The road-split I'm struggling with is how much of my story can be told, how much here? How much can be told to people outside of the small need-to-know zone? I wrestle with a sense that I'd like to quit living the two-level existence that my kids and I have struggled to maintain for so long, a life consisting of actual events and the "official version" for public consumption. But would it cause people even more grief, more sense of being robbed of Andre, if I drop the mask of the saintly widow, grieving simply for her nearly-perfect husband and their nearly-perfect marriage?
And so I might have to break another trail in this mapless, autumnal wood. Perhaps there is a way to tell my truth without causing others too much pain. So, if you'd like to pause here and click the "close" button, I will think no less of you. In fact, I'll never know.
This week, as I live in my re-claimed spaces, Andre's sad presence seems to stalk me. And as I fight with waves of guilt, anger, and sorrow, a wise woman in my life has suggested that I choose a Biblical story, and meditate on it, choosing one that will remind me of the healing, restoring love of God. So, I've chosen the woman with the 12-year-bleeding, the one who is healed by Jesus, when she touches the fringes of his clothes. It's in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, verses 21-34 and the story also appears in the accounts by both Luke and Matthew. Jesus is on his way to heal the daughter of someone really important, and as he passes through the crowd, a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years reaches out and touches the edge of his garment, and is healed. Jesus stops the whole procession, scans the crowd and asks who has touched him, which leads the woman to step forward and tell what has happened, and how she has been healed.
That woman, with her life leaking out, drop by drop from inside a hidden wound, is me.
In ancient middle-eastern culture, she was living on the fringes of society because her wound made her ritually unclean, unable to be part of the day to day relationships in her village, isolated. In being careful to keep my inner "bleeding" hidden for so long, I've been able to live closer to the center of society, but I've felt like a fraud for most of it.
Andre came into our 18-year marriage with behaviors that should have been a hint at the kind of pain that was fraying his soul, but at first, he seemed mostly stable, and his kindness, his eagerness to please, and his need to keep me close at all times felt very much like love. As the years went by, and his behavior became more worrisome, more controlling, I got more and more proficient at keeping the ignition sources away from the volatile fumes of Andre's anger, and I became more and more alone. When the kids entered the stage where their normal naughtiness was no longer "cute", I spent more and more time protecting them from inappropriate punishment while trying to teach them to behave appropriately.
It was, of course, impossible.
I was neither able to either completely protect them nor create a consistently firm but loving discipline structure around them. Drip, drip, drip... loneliness... drip, drip, drip, ..failure... and I pushed myself to work harder, to seek out more challenges to hide from myself the fact that my life was draining away in protecting and hiding the woundedness of my husband. I was a homeschooling, home-birthing, hands-on, homemade-everything, meal-plans-and-shopping-lists housewife...drip, drip, drip...and I was only dimly aware that anything was really wrong. We looked pretty ok on the outside--more than ok, is what people tell me.
A little over three years ago, I came to another diverging of the road, without planning to. I had gotten pretty good at all the hardcore housewife stuff and feeling like there was a pretty stout patch on the leaky parts of our lives. I was feeling like the kids and Andre would be ok if I went away for a weekend to work on my singing, to see if there was anything left of my non-mom, non-wife self that was worth resurrecting. In the kind of soul-opening work of re-discovering my singer-self, a touch of Jesus' hem, if you will, I accidentally stopped the whole procession. I finally had a clear glimpse of how much of my life had been bled away already, and I could not go back to ignoring it. When I came home, I needed more and more time to walk, to pray, to sing, to pile on more challenges: lose 50 pounds, make myself some new clothes, learn and perform a major solo in a concert. Meanwhile, the "dripping" had become a flow, tears leaked out with every deep singer's breath, and I worked harder than ever. And so it continued through the months, and even after the news of the life-threatening diagnosis of my dearest friend, my lifeline through all those years of trying to keep myself glued together. Faced with the potential loss of my friend, I just couldn't keep moving fast enough to outrun the pain. I could no longer hide from myself and my husband (and people around me who noticed a change) the fact that I was bleeding away inside, losing my "juice".
Over the past three years, with less and less success, I continued to try to keep a lid on Andre's explosive anger, heartbreaking paranoia, and wildly fluctuating moods, while I tried to keep myself and my kids moving forward in the paths that I had chosen for us, trying again to ignore how bled-out I was becoming. But by early July of this year, I was nearly bled white. I was exhausted. Something had to change and I told Andre so. I had no idea at the time how fragile he was and that the path of his intense pain would split into the one that leads to healing and the one that leads to violent death that night.
And as I think about how the story ends for the woman who has healed when she reached out and touched Jesus, I wonder if, perhaps the path of pain, the one that appears to split into such different roads, actually merges back into the path of healing. Andre's pain is over. He is healed in heaven. My life is no longer leaking steadily out of me in the same way that it was. I'm still healing, as are my kids. But we will no longer live on the edges of our "village", unclean, isolated.
Every Sunday, after the prayer of confession, we hear :
"Friends, believe the good news.
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven, and are being made whole."
Yes. I think that's true. Thanks for hearing my confession. I think the truth might be setting me free.