February 2015

Before You Have An Affair

by Priscilla on February 18, 2015

This post isn’t meant to point fingers or assign blame. It’s meant to help others before they ever find themselves in this position. I have the blessing of the Former Mr TIS to write this, and we both hope in sharing our story, Good will triumph and Love can win.

It all started innocently enough. A flirty text. A conversation in the break room that lingered a little longer than normal. A casual comment. You weren’t looking to hurt anyone. You were just looking for validation, for affirmation, for a friend. You were hoping for at most a little excitement or at least an ally in this weary world.

Your world.

Your world that used to be fun and well ordered is now bogged down by bills and babies. The spouse that couldn’t get enough of you alone in bed now spends a lot of time shuttling kids around or working longer hours or sitting at the computer or talking on the phone with friends. Your best friend and biggest cheerleader in the whole world, who used to listen to your dreams and ambitions, has run up the credit cards or whines constantly or has just simply shut down. Tuned out. Turned off.

You can’t take it anymore. You don’t know why but you can’t talk to anyone about it. No one would understand how lonely you feel. No one else wants out. No one else has these issues. Everyone else has fun family photos on Facebook status updates and goes on family vacations together. Everyone else loves his or her spouse. No one else has ever wanted to say, Screw it! and walk away. Everyone else has a spouse who is better than yours. That praises. That makes an effort. God, would you just make an effort. Everyone else has date night and sits closely together in the church pews, arms around one another as they should in the House of the Lord.

No one else understands…

Except The Other One.

The Other One smiles and laughs and touches your arm and tells you, you are funny or sensitive or fun or attractive or all of the above. The Other One listens without complaining. The other one makes you feel special…like you matter. You don’t even know what’s missing in your own life until The Other One gives it to you. The Other One feeds your ego and makes you feel something you haven’t felt in forever…alive.

One thing leads to another and you and The Other One are now a secret couple meeting in secret places doing secret things…and it is all so freakin’ fantastic. It’s the steamy stuff of movie screens.

But in the movies, steamy sex scenes end when the director shouts, “Cut!” and the food service carts arrive with  catered lunches for the actors, who return to their trailers to eat in peace or rehearse their lines a little more. In the real world, your steamy sex scene ends when you return to your spouse and the job and the kids and the bills. Nothing’s changed. It still sucks – only now you have a bit of fun to look forward to…for awhile… before things start to trend downward. And they will trend downward.

You’re guilty and angry which only leads to more arguments or worse, more retreats because you don’t even feel like arguing anymore. Your home that was once a haven is now a prison, and you can’t wait to get back out…back out to The Other One. The Other One makes everything better.

Only she doesn’t. Only he can’t. Because they were never meant to. Instead of being honest with your life partner and laying all your feelings – the good, the bad and the ugly – out there on the table, out there exposed and easily seen, you are afraid and ashamed of being vulnerable so you just shut down. You quit talking. You quit sharing. You quit loving. You quit being.

And you realize that being with The Other One doesn’t offer any real solutions to your problems either. The situation only makes you feel worse – about everyone and everything. The Other One is no longer satisfied with being The Other One, and now you had to figure out how you will extricate yourself from your marriage and your kids or from The Other One, and you don’t want either option, not really. Not this way at least.

Yes, maybe your marriage was over, but deep down you knew you should have seen a pastor or a therapist or even an attorney before seeing The Other One. You owed your partner as much. Or maybe the marriage could have been saved, but you’d traveled too far down that path, and you felt like you couldn’t go back. You were tired of trying. Nothing was going change, or so you thought, so why try. The damage was done.

And now you find yourself sitting down telling your shocked spouse. And later you find yourself sitting down telling your shocked children, your whole world, that you are moving out and divorcing their mother or father, and they have no idea why. Now they are sobbing and saying, No! Don’t go! Now the person who met you at the end of the aisle can’t get it together – the shock of it all leaves him or her dazed and confused. Now friends and family members are angry and hurt and are trying not to choose sides, but it’s hard. It’s very hard because they are human, and they make judgments even though you aren’t a horrible person. Even though you never meant for any of this to happen. Even though deep down you are kind and good and wonder why on earth you behaved in such a manner.

