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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My House is Cold

Joelle Deyo is our Wednesday contributor.

She holds a degree in Fine Arts from Cal Poly, Pomona, and is an artist residing in Glendora, California.

Joelle knows the pain of marital infidelity, betrayal and divorce, and she is a survivor of addiction, childhood sexual abuse, and Anorexia.

She brings a wealth of experience to Wings Like Eagles, and is willing to be transparent and real so that our readers who have traveled similar paths will have someone with whom they can relate.

She is an advocate for the recovery process, and is a firm believer that there is hope, and a fulfilling life on the other side of Crisis.

It is Joelle's hope is that her experiences, past and present, will bring perspective and encouragement to those who are in the middle of their own life battles and who have been stuck in the pit, just like her.

It’s early November.  The leaves on the maple trees lining our street are turning a deep shade of red and a marked chill in the evening wind carries on its back the promise of winter. Normally I love this time of year, but tonight I am full of dread.

Curled up on the floor of the master bedroom at the back of our house, I stare listlessly at a silent television screen.  The images mean nothing to me -- do not touch me in any way. They are there only to serve as a kind of distraction from the sound of drunken shouting and the merciless blast of the x-box that comes from the living room where the man I married sits, night after night, blowing up imaginary villains and filling the airwaves with rum-laced vitriol. It’s cold in here.

He does not know that I fear and dread his presence in our home or that his constant anger has made me feel like a prisoner in my own life.  He does not know that the only time I sleep is after he leaves for work in the morning.  He does not know that in my private desperation I have decided to break the vows I made to him three years ago and abandon what’s left of our marriage.

Sitting here on the floor I am so filled with anxiety and unanswerable questions I can hardly breathe.  Am I strong enough to survive divorce?  Will everyone be angry with me for walking out?  Where will I work?  Where will I live?  How on earth am I going to start life over at thirty with an art degree and a broken car?

I know that if I go I may very well be kissing friends, extended family members, and a financially secure living situation goodbye.  I am not keen to lose these things, and I know that people stay in bad marriages all the time for all kinds of reasons.  They stay for the sake of their children, for money, over a sense of moral obligation or for some semblance of continuity -- even if it means remaining tied to a home filled with deceit, rage, addiction, and fear.  I could stay.  Part of me thinks I deserve to stay.  After all, I made this bed, didn’t I?  I ought to lie in it.  Right? 

I pick up the remote control and click the television off.  The room goes black and I stand completely still in the darkness, listening.  My husband’s cursing just keeps coming and coming from the other room, each word dropping on my heart like a bomb, blowing my sanity to shreds, sending me deeper into my foxhole.  I cannot breathe.  I fight for air as I try to hold back a tidal wave of anguish, but my body is done.  I have come to the end of my strength in every sense of the word and I sink to my knees, laden with the knowledge that I do not know how to mend what is shattered within me and around me…

The months leading up to the dissolution of my marriage were undoubtedly the darkest of my adult life so far.  I put on a good front in public, but at home I was sickly, chronically depressed, and I lived in constant fear of my ex-spouse’s rages, badgering monologues, and moody silences.  I was consumed with grief, yet continued for a time to cling to the belief that if I tried really hard I could pull it all together for the both of us, help him stop drinking, get a handle on my eating disorder, and make things work.

I have since accepted the reality that “trying hard” usually just isn’t the answer and that relationships are not formulas into which we can simply plug tidy values like “buy her flowers,” or “be a better listener.”  These are, of course, good ideas.  Nevertheless, the sum total of our best efforts will not always equal happiness.  Forgive me for lapsing into mathematical language for a moment, but the truth is that our soul wounds, those hurts we carry within us on a deep, private level that often contribute to infidelity, chemical dependency, disordered and chaotic behavior, represent unknown quantities in the equations of love and trust.  Healing these wounds can be incredibly painful and some of us never get around to the hard work of doing it.  Instead, we continue to pull ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps and muddle on without a clue.

For those of us who have admitted defeat, and have chosen to look our brokenness in the eye, there is good news, and it is this: the moment we sink to our knees in utter surrender before our own failures or the failures of others, is the same moment grace enters the devastated, desolate places in our hearts and begins to do the mysterious and beautiful work of making us whole again.  In time, we re-learn the simple art of breathing.  We remember who we are.  We regain lost strength.  We move forward, maybe only inches at a time, but with a deeper knowing that there is a life out there -- a house, if you will -- waiting for us, where, come what may, genuine warmth, goodness, and peace abide.

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