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.

 

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.

San Diego All Over

Endless-loop thought: – How did I get here-AGAIN?

I did everything I knew to do, everything I’m supposed to do, and once again, it just doesn’t fucking matter. It does not matter what I do, think, say, not do, not think, not say…the only one who matters, the only one I want has left me isolated in the horrible void – the upside down – to desperately try and fill his own with ???…whatever it is today.

Here I am back in San Diego. Again.

Alone. Paralyzed. Cried out on the floor of the apartment. It’s over.

If we’re destined to repeat this cycle, I sure as hell hope it includes the miracle desert restoration.

It’s a hope I didn’t have the last time I was here.

Fuck you, San Diego.

Holding out for Blythe, our oasis in the desert – home, creation of new life, family.

That’s the last time I remember being truly happy and whole – there.

Praying (screaming into pillows) to Whatever God There Is that we can get to there from here…again.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Me Become a Working Girl in Nashville

Heya Cage-Free followers,

You may have heard that I’m packing up and leaving behind what was a particularly tortuous cage for me here in California and relocating to Nashville, TN to be near my family (the suburb of Mt. Juliet to be exact). The hubby is staying behind for at least a year to pick up his previous career as a peace officer before he went into full-time ministry 15 years ago, at a point in life when most his age are retiring. This not-at-all-easy option is our best shot at recovering emotionally (for me) and financially (for our family) from the last 4 years of church planting, nurturing and releasing.

I’m going to be free ranging like I’ve never done before (or felt allowed to do), and while this is indeed an incredibly exciting and healing proposition, I’m dealing with a great deal of stress and anxiety and battling my own cages of insecurity and self-doubt BIG TIME. I’m going to need to get out into the workforce and fast in order for us to maintain 2 households, getting out being the important part.

I worked full time from home as a medical transcriptionist for 13 years until I simply couldn’t hack the 40-hour work week and missing out on time with my kids visiting home from college. It was not at all a practical decision to quit as I was carrying our family’s health insurance, but it was either that or suffer another emotional meltdown from which I feared I might never recover and be useless to everyone anyway.

Then I went part time as an independent contractor for the last year until grinding to an absolute halt about a month ago. This too was outrageously impractical. At-home medical transcription is an introvert’s dream job with which I have a ton of experience and it can go wherever I do. The safe and sane thing would have been to continue on in Nashville without skipping a beat. But that’s the problem right there.

My heart stopped beating altogether in this old life. No part of me has been allowed to remain safe, much less sane. I quite literally…

CAN 

NOT

DO

IT 

I was rotting away mind, body, and soul, shut in my room alone at my computer with no real human interaction at work and mostly forced and painful human interaction outside the home in the form of church work for 14 years. That’s a long time to be miserable, but there’s my super power – to be the world’s lamest martyr no one asked for.

I have a tendency (and tenacity) to put up with highly undesirable things that are at least familiar rather than risk failure of the unknown to reach for something self-nurturing and fulfilling.

It’s taken me a lot of self-reflection and self-therapy to determine why I do that to myself, and I think I’ve recognized the root of this dysfunction is the fear of failure, more specifically the rejection and condemnation I fear will be leveled at me should I fail. Thus, I preemptively punish myself before anyone else can. I do this by consistently short selling and denying myself all the wrong things.

I’m intelligent, quick to learn, capable, well educated, and can clean up real nice on the outside when I want to, yet I have the hardest time letting any of these qualities shine. I suppress them mercilessly to appease the insecurity demon who shreaks –

“No one really wants to see you. No one will ever appreciate what you think or feel or bring to the table as yourself. Don’t show yourself or you’ll be rejected. You’ll only be accepted and liked drowning in mediocrity and conformity. Don’t move. Don’t speak. No one wants YOU. No one will ever want you.”

So I’ve consistently settled for what I imagine everyone else wants except for me out of safety lust…yet ended up traumatized and utterly broken anyway. Now I’m spitting mad at myself for the decades spent cowering instead of living and truly thankful for the massive rejection that killed me so that I could finally figure out how to live.

That’s where you, my friends, those who do care to see me and hear me and are invested in my well being, come in. I need you to not allow me to fall back into old familiar patterns of self abuse and dysfunction. I need your encouragement and connection, specifically connections for a job with, in, and through which I can truly live – spiritually, emotionally, and of course, financially.

I’ve got a legit resume ready to go upon request, but here’s my informal wish list and skill set.

