Saturday, August 03, 2019

This is going to be one of those posts...

The Face She Shows detail - shield series by Crystal Marie Neubauer
I'm having a bad day and I need to process it. And you may wind up unfollowing me as a result. I kept telling myself to get out my journal, but here I am writing a blog post instead. 

This is going to be one of those posts I warned you about- not my usual bubbly, optimistic, always a lesson to be learned, or a moral to the story, kind of posts. But one where I'm in the midst of it all and don't have a resolution yet. The kind where I may not make you feel good with the stuff I write. The kind where I might just sound like a victim, or an angry woman, or someone who has not got her shit together. Yet.

I posted some pretty art here to cushion the blow. Like one of those chipper songs on the radio that lures you in with it's upbeat tune and then smacks you between the eyes with morbid lyrics. 

You have been warned. *resisting the urge to use a smile emoji here, you know, so you might see me smiling and not as an angry hostile woman. 

The Face She Shows- detail   by Crystal Marie Neubauer
It's not one particular thing. It's a lot of particular things all at once. It's everything. Or maybe it just feels like it. It's one thing that happened on top of these things.

I woke today with runny eyes and snotty runny nose, all achey, and chilled, and fevery. Masto symptoms flaring from a reaction to something in my house that could still be mold. Or it could be the enzyme the landlord just used to fog for mold, fingers crossed. 

On top of feeling pretty damned crummy, I got some unwelcome news with one of the labs that just came back from the last round of tests. It wasn't a complete surprise because I knew this particular thing was a thing I'd be dealing with eventually, according to one of my lupus doctors who nonchalantly mentioned it years ago. There have been symptoms lately, so I knew it was flaring. I just didn't know how much. I'm not really ready to share too much yet. I'm still rolling around with it. Rolling with anger and sadness. Why now??? There will be other doctor appointments and another specialist and more meds and doubling down on eating clean - well okay, I haven't been doing such a hot job with that lately. Since it's been so hard to find foods that don't trigger me, I've been a bit permissive in some of the choices I've made. 

Don't judge. 

Or do. I don't think I care anymore. 

Okay, I don't want to care anymore whether you judge or understand or not. I want to be comfortable in my own skin. In my own choices and decision making. I'm getting there. 

I need to be well. I have a new grandson set to make an appearance any day now. I have the privilege of getting to stay with my granddaughter when mommy and daddy are at the hospital. I'll get to be there when baby brother comes home. I'll get to see my daughter and her husband have the joy of introducing him to big sister. Can life get any better than that?? 

I can't be sick. I've been hanging low on the couch today willing myself to be well, giving in to the feeling of defeat. With the housing situation. With the health issues. With the overwhelm of trying to drum up enough work and sales to pay my bills when just getting out of bed is a major accomplishment most days.

I've been posting things on facebook to make you laugh and to give you a lift. To make you stop and think about things bigger then you and me. It's what I do. It is the face I tend to show the world. Humor is my default. It feels good to laugh. 

And also you won't think I'm such a loser. 

I think we all do that on social media to a certain degree. We want to see the pretty and the polished lives of others. It gives us something to measure ourselves against. If one post makes us feel like a shitty person, we can keep scrolling until we find another post that helps us feel better about ourselves. 

It's not all that bad, but we do that so easily, don't we? Compare our insides to other people's outsides? 

And boy howdy do we all love a victory story. 

I love a feel good weepity weep victory story too. I watch them on tv and the movies. Read them in the books I choose, listen to them on podcasts. We just love to be inspired by the overcomers. But we are so uncomfortable when there's still so much to overcome. We don't want to watch the struggle. We want a two second version of the mess that comes between the challenge and the victory. And we want our victory stories to fit in a tidy box. 

Sometimes the chipper, positive vibe, prayerful, well meaning people can make it so much worse. When I first talked about my diagnosis I got the gamut of responses. It has been an eye opener to all the ways I've blown it when I was the one faced with being there for a friend going through hard times. I am as guilty as anyone of trying to "fix" the other person's problem with helpful suggestions without being asked for advice. I have also been guilty of being too chipper in the face of another person's crisis. Like that neighbor on The Simpsons - boy how diddly doodly, turn that frown upside down - everything's going to be just fine!

One person's first words were a chipper "wow! What an opportunity for God to get the glory!" 

Ahem -let's all have a crash course in empathy, shall we? First words when someone shares life altering news, or any news they feel upset about? Maybe just start with something sincere like "I am so sorry this is happening to you."  Period. You don't have to say anymore. You don't have to do anything. But if you feel like offering prayer or help or support. You can simply ask them if you can offer them prayer, or help, or support. 

