Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rising From the Ashes

In response to David McMahon's weekend wandering question, "What's the most important thing you've ever lost?"

Friday night at church, I watched a grief play by Paula D'Arcy. The play was, "On My Way Home." In it Paula told how in 1975, when she was 27 (and 3 months pregnant), she and her husband, while coming home from a trip, were in a horrible accident. A drunk driver crashed into them at 97 mph destroying their car and killing her husband and their 22 month old daughter. Paula and the baby she was carrying survived, but she was barely able to comprehend how she had managed to live when all that she valued had been taken from her.

The story was played out as a conversation between Paula and God. It told how her faith had carried her through the struggles to reconnect with life. With exquisite sensitivity and humor it showed how God nudged her through connections with others and the life she needed to live for. We weren't spared the grief she felt. Nor were we spared the humor of life as seen through God's eyes. One amazing thing is that Paula played herself. That experience must have been so traumatic that one wonders how she could have faced talking about it to an audience of people many of whom she didn't know. But Paula is a psychotherapist as well as a grief counselor and this story, told 33 years later, is part of her way of helping others come to terms with their own losses.

My ticket to the show was a gift from JS. She was going to be out of town this weekend visiting the best of the local seminaries with her family. It was a loving gift and lovingly received. But I had no idea that when I saw the play it would touch me so deeply. That play took me back to the day and weeks after my husband left me. Nothing I've ever experienced in life hurt me so badly as his leaving. Everybody has had losses of one kind or another. Family and friends have both passed on. But the loss that hurt the deepest, showing up when he left, and has had the longest lasting effect was the loss of myself.

It's not as hard to lose a life as you might think, or as sudden. Over the course of 7 years of marriage, I gave way in almost every choice that mattered to me. It started by giving up little things that didn't seem that important. He picked the deserts. No more cherry pie, which I love and he didn't. No sitting together watching quality shows on TV. Instead we channel surfed, flipping every 5 or 10 minutes, till I didn't know what we were watching. Then moved on to more important things. His method of relaxation required me not having an outlet for that for myself. So I stopped playing my guitar, the noise disturbed his channel surfing. The clean house became a mess because he didn't value cleanliness and didn't want to feel guilty about my need for clean. We didn't make friends with any of his coworkers. I handed him control of the finances when I found out he'd never managed a budget before. Even the way the pets were treated was determined by him. I'd have had them in most of the time and treated them like family. For him they were just owned animals and to be kept outdoors. Eventually, my whole world seemed to revolve around him. "Well," I thought (remembering my mother's example), "wasn't that the way it was supposed to be?" Now days I know better. People don't value you unless you value yourself. But back then I was literally clueless. So, when my husband left me 7 years later, I had no idea who I was anymore.

That was just the beginning of a string of heart aches. My best friends let him rent their spare bedroom. Suddenly they couldn't have me over anymore; it would make him uncomfortable. My job was cut from the company payroll 30 days later. I'd been with the same company for 18.5 years. My parents didn't understand why I was hurting so, I guess they hadn't liked him much. Every major role I had was suddenly going down the drain. I wasn't a loved wife, a valued employee, or a cherished friend. After all of that there wasn't much left. No surprise that my decline into situational depression was sudden and severe. Fortunately, I'm a fighter and I wanted to live. So when it had all sunk in and I took a look around at the shambles that was my life, and my view of myself, I realized I had a lot of rebuilding to do.

You might be able to just pick up the bits and pieces of you that dropped along the path of life and regain all that you lost, but that didn't happen to me. Eight years later, I'm still trying to regain bits I lost during those years. My personal mantra became, "I'm going to rebuild a me that I love so much that I won't give her up for anyone or anything." For all that I'm not the person I imagined I'd be after rebuilding, it has actually started coming true.

The me that's growing out of the ashes of that old life is a better and richer person. I have more and better friends. My relationships with them are deeper because I realize the value of them. I'm developing skills I didn't know I had. And glory be, somewhere along the road, I've developed a spine. It doesn't always show up when I need it; I loath conflict. But get on my wrong side and baby watch the fur fly!

After the play, Paula held a question and answer session. I kept wanting to ask her, "Once you reached the end of this play, what did you do next? How long was it before you felt whole again?" I didn't do that. I think I knew that her walk was as unique as my own is going to be. Life will happen when it happens. I'll be ready for it when the time comes and no one, except for God, can give me a time line for that. I just have to have faith. And that was the entire point of Paula's play. That you have to have faith to make life out of loss. You have to believe that the life you build will be worth living. And so it is.