Your fantasy has led to this reality. And this reality sucks.

So, before you have that affair…ask yourself…is any of this really worth it? Ask yourself are you really the only one who’s ever felt this way. Ask yourself are you really the only one with marriage problems. Ask yourself have you really been honest with your spouse about everything that you are feeling – even if it means he or she might be upset with you. Ask yourself is there really no one to talk to.

Because here’s the thing. You AREN’T alone. You AREN’T a horrible person for being attracted to someone other than your spouse. You DON’T have all the answers. Everyone else IS NOT having earth shattering sex 18 times a week. QUITE A FEW PEOPLE have money issues and wonder how bills are going to get paid. LOTS OF PEOPLE struggle with their faith and how God fits into all these feelings when marriage gets REALLY HARD.

You matter. You are loved. The Creator of the Universe takes great joy in the fact that you are a part of His Creation. Your job. Your spouse. Your kids. Your life. All of these things will let you down one time or another, but the answer is definitely not found in The Other One.

It’s found in The Only One.

Remember this…all of it… before you have an affair.

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Valentines 2015 is in the books, and  it’s been one of my most memorable. I’m moving from a place of praying Help me, God to Use me, God.  I took a break from the Use Me prayer. I had nothing to give…to anyone. The old TIS would have felt shame and guilt admitting this truth. The new one, not so much. God knows I’m spent so what’s the point praying fake prayers. I’ve needed a lot of being time lately, but I’m getting nudged back into doing, and I’m ready for it.

When I married an Infantry Officer, I prepared myself for a lifetime of entertaining because that’s what the Army told me Officers Wives do. I have the crystal wine goblets and the china serving dishes. My hutch is filled with cloth napkins and tablecloths for all occasions.  I look at them every day and wonder what on earth I’m supposed to do with all of it – the sterling silver trays and the glass punch bowl. One of the things I’ve been wrestling with since the divorce is that I feel like I’ve got the gift of hospitality, but what does that look like now?  Who does a single mom trying to figure out her future hospitalitize to.(Yes, I just made up a word.) It’s a big shift…or so I thought…not having a man or his career as part of the hospitality deal anymore. Then God started changing my prayers to Use Me.

The great thing about God is that when I pray Use Me, he knows my situation with limited time and resources. He knows I don’t do crafts or sing or play an instrument…you know all the womanly things we folks who grew up in church were led to believe we needed to do in order to serve. He knows my daughters, not my social engagement calendar, are my priority. God knows I like to laugh at horribly irreverent things. I like kids and young adults. I like eating and drinking with people and connecting them with others I think would be a good fit into their lives. Yes, I know this is hardly the stuff of Heroes of the Faith books series, but it’s what I bring to the table, so when I say Use me, God.  God just says, Okay, kid.

And the next thing I know a carload of female family and friends is unloading in my driveway the day before Valentines Day, and for 48 hours straight my home is full of laughter and talking and music and the smell of bacon. Lots of bacon.

The next thing I know my college friends are continuing my quest to rip out more carpet.  IMG_5033

This is my sister-in-law’s first attempt at manual labor.  She struggled…

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until I handed her a beer and explained that the only way to get through tedious manual labor jobs is with the help of a cold one. She’s more of a wine/girlie drink lady, so I gave her something infused with vanilla. She became a fan.

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My Fellow English Major had a better handle on things, and didn’t need alcohol to get her through the process.

They ripped and cut and hauled away while I fed our daughters breakfast on paper plates.

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They kept on ripping while I ran a 5k with Twin A and B through the swirling snow that eventually grew into a blizzard later in the day

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The ripped, and they tore, and they pried, while I, loving to cook but just never getting enough time now, fixed a Valentines Dinner served upon, what else, but paper plates because friends and daughters don’t care what your china pattern looks like or if you own a silver service for 20.

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My SIL  is still nursing the same beer three hours later. You have to watch out for that one. 

Once the carpet was ripped out, we still had to spend a lot of time pounding nails back in and prying staples out. This small hallway leading to my bedroom proved difficult for some reason. The nails weren’t cooperating – some continued to stick out. This was when my SIL observed, Well, you’re the only one who will ever walk here anyway.

