Unexpected good

My daughter called a day ago to see if it was too short notice to come with our grandsons for Thanksgiving.

What??

Of course not!

(Behind the scenes, much scurrying, changing of plans, and watch PJ run unplanned errands like a wild turkey…)

My beautiful girl (that I’ve had less and less relationship with for the past decade as our dysfunctional marriages and lives collided) is bringing her two little guys home for Thanksgiving.  She’s battling exhaustion, and such a deep grief that it’s stressing and breaking her body and her heart because the marriage she’s been fragmenting herself to save may be crumbling in slow motion like a shattered porcelain dream around her feet.

But all I could hear was her saying she’d come home for Thanksgiving.  Goosebumps of happiness.

ooohhh… Now I really do have to clean the house more.  And catch up on laundry.  Change bedding.  Find the special foods for their food allergy restrictions.

Truthfully, I wasn’t going to cook a turkey dinner.  The kids here said they didn’t care, so I was actually kind of relieved and planned on making homemade pizzas, and have the token pumpkin pie for dessert.  I tentatively asked my daughter if she wanted a turkey dinner, and she said, “Oh, I wouldn’t care, but Grandson1 (eight years old) has his heart set on a traditional Thanksgiving family dinner around the table.”

Methinks perhaps my daughter is also craving this.  She’s leaving Thanksgiving morning on a several hour drive, so I guess dinner will be later than usual, but pretty darn wonderful to see those faces much sooner than I thought I would again!

My passive aggressive husband has balked a little ever so subtly at the changes and extra errands and chores, but I just don’t care.  I’m so excited to see those grandsons, and I feel this stubborn wild determined strength that defies any passive aggressive dynamics to dampen my happy thoughts.  There’s a good chance he’ll come around completely… and if not… I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it.

Think good thoughts for the kitchen recalcitrant PJ, and I’ll be thinking of you all and hoping you have a truly peaceful day!

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The gift of gratitude

In this country, most people are preparing for a big feast day tomorrow.  Yes, the irony is that giving thanks is blurring into a national leave family and rush to spend money on the hot deals blasted by savvy advertisers, but hopefully the concept of stopping to be thankful will still be shared and celebrated.

One of the most important things that my mother taught me was to stop and reflect, and see in the moment the always present gift of gratitude.  It’s more than seeing the glass half full.  It’s a perspective that releases the impeding weights of self-pity, blame, and bitterness.  It’s the clearing of the inner eyes that opens a window and lets in sunlight and a fresh breeze into the soul.  It’s the water that nourishes the ability to give and to love.

Some of the lessons were in the moments of my typical teenage angst and self-absorption.

Me:  “Why did I have to get your wide feet and short legs?  Why couldn’t I get Dad’s nice feet and skinny legs?”

Mom:  “PJ… you should be thankful you have legs and feet.  Do you know how many people in this world can’t walk?  Some have lost legs and feet, and some never had them.  Just think for a moment of what that would be like…”

Me:  “Wow!  That woman that checked us out was such a sourpuss!”

Mom: “PJ… we don’t know what kind of life she’s had, or what she’s dealing with right now.  We have so much to be thankful for.”  (Mom briefly holds and squeezes my hand…)

Me: (sighing and glaring at dirty dishes)  “I hate dirty dishes.

Mom:  “PJ, when I see dirty dishes, I think of how happy I am that we aren’t hungry.  To me, dirty dishes are a reason to be thankful for that.”

(My mother grew up in the Great Depression and Dirty 30’s, so she and my father actually did know what it felt like to face hunger.)

No one visited our home and left hungry.  None of my friends woke up without finding their clothes washed, neatly folded and waiting for them in the morning.   My mother had a servant’s heart, and it was her way of loving.  She was thankful and cheerful about every opportunity she had to serve others.

What I remember about Thanksgiving as a child was my Mom singing and humming in her tiny galley kitchen, holding her harmless spatula aloft if we got too close to the pies, and the unspeakable joyful contentment that emanated from her as she cooked and baked to feed us.

Despite my mother growing up in a home where her father abused her mother, herself and her siblings, despite her first brief marriage to an abusive man, and despite her dreams turning to the reality of the mixed bag of my father who could be wonderful and very awful, and sadly emotionally and verbally abused her, her inner eyes and heart remained thankful and giving.

I do a valiant but poor imitation of my mother, but for every small success that reflects gratitude and love, I give thanks for her example.

I hope that a heavenly messenger carries from my keyboard to her ears… Thanks Mom!

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, emotional abuse, gratitude, thankful, thanksgiving, verbal abuse | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A witness to myself

A reader asked why I speak my truth to my passive aggressive husband.  Why bother?

To answer the question regarding why I speak my truth to him, it’s because I reply or respond in truth to his words or behaviors, or to explain my own boundaries or choices. My voice speaking out is heard by me.  If my words fall on deaf ears, blind eyes, and a hard heart, my conscience knows that they were spoken, and I bear witness to myself that I tried.  This is what feels right inside of my own heart and being, and what helps me to remain clear. It’s not because I believe he’ll understand, or that if he does understand (which I suspect he very well does), that he’ll agree. It’s my voice speaking my truth straightforwardly.