San said...

Beautiful, moving post, my lovely phoenix.

I am so sad to hear of all that you gave up for a man who clearly had not a clue as to your richness. But I'm not shocked. That happens a lot. People give up little bits of themselves all of the time. It really sounds as though he had not a clue as to his own value either, that he glided along the surface of life, much as he surfed the channels on the TV. Same with those "friends" who turned out not to be friends after all.

And the timing of the job loss--that added to the hurt. I do believe, Lee, you are coming into your strength and power, that you are tapping into talents you didn't even know you had. That you are transforming ugliness into beauty. As David said once in a comment to another of your posts: You WILL succeed.

Love & hugs from the land of the dust devils...

Thank you for your friendship.

Cath said...

Lee - that is a wonderful post. Thank you for visiting mine and your comments there. I too have had a husband like that and lost my identity in that way. I could have written about so many different angles, but felt that I was most robbed by the illness as I lost all control.
You have written so well and the depth of feeling is evident. I am glad you are on the way to recovery, as are we all. Keep building - it's good to build. :0)
Thank you for inviting me. I'll be back!

Maggie May said...

Thanks for this very heartrending & searching post. I think that once you have had a really bad experience & hurt, another hurt, or someone else's can take you right back so you suffer again.
Well done for writing such a good post. I am really pleased that you are getting on well with your life again after having to get used to being on your own through no fault of your own.

Jeni said...

What a great thing it is to read of how someone has rebuilt their life - and you surely have done that! Now, just keep on adding additions on to your "home" -your life!

murat11 said...

A great post, Lee. What a wonderful gift you have given yourself: your own resurrection.

Sandi McBride said...

I read this this morning. Now I just finished reading it again. I sat in shock over Paula's tragedy. Then I wept over yours. You see, I don't know Paula and it's tragic but in my work I saw way to many of these tragedies. It's not that I'm numb to it, it's simply a news story. One that I pray never happens to me, though if I'd been sitting in the theater with you I'd have been bawling my eyes out because PAULA WAS THERE AND IT WAS SHARED HEARTBREAK. You, on the other hand. I know you through our shared blogging, and feel as though I could reach out and touch you and really want to reach out and touch your ex and your ex friends...I want to touch them really hard...with my cane. It's made of really hard wood and would hurt them. I wanted to go bake you a cherry pie...I make really good cherry pie. I wanted to listen to you play your guitar (my older son plays...)I wanted to try to tell your parents why you are's not that he left, it's that he left after all you gave up for him, leaving the little pieces of you lying on the ground to be swept away by a careless wind. I wanted to stroke your pets and reassure them that they were loved by you. Some people are incapable of loving to the ends of the earth. I read this and almost felt guilty because I've never lost anything that was life altering. I don't consider losing loved ones to death, death is a given in it people or pets (who definitely are a part of the family...and I'm thinking how much better off you are without that cold hearted weasle. I'm amazed at how far you've come and how far you've yet to go. Although I love the things David comes up with to make us stretch our minds and abilities, I guess this time I'm a stand away...and I'm thankful for it. Now, I came in here to tag you with a foursies, and at first I thought how trite to bother you with this, but now I think it's the perfect thing...I want to know more about you than you can tell in one post and here's my chance. Pop over, the rules are at my place...I wish I could just give you a big hug...

Lee said...

Thank you, San! Your words mean so much! You are indeed one of the gems in my life.

From the land of dust devils, huh? Ah but there are spirits hiding in those whirling dervishes of soil and fragments of decomposition. Who knows what mischief they will bring in their wake?

Hugs & Love

Lee said...

Thank you Cath! I thought I sensed a kindred spirit in you. You're welcome back anytime, as I hope am I.

Peace! Hope! & Joy!

Lee said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting Maggie. You're so right. Others paid does take you back. Hopefully what you feel is empathy instead of fear and the need to withdrawal. If you can't learn to feel for others out of your own pain what else have you not learned?


Lee said...

Thank you, Jeni. That's good advice! Some that I'll surely follow! In fact, it is such good advice that I invite all of us to do just that. Keep on building by adding to ourselves. What riches will we discover?


Lee said...

