Letters … ~ Ch 6: Finding a Way Back

6bIf we look we can find blessings in what feels like overwhelming dire straits. They’re little oasis’ in a desert, four leaf clovers in a briar patch. If you’re reared in a life of faith they will show themselves. It’s up to us to look, find and appreciate them.

PreviousLetters… ~ Ch 5: The Pile On

Dear Grandchild,

The events of this “Letters” series began roughly five years ago when health insurance costs were rising and mine was no exception. “You cost more than you’re worth to me,” he stated flatly, determinedly, matter-of-factly, like every resource we had was 6ehis and my being alive needlessly drained them.

As bizarre as I find anyone saying such a thing (I trust you do, too), that is how he really thought (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Every article on the subject defines narcissists as keenly adept actors who pretend emotions that they witness in others because they are incapable of their own. Most bystanders find them very endearing on the face. A narcissist is never so vicious as when you leave them (stop giving “narcissistic supply“). That’s when you see what their character really is. (Refer to video in Chapter 3.)

I’d identified his narcissism, but I hadn’t studied it at length and being married for so long I didn’t know what to do with that knowledge anyway. Unknowingly, I had stopped feeding his ‘narcissistic supply’ by standing up for myself more, which I now know triggered this revelation. When I suggested we amicably part he immediately turned as vile in demanding I ‘get out.’ There was no reasoning and there wasn’t going to be any sharing. He wanted it all and in his mind it was all his. The pompousness of that attitude makes you want to barf before you slap them silly.

It was such a blatant revelation of truly despicable character that I found it pathetically mind-numbing. What do you say to something like that? Argue it? “Oh yes I am worth something,” like that? And that would get you …. where?

There were many things he needed to hear and there actually were things I could’ve said, though those would not have been the least bit decent. That was a critical time to stand up for me whether he listened or not, but I blew the opportunity and I live with that serious regret.

Thinking there was nothing more to drain from me, he justified stealing it all and putting me aside with less remorse than those who put-down an old dog. By nature of being a narcissist it took far, far less than words like his to “hurt” his feelings. Just forget to praise his cooking or yard work and see what that got you. (Unadulterated rage.)

6fThe good thing was, at his age he didn’t have another 20-years to bleed other women dry. Out of all of his prior relationships I was the longest running so I must’ve had a heck of a lot more ‘usefulness’ than he could ever find in any of them.

As he drug out the divorce tying to hang onto all of the money, making it considerably more tedious and ugly than need be, months of life trudged on as described in these chapters. By the time I was free of his narcissist hook everyone in my family but you and Dad were gone. The day of divorce Dad was ecstatic, the most gleefully excited I’d seen him in a very, very long time. It felt good to share that with Dad. God bless Dad.

A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones. [Proverbs 17:22]

From my packing to leave the marital home through all of the stages of suffering divorce one-and-a-half years later, I’d disciplined myself to make only “good and right” decisions. I left much more on the table than I took. I fought bitterness and anger, simply wanting to live without his angst. I didn’t want to give him my soul, too. I believed that’s how God would have me do it and that God would take care of me if I kept myself walking the honest, straight and narrow.

When divorce wrapped up I was pretty raked over the coals and didn’t benefit much from it other than freedom from him. By then I was willing to pay him to go away. Relying on the good principles I’d set for myself, I refused to counter his personal affronts in court as he lambasted me with grossly maligning lies. Apparently his approach worked better than mine.

With such a horrid divorce and all of the family losses on top of it, I kept asking myself where God was and why He wasn’t helping me. It felt like God wasn’t there at all. To keep bitterness from setting-in I concentrated on counting blessings, like how freeing it was not to be battered by someone every day. That mattered.

As time went on I couldn’t believe God would let me flounder in the intense pain of losing so many people; why He’d let me be so maligned by and among them; and why He wasn’t rewarding me with some reprieve of goodness from all of the goodness I’d tried to lay as a foundation. I had worked so hard to make only “good and right” decisions. Didn’t that count for anything?

As bouts of ill health came and went and I shoved handfuls of pills in my mouth every morning and night to stay alive, I began to tell myself that I do cost more than I’m worth. Why would God let me contemplate such a thing? Didn’t I matter to Him? Wasn’t He supposed to turn good works into some goodness of life? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

6hI fought doubt, asking those questions over and over and clinging to my faith by bare threads. I came to believe God had abandoned me or, worse, maybe it was true that God wasn’t real at all. (I am ashamed to admit that.) Then I reminded myself of all that He had saved me from over so many years and how many prayers He’d answered so perfectly they could only come from Him. I knew He was still there. I just had to find my way back.

