Room for All

When love is the way, there is plenty of room for all of God’s children.

Bishop Michael Curry — Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church

 

Advertisements

Help in an Abyss

A woman I worked with is being abused by her boyfriend. I can’t help her.

She came into work with an injured wrist and a bruised face. She laughed off the injuries with semi-plausible instructions, but when I saw her today, she had no excuse for her two black eyes.

“I’m worried about you,” I told her.

“I’m okay,” she said.

But she’s not okay. She has an infant son along with two pre-schoolers and struggles financially even with her boyfriend’s help. I’m guessing she feels trapped.

I don’t know if she’s someone who needs a man in her life, or if she simply longs for a happy family. Along with her three little ones, he brings two older children, and she loves all of them.

She is a good person who is allowing someone to beat her for reasons I can only guess. I want her to go to school, even if it’s just to get a certificate in some marketable skill. I want her to break away from this abusive man and find someone who will treasure her.

It hurts. I can’t help her, but I can be her friend, and stand by her when she decides she’s not going to take it any more. I hope soon she finds the strength to believe there is a way out of this abyss in which she’s trapped. I pray soon she seeks the help she needs.


Image Credit:  © Bigstock

 

Words in the Wind

Today, while in the ladies room, I heard two co-workers talking. One was crying.

“I told her I got back together with him because I married him,” she sobbed. “I thought maybe he’d changed.”

Well, you can guess the rest of the story. He hasn’t changed.

“I know I’m a good person. I’m doing things I don’t want to do because of him.”

As I stepped up to the sink to wash my hands, I said to her, “you remember who you are and don’t let anyone change that.” She nodded, and opened up about what was happening. I listened.

Then I went on to say, “Sometimes we try so hard to make something work, and it just isn’t working. We try to change things, but there’s often something else going on with the other person, something we don’t know about. If someone else makes you feel bad, you need to walk away. Don’t try to figure it out and fix it. Walk away.”

I could see that had an impact. She heard me. Maybe, just maybe, something it took me a long time to learn can change things for her and make her life better now, while she’s still so young.

I’m not saying give up on marriage at the first struggle, but if there’s abuse, if someone is scared, it’s time to jump ship and swim for your life to safer shores.

We never know when what we’ve said changes someone’s life, or a part of it. Years ago I had lunch with a former colleague. He was struggling with a job he hated, and the weight of his despair was leaving him seriously depressed. I asked him the same thing someone else had asked me, and my answer had changed the course of my life.

“What you be doing if you were doing what you wanted to do?”

He didn’t answer me then, but I saw him a couple of years later. He bubbled over with enthusiasm.

“I thought about what you said, and I knew the answer. It changed the entire direction of my career. I have a job I love!” he told me. “Thank you!”

Really? Wow. Frankly, I didn’t even remember asking him that question, but I’m not surprised I did, knowing how it had affected me. What else have I said or done that has had a positive impact on someone else? (I ask forgiveness for things I’ve said or done that have hurt others.)

I hope my young co-worker makes the right decisions and moves on to greater things. I hope she holds out for a man who treats her right.

I hope my words make a difference.


Image Credit: © sunnychicka — stock.adobe.com

 

Being Valued, Being Wooed: a letter to Madi

Being Valued Being Wooed

A co-worker once wistfully told me she’d married her husband because he picked her up at the airport, holding a bouquet of balloons and an engagement ring.

small heart and key“What else could I do?” she asked.

The surprise proposal made her completely forget that a week before, when she was knocked out by a miserable cold, he’d expected her to join him for happy hour with his colleagues so he’d have a ride home. A familiar sort of selfish request, with no regard for her health, or for that matter, safety.

Now this man was handsome, charming, smart, and from time to time successful, but all in all, he was no catch. I later learned she finally left him, taking their two kids and accepting full custody, knowing she’d never get a dime from him for any part of their life together. She got tired of being second best. But it took a long, long time.

Madi, you asked us how you’ll know how a man is going to treat you after you’re married. I guess, in a way, you don’t. But there are clues. Clearly, if he doesn’t treat you the right way now, get out. It isn’t going to get better. If he seems to be trying too hard to get you to like him, give it some careful thought. There should be more than that.

