I Don’t Blame You

You’ve heard the stories, more than once. You’ve probably experienced it first hand in your institutions of worship, jobs, social circles, your own families – many more times than once. This thing is not rare. 

It’s when the person you least expected, to whom you looked up to with the most respect and admiration for having a seemingly perfect life, often perched high on a pillar of some kind of authority, abruptly falls and is revealed to be the antithesis of their meticulously crafted public image.

It’s always shocking. You never saw it coming. You have a hard time reconciling your own very real feelings of love and appreciation for what this person has been and meant in your life with the horror of the reality once it’s exposed. You are left reeling and trying to figure out how to move forward with any kind of trust and goodness, knowing it’s for these very qualities you were targeted and exploited.

That’s what this thing is.

I don’t blame you for thinking I’m crazy, considering how very vocal I was in promoting the perfect family and marriage that up until very recently I would have sworn upon my children’s lives that we had. No. I don’t blame you at all. I mean, gah!…just LOOK at us.

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I get daily Facebook memory reminders documenting exactly what and just how many glowing things I social media bragged about my husband this time a year ago, 2 years ago, 5 years ago, almost daily. My devotion and public declarations of adulation were all part of being the super codependent and cover that I was and that he needed me to be in order to hide the reality of what he is and had always been doing in the shadows. Now that I and our children know just how depraved and disordered that reality is (and more and more just keeps coming out), going over every memory of our lives together and every picture as a family without the blinders is like cyanide-laced salt in our gaping wounds. There is no surviving that. That family is dead. He killed it. Now he wants to kill me through negating my existence, destroying my reputation and impugning my integrity in the eyes of anyone he can get to believe him. His hatred for me knows no bounds. Why? Because I dare to be an individual separate from him, no longer feeding his wants, his needs, his agenda, no longer supplying him with the “good boy” “good father” image he is incapable of maintaining on his own…and because where I go, so go the kids and his entitlement to them.

Surely you’ve heard tale of families devastated by a spouse who’d been living a double life, maybe with a secret second family or salacious criminal underworld activities, who abruptly abandons their unsuspecting family, taking EVERYTHING and leaving them with NOTHING.

That’s what this thing is…at least what he’s been trying to do for a good 2 years now, though he has always been what he is. The only “abrupt” part of it is for those who finally dare to wake up to face the devastation and hell to pay for doing so.

I don’t blame you if you haven’t believed me up to this point – if you haven’t seen it yet for yourself; if every perception you have of this person contradicts the image of the monster I’m describing. I don’t blame you if in the war of “He Said/She Said” (that’s now at final showdown) you find it much easier to believe him. The pain, injustice, and indignity I’ve experienced as a result defies description, but I don’t blame or resent you.

I don’t blame you for questioning the appropriateness of how I’ve dealt with this on social media and through blogging as a cry for help, though I’ve repeatedly and exhaustively explained the psychopathy at play here; that not only are these creatures incapable of acknowledging, much less taking any responsibility for their actions and the devastation and chaos they wreak, they get off on torturing and discarding their victims, projecting EVERYTHING on to them and denying them any closure or any kind of relationship whatsoever, and turning everyone they can against them. Any person with a shred of empathy or humanity simply DOES NOT DO THAT. Monsters do.

I had to go public and draw him out to do the only thing one can get one of these creatures to do – defend their image to the death (their own) – and let him undo himself in order to get to some kind of resolution and closure to this nightmare. I will say one good thing about these things – they are utterly predictable once you know what it is you are dealing with. Any and all private conversation between the two of us (which became impossible many months ago) wherein I desperately tried to get to some sanity and working relationship for the sake of our kids, begging him to be any kind of functional father in their lives, was always met with the most foul cruelty and deflection, which I have thoroughly documented – and kept private. The kids have not seen it (though they’ve seen plenty for themselves displayed by him). My lawyer has. If he pushes it, a judge will as well. He will no doubt push it. Did I mention these creatures are nothing if not utterly predictable in their rage and self protection and promotion at the expense of everyone and everything else? They truly believe themselves to be omnipotent and above any and all accountability.

I don’t blame you for not wanting to believe you are being used and manipulated in his smear campaign against me as he projects every atrocity he has committed against his wife and children on to me, accusing me of being the abuser, the liar, the sexual deviant, the substance abuser, the crazy person, and the one alienating him from his children. You’re not stupid. You, like most normal people, probably think yourself to be a good judge of character and a person of integrity, so I understand more than anyone how nearly impossible this is to believe and accept, because…

I didn’t believe ME for 25 years – my own instincts, my own eyes and ears and experiences; being held captive in a perpetual state of distraction and manipulation away from the truth that was RIGHT THERE from the very beginning and all the way through.

I don’t blame you because the reality is too horrific to be believed. I continue to wake up most mornings in blissful forgetfulness. The effects of a quarter century of delusion don’t disappear overnight – if ever – but there’s a split second of not being conscious that the man I loved and trusted with everything I am and almost died giving all of myself to support is a monster intent on destroying me and attempting to use his own children, whom he also exploited and betrayed, to do it. There’s a split second of not remembering my marriage, my family, my entire adult life of ministry has been a massive sadistic con and that I’m living my worst fear as a single mother bearing 100% of the burden to care for my children’s physical, mental, and spiritual health while fighting for our lives against a predator and master manipulator – their own father – who has financially, emotionally and physically (me in particular) devastated us.

But then, like Groundhog Day, the crushing, stabbing shock of that reality I still desperately don’t want to believe rushes in again, morning after morning. That’s the numb state I’m (barely) operating in each day, putting one foot in front of the other to do what I’ve got to do to free myself and my children – all the while knowing there are so many mutual friends, two decades worth from a lifetime of ministry, who believe I am the monster and he the blameless, pitiful victim.

No. I don’t blame you. I thank you. I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt who my true friends and family are and those, regardless of the length or nature of our relationship prior, who absolutely are not and never really were.

I have an incredible base of support of friends and family who are measured in realness, not numbers or whether or not they are a boost to my image, who genuinely love me (and all humanity) as much and often times better than themselves, which by Jesus’ definition (whether they claim him or not) makes them true worshipers of God and worthy of my trust and admiration, regardless of whatever demonic slur the monster and his ilk may place on them and me in an attempt to undermine my support and avoid exposure.

I think most of all I don’t blame you because of what THEY have not said about any of this to this point.

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I can understand how anyone would think that if anything I’ve been saying about the monster were true, surely these four would be backing me up. Well, here’s another one of those too-evil-to-be-believed realities that these creatures deal in – using their biological children as pawns and playing them against the other parent. He had a several-year head start on me knowing the day was approaching when I’d wake up and his jig would be up. It’s called triangulation, and it’s the sickest form of psychological manipulation there is to use your own children in this way, to warp their reality and turn them against their own mother. The two Littles were honestly never of any use to him in that regard. He was never involved in their daily lives or care in any way beyond show. They saw and understood first hand my devastation and their father’s increasingly bizarre and frightening manipulations and hatred towards me. Libby in particular has always seen straight through to what passes as his soul from the moment she was born and has handled the insanity and heartache of this last year like the absolute badass rockstar she is. The manipulations, rejection and abandonment killed JoJo’s infinite affections for his father and only exponentially strengthened them for me.

The reality for the Bigs, who really are the key to it all and the only ones with a voice anyone would listen to, is much more devastating. They weren’t there. They were away at college, which is when things first began to unravel and go very, very sick and dark. You see, you don’t leave these creatures or get to exist as a separate entity or have any kind of a life apart from them – it is not allowed. They consider it an absolute betrayal for which you deserve to be punished. And punish they absolutely do, the spouse in the sickest most covert ways, and then the children once they too awaken to the horror and are no longer useful to manipulate and use against the primary source who is being devalued, smeared and discarded.