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I called her a bitch and  thanked her for the confidence she showed in my sex life ever making a comeback. The conversation went downhill from there.  The three of us giggled and howled and used horrible euphemisms and commented about all things sex. Pastors warning you about Shades of Grey should probably also warn you to steer clear of 40 Something Mothers ripping out carpet.

We finally finished.

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And before I knew it, Valentines 2015 was over, the car full of females pulled away, my girls left with Fun Time Grandma for the night, and I didn’t hurt…at all. In fact, I felt full and complete and loved beyond words.

A few weeks ago Twin A and I watched the 30 for 30 about Jimmy V. The biggest takeaway both she and I got from the documentary was Coach Valvano’s advice, If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. 

I prayed Use Me, and He returned with a Heck of a Day. I learned that yes, I still do have the gift of hospitality, but for this season of my life it’s going to involve paper plates and lots of little girls – not ornate place settings and military balls. I asked Him to fill up the lonely spaces, and He sent girlfriends with irreverent senses of humor who kept on with my DIY project. I prayed He would make me content in the state that I am, and he sent Full Days.

I don’t know where you are in your prayer life or if you have one at all. I don’t know if you are married, single, widowed, divorced. I don’t know if you are cancer free or just got the news from hell. I don’t know if you’ve born children or buried children. I don’t know if your career is in full swing or if all the wheels are coming off. I don’t know if your bank accounts are offshore or in the red. I don’t know if you are on the wagon, off the wagon or dangling precariously over the side praying to hold on just one more night. I don’t know if your cup runneth over or if it’s shattered in a thousand pieces lying on the sidewalks.  I don’t know if you are standing tall on the mountain’s peak or shirking at the base camp, looking up and wondering how the hell you are going to scale the thing or why you need to bother in the first place.

But  can I share a secret? I’m learning in this crazy journey called My Life Doesn’t Look ANYTHING how I’d planned,  I don’t need to know how, because I know God. 

Knowing God doesn’t mean the path gets rosier or easier; it means I’m never alone. It means in the wee hours of the morning when I lie in bed soaked in tears, God’s already planning  my next Full Day. He’s got just the right people and experiences lined up to get me through that day, and the next and the next and the next. He’s got friends who rip out carpet and family members who share dirty jokes. He’s got daughters who will run side by side with me through the snow and bitter wind for 3.1 miles, and He’s got Valentine’s Dinners served up on Chinet plates and red Solo cups. It may not look anything like I’ve planned, but pretty soon, my Full Days, become my Full Week, Become my Full Year, Become my very Full Life. And in the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t ask for a better deal.

 

 

 

 

 

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While I’m not quite ready to stick my foot into the dating pool, I’m getting there, and  my friend Hattie and I have been compiling a list of qualities a male companion to TIS must possess.  I’ve read not to make any such lists too extensive because men find these to be a turn off, and I will set myself up for failure because there is no such thing as Mr. Perfect.  That being said, a girl has to have some standards…

My list started out quite mundane. You know the normal stuff: 1.) Must be kind. 2.) No smokers. 3.) Plays for team Jesus. 4.) Dog person. 5.) Doesn’t borrow my skinny jeans without asking.

I’m not asking for much, at least I don’t think I am,  but then I started paying more attention to the news – because after all, a woman out there in world of dating needs to be conversant in all things newsy in order to work a room with charm and poise. (Also she needs to wear a lot of red, lean in closely whilst listening to a man, nod her head constantly, laugh at his jokes and look down and up a lot,  smiling coyly. Yes, these are the kinds of skills the internet is telling me I should master when it comes to man baiting.  Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go shove myself into a corset, practice on my spinet in the parlor and relinquish my right to vote.)

Maybe I need to just stick to the printed editions of  the Wall Street Journal  and The Atlantic for my news like my dad taught me, because I’m completely ADD when it comes to links in news stories. Reading news online is like trying to corral cats.  Every name, organization and event is highlighted and hyperlinked, and I just can’t help but click on anything written in bold blue print.  It’s like eating Lays chips. I can’t have just one, and before I know it, my 20 minutes of news reading has morphed into three hours, and I’m wearing an empty Lays bag over my head, licking out any last morsel of salt.

