a back burner to life.

It was roughly two and a half months after that bus-station goodbye kiss that I found myself flooded with the knowledge that I was going to go to college in a few short weeks, where I would meet my husband. I was seventeen. Believe me when I say that, at my now 40 years of age (and the mother of a 17-year-old) this whole truth makes me a little nauseous. Also, the fact that I was not secretive about this sudden assurance and that every adult in my life responded with “that’s great!” really blows my mind…

During freshman orientation I scanned the new arrivals and sank upon the realization that my husband was not in the room. I just knew the second I saw him, that I would know. I already knew the majority of the upper class-men and knew he was none of them, so I volunteered to work the retreat weekend instead of camping with my school. What was the point of going if my husband wasn’t going to be there and I could earn a few bucks back in town.

I KNOW… I shake my head, as a parent, whenever this topic comes up.

So, Tuesday (post labor day camping as a college) I’m sitting with a friend in a chapel assembly. The speaker encouraged us to “mingle” with people around us, and that’s when this guy sitting directly in front of me turns around and smiles, says hi, compliments my necklace, says hi to my friend (as if they know each other!) and then goes back to his front facing seat. It all happened so fast that it took me a few seconds to comprehend the odd certainty rushing through me. That boy was my husband. I quickly ask my friend and she shares that they got to know each other AT THE RETREAT… I mean, what the heck?

After chapel I tap him on the shoulder, introduce myself and ask him why he missed orientation. He answers about being a late arrival and then tells me his name.

Let me take this moment to share a few fun facts leading up to this introduction…

  • his foreign exchange student BFF had played baseball at the group home I lived in, AND I had talked to him.
  • his girl BFF is someone I had met at camp and saw at all of the youth events where our youth groups both attended. We were cordial, but mostly I was pretty enamored by her because she was beautiful and friendly and I was a sheltered group home kid who didn’t see a lot of either. In fact at one event, at her church, I remember telling my own BFF “I bet her and I are roommates one day!”
  • his ex-girlfriend was a couple of years ahead of me at the same college. her roommate, freshman year, was my very good friend. When I would sleep over, the ex-gf would go home and I would sleep in her bed, where the wall was plastered with pictures of her “ex that she still loved.” My husband…
  • And this is Gen’s favorite detail: that spring we went to the same concert, and were in the SAME section.

Ok. So I get his name and immediately ask if he knows my recent ex, because they share the same last name. He didn’t, but it turns out that the majority of his paternal family (whom he had only recently met) lived in the same area my ex was from.

It was an instant friendship. (fun fact: His roommate ended up dating my roommate and they also married and are some of our dearest friends.) We palled around and did everything together. It wasn’t long into our friendship before I told him we were going to get married. This is where I have to point out a few things:

  • I wasn’t attracted to him. I don’t know why, he is attractive. I wasn’t attracted to anyone.
  • he was unlike anyone I had ever dated or been interested in.
  • he could be really annoying.
  • our sense of humors fell short of meeting in the middle, most of the time.
  • we only had one thing in common, life/future vision wise: we both wanted to be a stable home and love for kids who needed that.
  • he loved hip hop dancing and rap music, the two things I detested.
  • he hated to read. (though not on my list, I had spent so much time reading with my ex that I believed my marriage would involve books significantly.)
  • he did not enjoy debates, or deep discussions at all- something that I thrived on.
  • He didn’t really have a family. I didn’t either and so I really ached for one.
  • my long forgotten list was found 7 days after we met, and as time proved- he embodied every single attribute.

Though I didn’t, at first, understand why it was him, it didn’t take long for me to be so grateful it was. This girl who had been waiting for a family and completion eventually let the guard down and found it in him.

I don’t know why I knew, or how. I just know that there were dozens upon dozens of things, in those early days, that only confirmed it. And that vision we agreed on, that became our family. For twenty-three years we’ve been a home to many who needed one, but the best of these were our three kids.

(fun fact #2: His female BFF and I did end up living together for a short period of time. We never really became friends, though for a while I thought we had, but how I’d known that would happen I never quite knew.)

A thief called Comparison…

photo-1459664018906-085c36f472afThe other day Gen and I had the privilege of visiting someone’s home. They are new acquaintances and we were there for a casual little get-together. At seventeen, and dealing with so many major life things, it made sense that Gen was pretty quiet and filled with anxiety. After heading home though, she opened up about how beautiful their home was, (it really was of HGTV caliber) and how she felt stupid that we lived in an apartment.