You can listen to what that person says they need. It is probably something they really need. Like when I asked you all to help me pack and you came. You packed. You laughed with me and made me feel loved. Or like how so many people sacrificed financially in a really big way when my friend started a gofundme. She graciously waited until I had a chance to be more comfortable with it before she did it, and you graciously responded. That made me realize how very many of you are out there. How many of you actually feel connected to me in one way or another and wanted to show the love in this really amazing tangible way.

It's hard to remember, I know. I have years under my belt of getting it all wrong. Of saying all the wrong things when I really wanted to be there for a friend. I just told you a bit about that. 

There have been implied between the lines judgements that I have not prayed hard enough. That I am resistant to trying the right treatment. There have been quick change artists who are masters of talking about any subject other then the hard one you just tried to share with them. 

Damn this post really is turning into a pity party. It's not too late to walk away. Go now! I'll be fine, I promise. Save yourself! Run!

Oh, still here? Okay. Here's the real story. 

This week out of the blue an old "friend" texted me to say she's been thinking of me and praying for me and just wanted me to know that. Isn't that an absolute sweet thing to do?

Friend is in quotation marks, because 5 years after the last conversation with this person, I am able to look at it with more clarity. It was not a friendship, it was one of those weird situations where someone comes along and takes an interest in you precisely because they think they can save you. Because they think you need saving. The dynamics were never equal. It was always as mentor to mentee that this person would respond to me. I might have an amazing revelation or insight on my own and there was always some sort of correction to let me know I wasn't quite seeing things right. And there was encouragement. She was great at encouragement too, but it always felt like a teacher to her student, or big sister to the daft but loveable little sister left in her charge. But 5 years ago, when the long slow unraveling of my marriage began in earnest, I hadn't been able to fully acknowledge that yet. I was trying to shift the dynamics of this friendship to an equal peer to peer relationship, but we both had a load of toxic waste from our pasts getting in the way of making that transition happen. 

So just when I needed my friend the most, this person decided to ghost me. She didn't like that I was leaving my husband. Didn't believe I had reason to as a good Christian woman. Because you know in some of those circles it doesn't actually matter how the husband behaves, the onus of responsibility for keeping that marriage together is typically on the wife. So I was in process of making that decision, to leave what was a very unhealthy situation. And to make a long story a little shorter, after several conversations and many tears in which she tried to convince me I was making the wrong decision, she just ghosted her way out of my life. 

It didn't start that way. It was one of those honorable situations where good Christians tell the wayward sinner that they are on the wrong path and try to warn them to turn. (I was the sinner in this scenario). Then they bring two more friends to put in their two cents about the error of your ways - because verbally abusive toxic apathetic underfunctioning men just need their wives to be kinder, and more loving, and compliant. That's how they are shown Gods love -by their wives standing in the face of the unfaceable, no matter what. Don't even think about protecting yourself by leaving. 

You know, I sat in a tiny church service once and listened to the pastor tell a story about a good woman who was being beaten by her husband. She didn't yell and scream back- she stood silently and took her beating. She just stood there and took it and her loving demeanor afterwards actually changed her man. Her silence allowed him to see the love of Christ. And if Christ didn't run from his beating, then by golly who the hell are you to think you should? Yup. I shit you not. I sat there in the basement of that place knowing that this sermon was pointed my way, my shame pinning me to that seat. I wanted so badly to be a good christian woman. And things weren't so bad. I wasn't getting a physical beating. 

I tried. I worked hard at getting counseling for my own problems. Came to some hard reckonings about my life. And little by little I was healing. But this thing that kept me trying in this marriage, taking all the responsibility to fix it - that was a hard one to let go of. And I'm not saying he wasn't trying. He just hadn't come to his own reckoning yet. 

So coming to that place 5 years ago of actually making the break, that was something of a major victory for me. Yes it's true that I gave it another whirl after a couple of tough years on my own. I told you it was hard to let it go. It was hard as holy hell. And I needed support and I needed love. Not the tough love of a church that had told me often I was family, until they disagreed with my decision. And especially not the tough love of a friend who thought that she was on some high spirit led road following scripture by putting this lowly sinner out of the circle in order to bring me back to the flock on my knees. Fuck that.

To this day there hasn't been one iota of ownership from her. Not one peep to indicate she felt bad for her decision or had come to realize she errored in abandoning me. Nothing to indicate any sense of remorse for the way she handled it so shittily. so very shittily. Oh did I mention how they all, her included, rallied around poor pitiful him after I left? They poured out their love and support and their prayers over him for the abandoning thing I did. Good women just don't leave. They don't even dain to talk about what goes on behind closed doors with their husbands. It is up to us to protect our mans reputations at all costs. 