I’ve known what he is since December, but I had to leave the Bigs out of it completely as the monster doubled down on his spin and diversion in the battle to control the narrative and maintain control. Both of the adult kids were in psychological distress, completely separate (or so they thought) from their parents’ insanity, before our world fell apart in November. I had to focus on being the help and support they needed (which is still an epic struggle) while letting the thing, that is no father by any definition other than contributing half their DNA, continue to poison them with his lies and hatred while I remained silent and bided my time, not knowing when I’d have enough evidence to take him down, but that I eventually would and that he would end up being his own executioner. In the meantime, as excruciating as it was to watch, I HAD to let the Bigs see it and figure it out for themselves. Anything I would say or do would only be used against me.

That’s what this thing is.

That time is now. The Bigs have seen and they do fully understand, and for that I both rejoice for me and deeply, deeply grieve for them. He was his own executioner at his daughter’s graduation. He sabotaged the entire weekend. After not seeing his children for 6 months nor showing any interest or involvement in any aspect of their lives that are now here in Nashville, all he could do was sulk and glare and continue to spew his hatred toward me to the kids and demand they come to see him this summer and insisting he was going to get joint custody. I poked the monster in those bloodshot, frenzied eyes nonstop for those few precious hours we had with him, knowing it was the only chance I was ever going to get for him to break for all to see. Part of their predictability is being able to trigger a narcissistic rage response by challenging them. It’s incredibly easy (and very dangerous) to do, but I went for it and got what I needed in spades.

What was supposed to be Kathryn’s graduation party ended before it ever had a chance to start. Not even giving it 5 minutes, witnessed by my parents, all four kids and my soon-to-be son-in-law, Jimmy started in with custody talk and my mom and I took him to task; me with open disdain (that he obviously relished and wanted and was exactly what I wanted my kids to see) and my mom with superhuman gentleness and grace. It was her love that he was powerless against and sent him into a panic, erupting in a fit of violent rage, slamming his fists on the kitchen counter so hard the house shook and screaming that I had emasculated him and that none of it mattered, all of this within inches of my mother, my hero, who just seconds before had been consoling him with her arm around him. He then inexplicably stormed out through the garage without saying goodbye to his children who were all huddled on the stairs crying. We didn’t know if he would come back and if so in what state. We didn’t know if he would get on his plane the next morning. We all silently scattered that night, no party, and waited. We didn’t hear anything until 3 days later when I received an email. The entire thing was how devastated HE was that none of us had called to apologize to HIM and more raging against me. He never apologized to Kathryn, only to Libby when she blasted him via text on the Xbox a few days later, but of course he insisted to her that it had really been MY fault. She would have none of his bullshit (a total freakin badass, that girl is, I’m telling you). She and JoJo have since agreed to block him on the Xbox rather than have to be the adults telling him they don’t want to talk about living in California or hear any more of his hatred for me. They are noticeably remarkably happier, carefree and more loving to each other and everyone else since then.

What you also won’t see or hear from Jimmy as he goes on his final social media self promotion tour as jilted, abandoned and woefully maligned father, is that Kathryn has told him he is not to come to her wedding out of fear he will be violent towards me and my family, my sisters in particular, for whom he continues to voice incredible disdain for calling him out publicly on Facebook a few months ago for things he’d actually done and said. Both Kathryn and Ryan have written to their father telling him they want him out of their lives in order to end his reign of terror and chaos in this family. Otherwise, Kathryn has asked to be left out of the upcoming legal proceedings entirely so she can focus on her wedding and marriage and real life in some semblance of peace. I’m respecting that as much as possible, though of course the monster has not.

Ryan is the man. Literally. He has become one overnight. He has taken on the role of father figure for Liberty and Joseph. Talk about unbelievable. I cannot wrap my mind and heart around this and I’m not sure I ever will. He doesn’t have to, but he is doing it willingly and is a natural; devoting more attention and affection and understanding of their individual personalities and needs than their actual father ever did or ever gave him, which was zero.

That monster has always been what it is, a shell of a human and emotional vampire. We just couldn’t see it because…

That’s what this thing is.

So, one more time…I don’t blame you for not wanting to believe reality when it’s taken me 25 years and countless trips to hell and back in order to see it.

But if you don’t believe me now in the war of He Said/ She Said and continue to support him at my and my children’s expense and even collude with him in a custody fight – fuck yes I will blame you, I will resent the hell out of you, and I will purge you from our existence. The monster will be exceedingly happy to have you as supply on which to feed and he’s welcome to have you, as many as he can get. The only ones that matter see and know him for exactly what he is and never was and understand what has to happen and are with me 100%. I’m going to let the only voice that matters be the last word before going radio silent until we are safe on the other side of this. If you are going to believe anybody, it should be our 20-year-old son, James Ryan Dickenson, who said, “Mom, he is never going to hurt you again and he is never getting these kids. He’s going to have to get through me.”

Here is his Father’s Day message:

my son

 

 

 

 

 

Living Above the Curse (Original Sin)

If you are reading this you are obviously human, and as such, dear human, I have some wonderful horrible news for you – You are cursed.

The wonderful part is that none are alone in our cursedness, and through this universal suffering we are connected to all humanity in all space and time. Our curses are inherent in biology, psychology and personal experience. There is nothing new under the sun.

There are many flavors and degrees, but the truth of being human remains – we all come into this world stocked with a unique set of genetic and family-of-origin dysfunctions that constantly entice us away from loving ourselves and therefore each other.

As I said before, I’ve read and understood the bible for myself since early childhood. I’m going to unpack symbolism from the Genesis account of the creation and The Fall of Man that I’ve seen for a very long time as well as things I’m just now understanding that have great personal significance.

Here’s the base of where I’m coming from:

  1. I don’t take the Genesis account literally. To do so would be the height of ridiculous willful ignorance and to dismiss the inherent sacred metaphor that holds all value in the text. If you really want to argue the reality of a talking snake and that all of us originate from 2 humans poofed into existence a few thousand years ago, much less believe in a “loving” God who would condemn all humanity to suffering and death because the original duo added some enticing forbidden fiber to their diet…*SIGH*…I just can’t even anymore.
  2. The Ancients knew what was up and wrote what is almost certainly a version of an even more ancient oral tradition creation myth containing a stunningly rich take on what it is to be and relate as Women and Men.
  3. The survival instinct is inherent in our biology and psychology as human animals. We’re wired to exploit others to get what we want (food, sex, protection, power). I personally believe that to rise above our animal nature (curses) in order to love ourselves and each other is what it means to be uniquely made in the image of and to commune with and incarnate Whatever God There Is.
  4. Gender, sexuality, and personality are fluid and on a vast spectrum, and you and I and all of humanity that has ever existed fall in unique places all along it. It’s an objective fact of nature. For the purposes of this particular blog post, I’m speaking from my own perspective as a heterosexual cisgender woman relating to heterosexual cisgender man (look it up if you are unfamiliar with any of those terms). But we each have both male and female energy/hormones flowing through us, and despite the strict binary we’ve been taught exists (but absolutely doesn’t), the biological and psychological manifestations of gender are WILDLY varied. I encourage anyone solidly identifying as Man to get in touch with their inner Woman (She’s there, and to deny Her is to everyone’s detriment). Same goes for Women. It is only to our benefit and that of our families to identify and relate to the masculine nature that inhabits us all. We are One.