For me, it isn’t about faking love or marriage or peace on my part.  I’m married until I choose not to be, and that would happen in the moment and at the time it also becomes the right choice for me. I gave my word that as long as I’m here, and until the day comes that I decide differently and walk away, I’ll continue to allow the grace of another chance, a redemptive space of grace in which he could repentantly turn.  I’ve also prayed that if leaving becomes the right thing, that I’d leave while I still have love for him.

He may choose to abuse that choice, and it may be casting pearls, but it’s the right choice for me within my heart and being.

Pragmatically and objectively, my goals are set towards addressing the mess that my choices to marry and remain married (choice I allow myself kindness and mercy for) created.  This required soul searching, realistic compromises, new boundaries, and some grit because it involves serious health issues, the practical impact on kids, and complicated financial enmeshment.  I’m trying to reverse auto immune health issues, and heal severe adrenal burnout.  My husband is aware of my basic goals, but he also knows that I’ll let it all go in a ‘poof’ if he crossed certain lines as he did in years past.  That would be rough, but I’ve settled within that it’s okay if that would happen.  Meanwhile, progress is slow, often painful, but happening.

If the day comes that I walk away, I also gave my word to myself that I’d have cried enough, and I won’t look back.

So until we’re done, we’re not done.  I can’t not be kind or affectionate, I can’t not choose measured and weighed vulnerability, and I can’t eradicate hope, even when I think I see him eroding it into inevitable destruction; I can’t do those things without breaking my own inner sense of what’s right and true for me.  Even with those choices, and my best efforts to honor my inner guidelines, my humanity frail dust self succumbs to anger, grief, worry, fear, and despair.  I’m also aware that a more peaceful path could be ahead, if I stay my course and keep myself focused on getting there.  With or without him.

Only time will tell the end of this story.

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian family, Christian marriage, covert abuse, divorce, emotional abuse, passive aggressive, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

An unnatural thing

One of our readers, DaMama7,  wrote a response to Sleepless that really touched my heart in so many ways.

“How do I tolerate his small efforts? How do I let him touch me without cringing inside? How do I open up and then act like nothing happened? I am learning how to navigate and learning so slowly how to distance myself or really my heart; but what an unnatural thing to have to learn to do.” DaMama7

DaMama7, if I’d found my blog when I was back in time, I’m not sure what I would have done differently, but at least I would have felt less crazy and alone.

My experience with my truly passive aggressive husband is that while he wants what he wants, he doesn’t want to have to listen to me. I almost laugh writing that. It’s much as you described, and so many times in the past years he’s asked, and then fallen asleep after I poured my heart out. If that was shown in a fast reel loop in a film, it would be dark comedy.

I want to respond to your questions, and I hope that you really do begin to gain the ground that will keep you from further loss in the future.

My first best counsel is to take care of you. Cultivate a mindfulness about what you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Be aware of what you can actually do to care for yourself, and then don’t talk yourself out of it (easy to do as a mother!). This is the most important thing. Work at learning to love yourself and know yourself.  Healthy self care is absolutely critical to a relatively happy and peaceful life.  I wasn’t taught that, and it’s been the costliest lesson to learn.

The next thing I’d encourage you to do is to gain a vision of a happier you, and then start to formulate the goals required to make your new vision a reality.
Be so careful and aware of all your choices. Each choice will lead you closer to to those goals, or away from them. The easiest thing is to make choices that keep us enmeshed.  It’s familiar, and often the path of least resistance.  For me, it takes much work and effort to stop in the moment to keep myself accountable for my own goals.

No matter how my heart has agonized and felt torn and shredded (the happy family dream), I now really see that the best thing for my kids is a healthy me.  This means an independent me, since my desire for interdependence and mutual respect is not a goal that I can reach alone.  It’s a goal that partners with healthy mutual respect and regard reach together.  Chasing that was the false road that derailed me for so many years, and also my not even seeing divorce as an option at all.  You have to see something as a choice to even consider it, and that took many years for me.

Whatever it takes, I encourage you to work towards independence.  Then the day will come when you’re with your husband truly from choice, and nothing else.  In that day, you can truly make a choice with the practical feet in place to walk it.  My husband consistently sabotaged my efforts over the years, until I reached the point that I’d choose to live on someone’s couch than to be stopped again.  He knows now that I’ll push the red nuclear button and just blow it all up in our relationship before I’ll tolerate the kind of sabotage that I experienced in the past.

You have more strength than you know, and if you have a baby, you’re much younger than you know.  Believe me on that one, and cherish and use it while you have it.  I didn’t see my crash coming years ago, and so I now let the ingloriousness of my life hang out here because I hope that you (and others) can avoid it altogether.  It’s humiliating, but in the best way.  The truth will set us free.

What you’re living with is unnatural.  What you’re required to do is unnatural, and it will feel unnatural to change course in the beginning.  Keep praying, keep faith, and keep holding to a new course and direction.

With much hope for you,
PJ

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian family, Christian marriage, covert abuse, divorce, emotional abuse, faith, healthy life, passive aggressive, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sleepless

I remember as a newlywed that we had a clock that used to flip over numbers as the minutes went by.  I laid awake so many nights watching those numbers flip, full of tears, anger, confusion, and pain.