Wading through all this information has brought to my attention the fact that there are a whole lot of men making a mess of things out there for women. So, despite what the Dating Gurus advise, I’m throwing caution to the wind, knowing very well my high standards might leave me single and looking for ever, and I’m publicly sharing my list.  Yes, it may come back to bite me in the ass, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take in order to be a good role model for my daughters as I try to exemplify what a woman should and should not put up with. Also, it allows me to weed out the scaries right off the bat…I hope.

6.) Doesn’t try to outlaw women wearing yoga pants in public…or exposed nipples for men.  First of all, you’re negating half of my wardrobe. Secondly, what girl doesn’t love a glimpse of a male nip every once in a while to get her all kinds of hot and bothered. David Moore .

7.) I understand we may not always see eye to eye on all the issues. I’m okay with that. In fact, I welcome spirited, intelligent debate. It’s quite the turn on for me. Just please don’t bite me if you get angry. Apparently, this is a problem in my hometown.  Also, please give me enough heads up to tidy the apartment before inviting the landlord over. This is just common courtesy.

8.) Doesn’t start fires…in the hospital…trying to smoke crack. Lee Vern Cook

9.) Darwin Award Winners. A study, authored by all men and published in the British Medical Journal finds that men who do stupid things really are idiots. Other idiots are the men who pay out the money to fund such studies. If you are in one of these two groups of idiotic men, don’t call. It saddens me to say this because if you know anything about me, you know I’m a big fan of pasty British men.

10.) When choosing Breaking and Entering as a professional occupation, please be able to afford a decent ski mask instead of resorting to merely scribbling on your face hoping to disguise yourself.  Matthew McNelly, Joey Miller. You know, taking a second look at these pictures, I think I might be judging Joey a tad too harshly. He appears to have made a decent attempt with his Sharpie, but Matthew went at his scribbling completely half assed, and I can’t have that in a man.

11. Thinking about suggesting we attend a Gator Wrestling Class for our first date? Think again. No, Gator Wrestling Class isn’t a euphemism for anything. It’s a real class…with real gators. I’m not going with you. Don’t ask. (I might, however consider wrestling koalas.)

12. Don’t steal my underwear. Seriously, guys, have you priced bras lately? It’s like financing a used car so go buy your own undergarments. Tan  (The article doesn’t give Tan a last name so I’m assuming Tan thinks of himself as being up there with other people in this world, like Madonna or Bono, not needing a surname for recognition like the rest of us poor schlubs.)

13. Since we’re on the subject of Tan, the Proper Noun, I might as well be up front and tell you that I’m not interested in Tan, the Verb, either. So, if you are a man sporting an orange glow for reasons other than medical, please don’t contact me.

14. Again, with the stealing. Guys, really. I know times are hard, but breaking and entering and helping yourself to a can of Chef Boyardee, then not wiping off your face before being interrogated by the cops. So.Not.Cool.  Michael Don Mitchell.  And Russ Neff did you not consider that the poor woman whose house you entered  may have been PMSing hard that day and was looking forward to coming home to a nice long bubble bath, but instead had to find you in the kitchen stuffing yourself with that chicken pot pie? Bastard.

I know I said 20 in my post title. I lied. My creativity is shot, and it’s time for me to go get my hour of lap swimming in (because the experts say men want a fit woman, and who am I to deny middle aged men who steal underwear and eat out of a can the chance to date a fit woman.)

This list is in no way exhaustive so feel free to comment either here or on Facebook. We all learn from each other, and heaven knows I need a lot of schooling in this area.

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Why I Don’t Give A Rat’s Ass About 50 Shades

by Priscilla on February 7, 2015

These past few days have found me flat on my fanny in bed thanks to the flu. I deserved to get it because a few days earlier when  I was nursing Twin A back to health, I said, out loudOh, I never catch whatever you girls get. Never say words such as these out loud. The gods hear and will make a mockery of you.

This quality time with my Serta Sleeper has been spent binge watching Parks and Recreation because really, is there any place on the planet more entertaining than Pawnee, Indiana? I’ve also been reading stuff online about what Christians should be doing or not doing or not reading or not watching.

Sigh. I need to read the internet less and tear out carpets more. So many Christian bloggers fixated on 50 Shades.

