DITCHING DOGMA AND GETTING TO GRACELAND [an excerpt - Setting My Crazy Loose Part III]

[an excerpt from Ditching Dogma and Getting To Graceland
It is both a strange and surreal experience to come to the end of a life together after 25 years .  There is a torrent of emotions and thoughts.  We had many a frank discussion.  A handful of real conversations on regrets with each other, where grace was between us, and I think a small release from the failings of our union.  I had no desire to trash him, even though the hurt of loneliness and abandonment was thick. I was not willing to scatter dirt or make people understand or win their approval by telling all.  It may have helped me greatly, but I was not playing that game.  To hurt more hurt does not need to be heaped.  To do so was not my bent nor the way I wanted to leave marriage, maneuver divorce or enter the single world.  I wanted my ex-husband to continue to be the father of our daughter.  Our daughter did not need more hurt than what she no doubt already felt.  More than that, I wanted him to experience release and freedom from his own demons that plagued him. 
I wasn’t foolish enough to think there are not lasting scars from an incomplete marriage, which lasted a big chunk of my adult life, and a divorce.  I had a deep longing to be free from bondage, hurt, pain, guilt, loss and fear.  I had a deep need to find encouragement and support as I walked away from the only way of life I knew, from the only belief system I had operated under.

I went to see Mike the counselor.  Courage is what I needed, someone to bounce my thoughts off and some validation. I desperately needed a sounding board - to sort through my crazy and set it loose. It was that period of time just after we made the decision to divorce but it was not finalized that I sat in Mike's office for several months.  I owe him a debt of gratitude.

The processing of every minutia of what I thought and believed was hard.  If there is a word beyond hard, it was that!  There were times I felt angry at myself for not having had courage earlier in my life.  For not being able to make this decision probably when it should have been made – at the end of year one.  I could not though nor would I ever let loose of the absolutely freeing soul fact that my daughter was the best gift of 25 years of marriage.  She was worth every day of those years.  I would do it all over again just to be her mom.  That was unchangeable and set in concrete for me.

If I truly believed God loved me more than I could possibly imagine, that He loved me enough to have created me,and orchestrated this world just for humanity, why could I not fully forgive myself?  Why could I not let loose of the feelings of failure I carried for marrying someone that I knew I should not have?  Why could I not forgive myself for the affair I had at the close of our first year of marriage?  Why could I not stop being hard on myself for how I reacted to a loveless marriage with that affair?  Why was I unable to let go of the fact that at age 19 I just did not have the courage to stand up to my religious family and reconciled to marriage from pressure?  How could I release those tethers of a lifetime I had bound myself with?  I was even angry at myself for all the years I wasted not being who I was designed to be.
I needed to leave dogma land.  And, I needed to get to Graceland.  How?  The task before me seemed like starting in Boston without a map, GPS, a compass, help, or even a mode of transportation and having to get to San Francisco.  It was overwhelming, frightening, and yet remarkably freeing.  The freeing part felt akin to being in a life raft in the ocean - safe, but not certain how to get to land but with endless open possibilities before me.

Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech in 2005 at Stanford University.  In that speech he talked about three things he learned. . .

One, connect the dots or at least believe they will connect down the road.  Trust it will all work out and follow your curiosity.  Two, find love and do great work.  Don’t settle for less than loving what you do.  You’ll know it when you see it.  And three, remembering you are going to die soon is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.  Don’t be trapped by dogma and don’t waste your life by living someone else’s.

That was me.  I had lived under dogma - living with the results of other people’s thinking.  I had lost my ability to believe the dots would connect at some point down the road.   I had not found love in my personal life or in my professional world.  I did not want to get to the end of my life with more regret than fulfillment.

When I was a realtor before the housing bubble popped, I saw the real estate market had gotten over inflated.  It needed a correction.  It was painful to watch. It was hard to see people lose money, myself included.  It was though very necessary.  It was a compass correction.  That was right smack dab where I was.

Like things attract like things.  I mean it was true in the animal world, right?  It was likewise true of people as well. Same socio-economic classes typically hang with each other; rich to rich, middle class to middle class, poor to poor.  We do the same with intelligence, emotional intuitiveness, interests in life, even beliefs.  Whether it is right, wrong or indifferent, it is a fact.  And just because we easily gravitate to clumps of likeness does not make it ultimately right either.
If I thought marriage was hard, hurtful and destructive, so was leaving dogma land.  All of my circle of friends and background came from within the church.  Not only inside the church, but in the inner circle.  I was a Pastor’s wife for 24 of the 25 years I was married.   It doesn’t get much  more inner than that.  Leaving the pastorate after that many years to start a life outside of church ministry was an adjustment, but a much welcome one.   Short of my sisters and a handful of friends who were outside of my “church” world, I had no one. 

There is no preparing, no storing up in the good times for hard times to come.  Knowing a know, even solidly, still takes a hit when you experience something in your face in the real world.  I knew in my head the isolation that would come when we divorced.  I though was caught totally unprepared heart wise for what followed.  In many regards, the responses or lack thereof  from those within the church were harder and a deeper hurt than actually leaving marriage after 25 years.   You know your marriage is over.  You don’t expect other relationships to end as well.  It felt like a domino topple.  I knew where I stood with my ex husband.  I had lived in that pain for most of a quarter of a century.  I though foolishly and naively assumed where I stood with those we had pastored, loved, and stood beside in life.  Even, for a season, with my family.

Facing my sockless counselor, I asked him what would happen if my parents or others stopped loving me, if they threw the Bible at me when I told them I was getting divorced,  what would I do?   He said, “Well, will you still be breathing.  Living?”   “Yes,” I said.  “Then you will be ok," he said, "You will have to find a way to get what you need from other people.  Some might not be able to give you what you need, maybe not now at least.  Maybe not ever.”  

He was right.  I was still going to be alive with or without their support.  I could face it. Even flourish on the other side of it.   It was time to cut the umbilical cord.  I was 44.

That was exactly my problem my whole life.  I had always lived under everyone’s permission or expectation of me.  Now I was struggling in leaving dogma land without their permission.  I needed to stop that pattern of thinking and living.  It was what kept me bound to the results of other people’s thinking.

I wanted my parents to be my parents.  It is at the heart of every person who has parents,  a deep longing to be loved and supported emotionally no matter our age.   It would take some time for those closest to me to regain their footing.  That I understood, but it was a quiet lonely time in the interim.

I knew God's strength and my personality propensity towards grit had got me through the past 25 years.   When I could no longer stay in that environment and be healthy, it was time to end it.  I knew, after much soul angst, prayer, learning more about who the character of God really is, that God would never stop loving me.   He couldn’t stop.  He made me.  I knew no matter how others responded I would still be alive and eventually would be ok. 

Eventually is an undefined and non-parametered word.  Just like the word several is loosely interpreted different ways by different people.  I did know that eventually couldn’t come soon enough.  Time stands still it seems when we are hurt.  When we are lost.  When we are fumbling around on the night shift of life.   Divorce seems to last forever.  It consumes so much energy and focus there isn’t a whole lot left to give away.  You need people during that time.  You need support, encouragement, prayers, physical contact with others, and laughter. 

Laughter and irreverence became the vehicle that kept me moving.  Without it, and those few that could deliver it to me, I would not have made the voyage.  Those select few know exactly who they are to me.  My debt to your skills, friendship, companionship and connectedness can never be repaid . . . 


  1. What a terrific write. Hat's off to you. You'll be able to re-pay those precious few people, if they should ever deeply need someone. MI

  2. LOVE..............Just keep loving:)