The best advice I can give you is this: Never, ever forget the foundational importance of being valued. If being with that person makes you feel free to express who you are, even to fail, you’re on the right path. It may or may not end up leading where you want it to go, but remember that path.

There’s settling for less-than-perfect, which you have to do, and there’s settling for hell-on-earth, which you should never do.

I have a close friend who for years knew she wanted to be married and have a family. She surefire wasn’t going to settle, though. It took her a long time and frankly, some good therapy, to get to a point where she was ready to meet the right man.

Cupid be true Sky background © Pakhnyushchyy - DollarPhotoClub

I remember finally, long into this, she called me and said, “I feel like I’m in the right place now, but I’m not even meeting men. At least before I could always meet bad ones.”

I told her, “Your outside hasn’t completely caught up with your inside yet. You know what you want and you’re sending out signals to the wrong guys saying, ‘go away.’ You just haven’t started sending out signals to the right guys saying, ‘Well, hello there.’ ”

Okay, I didn’t say “Well, hello there.” But that was the gist of what I said and it struck a chord with her. In fact, she told me later it meant a lot.

You can guess the rest. She met her husband shortly after that and now they have two kids, a boy and a girl. She didn’t settle. It took a long time, longer than most, but if she’d gotten married before that, she would have settled, because that was the way it worked in her life.

Madi, you were wise to ask us this question. Listen to the other ladies; they have a lot more experience than I do. There’s wisdom in the words of many.

Image Credits: (Hearts as Balloons) ©Andreka Photography – Fotolia.com (Key to my Heart) © GraphicStock.com; (Sky background) © Pakhnyushchyy – stock.adobe.com

sibling revelry

Today I called my brother with some upsetting news. Once again, factors beyond my control were thwarting my plans to move forward.

He was the only one who would fully understand how challenging it would be for me, because he’d been with me from the start of the events that led to the distress of today.

My brother was there for me before I even knew I needed him.

belinda-thom-1962

Growing up, we weren’t close. It was my brother and sister who were allies, often, it felt, against me. Certainly I was on the outside.

Yet we share a history, sometimes a laughable yet now bonding one. Once, he asked if I remembered the cookie-eating bear from the Andy Williams Show, a popular variety program in our childhood.

I didn’t, and he was legitimately shocked, because I have a tremendous memory. He calls it memory for useless trivia, which is a little hurtful, because my memory includes much more than that.

Some months later there was a two-hour A&E biography about Andy Williams that I watched start to finish, just to see if this cookie-eating bear would be mentioned. He was, almost as an afterthought, in the last 30 seconds.

I sat through two hours of a biography I didn’t give a rip about just for my brother. I’d do an incomparable amount more if I could.

At the end of my phone call today, I gulped out a thank you for listening to me. He said, with a bit of surprise, “of course!” He’d said the same thing several years ago when I thanked him for flying out, at great expense, to be by my side at a time I can’t conceive of surviving alone.

He took over when I was absolutely lost, and later let go when I’d regained my strength, focus and independence. I’d never known what it was like to have someone value me that much before.

He’s two years younger than me, an age difference that become irrelevant sometime around high school. We started to connect more then.

I remember a sweet, red-haired girl who had, to say the least, a huge crush on him. We had a class together, and she talked about him endlessly to me. I really wanted him to reciprocate her feelings, but I knew full well he did not.

I was, however, proud of the way he treated her. Although he was clear he wasn’t equally interested, he let her know he thought her interest was a high compliment. Of course that just intensified her feelings for a time, but it was the right way to handle it.

me & Thom 1994
circa 1994

Now he has a daughter, sixteen years old, who no doubt brings all the frustrations a girl that age can carry. I hold my breath, then relax, as I watch him value her in the same concrete ways he values me and valued that cute girl in our high school years.

He’s proven there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me. In a lifetime we may or may not be lucky enough to fully show our love for those who mean the most to us.

I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of that love and sacrifice from my brother, a humbling and heartening experience for me. It has changed the core of me, my essential self.


A special thank you to those of you who have been following my blog long enough to remember this post!

Heartbreak ‘Round the Bend

I got a surprise call from an old friend today. Surprise, because he called, and surprise, why he called.

Todd* came into my life about 15 years ago when he began dating a friend of mine, Dani.* The two of them were inseparable for several years, seeming to bring out the best in each other and destined for a happy future. As time went by, however, I began to see some cracks in the glossy surface, and when they eventually broke up, I wasn’t surprised.