Let me stop right there… We live in an apartment. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you wouldn’t really have caught on to that. In June our house sold to a really lovely younger couple and we are renting an overpriced but nice apartment. We have a beautiful poolside home complete with a fitness center, in the heart of everything. I am not feeling the least bit sorry about the lack of lawn care, no home repairs and no gigantic commutes… Seventeen year olds do not always get it though.

For her high school years, up until we separated at Thanksgiving, I was always hearing how the majority of her friends parents were divorced and how proud she was that we weren’t. Looking back over the years with her, I do believe that’s the only thing we had ever done right in her eyes and that is beyond tarnished and torn now. She hasn’t gone to school with the same kids since Kindergarten. We don’t, at 40 years old, have a big and beautiful home. We are not debt free. We do not take lavish family cruises. I think a lot of these unrealistic comparisons to which she holds her daddy and I against are due to the area we live in. This area is money. A lot of it. These kids are often known to blow wads of cash on drugs in the high school highway and then drive party after school in their Mercedes. So when she asks me to take her clothes shopping because she’s visiting a new youth group and so she needs new clothes to impress them, I want to feel empathy over this very unfair reality which her peers live in. Mostly though, I fall short. I roll my eyes internally and remind her that we are knee-deep in legal fees and medical debt and that she still needs a work uniform that I have to magically come up with.

But it goes beyond her. When someone asks what neighborhood you are in, and you explain the location and name of your apartment complex- there is an odd silence. For a beat or two the other person wonders if they heard you right, and then what is wrong with you…

What is wrong with me is that my journey is different. Apartments exist to live in, and I am not any lesser of a person for doing just that. They are not simply for foreigners and newlyweds. Granted, it was a gigantic challenge getting my kitchen to be a functioning on in the shoebox it fits into… But I’ll survive. Life’s not about my kitchen anyway.

I don’t want my daughter to feel shame over where we live. I don’t want her to be afraid to meet people, make friends and bring them over. More than that though, I don’t want her to be a snob. I don’t want her to be disappointed because we don’t fit the agenda of where 40-year-old parents should be. Is there a manual somewhere that says we should have a beautiful McMansion and a $12,000 vacation over the Holidays? If there is, I never got a copy and it’s probably too late to live the cookie cutter life now anyway. I love to help people. I love to touch lives. I love people in my home, and laughter and conversation and sharing… I love these things. I don’t care where I’m living, I will always love these things. And so I’ll just sit by and let Gen sort that all out. I’m very happy for the people I know with beautiful homes and more “successes.” My successes look different because I am different, and someday I hope Genny realize she is on her own journey and unless you pay a fee and/or choose it to be- it’s not a competition.

(also, if you haven’t entered my awesome giveaway yet, PLEASE do!)

Hillsong Giveaway…

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After attending a Hillsong show, in May, I knew that I’d maybe never be the same. It’s ok if you read that and think I’m a little nuts. I might be, but I also realize we are all on our own journeys. (There are literally thousands of people who know exactly what I’m talking about.) When I learned I was actually coming back to Michigan, the very first thing I did was search the Hillsong tour to see when they would be here too. (no exaggeration, it was the first thing.) The tour was not scheduled to come here, but they were coming a few hours around us. One of these shows was Chicago. When my daughter confessed really wishing she could have gone with me, I knew I needed to get her to that show. I began praying that God make a way. Not only was it not in our tragically obliterated budget, but suddenly Chicago felt about as attainable as Ireland. My husband was not on board and so, with all of the odds against me, I began praying. I knew we needed to go- but I couldn’t create howHillsong

On the 30th guess who is going to Hillsong in Chicago? This girl… Gen is thrilled. Not only are the three of us going, but Gen is bringing a friend. And here is the very best part of all, (because, you guys… When you pray, God does stuff. Be bold. Dare.)

I happen to have two tickets to giveaway to a reader. IN CHICAGO. July 30th. HILLSONG. Let’s recap, shall we?

Misty went to Hillsong in May, in Boise. AMAZING.

Misty prayed to take Gen to Hillsong in July, in Chicago. BAM. ANSWERED.

Misty has EXTRA TICKETS to giveaway, to Hillsong, in Chicago.

How to enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post.
  • tweet this Giveaway for an extra entry and come back and comment with the time stamp OR tag me (@rainydayinmay) in your tweet and come back here to let me know.
  • like my Facebook page and leave a comment here that you just liked it and then SHARE the giveaway post (on my page), tagging me.