Here’s the bible study I was never going to get in my former tribe that I’ve had a hankering to do for a very long time –

It Is Not Good For Man to Be Alone – Creation of Woman

But for Adam no suitable *MATE WITH STRENGTH TO SAVE HIM* was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Take away points:
  1. * The Hebrew word “Ezer” that Western self-proclaimed Bros of God translated and adapted to fit their own purposes as “helpmate” is the word used throughout the Old Testament for God coming to the rescue and saving His people. This Woman – Ezer – is uniquely endowed with a divine strength and drive to endure incredible extremes to protect and nurture (save) her Family. God declared it was not good for Man to be alone, and Ezer was the suitable mate, the final crowning act of creation, after which God declared it all to be very Good.
  2. Man was God-breathed from dirt. Woman came from FLESH. How much of Man’s psyche and drive is about satisfying his own flesh by seeking FLESH outside himself? How connected to the care and maintenance of FLESH (her own, her children’s and her mate) is a Woman? All FLESH is perpetually created and comes forth from Woman. Marinate on those gender differences in relation to FLESH for a while.
  3. In the original unadulterated (un-cursed) union of Man and Woman THERE IS NO SHAME and they are ONE flesh united.

Jesus would later be attributed to saying, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.” I take great issue with how my evangelical tribe has twisted this to mean divorce is a sin over which God is most pissed. Jesus simply stated the reality of natural consequences – violating and splitting the sacred Oneness results in SELF-imposed isolation from each other and God, and it is devastating. That is what shame IS. We humans do it to ourselves, and because we’re wired to intimately bond, everyone suffers from the betrayal and rejection of love and connection. Jesus made it clear – we have a choice. We always have a choice to maintain the connections of love over our own self-imposed and inflicted isolated shame. There is no shame or condemnation in Whatever God There Is that Jesus was talking about. Shame and disconnection is all man-made. WE have to sever the bonds of the reality of love and walk away into selfish delusion. WE have to refuse and deny reconciliation and the redemption of love. There is an ever-present Great Deceiver and Accuser within ourselves, determined to undermine reality and convince us to trade the truth for a lie – to abandon love and connection and embrace shame and isolation and entitlement to self gratification at the expense of others.

In order to sabotage the Oneness of God/Man/Woman, why did the Snake target and appeal to the mind of Eve rather than Adam (who was right there with her)? Patriarchal religious tradition has maintained it is because of Woman’s inherent weakness and depravity, to which I call epic bullshit. She was targeted because of her strength and power, and the Deceiver knew exactly who it had to undermine and get through first. There are few things as formidable and fierce as an awake and aware Woman embracing her identity as Ezer; therefore, to deceive and numb Her instincts first (and to keep her that way) is imperative. The Deceiver/Accuser/Snake knew exactly what it was doing.

Bada bing, bada boom, the humans partook of the one thing they don’t have the capacity to handle yet are irresistibly drawn to in an attempt to achieve equality with God – the knowledge and power to judge good and evil themselves. Gender-specific curses ensued and the Sacred Oneness fractured for the now shame-filled Woman and Man.

A Woman’s Curse

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity

    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

Goddammit, a woman can’t even go to the bathroom herself much less be left alone to her own curse. She doesn’t even have the luxury of dealing with just one either. Hers are MULTIPLE and connected to everyone else’s – the snake, her children, and her husband – through her flesh.

Of course Woman herself ain’t above lying and manipulating, but have you noticed how severe a reaction you typically get from a woman who’s been betrayed and lied to? “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” an English Bro Dude poet once observed. It’s because you don’t just lie to and betray HER. You threaten EVERYTHING SHE’S CONNECTED TO.

This is a 3-part series, the second dedicated specifically to the female curse of Desire that entices Woman to hand over and deny her power and strength to be ruled over and used by Man. The final installment focuses on the brutally heavy Curse of Man that crushes the ego and the resultant toxic fallout. Both are in the context of my own marriage and are intensely personal.

I share out of my experience as a human. I share out of my experience as a Woman. I share to work out and untangle and make sense of life. I share knowing full well it is way too much and never enough and there is no shortage of people ready to tell me just how far off their mark I am at all times, and this is exceedingly valuable. I share because vulnerability does not allow me the delusion of an achievable “rightness” of thought or action one can own or impose, which is the essence of that Original Sin; making criticism, no matter how well or poorly intentioned and executed, crucial in the untangling process as I muster up the discipline to tamper down my pride to embrace the discomfort. I share because within that mess of working it out I find deeply fulfilling points of connection with others and restoration to the Great Truth of love. I share in order to identify and purge the lies and shame within myself that sabotage love and connection. I share in order to forgive myself and others. I share for anyone to take or leave whatever they can or will using whatever labels work.

Whichever labels you feel most comfortable using and wherever you fall on the sacred spectrum of humanity, thank you for sharing your time and care to read this and connect with me.

Words

When I read your FB text last night, I instantly related.

You are so consumed with your own pain that it makes me feel like I’m not your [relationship descriptor redacted].

Get on some meds you psycho bitch!!

No I am not [wonderful] but I think I am kind, and you were kind to me so I hope you will find peace and happiness in the future.

No time and in no way is it appropriate to be rude, unkind, cutting, demeaning, speaking out of rage and anger, and belittling others. I have seen you do each of these things with a measure of generosity. I have watched you shred those who even mildly suggest that you’re out of line.

Hi JD, I just wanted to say “Me Too”. My emotions are too raw to say anything beyond that, but ME TOO sister.

You need to get off Facebook and find some real friends.

I have a whole bunch of emotions there for you my friend. Anger, sadness, frustration to name a few. I haven’t been publicly posting on your timeline but have been following to some degree. You can – no, will – rise above this and find your own sense of self and all that entails.

This is a much more reasonable place to be. Not that being unreasonable is bad – I’m not saying that. But this post has much less estrogen-filled drama and is much easier to process (for me).

You think you are telling the truth but in fact you’re just regurgitating this woke woman diatribe that is out there in ultra feminist blogs.

I don’t have rich parents who come to my rescue every time things get a little bit hard.

I’m glad you’ve contacted scabies. I accept that as what you’ve got coming for what you’ve done to me.

You take care of you. We’ll keep praying, as always, for only good things for you – whatever those may be.

The truth? You mean your exaggerated story and outright lies that make you look like an abused victim.

I miss the person you suppressed not the person you are now.

You are a unicorn: pretty, but fierce as fuck. Damn. I mean, DAMN.

You’ve always been a bitter person.

You are beautiful inside and out.

omg! it’s impossible to reason with you.

Proud of you.

I can’t stand the woman you’ve become.

I was thinking about you and wanted to send you some love. There’s not really much I can say about the myriad things you’re going through, but I can at least let you know that much!

I’ve really, really been wanting to message you for a little while because I’ve felt so compelled to share with you a little bit more of my story. Extremely random, especially because it’s not something I’ve shared with very many, but I figure if anyone is going to understand, it’s going to be you.

Fine. I see how I rate with you now.

I don’t know what all is going on, but I admire your being upfront with how hard life is right now for you. When I felt my world was falling apart (my husband had left me and our two little ones to live the “carefree” life of a meth addict)…I kept it all to myself. I tried to make it look like everything was fine on the home front. I didn’t cry in front of my kids. The one friend I finally confided in told me what a disservice I was doing by acting like everything was normal…when clearly it was not. It was a sad time. Crying would be appropriate. Asking for help, support, love…would be appropriate. Live and learn. And pass on those lessons.

i commented, Jennifer, because from what i see, you need help. not only, but how you’re going about things mortifies me. i have no earthly idea how you can think this helps you, your kids, your extended family.

I can only say that I am proud of the decisions you have made. Teaching your children what courage and resolve look like in the face of adversity is an incredible gift.

That was really harsh the way you just talked to dad.

Hi Jennifer, sorry to hear all of the pain in your life these days. Very sorry…I can’t imagine what you are going through and I’m glad to hear you have a community around you. That is great! Thanks for sharing about your family.

You disgust me and I will hate you until the day I die.

I love you. You’re the best mommy in the universe.