Thank you, Paschal. It is something I'm proud of. But if I am to give all credit where it is due, I don't think I could have done that without God in my life. He kept me keeping on trying to connect with something. Just like he did for Paula.

Peace! Hope! & Joy! :)

Lee said...

Shoot, Sandi! And if I got a hug from you at that point I'd have cried and clung to you. Crying for someone else's pain is one of the best gifts. I love you too, Girl! And someday I'm going to come collect that hug in person! Count on it!

Love & Hugs!

Sandi McBride said...

Good grief hop on the train...or run to the're welcome here anytime at all

david mcmahon said...

You are so inspirational to us all.

Whatever I say in a comment might sound trite, Lee, but you have looked at the precipice, braved it and found one foothold at a time to come up triumphant on the other side.

You lost so much - and yet you have gained even more.

God bless you, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lee (came via David)

What a truly remarkable post, one to be read over and over again. Your life experiences have indeed made you stronger and helped you to live at peace with yourself. I keep banging on about everyone being special and I really mean it.

So glad I've found you.
Crystal Jigsaw xx

Lee said...

David, I love what you've said. That bit about "found one foothold at a time to come up triumphant" makes me want to go rappelling. :)But blessings from friends are always the best.

God bless you, David!


Lee said...

Oh wow! Thank you, Crystal! You're a repeat reader too? I love reading old favorites again and again. Thank you so much for your kind words. They mean a lot!

Welcome to my world!I'm glad you're here!

Akelamalu said...

I came over from David's to check out your 'post of the day' and what a wonderful post it is.

I'm sure like a phoenix you will rise from the ashes and be better for the experience.

Lee said...

Hello, Akelamalu.
Thanks for visiting and for your kind words.

Brett said...


Lee said...

Thank you, Brett! And Welcome!


Sandi McBride said...

Lee, I've an award for you over at my "house" so please come pick it up!

jsd said...

After my divorce, the first thing I did was buy plants, and slowly I let go of the "things" that were his and not mine and found me again, the me before him - and it was grand.

Lee said...

Coming your way, Sandi! :) Thanks! Now I get to put it at the top of all the other awards you've given me cause I've gotten it from 3 friends now! Woo Hoo!


Lee said...

I'm so glad you told me that, JS. Now you and I can talk over things as I get rid of him one thing at a time. Guess I should hurry to get a job so that I can afford Tivo and stop flipping between American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and Deal or No Deal. :)

Hugs! Hope! & Joy!

david mcmahon said...

Lee, I just read this for a second time - and enjoyed it just as much.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Glad you liked the Singapore picture - beer ad on the bus!

Lee said...

Ah, David! I like all your stuff. I'm sorry I've been so busy lately. I promise that I'll find some time to spend with you and my other friends this week.

Keep Smiling!

San said...

OK, Lee, I've read your post a few times and I believe a little virtual revenge is in order. I was thinking about how terrible I would feel if a spouse or anyone tried to choose my desserts for me. That is the lowest!

So I began to have this image of your ex locked in a room devoid of furnishings save for a tv and a cat bowl. The tv is tuned to PBS, which happens to be doing a fundraiser marathon showing of old Masterpiece Theatre episodes. Oh yes, there is a remote, but your ex's hands are tied behind his back, making the remote, for all intents and purposes, remote as the back side of hell. The hands behind the back are also why your ex must eat directly from the cat bowl. Several cats jostle his lowered head, competing for the sustenance within--cherry pie, a colossal ladleful. The room is maddenly clean, save for a few crumbs, but the cats are making fast work of that. And oh yes, there's a sound sytem which pipes in 24/7 the strains of Tiny Tim playing Tiptoe through the Tulips on ukelele.

A punishment that fits the crime, huh?


Lee said...

To a "T", San! I doubt that Poe could have come up with a better one. We need to share this with Sandi! I think she will love it!

Hugs! Lots of them!

Sandi McBride said...

OH MY GOD I HAVE A SISTER! San, you evil wonderfully clever lady...I nominate you Supreme Court Judge...who would dare black ball such an inspiring Heart of Justice! Oh, am going to have fun dreaming up a narrative for his parole hearing, lol!
Lee, do you realize how lucky you are the bum took a walk?

Lee said...

OMG! What have I started? LOL! I second that nomination!

Yes, Sandi, I do!


Sandi McBride said...

Lee Darling, tell us how the job hunt goes, the career changes in the wind...