There is a verse in the Bible to the effect,

“As the twig is bent so goes the tree.”

That entrenched pilot light of faith was my tether to God. Being reared in His word was the undying belief that flickered inside of me waiting to be ignited again, waiting to be useful again. If I hadn’t had the believing upbringing Dad provided I would not have been able to cling to that when all of life felt so hopelessly against me that nothing felt right, nothing relieved the pain.

I try to never take God’s good graces and mercies for granted no matter how hard life gets. You cannot imagine how much I prayed and yearned and sought peace of mind in traversing the experiences described in these chapters. Some things only God can handle, even when it feels like we haven’t time to wait; even when it seems no one is up there listening; even when we think we’ve given up and don’t know how to get it back.

You’re aware how I’ve encountered health issues of late. I call their medication “chemo light” because it leaves me feeling so very badly. I spend my days doing nothing but giving comfort to myself, remembering chemo and reminding myself it could always be worse. This isn’t as degenerating as chemo and that’s something to be very grateful for.

In weird ways I’m relieved to have a reason to do nothing but pamper myself. It’s like I’ve needed that for years so I deserve to do it without guilt. Just having the time and resources in retirement to do that is a blessing. I can’t imagine being a younger person trying to balance work and family while feeling this way. I am very blessed.

I recall one of my chapters mentioning how we expect to have “caring people” around us at this juncture of old age. Having settled here only a few years ago and hibernating from society since, I didn’t try to get out to meet people and, as anyone reading this series is aware, now I have very little family.

6iIt’s scary to be so alone in this time of life, but when I strip away the self pity I realize that I’m actually living a self-fulfilling prophecy least expected. Just because it’s not expected doesn’t make it bad — just different.

Now, when I think about people coming and going as used to be, that feels uncomfortable. Just as I was left alone when younger to figure things out for myself, that’s the same way I am today and aptly so. Just let me admire life from a distance. That’s about all the energy I have for it anymore anyway. And that’s okay.

Then I thought about the new people who do come and go in my life now. They are good and caring and so thoughtful. As are those tending to the home. I don’t have many needs that aren’t being met. Wants, maybe, but not needs (smiling). Given how I tend to be such a private homebody, I’m not sure I’d even want more people than this in my daily life.

I was surprised to realize just how “full” my life is given the limited desire I have to be active in it. God blessed me with newbie ‘loved ones’ and I’m so comfortable with them I almost forgot how much I do appreciate them. They are all considerably better to me than my own family (save Dad and you all of course).

God is good to me. He’s carried me and He’s let me walk alone. He’s led me to understandings and He’s walked silently to keep me company as I figured them out. He’s woven caring people into the moments of my living when I feared there could never be more.

The cleaning lady and I laugh a lot, she’s more like a daughter or lifelong friend than a paid helper. I buy household gadgets to give us new toys for play when she does her work. When she arrives at the door CeeCee scampers with the enthusiasm of a child seeing grandma bearing goodies. In many ways, I do have family. They’re just a very different one than what I’d envisioned.

6bLike that undying flicker of faith, I never lose hope, either, that God will make it possible for our broken family to mend itself. I don’t expect that, but I know He can if He wants and I keep praying He’s working on it. Maybe by then we’ll all have our hearts in a better place, be better aware of our own failings and less critical of one another, thus better prepared to receive each other in a brand new light. With God, all things are possible.

If we look we can find blessings in what feels like overwhelming dire straits. They’re little oasis’ in a desert, four leaf clovers in a briar patch. If you’re reared in a life of faith they will show themselves. It’s up to us to look, find and appreciate them.

Ever since a small child Dad would stop to peruse a clover patch for four leaf clovers. We’d do it together, even as I was older, and he always found at least one. Recently I opened a book he’d given me just before he died. Tucked inside its pages is the “I love you” of a four leaf clover he’d secreted there. Its plucked but still-green color feels like a bridge between where the two of us are now, he on the other side of life and me, still here, trying to find my own.

I cannot imagine living the struggles of life without faith that Dad instilled in me to do just that. It may be a long while before your young life experiences serious troubles, but some sort comes to all of us at one time or another. When you do, I hope you’ll reflect on these words.

Lesson Six:  No matter how bad life may feel in tribulation, take a moment to look for a good inside each bad you’re suffering. You’ll be surprised. God is so good. ♥

 

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