Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fraidy Cat Choices in a Fraidy Cat World

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
There I was with what I had longed for dangled before my eyes.  The counselor was suggesting a romantic weekend with the man I had promised to love, honor, cherish, and endure with till the bitter end. As the months had passed, we had enjoyed the fruits of our counseling labor.  I felt less and less like I was walking on eggshells or diving into a trench to avoid incoming rockets. And yet, I still was not sure I could trust the new relationship that was emerging. I had not been alone with my husband in years.  Over 3 to be exact. The idea of being a bedroom...for a weekend was enough to send a fraidy cat into hiding.

Convention says hindsight is 20/20.  Another says there are 3 sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.  I fear that while hindsight clarifies what we see in the rear view mirror of life, our vision remains skewed by our humanity.  Even as I navigate the hallways of my memory, I am acutely aware of the imperfect nature of my explorations.  I cannot speak for my husband and sons as to the totality of their impressions and experiences.  This blog contains my part of the story, my recollections, my fears, my loneliness, my victories, my growth - or lack thereof - as a person, and represents my spiritual journey.

Courtesy  Mad Penguin Creative
I am humbled to see that, as my story plays out through these pages, other folks are reaching out to me...some more hesitantly than others.  The theme is the same, "I'm scared to death because....."  No 2 situations are the same. Some have plunged suddenly and headlong into circumstances they have not seen coming: a husband's infidelity, an angry tenant, a vengeful neighbor, a natural disaster, a child in trouble.  Some wrestle with long term stresses that have robbed them of the underpinnings of trust in a world that spun out of control:  the death of a parent or spouse that tilted the earth on its axis, unemployment that seems it will never end, chronic health issues that required a change in the parameters of life. It's a fraidy cat world, I tell ya. You are not alone.

In each situation, I have to remind my fellow fraidy cat, that I am not perfect nor am I the voice of all reason.  My rear view mirror doesn't make me Solomon or God.  It hasn't even made me an Americanized Mother Theresa.  Remember, I'm the one who went sobbing to the counselor asking for reassurance that the men in white coats weren't about to knock on my door. I'm the one who is writing her way back to God because life has confused and confounded me beyond my understanding.  I remind you of those facts because I don't want you to be surprised by what's coming. 

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The loneliness in our marriage etched its way into our days since before we were married.  That's a rear view mirror reality. You don't realize it when you are awash in china patterns and honeymoon destination choices. You don't realize it when you are busy with the arrival of children.  You just wake up one day and realize you are all alone in the world even tho' the person you promised to love, honor, and cherish is only 2 feet away.  Later, if you are lucky I guess, you look back and see that the seeds of isolation were there all along. Given the right soil and fertilizer, seeds became a crop while you kept on trying to live the American Dream.

Sometimes, you don't even admit you are lonely until something happens to make you come face to face with the reality and the heartbreak.  I was busy being the good, homeschooling, church-going wife of the successful professional man.  As he got sicker, I did sometimes think I disappeared in the urgency of his days.  Kind folks inquired about how he was doing and clucked and murmured all the right things - about him. As it got harder, I sometimes thought, "It's as if I disappeared.  Everyone wants to know how he is. No one seems to care that my life is fractured as much as his..." Then, being the good girl I was, I'd chide myself for my petty, petulant pity party, suck it up..and go on.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creation
When it happened, it as as if I had been hit by white hot lightening.  I was feeling lonely and forgotten.  I was tired of dodging my business-partner-in-life's ever present and seething anger.  We were broke.  Other couples were looking forward to vacations and date nights and weekends away.  I was looking forward to packing my comfortable house on 3 acres and moving into 2 bedrooms and a full bath.  I was at a meeting with still enough of my old life left to be pretending life might, somehow, be resurrected and allow me to keep on living as I had.  Despite my effort to act like the old me, I was a shattered shell of loneliness, fear, and defeat.

One of the folks at the meeting made a joke. I laughed. It felt oddly freeing. My ever present fear lifted for a moment allowing me to feel lighter than air. You know the feeling after you've been in the pool for a long time? When you get out, you feel as tho' you weigh 100x your normal weight. If you jump back into the pool right at that moment, it feels like a huge relief. That was the sense of relief that settled over me in that moment of laughter. 

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
In mid-laugh, I glanced over my shoulder to acknowledge the prankster. Only thing was-- my eyes never got that far.  The other set of  eyes that met and locked with mine danced with impish glee, and lightening shot from my eyes to my heart.  My breath evaporated into thin air. I snapped my head back to look forward and began to pray, "Oh dear God...not now...why now?  Why do I feel this way now?  How can this happen now and why him?"

When it was safe, I tucked a look back over my shoulder wondering if I was so traumatized by life that I was irrationally seeing what was not there. The eyes were there waiting.  It wasn't my imagination. I had not felt like that since I met the man under whose roof I lived that no longer seemed to know me or even see me coming and going. It was a heady thing. I knew it wasn't trustworthy. I knew it wasn't seemly.  I knew I wanted to feel it again even tho' his wife was seated only feet away from me. For all I knew about them, they were blissfully happy.  Until that moment when lightening struck and buried a seed deep in the dirt of my heart. At that moment, I knew what I knew.

I found myself hoping for more meetings and hoping that he was not traveling when meeting time came.  If he was there, I felt as if I was lighter than air. I was the swimmer floating in a lazy pool of oblivion.  If he wasn't, I trudged thru another week feeling as heavy as the swimmer just emerged from a 3 hour set of laps. I went home with a cold heart hoping time would compress till the next called meeting.  Light and laughter put on hold one more week.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
And, oh, did we laugh at every opportunity.  Laughing with locked eyes became our calling card.  Sometimes, I'd turn a corner, and he'd be headed from the other direction. We'd pull up short and breathless with surprise.  He'd reach out to steady me. "Are you ok? Are you holding up? Can I do anything?"  The words would come tumbling out in a rush as he tried to communicate so much at once.  Mostly what I heard was, "You are not invisible. I see you still in the middle of all that is happening in your life. I'm here. You know I'm here. I see you."  I'm not sure how many months we went on like that.  It was early spring when the blossoms of hope and temptation emerged.  A chill had invaded the air when the time had come to choose which path to follow. (See part 2 dated July 4, 2011.)

Psalm 139: 4, 5 (NIV)
 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.


  1. love it! * sniff NEEDED it! Thank you!!

  2. It was hard to stop writing tonight....

  3. Can I just tell you that I love you bunches, CA?!

  4. Yes, you may..sometimes a fraidy cat needs to know these things...