 

Living Above the Curse (Part 2 – Desire)

Are all men jerks? Of course. So are all women. We’re all assholes – foolish, narcissistic assholes, every single last one of us. Sexism in every form – misogyny, misandry; bigotry, racism, war, murder, rape, deception, thievery, slander, tyranny…all different flavors and labels for the same reality – humans are wired to be dicks, to themselves and each other, and there ain’t a one of us who, if we aren’t outright swimming in one of these, hasn’t at least dipped their toes in them ALL at one time or another and will consistently do so as long as we are breathing. Like I said in the last installment – we’re all cursed. That’s universal. The individual hows and whys are uniquely personal, and (as I’m going to keep circling back to) every aspect of being human falls on a spectrum.

Despite what any human tribe insists (and humans are wired for connection, so we ALL tribe up with whomever makes us feel most protected), there are no absolutes, no certainties, no “should be’s” no “have to be’s.” Nope. There just IS. This idea is all that remains now that everything else has been burned away. Everything is an AND ALSO

We are each and every one of us sacred images of God, capable of incarnating love and redemption AND ALSO complete idiot assholes capable of great, GREAT harm to ourselves and each another – often at the same time even within the same breath. I am, of course, absolutely no exception.

I am also fully aware that me admitting this out loud is what makes me so damn scary to so many people. Nobody wants to admit this about themselves. We all want to imagine we are immune, so we indulge in that original sin – fall for the lie and partake of the forbidden fruit that somehow we alone know the secrets to “getting it right” and hold the true knowledge of good and evil and how to apply it which manifests by obsessing on how everyone else is getting everything so wrong and trying to control everyone and everything in life but ourselves.

Ourselves in the moment is all any of us ever have control of. As such, I am, in this moment, taking control of my own life, ripping the band aid off, and writing the final chapter of the Exodus from Church World, the grand climax being the very public implosion of my marriage.

Is it the most excruciating and impossible thing I’ve lived through to date? Absolutely.

AND ALSO

It really is nothing special. There is no scandal or “moral failure” here. It’s just what it is to be human and to go through life. None of us gets out alive, much less unscathed. We all take our turn at being the oppressors and the oppressed. There are no bad guys or evil people in this story, only sacred, very worthy, very redeemable humans. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I’m under a great deal of pressure from all sides not to talk about any of it and have been shamed and threatened every step of the way for the last 6 or 7 years for not only openly expressing what is happening in my own goddamn life out loud but also my natural human emotions of sadness and anger associated with grief and loss that have been inherent in this process. It threatens the ability to self-protect and pretend of everyone else around me, and when people feel threatened they do very, very stupid, harmful things. It is because I understand this that I do not hate. It is because I understand this that I forgive. It is because I recognize this in myself that I declare there are no bad guys or anyone at fault or in need of punishment (because I surely want mercy and grace for myself). It is because I understand this that I’m still (perhaps delusionally) holding out for a spectacularly redemptive end to this story.

There just IS what is and I’ve got to deal with it as best I can.

By putting it all out there as honestly as possible (what I’ve been doing all this time in all my writing) is to expose the lie (the snake) that seeks to kill and destroy for the powerless nothing it really is. A lie can’t do anything to you in and of itself. You have to believe it and act on it for it to do any harm, and the harm is always self-inflicted and then deflected outward on others from self.

I’m setting everyone involved, myself first, free from the lie so we can ALL stop spinning around in the muck, get up, and get to living.

It is my great relief and pleasure to once and for all expose to anyone and everyone my own unique fucked-up-ed-ness and curses.

The Curse of Desire

“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Hello, my name is Jennifer Dickenson and I have attachment issues. I fall under the spectrum of class C personality disorders as a fearful avoidant. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being utterly unable to function in a relationship) I’d grade myself about an 8.5. At least I did before I died. Fear is no longer an issue as there is absolutely nothing left in this life for me to fear. The worst (for me as far as things I fear most) has happened in spectacular fashion, and it needed to be epic in direct proportion to my extreme survival coping mechanisms that I relied on to keep me numb and “safe” all these years. There’s nothing left now that I’m utterly destroyed. No shame, no avoidance, no self-protecting…but let me back up. This is who I WAS for 45 years before I died and why.

Family of Origin

If you have parents and family (no matter how exceptionally nurturing and supportive or exceptionally not) then you’ve got issues, because parents are human holy assholes too. Add abuse, neglect, or loss into the family dynamic and the issues become exponentially more complex and extreme. Point is again, none of us gets into or out of this life unscathed. We all have unique family-of-origin genetic and experiential curses.

It is being faced with my own human holy assholery as a parent that gives me all the respect and admiration for my own parents now as an adult even as I deal with our family-of-origin issues. The family I was born to is exceedingly wonderful AND ALSO unique in its very real dysfunctions.

I have a brilliant, kind, extremely passive and avoidant father. I have a much-more-brilliant-than-she-realizes mother who is not at all passive. She learned from her family of origin that there is a certain “right” way of being and doing and that her identity and worth and therefore her family’s (female – connected through her flesh) depended on staying within that “safe” and “right” way.

I have elements of both. Despite how I come across in writing, my speaking voice and mannerisms in person are very non-confrontational and, for the most part, shy and reserved. I’m actually extremely passive about most things and am most comfortable shying away from a challenge or fight. I don’t like it. I don’t like to be uncomfortable and I absolutely HATE making other people feel uncomfortable. It’s the worst as far as I’m concerned. But you push certain buttons in me that I care deeply about and I get super NOT passive really quick, especially if they are connected to the things that I am connected to through my flesh as a woman.

The easiest, least confrontational path to acceptance for me has always been to substitute avoidance of criticism for love. That’s my #1 survival mechanism/dysfunction from childhood that I carried through and relied on throughout my life. The price for that was to deny my own honest thoughts and feelings, stuff them down to the point of not even being aware they existed, and to put all energy towards being the good girl doing the “right” and “safe” things as dictated by someone else. Anyone else. Just never myself. I handed over my own power and autonomy out of desire for acceptance. No one took it. It’s no one’s fault or failure. It just IS because I’m human raised by a tribe of humans.

We also moved on average of every 2 years growing up. Sincere, meaningful relationships are extremely important to me. I can’t stand surface level anything relationship wise. That’s why I avoid most relationships until I recognize something authentic that makes it worth it to me. I wanted to belong and be accepted SO bad wherever I went, but just about the time I’d start to feel like I was known and accepted by the herd (school and church), it was time to uproot and move again.

Enter the teenage years and awakening of desire for the opposite sex in combination with those dysfunctions and you had a girl with very low self esteem, desperately wanting relationship, but horribly insecure about how to go about initiating one and therefore found herself saying “yes” to any boy who showed interest in her. Surely another one wasn’t going to come along and she’d better latch on to whichever one would want her. Then once in a relationship, she felt a sense of obligation and responsibility for the boy’s feelings – not her own. Remember, she didn’t HAVE feelings or wants of her own. In her mind it was right and safe to place those outside herself.

By age 18 I’d broken someone’s heart because I’d stayed with him out of a sense of obligation for his feelings and not my own for far too long, and I turned to another boy who showed interest in me to break it off with him, not out of romantic love but as another manifestation of my dysfunction and insecurity. But I was right back in the same situation of feeling responsible for the feelings of a boy, so I stayed with him because surely another wouldn’t want me and I didn’t want to hurt him the way I’d hurt the other. That boy, that sacred human, son of a mother whose heart and flesh were ripped apart forever, would be dead less than a year later because he loved me.

The reality of that was too much. I dissociated. I stuffed that horror down deep and ran hard by jumping back into freshman college life as if it had never happened. That is the traumatized, dissociated, nowhere near in my right mind (if I ever had one to begin with) condition I was in when I met Jimmy. I was a girl consumed by her own curses who fell for a boy consumed by his own. We were a codependent match made in heaven, destined from the very start to go through hell together. It could be no other way because we are each who we are. It is our story and it IS a love story because it is a life story. It is a human story.