Last night there was no clock watching, but I still laid awake.  No tears or anger and not so much confusion, but still pain.  After all these years, the pain is like a dull numb thing in the core of my being, almost a part of me now.  It feels a lot more like sadness now.

It didn’t feel different last night, but for some reason it kept me awake.  Maybe the reason was that at bedtime (seemingly out of the blue), he was affectionate and speaking loving words to me.  Last night as he spoke sweet words and was hugging me, I could only hear the hurtful things he said earlier.   There were other words from him earlier that day when I called him out on giving me conflicting information on a business invoice.  Cold blaming resentful words.  When he’s angry, he especially likes to tell me how different things have been the last several years (since the time I was away and we were in a kind of separation).

Even though he gave me conflicting information regarding the invoice, even though he flipped into passive aggressive accusation mode when I asked which information was correct, he still held onto not doing anything intentionally wrong.  He admitted to a kind of wrong, but couched it in words like trying to understand himself when he reacts a certain way when he feels like I’m interrogating him.

I replied that it’s reasonable for anyone to want the truth, and using words like interrogating are a kind of shifting of responsibility and wrong doing onto me, and putting himself in victim status. I said that I viewed his selective truth and withholding information as playing fast and loose with the truth, and as a passive aggressive dynamic.

I agreed that I’ve changed in the last several years, but not in any way that’s less loving to him.  I’ve changed with boundaries, and intolerance of abusive behavior from him.  I don’t see him as having changed.  He can be as wonderful and horrible as I’ve ever known him to be.  I’ve heard the words saying he was sorry when he was caught, but not the behaviors that reflected a repentant heart.

Well that didn’t go over well with him!  More accusations flew my direction.   I asked him if he even wanted to work on our marriage, and he said he didn’t know.  He said that his true heart wanted to, but the other part of him wanted… (at this point he made a waving goodbye motion with a sarcastic look on his face)… and would be relieved.

Throughout the entire conversation, I remained in a strange and quiet calm.  Detached.  Feeling almost unhurt by his accusatory words shooting at me.  Instead of striking my emotions, it was as though arrows were flying and shooting a small winged bird that was fighting to stay aloft.  It was killing hope.

That was the difference at bedtime.  When he was hugging me, I told him that there were certain things he tends to say when he’s angry, and that I can’t discount them as just angry words.  Instead, I listen to them as telling me how he really feels, believing him, and it was killing the shred of hope I’ve tried to keep for us.

His response was silence, and then finally rolling away from me in the dark.

Then I just laid there in the silent dark.  Not really thinking.   Just there.  Around 4:00 a.m., I sat up briefly out of nervous curiosity to see what time it was.  I’m not sure what time I finally fell asleep, but I was awake by 8:00 a.m.

We’re both up.  He made eggs and coffee, the girls are chatting, the old doggie is settling on her pillow near me, and I need to start making the first pre-holiday checklist.  Another day of quiet crazy on the crawl to finding life.

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian marriage, covert abuse, emotional abuse, insomnia, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband, truth | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

If I took those words away

Sayin’ I love you
Is not the words I want to hear from you
It’s not that I want you
Not to say it, but if you only knew
How easy it would be to show me how you feel
More than words is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
Cause I’d already know

What would you do if my heart was torn in two?
More than words to show you feel
That your love for me is real
What would you say if I took those words away?
Then you couldn’t make things new
Just by saying I love you

Now that I’ve tried to talk to you and make you understand
All you have to do is close your eyes
And just reach out your hands and touch me
Hold me close don’t ever let me go
More than words is all I ever needed you to show
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
Cause I’d already know

What would you do if my heart was torn in two?
More than words to show you feel
That your love for me is real
What would you say if I took those words away?
Then you couldn’t make things new
Just by saying I love you

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, covert abuse, divorce, emotional abuse, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband | 1 Comment

Meaningless and meaningful

Listening to what my passive aggressive husband says is a strange business.  When he speaks casual words in the kind of nonchalant tone that other people in my life use for relaxing and every day conversation, my ears pick up, and my inner radar scans what I’m hearing and sensing.  When he says things in a kind of serious tone, it’s the opposite almost.

Little words about his plans for the day, mentioning offhand something he ‘needs’ (often meaning he’ll buy it without further discussion), certain sighs or tones of voice, or at times his silence that ignores something I said as he immediately changes the subject as though it hadn’t been said, these all get my attention.

As I sit and try to sort this out, the lessons of past history run through my thoughts like a polluted river with a dark undertow.   He speaks about his faith in passionate terms of conviction, and yet to my ears they ring as a kind of pseudo conviction, because I’ve experienced the disparity in how he treats me.

Hearing as I was trying to fall asleep that he wanted to tell me again that he was sorry, really sorry, and that he really did love me, caused a stress response in my body, but no sense of deep belief.  Just sadness and fatigue.

Posted in abusive husband, abusive marriage, Christian marriage, covert abuse, emotional abuse, passive aggressive, passive aggressive abuse, passive aggressive husband | Tagged | 20 Comments