But it was a shock for Todd, who was inconsolable for years after Dani called it off. In an effort to get over her, he moved back to his former home town, and I hadn’t heard from him, save the occasional Facebook post, for nearly four years.

He’s not over her. He’s moved back to win her heart all over again.

It seems Dani knows nothing of this; in fact, she’s engaged to another man. As Todd points out, they’ve been engaged for more than three years, and she’s well into her thirties. I admit that does seem a bit strange, but I don’t think it’s enough of a sign for Todd to believe she’s still in love with him.

He’s asked for my support as he pursues her. I know Todd. He’s going to believe until the wall tumbles down and buries him. I told him I wouldn’t support anything illegal, unethical or just plain stupid, and Dani is my friend, too (although I’ve been out of contact with her since they broke up).

Right after I hung up from my call with Todd, I heard from Sandy, a mutual friend.

“I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW STUPID HE’S BEING,” she fumed. Apparently, he called her first.

I made my decision right then. Todd has my support.

I don’t believe he’s going to win Dani back, but I believe he’s going to need friends.

I called him once again, told him (sort of) what Sandy said, and promised I’d be there for him. I also told him I had no reason to believe Dani still cared for him, but that wasn’t what was important to me. What did matter was he knew I get it, I know how his mind works, and I believe he’s going to need someone to bounce thoughts off of from time to time.

Like, before he drives by her house at midnight on a Saturday night to see if she’s home or not. He’s 38 years old, for crying out loud. If he’s going to pursue her, he’s going to do it legit.

So we’ll see. I see heartbreak ahead…but until the break is complete, he can’t heal.


*Names, of course, were changed.

Cry First, and Water the Flowers

I just heard my friend Casey is getting a divorce.

Casey is 29, and this is her second marriage. She has four children, one with her current husband, two with her previous and one from a brief relationship when she was just 15. She’s been in prison, is a recovering alcoholic and lost her three oldest children for a time because of those issues.

Here’s the thing: she is honest, hard-working, attractive and kind. She puts other people first but doesn’t get pushed around, and no one is more important to her than her kids. We worked together last spring, and I would recommend her to any employer.

My heart is breaking for her.

Her time in prison was the result of a drunken argument she had with her mother. She admits to trashing her mom’s apartment after the fight, breaking a few dishes and possibly a chair. Her mom, however, called the police and said Casey had tried to kill her and had been trying to poison her for months.

Original abstract acrylic color painting on artistic canvas. Han

When mom sobered up, she recanted her statement, but the prosecuting attorney refused to drop the case. Casey told me her biggest problem in all of this was she ended up being “too honest,” and the judge flat out stated she didn’t believe her when she admitted to all her crimes in court, but believed she was guilty of much more.

She threw out the plea agreement and sentenced Casey to 20 years in prison, which in my state means with the right programs and proper behavior you’ll serve less than four. Casey served 3 ½ years, came out sober, educated and prepared to move forward.

She worked hard to make things right with her children, met the man she later married and took any job she could to make ends meet. Eventually potential employers saw past the background checks and hired her, and she proved herself invaluable. Her children were doing well, although her teenage son was driving her batty. As fourteen-year-old boys do.

But Jim, her husband, started treating her in the same demeaning manner the prison guards had, and with a broken heart, she left him. She wasn’t going to let anyone, especially the man who vowed to love her more than all others, consider her with such indignity and shame.

I know she will be okay. I believe she will rise above this as she has risen above the rest of the detritus in her life. Still, in this moment, she is crying herself to sleep and struggling to keep her emotions in check at work and in front of her children. She smiles a little and says, “at least I don’t want to drink.”

She has been through the fire and knows it will end, something she shouldn’t have to understand so well before turning 30. It’s hard enough to get through your 20s, but two divorces, a prison sentence and all that goes hand-in-hand with those events makes it a little…harrowing. I told her 30 was the best year of my life, and she has wondrous times ahead.

Then I let her cry.

abstract watercolor painting color colorful background illustrat

Image Credits: (Three Women) © BenRoman — stock.adobe.com; (Chaos) © Gordan — Bigstock.com; (Abstract Rainbow) © Benjavisa Ruangvaree — stock.adobe.com