A year to the day of the anniversary of the death of my boyfriend, Jimmy proposed to me. I technically knew this as it happened, but I simply would not allow myself to consider the implications or significance or absurdity of any of it. The curse of my desire was way too strong at that point – the desire for none of the trauma and horror to be real – desire for this Man I desperately wanted in every way for the first time in my life to be the “right” man who would take care of me and be the one to hand over the reigns of my life to. He never took a thing from me. I in my dysfunction and utter brokenness projected on to him everything he never had the capacity to be. All things considered, I’m incredibly proud of us both. We did the best we could with what we knew as who we are and that was pretty wonderful AND ALSO that old way of being together absolutely needs to die now.

Yes, a man ruled over me for 26 years, not because he is malicious or predatory in any way – HE IS NOT – I handed over my power and control out of my own desires – period.

Breaking the Curse

I know I’ve done a lot of talking about narcissism in relation to Jimmy. This is not a character flaw or moral failure in the least any more than is being an introvert or extrovert. It just IS an aspect of personality. Truth is we’re ALL on the spectrum and have narcissistic tendencies. My husband just happens to be heavy on one end of it and there are plenty of other humans out there on that end with him. He is the dismissive avoidant to my fearful one. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being a true sociopath) I’d rate him an 8.5 when he’s in his right mind and functioning. He has a tremendous amount of compassion and tenderness. It’s just compacted in the 1.5 and difficult to access and operate out of in ways most people conventionally do. But he DOES. He has been good to me and his children. He is a good man, and everything about our life in ministry together has been genuine.

He has his own family-of-origin curses and I know what they are and how they have shaped him, but his story is not mine to tell aside from the parts that are connected to my own. What I can tell you are aspects of his personality that have always been there and are not anything I haven’t always been aware of. Now they just make total and complete sense. To understand the why and the how is making all the difference in being able to let my desires for the husband I’ve wanted him to be die in order to truly love the husband I actually have.

Some of Jimmy’s defining characteristics that I no longer resent and can now accept for being what they are since taking control of my own life and allowing my desire to die:

  1. Elevated and grandiose thinking of oneself. He is, in actuality, quite brilliant and handsome, so there’s a lot to admire and appreciate. However, when he neglects the 1.5 it gets fucking ridiculous.
  2. Strong desire to dream and take risks – really big ones.
  3. Reluctance to see anything through to completion and abandoning projects/people in favor of a new dream/plan/exciting fix.
  4. Addictive personality.
  5. Great difficulty self-evaluating from a negative angle or admitting failure. Again, he CAN so he’s not a true narcissist in the clinical sense, but DAYUM is it excruciating for him to do so and he almost never will unless forced to, and if you manage to get him to that point he dissolves into a massive pile of pitiful butt hurt in direct proportion to the amount of dismissiveness and deflection he used to fight it. It’s why individuals high on this particular spectrum are so adept at gaslighting and why they do it.
  6. Tendency towards delusional thinking and flipping the script in the face of pain or fear rather than acknowledging and dealing with reality.
  7. Greatest fear is rejection and abandonment – hence all the extreme survival mechanisms to compensate.

Again, I cannot emphasize enough that my husband, though exceedingly opportunistic, is not at all malicious. I also cannot emphasize enough how genuine he has been throughout our lives together, especially in ministry – super especially Four Creeks. He and I both were operating exclusively out of our respective 1.5’s for an extended number of years. That took its toll. He was there for me when I came undone at the beginning of our journey with Four Creeks. I have to do what I can for him now that he has broken…and he has.

He broke and gave up over a year ago. No one could go through what we have without breaking, not even the superman he imagined himself to be. And when superman goes down – he goes down hard. When he is in his right mind at 8.5, he’s functional and loving. When his mind trips and he loses all hope, he goes from 8.5 to 11 into true sociopath territory. He did it in the beginning of our marriage and I knew when he’d done it again a year ago, I just didn’t know exactly what or how bad and I knew I couldn’t afford to until the right time or one of us might not come out of it alive – and I mean that quite literally. Twice in my life have I contemplated suicide, each one in the bookends of trauma in our marriage. Had this come out while I was in Visalia I don’t think I would have survived it. Not there. Not in that desperate place of rejection and isolation. I had to get out here to my family and find the strength to stand on my own first.

The timing has been everything. The only way out was to bring it into the light and expose reality and there was no easy, dignified or sanitized way to do it. I know this man and I knew he COULD NOT do it himself. I knew what I was giving up for myself as well as the condemnation and criticism I was inviting by going public (my biggest fears). But as a woman no longer held captive to her fears and desires I knew when I was ready to stop being a codependent and rise as Ezer. Jimmy is alone and vulnerable and drowning in HIS worst fears right now without me as the codependent he’s relied on to function our entire adult lives together. He needs all the love and support anyone and everyone can possibly give him to figure out how to be in this new reality. We need him to be OK and to come back to some level of sanity and functioning. He has lost nothing but his ability to hide. Everything, including me, is here and available to him in whatever capacity he is able to come back to. Without any reservation I will accept and work with whatever that is.

For those concerned about our kids, they are saving our lives and being absolutely amazing. All four of them are SO over their parents at this point, and it is for them that I am getting this final chapter out so that we can move on together – all 6 of us – in whatever capacity we are able. The 2 adults in their wisdom have removed themselves as far away from the drama both personally and online as possible and are focused solely on their own lives, as they absolutely should be. I am so very, very proud of them. The youngest two are amazingly resilient and are helping me pull my own head out of my ass (especially Libby) as fast as I can. As soon as I get this final chapter out, the focus and momentum is squarely back on them – again – as it absolutely should be and needs to be. There is a lot of exciting and joyous life to experience this year and we quickly need to get to a place of being able to live it.

I have only one more installment for the Curses – The Curse of Man – which is going to reinforce even further just how good a man my husband is and how very NOT shocking or “immoral” anything that has happened is in reality. Then one more piece of art as a goodbye/love letter to the old us and then…? I don’t know. I do know there will be no more talking openly about our marriage or him personally from that point on. The old us WAS for everyone. The new is exclusively ours, whatever that’s going to be. I had to finish the story though. How could I not? I’m narcissistic enough to believe it is of great cosmic significance and needs to be told for not only our own freedom and healing but also for that of many others.

Agony of Light

The hardest part is not the darkness. No. You can still imagine things to look much better than you feel them to be in the shadows; imagine things to be what you wish them to be, need them to be, want them to be.

No, it’s the light that is devastatingly hard and why most avoid all but selective exposure. One cannot pretend in the light for their own comfort or false notions of safety or perfection.

I brought (have been bringing) my entire self into the light for a while now. I was not in any way prepared for the very last things to come out, which in actuality were THE thing it’s all been leading up to. I guess it would be more accurate to say I was finally ready to see BECAUSE of all I’ve been through – to have to acknowlege just how dependent I’ve been on “love” in the shadows – the idea of something I wanted it to be verses the reality of what it actually is.

My physical circumstances have more or less been the same for quite a while and will not be radically changing. I’ve been sleeping (when I’m lucky) and crying alone in bed and have been carrying the bulk of child raising for years.

But what is the thing that terrifies and crushes me? It’s the exposure of an idea that I’ve clung to my whole life as false that causes the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. What a strange thing to admit…to be violently detoxing from the loss of an idea like it was heroin. But that’s exactly what it feels like. I’ve needed someone to be something they could never be and I numbed and sabotaged and stole from myself, denied my instincts and my true knowing and handed over my power in order to get and keep the fix I thought I couldn’t live without – to believe he was what he was not and could not be – to place an impossible burden on him. It’s what we’re all conditioned to do to each other. He and I are, and have always been, extreme cases. We don’t do subtle…ever.

