Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rip Tides of Life

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The swells were mostly absent. Every few minutes the ocean would rise just a bit but not enough to create a trough. There were no white caps as far as the eye could see. The forecast storm clouds had yet to make their appearance. Ocean breezes were just enough to cool without tossing umbrellas across the sand. I felt as tho' I had dodged a bullet. Despite the forecast, the weather failed to rob me of the last few precious hours of my stay. I had squeezed in one more date with my love, the ocean. What a perfect day.

I didn't notice the absence of the school of dolphin that daily stood sentry just off shore nor of the ever present sea gulls that usually did aerial maneuvers just above our heads. I would think of their absence later and feel as if I should have known something was amiss. My eyes were too full to see the forest for the trees, I guess.

The 3 of us scampered toward the water and dove in expecting to frolic the way we had 48 hours before. We began the rituals of ocean play. I rolled from floating on my back to my belly expecting to stand only inches from where I had begun my float. As I turned, my eyes locked with a father seated where the waves made their final lapping brushes with the shore before heading back out to sea. The distance between us changed so rapidly that I knew I was moving much faster than I should have been. I was not being pushed toward the shore. My feet felt for the ocean floor. Nothing.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I did not panic, but I looked at my husband and son knowing I needed to leverage their height to my advantage. “Grab me!” I yelled. “Grab! ME!” I repeatedly more urgently. Their eyes widened, and their smiles faltered. The father nearer the shore looked at me with more concern. I could see him deciding if he needed to join the fray on my behalf. I continued to move away from the shore as if I had been shot out of a cannon.

My 2 testosterone units started to close the gap and quickly realized it would take more work than they thought. Realization dawned as they felt the undertow grab them as well. I was swimming toward them without making any headway. I thought about those pools they advertise as drop in replacements for home spas. The ones where you can swim in place till you are a size 5 again. I wondered if a situation such as mine is what led some engineer to envision the set up. Funny the things you think when you are too afraid to feel the fear.

Two sets of larger hands grasped mine and pulled me toward the shore. I felt shifting sands beneath my feet and knew if I gave even an inch, the same tide would hurtle me away from land again. Our play became less frolic and more tentative posturing. We understood the power hidden below that lake-like facade. Safe tho' it had seemed, the tide was playing a game below the glassy surface of the water. For the uninitiated, the game would quickly become risky if not downright dangerous. I was a little more shaken than I let on. My love, the sea, had almost betrayed me.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Later, after the storms had broken loose in earnest, we made our way back to the mainland. The tide had come in. The tidal marshes were lush and green. Darkness was coming. The coastal pines stood in formation as if guarding the secrets of the estuary they inhabited. We commented on how spooky. If you believed in 'haints' these coastal byways were not where you wanted to troubleshoot a broken down car. Shivers tried to erupt along my spine.

I stared out into the growing darkness and thought how much my watery trap reminded me of the monster in the shadows and the havoc he has wrecked on our lives. I thought about the re-wedding. In those blissful days of reconciliation, I had frolicked while failing to realize the hidden power the monster still possessed below the surface of our lives. After all, the monster had been revealed. What could that shadowy presence do to us anymore? Ignorance is bliss till you are not ignorant anymore.

In the weeks following the ceremony, a nagging sense began to work at me. Call it an undertow in life if you will. I'd be lost in laughter and anticipation only to look up and see something I could not quite put my finger on. Distance. Wariness. An ill-at-ease look as if he was somehow feeling cornered. Not quite deer in the headlights but something close. Finally, I went to the counselor who had resided over the re-wedding trying to make sense out of the tensions below the surface. One set of tensions, it seemed, had been replaced with another.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

The reassurances were well intended but did nothing to quell the rising uneasiness. Some unknown tide, whose force I didn't understand, seemed determined to draw us apart as surely as the rip tide had tried to carry me out to sea. Again, I rearranged the puzzle pieces of our lives. I had them all. Of that I was sure. I just couldn't figure out how to make them fit. Our play became less carefree frolic and more tentative posturing.

It would take almost 5 years before I learned the term 'surrogate abuser' and learned what that hidden force had meant in our lives. I always felt its presence and had even pointed out its existence. My insistence that I was 'not the enemy' had always drawn puzzling responses. At last I knew why. No matter how my spouse intended to relate to me, the hidden force was the dictator of his heart. His heart whispered that no matter what I did to prove my devotion, I was really the enemy. I could not be trusted with his safety. Sadly, life dynamics being what they are, he was as puzzled by his reactions, and more clueless, than was I. Perhaps had that reality not been true, I might have endured the locust years with more resilience than I had. I'll never know.

I am sure that we were robbed of a foundation we deserved. It didn't matter how Christian we were nor how we structured our lives around those principles. You can't fight a battle if you don't know the enemy territory your foe inhabits. So, we were, in many ways, like Don Quixote slashing at imaginary foes dressed as windmills. It's no wonder that the 2nd tidal wave that hit our lives left us shattered and unable to connect. It's no wonder that I began to ask myself who I really wanted to be when I grew up. Is it any wonder that I began to doubt my commitment to the good God whose cheerleader I had always delighted in being? Or rather, I began to doubt his commitment to me.

Does the God of the wind and waves have a good plan to repair the damage that was done to us before I even knew we existed? I hope so because I am trying to write my way back to him. Unexpectedly just this week, my eyes strayed over to that forbidden corner of our family room – my bookcase. For the 1st time in over 3 years, I have been able to run my fingers along the spines. Wonder of wonders! I discovered a book by Elizabeth George along with companion study text that I have never opened. I must have purchased it just before I broke my leg. I picked it up and leafed thru the pages. Not quite ready to embrace it yet but able to envision doing so. I'm writing my way back to God. Maybe I've made some progress? 

Oh...there you are! I've been looking for you! What took you so long? Welcome home, fraidy cat. I'm so glad you are here. If you are looking for a dose of sanctimony, you've stopped at the wrong place. This corner of cyberspace is for hurting hearts who've lost their way. In this safe place, we have more questions than answers. We've learned it's ok not to offer the knee-jerk, well rehearsed answers that we've been fed since kindergarten Sunday School class. We know it is ok to wordlessly fall into step while you walk thru the sense of loss and mourning that you feel. Won't you come back again and bring a friend? Love you long and strong. 

Isaiah 54:4
Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.


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