In a few years, I will enter 40 years of of my relationship with Jesus, and as I grow deeper into understanding of what it means to be a Christ follower, my ideas of what church should look like are changing.  My views, which are my own, are simple, Church (i.e. us, not the building) should be more about listening and less about lecturing. Less and less people are attending church, and the problem isn’t them. It isn’t their hardened hearts. It isn’t their distracted minds.  It’s us, people. It’s Effing Us.

I’ve got news for you. This isn’t the time of the Old Testament. We don’t live under 600+rules handed down by robed men in a tabernacle.  We live under two rules paid for by the blood of a broken God on a cross. 

Want more people in the church, fellow Christians? Stop lecturing them about seeing 50 Shades of Grey and start listening to their stories of heartbreak and rejection, and you might see the draw of reading the book or watching the movie. Stop telling people that sex done at a certain time in a certain way is evil, and start listening to how they wonder how they are going to pay their next electric bill or feed their families. Stop telling people what they need to do rid themselves of what you believe are the evils of same sex attraction and start asking, Hey, wanna do something this weekend? In fact, can I just suggest that we as a church stop fixating on sex and who is doing what, where and with whom and start simply reaching out and loving people….you know…like the guy on the cross did? There’s so much more to my faith than sex. Really. There is.

A few years ago I was sitting in a Sunday School class listening to the teacher rant and rave against the evils of The Da Vinci Code and how it was leading people straight into the pit of hell. I was one of the few people in the class who had actually opened the book, read it, and found it entertaining.  (I would have gotten up and walked out because the entire thing was so ridiculous, but my twins were two and were in the nursery, and this was the only time during the week I got any kind of adult interaction. I realize now I would have been better off at home sequestered with toddlers.) A friend of mine halfway through the lecture raised his hand and dared to assert, But this is a work of fiction, right? I mean no one is arguing that? So, really why are we talking about this here in church?  The teacher stuttered with deer in the headlights look. I would have much rather been discussing the works of The Prophets – you know – the guys who really made things happen –  but somehow, I’d found myself in room listening to the equivalent of a very bad junior high book club. This is what passes as Church to some people.

I don’t know about you, but I go to church To Be. To Feel. To Learn. To Grow. To Worship. To Give. To Connect. To Confess. I bring my big hot mess of a self every week, and I need a little more than a lecture of how we on the inside are doing it right and how those on the outside are doing it wrong. I go to church so that when I leave, I can face a new week -a week as a newly divorced mom, wondering how I’m going to do it from here on out, looking for a job, trying to be a good example of a woman to my daughters, wondering how the hell any of this happened, wavering between faith and failure. I go to church because the people who sit next to me in the pews hold my hand and whisper encouragement to me. Beautiful seventy year old eyes look into mine and say, Oh, honey, I’ve been there, and I know it’s hard. I’m praying for you. God, I love those women. The women who whisper these words are tough and gritty and faithful and good. They get Jesus. They get the cross.

They don’t worry about 50 Shades or whatever the latest craze is because they are too busy looking at the world right in front of them – the real world filled with real characters, not fictional ones who need to be loved by the love of a God who came down to earth to dwell among us.  We live in a world hungry to meet the El Roi, The God Who Sees Me, who appeared to Hagar in the wilderness and told her she’d be okay. (If you ever want to read a story about a woman who got a really shitty deal, read about Hagar. Read it and wrestle with it because it was God’s Chosen who did her wrong.) We live in a world that needs us to rescue victims of human trafficking, supply fresh water to remote villages, free women from patriarchal societies and adopt abandoned children. We live in a world of Hagars who need to hear the love story of El Roi not another lecture about what’s wrong with Hollywood.

Have I read 50 Shades? Yes, two paragraphs. A friend gave me her phone on which it was downloaded.  I took it, started reading, and I couldn’t stop laughing – the writing was that bad, and you all know I’m a writing snob – so I gave it back. Will I see the movie? Um, no. That means getting a babysitter and taking a shower so I can be seen in public on a weekend.  All of this takes planning ahead, and I think we all know how well I do that.

50 Shades will come and go. A blip on the radar. There will be more books and more movies that will fire up the masses, pro and con. I don’t give a rat’s ass about them. I’ve got more important work to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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