In the light, there is only love most real for whole persons (myself first) separate from any selfishly projected ideas or expectations of them. It is a brutal, brutal detox to let go of my desires and let it all be whatever it will while resisting the urge to counter spin in my favor as every fiber of my being screams for resolution and relief!! But the light is no fix. It is the abrupt and harsh exposure of what truly IS.

I have to let whatever IS – BE…hands off…free to be and do and be seen for what it is by whoever can and will.

The darkness will kill ya, but damn do I miss how good it felt even at its worst compared to this. The light feels every bit like torture and death right now.

I have moments of unprecedented clarity and calmness that punctuate the baseline aching void of despair that at times swells so intensely that I feel like I could literally drown in the feeling of loss and fear and “I DON’T WANT THIS!”

God, please have mercy and get me through this withdrawal to a place of peace, wholeness and love in myself. 45 years worth is a lot to work out of my system to get clean.

The only way out is through and there is no going back or unseeing. Woe to those who have seen and known the light and then reject and deny it, because that is the blackest self-imposed darkness rooted in a self-loathing lie that will kill all ability to genuinely love or accept love fast and permanent.

I exposed the love of my life who is a part of me to the light he once used to guide me to, and then I let go as a final (and first, really) act of unselfish love for him. To do so meant the death of my addiction and codependency and sent me reeling into this tortuous detox. There is nothing but pain for me in it. He has kicked and screamed and spat and spun violently all the way, directed just at me, because he knows I will not and cannot hide anything anymore. It all comes into the light, but I cannot keep him with me there.

Whether in light or darkness, he is who he is and will always be the love of my life.

Into the fire we all must go, one way or the other, and we all must go alone. All I can do is be my own light and to do so I must burn.

Mama, Help Me

My Life in Pictures

I held a funeral for my life, our life, in pictures yesterday. It was an odd but necessary few hours of letting go; odd in that I was the only one in attendance and, unlike most funerals where photos are brought out and displayed, I was permanently putting away and deleting.

One by one our smiling faces, snuggling bodies, tender stances of 25 years from the beginning to the end removed from digital memory and social media documentation. The “perfect” couple, the “perfect” family no longer on display. Some still exist as hard copies buried in boxes in the home where we built a life together and loved two more lives into existence. Some adorn the walls. They are yours now. Most have been deleted into nothingness, never to be seen again except in my mind’s eye where they can never be erased. It is where they belong and will forever remain as they were only ever truly mine to begin with  – my reality that I loved sharing with the world – until that world disintegrated.

I was happy in each one, a genuine permeating fullness kind of happy that I only feel when I’m close to you. Each and every picture of the two of us elicited dozens of glowing comments from friends and family.

Now, they are just mine. My mental timeline. My history. My reality. My truth. It was real. I was not pretending. That has never been who I am. I may miss the mark in mind boggling fashion much of the time…but I am inherently sincere, even in my greatest delusion and confusion.

No amount of evidence, pictures, words of truth written or spoken seem to make any difference in what you’ve made up your mind to believe, and you’ve never believed I was happy with you or ever could be. Yet you always liked our pictures together, telling me how beautiful I am when I’m happy. Well, you giant idiot, who was I with in the pictures being my most beautiful?

We woke up this morning at 3 a.m. to the first day of our new life having shed every last remnant of the old. We’re each free, Babe; free to create and present our lives as we wish going forward. If you want to take some new pictures of us together to have for yourself, all you ever have to do is ask…and I’ll be happy to be beautiful next to you. I’m going to be my own happy and my own beautiful regardless, but I’ll always want to be that with you. Always.

The Last Pillar Has Fallen

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a ridiculously fearful avoidant personality in love with an absurdly dismissive avoidant personality who loves me too. Together we are a textbook perfect psychological shit storm.

For me to finally understand exactly how fucked up we are and in what ways is, quite frankly, a massive relief. Every single pillar of certainty that I’d been led to believe was unassailable has toppled in recent years. Throughout this process, I’ve been clinging to what I considered to be the central pillar, convinced it was the one that would never, could never, should never fail. Then it too began to crack and pitch and I could no longer depend on it for safety and comfort.

And that’s the sickest/saddest part about the whole thing- it had never provided me the stability and protection I’ve always craved. No, this “central” pillar never stood still. It was perpetually restless and roaming, resistant to anything and everything that sought its support. Yet I’d been conditioned to believe that it must be that for me and had convinced myself that the reason it wasn’t was entirely my responsibility. If I threw every bit of myself into “supporting” this pillar, i.e. clutching ever tighter as it jumped and swayed precariously, feverishly patching cracks to keep up appearances (we’re good…we’re solid…we’re fine), it would eventually be still and strong and a source of stability and safety around which the rest of my life could nobly function.

It’s actually quite the comical visual. Everything else in my world had long ago disintegrated into rubble and ashes, yet here I was still insisting it was right and good to chain myself to the remaining wobbly and wild pillar that wasn’t even holding anything up and was aggressively trying to shake me off for my own good as it approached terminal collapse.

Up until 3 days ago, choking on spite in spite of what seemed like the never-going-to-end 9.0 temblor that had disintegrated everything I thought should be but never really was, this remained my unshakable belief –

If this one falls, I will die. If this one goes, I’m an ultimate failure. If this one crumbles, I’m the biggest shameful idiot there ever was.

I would not allow myself to let go until the shaking stopped. My God, my God…please MAKE IT STOP! I’m so exhausted and spent and empty…make it stop…make it stop…make it stop…

Then let go, you dear delusional girl. LET GO of the thing that is shaking so violently and let it crumble. You won’t die if you let go…but you surely will if you keep trying to hold it together. Let go, Love. Let go. Let everything die so that you can finally live. 

And I did…right there standing in front of the kitchen sink doing the dishes. I saw it. I understood fully and gave myself permission to do what up until that very second had been unthinkable – give up on my marriage, my idea of what this thing is supposed to be and let it collapse all the way.

The crushing, debilitating panic instantly vaporized. There was no crash, no boom, no implosion, only instant relief and supreme stillness. In that divine stillness such fullness, warmth, nurturing and belonging.

Oh heeeeeey, there They are, Whatever God There Is, or rather – there I AM. Then it began bubbling out of me. A wide, wild grin took over my face followed by unconstrained giggling before finally erupting into deep, somewhat maniacal laughter. I’d imagine it’s the same euphoria one would feel upon realizing they and their loved ones were alive and safe after a disaster, even if they’d lost everything else to it.

And that’s where I am. It’s all gone. All done. Everything, and I do mean everything, that was but actually wasn’t, is rubble. It’s sunrise and I’m getting my first look at the scene after the quake storm (as my oldest Big used to call it when she was little) and I’m happy. Giddy, in fact. I’m in no hurry to clean up or rebuild. I can’t even think about that right now or what it might look like. All I know is that I don’t need to know anything and the future doesn’t have to be any certain way. There is no should be or should have been. There are no supposed to be’s. 

Will a couple of middle-aged, highly avoidant personalities find a new way of being together now that everything has fallen apart? Yes…they will…in some capacity, but I no longer have any expectation for what that must look like nor sense of obligation that I should. Whether what is to be exceeds my wildest dreams of fulfillment or is something wholly undesirable that I never imagined for myself or my family (reality is certain to be somewhere on the spectrum in between)…I AM going to be OK.

There only IS what is, and right now is sacred and pure and I’m not about to rush through this gift of serenity and stillness in the aftermath of the Great Reduction. I’m going to rest here, just me and Whatever God There Is, who have always manifested Themself to me in reality, and find the comfort and security I crave with Them as I laugh/cry in unhinged relief as the encroaching light incrementally reveals all that is now after the shaking. I’m alive, goddammit. I’m alive…and for the first time in my life not lonely and afraid.