Giveaway starts TODAY and will end Saturday the 23rd at midnight. (Exactly one week before HILLSONG!!!) You guys… Though I know this is geographically vital, but I encourage you to spread the word because it’s so worth it!

To boldly go…

“Do not dare not to dare.” ~C.S. Lewis

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Do you ever sit (or stand, I don’t discriminate) somewhere and, having lost track of your thought/plan, your brain instead says a word? The same word over and over… I’m not sure I’m explaining it right. In fact, I’m not sure I actually know how to explain it… Let’s see. A long time ago, I’d be thinking something or about to embark on some activity when I’d be distracted by life somehow and suddenly, in trying to remember what I was up to my brain or mouth would say “Pink.” Weird right? But it was always like a reset and I’d shake my head and think What? No, not pink. Dishes. I was going to do the dishes, and then I’d chuckle to myself. I chuckled up until this became an often-daily event and then I started questioning my mental clarity and the possibility of a brain tumor.

After time, Pink grew into birthday. Why? I don’t know. Seriously, what is the significance of this ridiculousness? Birthday lasted for some time and then in an odd plot twist, birthday morphed into Happy. Happy. Yes, HAPPY. Is it because birthday and happy go together like peanut butter and pickle? (at least according to Gen they do anyway. PB & Pickle isn’t really my jive anymore.) Is it something bigger? Psychological scuba diving is my absolute favorite pass-time and so with this new arrival that proverbial squirrel in hamster in my brain is running on that wheel like crazy.

It is at this point, in this blog post, when I realize you may be thinking the last word in my last paragraph may be the biggest key of all. It’s not. I’m not actually crazy, though I’ve felt like maybe I could be headed there many times over the last year.

At any rate, I’ve asked my youngest and she says “no, this has never happened to me but I do think it is very interesting.”

The original point of this odd-turned-post had nothing to do with this in fact. I was in the shower, some hours ago, thinking about a post idea. This post idea morphed and grew, becoming more and more real (in thought) as I progressed through my morning routine. As soon as word press was open, however, it was gone. I sat staring at the cursor when my daughter distracted me for a bit. When my attention came back to my Macbook, I thought oh yes, the post… and typed out HAPPY. Twice. This happened twice. And suddenly my odd little reset word moved from simply living in my head to also living via my fingertips.

I prayed a bold prayer this morning. Since I am not really the religious type, but do have a real and relevant relationship with God, prayer is an important part of my day. I am also a writer and so it occurred to me today, as I prayed this bold prayer, that I should write it out and make it a prayer/affirmation. This is something I’ll have to ponder on, because the pressure for such a thing is huge. It is one thing to say a prayer, but an altogether different one to write it out and intentionally meditate on it. This prayer I prayed is themed upon the idea of daring. Daring to do something, daring to be something. Something I spoke the words (in prayer) of when I was 7 years old, sitting cross-legged on a rug in the middle of my bedroom floor. Something I’ve had spoken to me for months, by strangers and friends alike. Something that my soul thinks about and every fiber of my says “yes! THIS!!” but the idea of how to get from where my feet, barefoot, plant to there is overwhelming and terrifying.

Daring…

Yesterday I had a conversation with my husband about the times in life when we go for it because we know we have no choice. My example was the day before, Chw was stress-neck deep in auto repairs that were frustrating him incredibly. He took phone advice from our mechanic son-in-law, like a man desperate to solve this issue. He pursued YouTube videos and internet articles and bought tools promising to help our midwestern-rust-compounded issue. He knew he HAD to fix the car because He needs that car. He pays a monthly payment for that car. There was no question that the problem HAD to be solved, so he dove in and gave it his all until it was solved. There were no options for sitting back in self-doubt and fear, or ignoring the issue and the jack stands until the went away because he knew they wouldn’t… When I used the example, I was referencing the hard work our marriage will need to get to a good place and how worthwhile it will be, if we do that work.

The thing is though, isn’t everything like that? While I wasn’t wrong in using the example towards our marriage, the reality is that we should always dare to dare. Dare to repair relationships. Dare to make a creative dinner. If we didn’t allow fear to hold us back, what could be do? What we knew we had to…

And what make something a “have to”? These are the things I’m thinking about, as of late. How to take something from the bare-minimum-effort to an all-in… How to stop sitting back in the false sense of security that comes with “if it works out”, “if I can” and just giving something everything I’ve got. Are there guarantees? No. But if we throw ourselves into the things we are supposed to, we can’t lose.

Daring… Happy.