What I’m Good At

  • Working within structure and protocol, following procedures.
  • Details.
  • Meeting deadlines.
  • Editing.
  • Communicating through writing.
  • Filling out forms.
  • Checking off lists.
  • Being support staff to the dreamers.
  • Being able to meet and often exceed expectations.

What I Need

Gah! There’s that demon again, telling me I should not ask for what I need, it’s selfish to do so, and no one cares anyway so why even bother. Then I remember I have absolutely nothing left to lose and everything to gain and he shrinks down to the size of a gnat…and I find great satisfaction in squooshing him.

  • Flexibility – I’ll get the work done well and on time, but I work best when trusted and enabled to go at my own pace in my own style, which will always include being available for my kids first and foremost. I’ll have my parents’ help, which is huge, but I’d still ideally love hours that coincide with my kids’ school schedule and freedom to handle the inevitable unforeseen childcare needs. As my Littles quickly become not so little, this will become less and less an issue, but their care must and will come first. Some partial work-from-home options would be the bomb.
  • People – So I basically just said I’m happiest when given a task and then left alone to do it, which is totally true. That doesn’t mean I want to BE alone. I like being an independent part of a whole. I like supporting and feeling supported by a team, working toward a goal together as we each are allowed to shine doing what we do best. A bit too Kumbaya? Maybe. But this is my dream list, so yeah, gimme a smallish group of coworkers I can get to know well and we’ll join hands and get to singing…then break and go do our thing.
  • Structure – I can survive long periods of instability and take unpredictable events in stride, but I cannot thrive that way long term. If clear expectations and ground rules are set, I’ll be the happiest camper working like gangbusters within the system.
  • Money – I need to make some. Full time with benefits would be ideal for the bank accounts. Demon brain turd is back, telling me no one would ever hire me for a full time salaried position. Squooosh.
  • A good therapist – Completely serious. Nashville area Peeps, hit me with your recommendations. Still a lot more work to be done to silence demon brain turd and I could use some professional help.   

What I Love

This is stuff I’m passionate about doing, things that charge me up. The ultimate dream job would be getting paid to do what I love, but these are things I’m always going to find time to do with or without a paycheck.

  • Communicating important things – Usually in writing. As of the last few blogging years, important things worth communicating have been almost exclusively about whatever God there is and church culture. I do actually enjoy public speaking and teaching as long as it’s something I feel is of deep personal importance to a willing audience. I think my ultimate dream job would be a college professor teaching anthropology and comparative religion, but that would require a lot more schooling, so I ‘spose I’ll concentrate on a not-so-ultimate dream job in the meantime to finance that one.
  • Seeing people – Truly seeing them, listening to their stories, learning from them and connecting; being constantly challenged to shed my preconceived notions about people, myself included, and having my perceptions broadened. I’ve very much enjoyed one-on-one counseling and facilitating courses in emotionally healthy spirituality. I’ll be looking for every opportunity to continue this.
  • Writing – I absolutely love it. Writing is my one true creative outlet in which to communicate the important things. I’d love to write a book sooner than later. To get paid for that would be ultimate fulfillment indeed.
  • Lots of alone time to reflect – Can one be paid to have lots of alone time to reflect? If so, THAT right there is my dream job. In lieu of that, I suppose a job with a sane predictable schedule that would allow me to structure my life around health and wellness would be the next best thing.
  • Performing musical theater – For reals, I do. Haven’t allowed myself to even entertain the idea for many years, but now that my heart is beating again, it’s saying it would love that very much.

So there you have it, my friends. If you have any connections for possible employment, I’d be ever so grateful. Let me know if anyone is interested in my actual very basic resume, and feel free to forward this post to those you suspect would enjoy it. Cheers and thoughts and prayers and hoorahs also most welcome. Nashvegas, here I come!

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.

Dreams of Rejection

My dearest silly little Love, why are you crying now that you are solidly on the path with Me with both feet? I was totally up front with you that this is the straight and narrow road so many ignore in favor of the wide and glitzy one. Why do you grieve and mourn that you were rejected and maligned and abandoned for pointing to and following Me? This has always been exactly the gig I call anyone who can and will to accept…and you did! I’m overjoyed and ridiculously proud of you.

Rejoice, you darling girl! Dance, sing, celebrate on this road together with Me! You are swimming in more gorgeous fruit and abundant life than you’ll ever know what to do with.

Dreams of Rejection