Oh, there I am. You lovely, demented girl. Take a beat and then let’s get to work building up YOU – the central pillar – strong and true. Who knows what beauty these hands are capable of creating with what IS now that they’ve finally released their death grip on what never was.

Mama, Help Me

Mama, help me! Please be real

Mama, help me! Hold my hand

This absolute brilliance

To see things as they truly are is more than I can bear alone

Mama, help me…help me…help me

I listened and followed you out

My senses instantly assaulted with stench and horror

A legion of putrid corpses exposed

Mama, help me! Hold my hand and walk with me through

Mama, help me! Please be real

Don’t leave me here to die in the light…alone

Beautiful Together

Some days are better than others. Most of today was pretty good. Tonight, I’m drowning.

When I discover I hurt someone, I become undone. I will do everything in my power to do no harm in the first place, to stay out of the way, be the good girl, and not cause anyone any trouble. So when I inevitably DO cause someone else pain, distress, discomfort (even if utterly unintentional), I will go to extremes to adjust my behavior to “fix it.” In the case of real harm inflicted by me, that’s a good thing, and I own it quickly.

If it’s a matter of someone else’s discomfort, sometimes a compromise on my part is the loving thing to do. Other times, their issue is theirs alone and I have no business owning it, and changing my behavior to appease them is wrong and unhealthy for everyone concerned. I’m getting better at distinguishing the healthy path in relationships without jumping to my default mode of losing myself to keep a false peace.

Where I’m having the hardest time right now and feeling very out of control is how I handle defensiveness and resistance from people when I show them how their actions are hurting me. Because I’m so damn sensitive myself about causing others any discomfort, when someone isn’t responsive to me and my hurt (and if I express it to them at all, that in and of itself took a tremendous amount of energy and courage to do)…

I

AM

CRUSHED

And when I am crushed I lose all sense and control.

The more significant the relationship, the more devastating it is. It doesn’t matter how well I understand the person and how they tick and which dysfunctions drive them to do what they do. When I show someone as clearly and rationally and honestly as I know how that THEY ARE hurting me and they push me off, or worse, double down on doing the thing that causes me pain or makes me afraid, this is the only way I’m capable of processing it –

That my pain is invalid and/or threatening; either way, greatly unwelcome to be expressed. 

Me being hurt is the sacrifice they are willing to make for their own survival. 

I DO NOT MATTER. I am not worth it. I am unloved and unlovable.

This is, of course, a total PTCS (posttraumatic church syndrome) issue. I just typed and then deleted the story behind it. It’s not worth telling at this point other than to garner some “Oh, you poor darlings.” I don’t want or need that right now. What I want and need is for the damage that was done to my psyche and soul to stop wreaking havoc in my closest relationships.

The last year of marriage has been our hardest to date, and that’s saying something if you’ve read our stories.

Jimmy and I both experienced intense abuse and hardship solidly together as a team over the last 5 years, both doing all we knew to do to survive as a family. We’re also both incredibly damaged on the other side of it and our needs in survival mode are very, very different. They do not play well together at all. Getting too close to the hurt (vulnerability) triggers him, so he avoids, self medicates, numbs and distracts himself from it. I desperately need to make sense of my pain and get as close to it as possible. Vulnerability is my salvation. To be dismissed and left alone in my greatest, deepest pain where I AM because it is too much, spirals me into crushed crazy person mode.

We’ve never been easy, but we’ve always been beautiful…until this last year. We had to separate emotionally from each other, and now physically, just to survive. This makes me so devastatingly sad and angry because I’ve always known just how beautiful we are together.

I don’t think you ever could see Us as beautiful because you couldn’t see yourself and your part of our equation that way, masking your fear and doing anything to stay one step ahead of the shrieking demons of inadequacy and failure nipping at your heels. Those goddamn demons finally overtook you this time…and I’m glad. There’s nowhere left to run and you’re going to have to fight to the death to get them the hell out of our marriage so we can get back to being beautiful together.

We had a way of being together that worked well in the context of our old life. When that died, so did our way of relating to each other.

It had to. Everything had to die.

Fight hard and die ALL THE WAY, My Love. We both have to.

New life WILL take hold. We will be beautiful together again. But we’re not going to look anything like we used to because we cannot BE anything like we used to. We are, neither of us, the same person we were just a little while ago. We are each transitioning and have to, by necessity, go it alone with Whatever God There Is in this process.

It’s OK if I go first.

cliff_jump

I’ll be here waiting, Babe, when we’re both ready to be beautiful together again. Even at our ugliest, there is nothing and no one I’ve ever seen that compares to Us, together. You will always be the only one who matters; the only one I want and need, the only one I need to want to see and love me as deep as I go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy & Jennifer, a Beautiful Rowdy Love Story 2.0 – The Camping Trip

It might sound a little bragish, but I think our marriage is exceptionally great. There isn’t a single couple I’ve ever envied and thought, “Gosh, I wish our relationship was like theirs.” Not that I haven’t been miserable and desperate for change in my own at times, but I have always considered the one I have worth fighting and even dying for.

We’re also more than a little ridiculous together and we’ve accumulated a whole lot of NOT EASY in our 25 years of being hitched, but this is precisely what makes us so great together.  We’ve managed to navigate some insanely treacherous territory as the perfectly dysfunctional hot mess we are. As I write this, we are bracing ourselves for yet another trip through the wringer, this one likely to stretch us beyond recognition into something quite different.

Painful as that sounds (and is), it’s more or less been our normal every few years. Several years ago I documented the first traumatic rodeo we experienced as newlyweds (Jimmy and Jennifer – A Beautiful Rowdy Love Story) and I was blown away at the response it received. Turns out when you dare to expose yourself with that degree of raw vulnerability, a lot of people feel relieved and free to say “Me too! I thought I was the only freak who couldn’t get their shit together!”  I also understand it can be rather unsettling for those not ready to release their tightly-clenched turds or admit they even have any.

But for those who are up for another installment of the shit show that is Jimmy + Jennifer, come gather ’round the fire and snuggle up to your significant other as I recount more of our ancient history and what has become the great metaphor of our marriage…

THE CAMPING TRIP

It was spring break 1993, just a few months before I would graduate from college and all hell would break loose in our fledgling marriage. All I knew at that point as a grossly naive 22-year-old with 18 months of matrimony under my belt was that I hardly ever saw my husband, had no social life, and was very unhappy. So when Jimmy suggested we get away together for a couple days of camping in the Mojave desert where he grew up (and where we’d fallen in love 3 spring breaks before), I was thrilled.

Day 1: Trusting Jimmy that he knew what he was doing being on his home turf, we drove to the top of a mountain that overlooked a desolate valley and the Colorado River in the distance. The plan was to hike down the mountain and camp by the river, so we stuffed our backpacks with as much bottled water as we could carry, leaving more behind in the car. I asked Jimmy if he thought we had enough. He assured me that even if we ran out we could refill at the river. I wasn’t OK with the thought of drinking river water, even boiled, but Jimmy assured me we’d be fine.

As we peered down the mountain, one side had a relatively smooth, direct trail leading from a transmission tower at the top down to the base. The other was covered in large boulders. We headed down the side without the trail because – OF COURSE WE DID.

By the time we reached the bottom after an hour of slowly lowering ourselves rock by rock, fully loaded with gear on our backs, our thighs were absolutely destroyed, but as young seemingly indestructible 20-somethings we laughed it off and started hobbling in the direction of the river…at least as far as we could tell since we couldn’t see it once we were on the valley floor.

I asked  Jimmy how we would know we were staying on track. He told me we’d find one of the many washes once we got closer and follow it down to the river. I thought a compass would have been a safer bet, but hey, I’d trust the guy who grew up running around in this dirt.