Do I sound angry? God it feels good to let it out. This is not my dirty secret to keep anymore. Toxic relationships were my specialty. With my church, my friends, and my marriage. 

Sidebar: Because I still do care a little too much what people think, and I still have my fair share of insecurities, let me stop here to defend myself a bit...

I've never walked away from my faith. I have a freaking amazing counselor who has been helping me to heal all of the wounds that kept me in very sick and very unequal relationships. And I have finally come to understand that my walk doesn't have to look like yours. I have a different audience and different circumstances then you. If I have any sort of testimony that Jesus wants me to tell, it speaks to different people than you. They get it. And I'm not disqualified because I swear or left a toxic relationship or have a fucking illness that God has not healed me from. To God be the glory - indeed. But He gets to decide what that looks like in my life, not you. So if I am not getting a miraculous healing and if I haven't had a perfectly hey-diddly-oh chipper attitude about every single thing I have on my plate right now, it doesn't mean I am lacking in faith. Good Lord have you even read the bible? Not everyone escaped their circumstances scot free. You are following a prosperity gospel if you think every sick person in your life just hasn't found the right way to pray or wants to hold on to their illness for some sinful godforsaken reason. What a terrible thing to think about someone.

Also you are a bit of an asshole. You hurt people with that attitude and that plain sucks. God doesn't need that kind of representation. Thankfully for both of us he has immeasurable grace.

God that friend liked to warn me about taking advantage of grace. 

Back to that "friend". Let me just give you all a bit of advice from my indignant and chaffed perspective. If you have ever ghosted a friend for any reason - disappeared out of their life for years on end because you couldn't deal with it, or you judged them for something, or like my story, you thought that some tough love would help bring them back to their senses, and like that parable of the prodigal son, you've likened yourself to the father waiting with open arms for your friend to return dragging her mud stained pig slothed self back to beg for your mercy, do not send random texts out of the blue to let her know you are praying for her and just wanted her to know that. You only made yourself feel better, or more righteous. Just go out and get a can of salt and pour it into the wound, why don't ya? 

No, do everyone a favor and go get your good self into some counseling and figure your own shit out. Then when you have a little humility and can actually own up to your own wayward way of handling things, and if you really think that person you ghosted needs to hear from you after all these years, start the conversation with I'm sorry I abandoned you. Own your shit. I am not the only one with wounds that make me do stupid or ugly things. 

Don't skimp on the counseling. The world needs you to be healed too.  

Gah - I warned you it was a bad day. Don't worry, I won't stay in this pit very long, I'll be able to tell this story with less vitriol and more grace one day. This is just the messy middle. I'll wind up on the other side of this with a deep appreciation for the new perspective I found in the midst of it. I always do.  

Shield Series L-R; The Eyes Have It, Selah, Tell Me No Lies, The Face She Shows
Encaustic Assemblage Shield Series by Crystal Marie Neubauer


  1. I read a quote the other day, something to the effect of "our stories give other people permission to grieve." The original quote was actually better but I cannpt remember it exactly. I appreciate your raw authenticity. It informs your art and gives the rest of us permission to share our own authentic truth as we choose and as our ability allows.

  2. The "messy middle" is where I've been lately, too. I'm so sorry you're feeling this way, because I know how much it sucks. I also had the same experience that you did when I was trying to work up my courage to leave my first husband; I was told that exact same story about the woman who took her beatings until her husband was changed by her love. Only it wasn't some preacher in a church who told me this, it was my own father. What are you supposed to do when your own family doesn't have your back? I stayed with him years longer than I should have, because I didn't have the support I needed.

    We can't be the happy upbeat facebook persona all the time. That's not real life. Sometimes we just need to let it out, and people will just have to deal with it. Personally, I'm tired of showing only my "positive side." Of course, I try to be positive whenever possible, but we need to be real, too. No one is all sweetness and light, no matter what their facebook posts would lead you to believe. Big hugs from me.

    1. "What are you supposed to do when your own family doesn't have your back?" - well that question pretty much sums up why we stay in these abusive relationships far too long, with men and with the church, don't you think? Our fathers were our training ground for viewing our worth. Mine frequently let me know that my worth was akin to something never born. His words were vulgar and explicit and I'm slowly recovering the sense of self he eradicated so selfishly and willfully. Thank you for sharing a bit of your own process Sharmon