We spent the rest of the afternoon happily walking and talking and exploring, Jimmy reminiscing about growing up a desert rat. As it started to get late with no river in sight, we decided to set up camp for the night and hopefully reach it the next morning and spend that day and next night by the water. Though it wasn’t blistering hot (yet), April was still plenty toasty weather, and a refreshing dip in the river and resting my super sore legs for the day sounded mighty fine to me.

That night under a blanket of stars, and nothing else, just as Jimmy and I were getting down to romantical business, a large fleet of Apache helicopters descended low and began thundering across the valley directly over our heads before we could do much of anything to cover up. I’m sure if there were any young Marines who noticed us they enjoyed the show.

Day 2:  We set out early eager to find the river and have a day of play and rest from hiking. Jimmy suggested we descend into and follow the nearest wash which would surely lead us there quickly. An hour passed…two…three…four. Our water was running low. I increasingly kept suggesting we give up on the river entirely, but Jimmy was insistent. We had to be almost there. We finally stumbled onto a road and another hiker who was able to tell us the river was still a good 5 miles away and our path had been running parallel to it.

Jimmy’s reaction: Great! We’ll follow this road and be there in a few more hours.

Me: @*&#%?????

Jimmy: Fine. You stay here, I’ll RUN to the river and bring back water.

After unleashing another steady stream of expletives and screeching he’d do no such thing, I sat down in the dirt and refused to move. I was taking over this operation. We were going to stop, set up camp for the night, ration our water and head straight back for the mountain first thing.

Night 2, instead of romantical shenanigans, there was only seething silence and restless tossing and turning, trying hard not to think about the 10-mile hike back that awaited us the next morning or the 2 remaining 16 ounce water bottles that were going to have to be enough to get us through.

Day 3:  We started out as early as we could to get as much walking in the cool of the day as possible, waiting as long as we could in between tiny sips of water. The only positive was being able to clearly see the mountain we were headed to and knowing an oasis awaited us at the top. By the time we finally reached the base of the mountain, we’d long since run out of water and were dangerously thirsty. We slowly began the tortuous ascent up the long, steep trail on the opposite side from which we’d initially come down.

Even though my legs and throat were screaming, I got a sudden boost of energy and moved briskly.  The end was in sight, dammit, but Jimmy was failing. At about the half way point, he lay down unable to go any farther, dangerously dehydrated and risking heat stroke. It was up to me to make it to the top and get the water.

What followed was probably the longest 15 minutes of my life. I’d never experienced such desperate thirst, and I hope to never do so again. About 2/3 of the way someone’s old Big Gulp cup tossed on the side of the trail cruelly mocked me.

As I approached the summit with relief just a few more yards away, a horrible thought struck me. What if for some reason the car wasn’t there? What if someone had stolen or confiscated it? Suddenly the hope that had been giving me almost superhuman endurance was sucked right out of me and replaced by terror.

As I rounded the last bit of the hill full of dread and the summit came into view, I was startled to see the entire mountaintop crawling with Marines. The Boys had used our mountain to set up operations for their desert training drills.  And there was our car, right where we’d left it, except now surrounded by military vehicles buzzing about. As I stumbled through the surreal scene toward the car, a cute guy in desert camouflage gave me a cheerful, “hello ma’am” and continued on his way. I tore open the trunk and inhaled at least 3 bottles of water, letting the relief wash into and over me. It felt like heaven to finally sit down and take my time with bottle number 4.

But crap! Jimmy was still half way down the hill. I suppose I could have asked a Marine to help me go get him. I’m not sure why I didn’t ask the cute one. I did actually contemplate rolling some bottles down the hill rather than have to go back down there.  After a very deeeeeeep sigh, I put my backpack in the trunk, tucked a few bottles of water under my arm and reluctantly headed back down the hill, my thighs loudly protesting being forced to do the downhill thing again.

Once Jimmy got a bit of hydration, he perked up enough to walk to the top, but I had to carry his pack. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking on that second climb, but I imagine it was something along the lines of,”‘Let’s go camping’ he said. ‘It’ll be fun’ he said…grumble, grumble…City Slicker wife had to save Mr. Desert Expert Sissy la-la Pants.”

I then drove us down the mountain to the nearest town where we stopped and eagerly consumed a bunch of Carl’s Jr. cheeseburgers in stunned silence, until Jimmy piped up, “That was a great trip.”

Sigh…was it too late to go back for that Marine?

We Are Who We Are

We learned some things about ourselves and each other on that camping trip and have watched them play out time and again in our relationship over the years.

Jimmy values the big picture, not so much the details. We went camping, we came back. It was an adventure. That’s a win in his book and the experience itself is the reward and totally worth it.

The details are where I live so that we CAN live. They matter to me, and it’s good that they do. But I can lose sight of the big picture quite easily and without his adventurous yin to my play-it-safe yang, I’d miss out on much of the richness of the human experience if left to my own devices.

I never would have initiated going camping. Never would have seen the breathtaking view from the top of the mountain. Never would have made love under the stars. Never would have learned what a complete badass I can be when pushed to the brink.

Being extremely intuitive, Jimmy is a brilliant dreamer and a fantastic implementer but rarely has any kind of exit strategy.

I’m horrible at planning or initiating, and I’ll commit loyally (to a fault) to his plans and often marvel at his genius, but it usually falls on me to recognize when we’ve hit the end of the road and I simply can’t and won’t go any farther. Then, and only then, do I  assert myself and pull the plug.

We do our fair share of butting heads along the way, me fixated on the details, him with an eye on the big picture. To carry the camping trip metaphor into what we are facing right now, we’ve been in the thick of it for the last year.

I went into our latest big adventure of planting and pastoring Four Creeks Church with Jimmy with my whole heart and soul, fully trusting in his plan, and its conception and implementation were truly brilliant. But no amount of good intentions or brilliant planning could save us after we were abandoned by the church that sent us out, left in the desert to fend for ourselves with very little water. We eeked out an existence for as long as we could, but our resources eventually dwindled down to nothing. We kept walking thinking surely the river was right around the bend…but no. Relief just wasn’t going to materialize no matter what we did.

Jimmy and I are ridiculously stressed and have been for an extended period of time. We’re butting heads dealing with it the only way we can…as ourselves. True to form I pulled the plug on Four Creeks. I pushed through so much for so long until I simply could not take another step. I also realized I could not continue to live in this town, this desert, where we’ve been utterly despised and rejected. I need my family, my children, my parents – my oasis – and I have to get to them to live.

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It’s me this time who’s stalled out half way there and it’s Jimmy who’s going to do more than just climb the mountain for me – he’s gunna sacrifice himself and move the damn thing.  He’s masterminding and financing my exit strategy and rebirth.

I’m relocating to Nashville in a few short months with our 2 youngest to be near our 2 oldest college kids. I’m going to be living right around the corner from my parents when I’ve never before lived within driving distance of them my entire adult life.

Jimmy is going to stay behind in California to work and recover financially from the last few years – in the desert alone without the comfort and affection of his family. We don’t know for how long…at least a year, probably 2.

And once I get out there, I’m going to have to get in touch with my inner badass once again. I’m going to have to figure out how to do things on my own I never felt capable of or allowed myself to do before without my yin and Jimmy without his yang, but for the first time ever I’m going to have abundant resources and support to figure it out.

I suppose most couples go on a cruise or something for their 25th anniversary. We’ll be spending ours 2000 miles apart, ’cause that’s just how the shit show that is our life seems to roll.

Even so…I don’t regret a minute with this man. Not a one. The big picture, the views from the mountain I’ve experienced together with him are breathtaking, as is making love to him under the stars. Every aching muscle, every scarcity, sacrifice and near-death experience is more than worth it for this adventure.